A BRIEF HISTORY OF NORMAN CRUISERS
AND THE MODELS THAT WERE MANUFACTURED
" I have just come across your web site for the first time and to say I am surprised is an understatement. My father (Ernie Wheeldon) founded the business in the 50s and I started working in the business in 1968 and worked there until it ceased trading. My father died in 1997, and seeing all the photos and other items brought back so many memories of both him and the business"
Many thanks to Graham Wheeldon
When my father started the business in 1959. He would make a dinghy and sell it on approval. Sometimes this would involve a drive through the night to the south coast. I think he looked so tired when he got there they would buy the boat in sympathy.
The business started in Shaw Lancs. then moved to Isherwood Street in Heywood Lancs then back to a new site in Shaw. Other factories were added (Royton and Heywood) and the business expanded into manufacturing windows and windscreens for both ourselves and other customers under the name of North West Windows Ltd at our Heywood factory. We also made boat canopies, upholstery, tents etc under the name of North West Marine Trimmers Ltd at our Padiham - Lancashire factory. At the same factory we also made boat trailers (Speedmaster Trailers)
At the height of the business 1971 -1973 the business employed around 200 people (approx 120 in boatbuilding) We employed around 70 glassfibre laminators of which around 30 were female.
The most boats we built in a week was 25. This included all models 18.5, 20, 23, 32, We also built the Dejon 14 for a while and renamed it the Norman 14.
We had a Norman owners club. This had a regular slot within Boating News and Views.
The business ceased trading in December 1979 (The Winter of Discontent) and started again in 1980. New models were introduced 24, 27 and 22 wide beam but the moulding shop was destroyed in a fire in 1982. This destroyed most of the moulds and the business never recovered. Some moulds were re-built and when the business finally ceased, these were sold and marketed under other names. Also some designs were copied and made into hybrids.
My father and I once estimated that around 7000 Normans were built.
In the 1970s around 65% of boats were exported. Principle markets (in order of Volume) were Holland, Germany, Norway, France, Sweden. Boats in Holland were imported by Internaut of Rotterdam and were sold under the name of "Inter". Hence the 20 was the Inter620.
Norman Cruisers were in the top 3 largest pleasureboat builders in the UK. Westerley Yachts being the biggest.
This is the Norman 17 which was the first cabin cruiser built. The photo was taken at the Shaw factory around 1966
This is the actual catalogue page advertising the Norman 17
This was a mk1 18.5. The first 18.5 had wrap around perspex bow windows which were later replaced by flat ones. The 18.5 was one of my favourite models. We had one moored in Scotland and used it as a fast fisherman.
I think this was taken at Pembroke Hall (Earls Court Boat Show) Possibly 1966
Taken outside our works at Grains Rd Shaw. Possibly 1965.
Taken on Lake Windermere. This was a promotional photo. Norman Cruisers partially owned Transadrive. The boat was fitted with a ford 1600cc petrol engine and Transadrive. I am unsure as to the year, possibly 1971
This photo was of the prototype 18 which replaced the 18.5. Although the 18 was more of a day cruiser it was more trailable.
As with the 18.5, earlier versions of the 22 has wrap around perspex bow windows
Norman 22 mk2. This photo was taken in fitting out shop at Shaw. 1968?
These series of photos were taken in Scotland, really to try to dispel our purely canal boat image. I think the 23 had an 85hp Chrysler outboard. I am unsure what the 20 had fitted. I have used a 20 with 1 150hp outboard ! (specially modified transom etc. Don't try this at home!)
The 25 was replace by the 32. I am unsure as to dates but I think the brochure is circa 1967.
NORMAN 266 (Ernie Wheeldon
This was my fathers personal boat photographed at Glasson Dock, Lancaster (where I now live) It had a Volvo Penta 145 hp petrol aqauamatic engine.
This was the maiden voyage of the 266. Taken on Windermere November 1997. I was onboard. The boat was fitted with a 1.5 litre diesel with conventional shaft drive
This is a Norman which usually baffles people. The 29 had a beam of 10'4" which made it cavernous inside. This particular one was launched on the River Severn in July 1973 and was fitted with a Watermota Sea Lion diesel engine and Transadrive T220 stern drive. We only built around 20 of these so they are somewhat rare.
The only sailing cruiser we built. The S19 was designed by the same person who designed the 29. We only built around 10 of these, so they are rarer than the 29. All other Normans were designed by my father and later jointly with myself.