Cruisers> > Hampton Safari Boat History

Elsewhere on this website, the pictures and text of the renovation of our Hampton Safari in 2002 had generated so much interest, (mainly from other owners), that I made efforts to research the model.
Hampton Boats has now ceased trading, but I have been fortunate enough to contact the designers and builders of the class and am most grateful for their invaluable assistance in compiling this web page.
The history and photographs have been very generously provided by Mrs Heather Hampton, (wife of the designer, Alec Hampton), Phillip Hampton (their son) and Kenny Stone (their boatbuilder for many years and who played a key part in the design and production of the Safari.)

There is a new Hampton Safari Owners Club website at

In the 1960's, Alec Hampton's boat hire business 'Hampton Boats' at Oulton Broad consisted of a fleet of traditional mahogany cruisers like the two shown on the right.

The upper photo is of W343 with Alec at the wheel.

The lower photo of S875 shows the development of the same type of boat towards forward control, still traditionally made from mahogany, but with the shortened rear cockpit and wheel steering from the front. There was no sliding wheelhouse, but she did have sliding sunroof.

A 1972 extract from Blakes boat hire catalogue showing S121.

(click the image to see a larger version)

S875 'Bullfrog' as she looks now (2005),
still complete and looking quite sound.

Her Sister, S121 'Bonny Ann' is in superb condition,
as seen here, also in 2005

Alec then designed the mark one Hampton Safari for production in fibreglass. The length was increased from 22' 6" to 25'6" and the beam from 8' 6" to 9' 6". A plug was made from marine plywood, which was then used to form the female hull moulding.

The boats were moulded firstly by Rydgeway Marine of Kessingland, and then by Bob Smith of Lowestoft.

This photo shows an early mark I fresh from the moulders, before the windows were cut out and the windscreen fitted.

The mark one gave way to the mark II, still with the sliding wheelhouse, but with many detailed modifications such as the integral gas locker etc. (detailed in this brochure).

The original sales brochure was scanned and is published here by kind permission of Mrs Hampton.

click here to view page 5 (in a new window) click here to view page 4 (in a new window) click here to view page 3 (in a new window) click here to view page 2 (in a new window) click here to view page 1 (in a new window)
click any page to view full size

A slighltly different brochure was produced for the hire boat market.

It is a testament to the original design concept that even now (30 years on), there are still a few boats available for hire with various Broads hire fleets, both Blakes & Hoseasons.

click any page to view full size
Principal Dimensions:
25ft 7ins ( 7.8 m )
23ft 7ins ( 7.19 m )
Broads Auth toll 'area'
22 sq m
9ft 6ins ( 2.90m ) (plus gunwhale fendering)
2ft 2ins ( 0.66m ) (Draught and weight vary with the individual fit-out and tankage. Full tanks can weigh 0.75 ton !)
3.1 tons ( 3,150 kg )
Tons per inch immersion
When lifting
the minimum aft strop lifting point is 4 ft from transom.

Marks I and II

with sliding wheelhouse/lounge

(Standard internal layout shown, wc and shower may be transposed.)

They are somewhat difficult to distinguish because individual boatyards completed the Hampton moldings to their own spec.
Mark 1's (usually) didn't have the integral molding for the gas bottle stowage under the afterdeck, or the molded in mudweight holder on the foredeck. The control panel molding was different and the keel was smaller.

We are still researching this, the most common style. There are a number of subtypes:

Mk1J (Constructed by L.H. Jones)
Very different in layout and drive, open plan cabin with the toilet aft and propulsion via an hydraulic drive. Hull and Cabin mouldings as per Mk1. Two single berths only.

Mk1D (Dawncraft 26)
The history of these is a little clouded. They differ in having one long cabin side window and a round port hole in the aft quarter, otherwise they appear to be Mk1 mouldings . The aft cabin on some perhaps all, was unusual, in having 2 single berths.


Mark III

With fixed wheelhouse, sliding sunroof, and forward well.

Mark IV

With raised, fixed wheelhouse/lounge.
(only three were made, and one of those has been extensively modified.)



(interior layout kindly supplied by David Coster)



I now have the original scale drawings of the Safari, (Mk 2, but identical hull to the mk3).

They reveal that although the design might appear slab sided above water level, the underwater profile is quite complex, with a relatively deep keel for directional stability, and yet a shallow draft.

click any plan to view full size

click any plan to view full size

click here to view the advert at larger scale

The company ran this advert in the boating press in 1981.

(click the advert to view it full size)

Using the same 25'6" hull, the advert shows the three superstructure designs, the mark II, mark III and the Sedan.

The mark III dispensed with the sliding wheelhouse roof but instead provided a forward cockpit with front door to the saloon. This eliminated the potential for draughts from the sliding canopy (although many DIY owners have devised solutions with draught excluders etc.)

The Sedan was a return to a the more conventional rear raised wheelhouse, but only two were ever built.

The picture shows the three marks in a row at the boatyard pontoon (with Mrs Hampton standing on the Sedan).



This extract from a 1973 guide shows Safaris produced by Harvey Eastwood of Brundall, named 'Santa Lucia' and 'Santa Barbara', together with Hampton's own Safari listing.

The Eastwood boats appear to have identical mouldings, differing only in the interior layouts. One wonders if the 'BMC 1500 petrol I/B' was a typo....

Although a total of 256 Hampton Safaris were produced from 1969 to 1982, most were supplied to other hire-boat yards as bare mouldings for their staff to complete. During the peak years, Hampton Boats ran 14 Safari 25's in it's fleet, but this reduced to just two in the final season of 2002. Sadly, the yard has now ceased trading, and will surely be missed by the large regular clientele, some of which have been regulars for nearly 30 years.


(Hamptons themselves only built one Safari for private use, in 1971 called 'Blue Tit' for John Jarrold, who was then the Mayor of Norwich.)


The two photos here, from Company Christmas Cards, are from 1962 and 2000, showing the yard at the same location, though greatly expanded.


The third Christmas Card is of a watercolour painting of their yard commissioned by Hampton Boats.

A 1995 edition of the New York Times featured an article which included a cruise around the Broads in 'Sovereign Safari', one of Hampton Boat's Mark III Safaris.

(The cost was then quoted as
'$543 a week high season,
and $326 a week low season,
at 1.6 pounds to the dollar.'

Hampton Boats also distributed memorabilia for the regular clients, including such items as the coaster, shown here.
In March 2004, I was contacted by Craig Slawson, who has painstakingly compiled and maintained lists of most Broads hire boats over the past 30 years. He has very kindly supplied and allowed me to publish a comprehensive list of all of the Hampton Safari 25 boats, showing their histories. Click on the thumbnail to view the PDF file (8 pages, 139k).
Craig has a website at where has set up an sql database of Broads Hire Boats History.
click here to view Craig's list of Hampton Boats.

Finally, I have included my gallery of Hampton Safaris that I have seen here on the Norfolk Broads. All of these photos were taken since the year 2000, so the quantity and condition of the boats still in private and company ownership shows the regard in which they are still held.
(If you happen to own any of the boats shown here and object to it's inclusion, please email me at the address shown on the Shorebase home page and I will of course remove the picture. Alternatively, if you would like me to add a caption or a photo of another Safari, I would be most pleased to do so.)

My own boat, built in 1975 for Harmony Boats of Norwich. (more photos)

'Blue Tit' (is this the boat that was built for the Mayor of Norwich in 1971 ?)

'Camelot' moored at Loddon, Winter 2002/3


Once again, I thank Mrs Hampton, her Son and Kenny Stone for the provision of most of this material and the extensive background knowledge that they enthusiastically gave to enable the creation of this web page.
I'm sure it will interest current and future Hampton owners who may wonder about the history of their boat.


   Shorebase/Boats visitors since June 1997

©2004 Shorebase



click here to view page 4 (in a new window) click here to view page 3 (in a new window) click here to view page 2 (in a new window) click here to view page 1 (in a new window) click here to view the advert at alrger scale