Look at Doris now!

PART of Lowestoft's proud boatbuilding heritage is slowly being returned to her nautical best.

Work is steadily progressing on the restoration of Doris, the 80-year-old houseboat which played host to an abdicated king and his American girlfriend and was visited by comedy legends.

For the last four months, Bob Brett has been working on the craft on Oulton Broad to get her ready for cruises in the summer. And now visitors to Nicholas Everitt Park can get a glimpse of his progress as sheets that had shrouded Doris over the winter have been removed.

The Journal first reported last year on Mr Brett's plan to restore the historic boat.

Since then, with the help of relatives, the engineer, builder and powerboat racer from Ipswich, has put in a new deck and floors, replanked some of her and installed an engine. It is hoped Doris will start taking passengers on cruises in July.

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Once she takes to the waters, it will rekindle memories of her heydey in the 1930s when former King Edward VII and his lover Wallis Simpson took her to France for a cruise after the abdication crisis.

Comedy legends Charlie Chaplin and George Formby also enjoyed time on the Doris which was fitted with Axminster carpets, a spacious oak and teak interior, with four cabins and a china bath.

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Mr Brett said he was looking forward to seeing Doris ploughing her way through the water again when she takes groups of people out on the Broads.

He said: 'It will be a great sight when she leaves her on her first proper trip. She is a wonderful boat.'

Doris was built by Lowestoft's JW Brooke and had two 25ft launches, one of which is in north Norfolk.

When she starts offering cruises, she will have a 15ft launch with a lug-sail, built by Lowestoft Boat Building College, in tow.

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