Nauticalia began in 1974, as a floating marine antiques shop in a converted rubbish barge on the River Thames at Shepperton. Lynn Lewis, an ex-BBC television reporter, and his wife Val, also a journalist, were the founders.
As the business developed, it became obvious that there were not enough antiques to satisfy demand, especially for the large items of nautical décor that so enthralled their customers. An advert in the local paper, for a 19th century diver's helmet, brought six buyers the next day - but there was only one for sale! To solve the problem, Lynn commissioned a batch of ten detailed replicas from a specialist metal works, and thus began Nauticalia's famous range of reproduction boating and shipping memorabilia.
Ship's telegraphs, binnacles, bells, bosun's whistles, brass information signs and anchor lamps soon followed the same course, and necessitated a move to larger premises ashore. Not, however, before Lynn had managed to lose several tools over the side of the barge whilst making repairs, and invented one of the company's best-known products, the Sea Searcher recovery magnet, to get them back. Today the powerful magnet, which has been in continuous production ever since, is used by emergency services, boat owners and even sewage system workers worldwide. Over half a million have been sold!
More than 30 years on, the range has developed from using only the classic marine materials of teak, brass, hemp and cork to include everything from anchor-shaped doorknockers to zoom-focus binoculars. Lynn's principle was "If it traditionally comes from a ship, which generally means it's been built to last, let's reproduce it."
Now, with Lynn's son-in-law Chris Murdoch at the helm, Nauticalia continues to mix traditional nautical replicas with modern boating accessories in a huge range that celebrates Britain's maritime heritage - all under the umbrella of "Ships & Sea... Time & Tide... Wind & Weather... Stars & Skies".
In the UK, Nauticalia have 9 own-brand shops and literally hundreds of stockists - everywhere from maritime museums to seaside "bucket-and-spade" shops - who buy from the wholesaling part of the company.
Exports, spreading British maritime heritage to the world, account for about a quarter of all sales, and Nauticalia was a proud recipient of the Queen's Award for Exports in 1998.