Haresnape family celebrates 25 years running Orwell and Orford river cruise restaurant business aboard Lady Florence and Allen Gardiner

Owners of the Lady Florence, Susan and John Haresnape, in 2010.

Owners of the Lady Florence, Susan and John Haresnape, in 2010.

A river cruise restaurant business operating out of Ipswich and Orford is celebrating its 25th year.

The Lady Florence at Orford Quay

The Lady Florence at Orford Quay - Credit: Archant

Lady Florence and Allen Gardiner, historic wooden World War Two boats which have been converted to restaurants based at Orford and Ipswich respectively, are run by the Haresnape family.

John and Susan Haresnape bought the Lady Florence River Cruise business in 1992. John had a senior role in the computer industry when redundancy struck in 1991.

Despite nearly 30 years in the industry, and more than 800 job applications during the following year, there was not one job offer. The couple decided to take the plunge and go into business for themselves They downsized from their country home in Bedfordshire, moved to a small property in Orford and bought the Lady Florence, which had been in operation for eight years by then.

John steered the boat, while Susan and a helper worked in the tiny galley preparing food for the a la carte menu. Lunch cruises were supplemented by evening dinner cruises in summer, and when both became fully booked at weekends, shorter morning brunch cruises were introduced.

The Allen Gardiner at Ipswich Waterfront

The Allen Gardiner at Ipswich Waterfront - Credit: Archant


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Within six years the business had grown from five lunches a week to 21 cruises over seven days.

Lady Florence then became a second generation family business, first with elder son Rhys and his family in 1998, and then with younger son Craig in 2000. Craig left a senior position in the hotel industry, and with his partner, Kris, is running the business today.

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Craig took on the Lady Florence in 2000, and sent his parents to South Africa to establish a business there. During 2002, they bought the Allen Gardiner, and Rhys converted her.

Craig and Kris spent the early years of the Allen Gardiner in Durban, establishing the business there, and employed non-family staff for day-to-day running of the Lady Florence.

John and Susan Haresnape on the Lady Florence. The Haresnape family has run a river cruise restauran

John and Susan Haresnape on the Lady Florence. The Haresnape family has run a river cruise restaurant business for the last 25 years. They are pictured here in 1992/93. - Credit: Archant

Ten years on in 2012, with John and Susan gradually handing over the business so they could retire, the family decided to relocate Allen Gardiner from South Africa to Ipswich.

“Twenty five years has been packed with excitement, interest, meeting wonderful customers, dramas, joy and a rewarding family bonding. A book needs to be written,” said John. The family is set to hold a celebration to mark the milestone in mid-August.

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