It was back in 1957 when John Freeman turned his hand to boat manufacturing, having produced fine caravans since pre-war days. Work stopped during the war but resumed in 1945. His mind turned to boats and the first 22ft Freeman Cruiser emerged in 1957. This was so successful that by 1960 caravan production had stopped and Mr Freeman moved to Wolvey where the business grew.
By the 1970's the factory was employing 125 people, building three 23ft and one 26ft cruiser each week and one Freeman 30 every 2/3 weeks. There were 4 or 5 factory lines at a time: It took 25 men to build a single boat. Some 6,000 boats were produced by the time John decided finally to retire, he now lives in France. As many people will know, the Freeman's are also farmers and the factory sat in a corner of their farmland. David Freeman decided not to follow into the boat business but has built up a considerable fish farm within the original premises. Incidentally, the last boat to be built was a Freeman 27 in October 1983.
The boats were first shown at Olympia as part of a Motor Show in 1958, this was prior to the advent of a 'Boat Show'. The quality of the wood work inside, the comfortable caravan style interior and the experience of GRP moulding that began with the caravans now revolutionised the boat market. This was the first time anyone could order a boat. Prior to this one had to find a naval architect to design your vessel and subsequently a builder to complete it. – Was Mr Freeman the 'Henry Ford' of the boat industry?
Woodwork is the 'hall-mark' of a Freeman; whole trees used to be purchased to ensure the continuity of colour and grain. Boards veneered from the same tree were used on an individual cruiser so that it matched perfectly. The boats were originally hand varnished, three coats in the factory before the cupboards were fitted in the boat and then two after. Later on a two pot spray system was used in the factory before the completed articles were placed in the boat.
Bert Freeman (Mr. Freeman's brother) retired before the factory closed, Peter Summers (factory manager) has gone his own way in private industry. Derick Waterfield (sales manager) has unfortunately passed away. The factory premises were divided into industrial units and have now been sold; so the factory has sadly gone for ever.
With at least 28 models and numerous variations, the information on this website is for guidance only and we do appreciate there are many exceptions to the rule as Freeman had the capability to fulfil individual requests.
The story continues...
The Original Freeman
The New Style Freeman