Last year we at Herbert Woods bought 30 cruisers originally built in Wroxham by Porter & Haylett. Over the winter these were completely refurbished and rebranded Connoisseur bringing back one of the most iconic names associated with Broads boating holidays.
Like Herbert Woods cruisers they are all specifically designed for the Norfolk Broads. They can sleep up to eight people, all cabins are en-suite and the spacious saloon features sliding canopies so people can enjoy the fine weather.
Both the Herbert Woods and Connoisseur names are associated with boating holidays and the men behind them had much in common.
Herbert Woods, we are proud to say, was one of the great pioneers of holidays on the Norfolk Broads and a renowned boat designer and builder. So too was Rex Haylett but it would be many years after they had passed away that the heritage and legacy they left would finally merge.
During the Second World War both helped the war effort by building Motor Torpedo Boats and rescue craft used to save downed airmen in the channel. Herbert Woods in Potter Heigham and Rex Haylett in Wroxham.
It was in 1951 that Rex Haylett went into partnership with Ernie Porter to form Porter & Haylett which was to become a major boat builder from its base close to Wroxham Bridge.
Like Herbert Woods and his ‘Light’ cruisers, Rex Haylett designed and built many of the highly regarded Peter Duck sailing boats. These 28ft vessels were praised for the way they handled on the open seas.
However one of the first orders received by the new company was from a local publican who wanted a Broads cruiser he could rent out to holidaymakers. That got Rex Haylett and Ernie Porter thinking and in 1955 they started to build boats for their own hire fleet.
In the 1970’s they designed and built the Connoisseur class of cruisers, a 37ft six berth and a 42ft eight berth which were a great a success from the beginning. Eventually the company dropped the name of Porter & Haylett and simply became known as Connoisseur Cruisers.
Generations of holiday makers on the Broads grew up with the Connoisseur name. However the company was taken over by a large travel company who dropped the Connoisseur name and shortly afterwards boat building in Wroxham was stopped after more than half a century.
Now we are delighted to say the efforts of these two Norfolk Broads boating holidays pioneers have finally been united!