In the late 1980s Jonathan Peel expressed concern about the deteriorating state of the yard and suggested that a group from the Norfolk Punt Club should consider trying to save the yard to avoid it either becoming beyond repair, or falling into the ownership of a hire boat fleet.
The history of Cox’s Boatyard from 1995
I spoke to Steve Rose, who was running the yard, and said that when he was considering retirement would he please let me know, as I might be able to see a way I could help him.
In 1995 Steve told me he was not in good health and asked me if I was serious in the comment I had made. By fortunate coincidence, I knew I would be retiring as Senior Partner of a leading firm of Norwich accountants that autumn and pursued the matter. I approached various members of the Norfolk Punt Club and others and put together a Consortium of eight individuals who were prepared to invest and try and save the yard. I emphasised that I was not confident that the yard could be saved and they must be prepared to lose all their money. I refused to allow anyone who would find this a hardship to join the Consortium. We further agreed that the Consortium members should be charged by the yard on exactly the same commercial terms as every other customer.
I did the due diligence work with a Norwich solicitor pro bona. It was clear that Cox’s Boatyard Limited was insolvent. It did, however, have a corporate lease from the Cox family and we negotiated a fresh, longer lease prior to taking over the company and running the yard for £1.
When we took over the yard, there was almost no work for the employees and the moorings were half full. There was very little quay heading, the wood above the bank walkways was rotten and dangerous, and the banks were uneven with many holes. The yard generally was a health and safety hazard and we were faced with many potential difficulties.
I was joined by Mike Evans and Tom Harmer as Directors and we formed a good team as Mike had a lot of marketing experience and Tom is an excellent boat builder and engineer. We recruited Eric Bishop as Manager from R. Moore & Sons of Wroxham, and set about restoring the yard. We developed a pile driver on a raft and that first winter we all spent many hours quay heading part of the yard. The following winter we did the same and also worked on the road and car park.
We were always conscious that the buildings were deteriorating and those at the entrance to the yard were an embarrassment. However, because we held the yard on a lease rather than as a freehold we considered that the reconstruction of the infrastructure should be the responsibility of the landlord – the Cox family. We asked the Cox Trustees to join with us in remodelling the yard and initially rebuilding the disgraceful toilets, but they were not prepared to do so. We decided that if we were to inject significant funds from retained profits into the infrastructure, then long term the Cox family rather than Cox’s Boatyard Limited would benefit. In 2004 we therefore negotiated with the Cox Trustees the purchase of the freehold of the yard with a 21-year loan from them.
Once we held the freehold, we developed the new toilet block. We approached North Norfolk District Council and the Broads Authority to join with us in the development, provided they would contribute to running costs so that the toilets could be open to the public, but they were not willing to contribute. Accordingly, we built the toilet block from retained profits and it is only available to berth-holders.
The next stage is to modernise the buildings so that they are suitable for a boatyard in the 21st century. We have had long consultations with the Broads Authority planners and our advisers, and the Broads Authority Planning Committee approved our plans in June 2011.
David Adler – Chairman Cox’s Boatyard Limited
The Recent History of Cox’s Boatyard
Although there has been a boatyard here since the 1800s, the past eight years have seen more investment and improvements take place than at any time in Cox’s long and impressive history. Today we are proud of both the modern facilities we can offer our berth holders and the innovative equipment we have installed to ensure that all boat repairs and restorations are carried out to the highest standards.
Back in 2012 detailed consultations with the Broads’ Authority resulted in permission being granted for a major eight-phase development plan that has since enabled the site to be sympathetically developed. Several of the phases have now been successfully completed and we are well on the way to implementing the rest of them.
One of the first systems to be designed and successfully installed by the Cox’s team in 2012 was an innovative, eco-friendly, closed-loop, wash-down system, which harvests and uses rainwater from the yard before filtering it and discharging it safely back into the Broad.
Next, in 2013, a state-of-the art radio-controlled boat transporter was purchased to enable the easy and safe movement of boats around the yard and workshop.
The most significant and visible improvement to the site came in 2014 when our old workshop was finally demolished and replaced with a much bigger, fully insulated steel portal building that significantly increased capacity and improved working conditions for boats and staff alike. It was officially opened in November 2015 and has since made a huge difference to our capabilities and our business.
Further improvements continued throughout 2016 and 2017 and then, in 2018, 60 metres of steel quay heading were installed to replace part of the old wooden quay heading. Extensive groundwork was also completed to facilitate the installation of a new remote-controlled travel hoist in October of that year. This remarkable travel hoist can lift boats ranging from 8 feet to 60 feet in length and weighing between 100 kg and 35 tons. It is extremely versatile and totally adjustable so that it is able to lift nearly every kind of boat in use on the Norfolk Broads.
In 2019 a further 90 metres of steel quay heading was installed to replace more of the old wooden quay that had been installed over 20 years previously. Wi-fi has also been installed for the berth holders and customers of Cox’s Boatyard, and we are now looking forward to further improvements taking place.
Our Board of Directors and team of shareholders has expanded over the past ten years and now comprises David Adler (Chairman), Simon Daniels, Caroline Dixey, Mike Evans, and Simon Goodman, all of who strive to ensure that Cox’s Boatyard and its skilled workforce continue to successfully provide unrivalled facilities and service to all our customers.