puffers & vics



Richards Ironworks Ltd  Lowestoft

Ultimately known as Richards (Shipbuilders) Ltd., the company goes back to Samuel Richards in 1876 who started a boatyard on the south side of the inner harbour at Lowestoft in Suffolk, England. It's early days were spent building wooden drifters and by the time Samuel died in 1919 over two hundred such vessels had been built. Richard's sons took over the running of the yard and the company continued making drifters and deep sea trawlers along with paddle steamers.

In the first half of the 1920s the yard built a number of motor trawlers and one motor drifter before closing for the four years 1926 to 1930 during the depression. In the early 1930s and the yard was bought by W F Cockerell of the East Anglia Ice and Cold Storage Co. who resurrected the business as Richards Ironworks Ltd. As well as being engaged in ship repair work, the yard then built several vessels starting in 1935 with motor trawlers, followed by barges and a lightship. The business was also engaged in ship repair work.

During World War 2, the yard escaped relatively unscathed from enemy bombing and built and repaired many vessels for the war effort, including minesweepers and a torpedo recovery vessel for the Admiralty.  Of interest to us here, the Ministry of War Transport ordered six of the "improved" class of VIC lighters from them. In the event the end of the war intervened and only five were actually built: Nos 79, 80, 101, 102, and 103

In 1954 the yard expanded with the acquisition of an adjoining yard and was then itself bought over by the United Molasses Co who invested a quarter of a million pounds in modernisation. They also renamed the business as Richards (Shipbuuilders) Ltd. Not too surprisingly, during the late 50s and into the 1960s the yard was kept busy building molasses tankers for the coastal trade before returning to its forte of motor trawlers and drifters. During this time they also built ten of the wooden "Ton" class minesweepers for the Royal Navy.  The Richards business also expanded with the acquisition of another yard at Great Yarmouth in 1969 and this sparked a period of expansion into the 1970s.

The business escaped the deadly embrace of nationalisation in 1977 and contined to prosper well into the 1980s with orders for fishery protection vessels, and numerous ships for the burgeoning oil and gas exploration and supply business.  Sadly, the Yarmouth yard closed in the late 1980s following a slump in demand for new-build and the Lowestoft yard followed suit in 1994.