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History

Thames Rowing Club, founded in 1860, has a rich history

History of Thames Rowing Club

Thames Rowing Club was founded in 1860 by a small group of men, chiefly clerks and salesmen in the city rag trade. They based themselves in Putney at Simmons Boathouse (where Chas Newens Marine is now situated) and a room at the Red Lion Hotel on Putney High Street.

Their initial aim was the modest one of ‘organised pleasure or exercise rowing’. It would be 1864 before the club’s first recorded win, in a race against the Excelsior Boat Club of Greenwich. Thames won its first trophy at Henley Royal Regatta in 1870, taking the Wyfold Challenge Cup. By 1890 the club had won a further 21 Henley titles (including the Grand Challenge Cup four times) and was well-established in its own boathouse on Putney Embankment.

In the 1920s the club had a second great flowering, and was the home of notable figures including legendary coach Steve Fairbairn and Britain’s greatest-ever single sculler, Jack Beresford, who won a total of three Olympic gold medals and two silver medals over five games. It would be 60 years before Steve Redgrave bettered his record.

After World War II the club, like many others, struggled. A win in the Stewards’ Challenge Cup at Henley in 1956 was to be the last Henley trophy for 47 years, and by the early 1970s Thames’s role and future was in doubt.

In 1973 Thames voted to accept women as members and the United Universities Women’s Boat Club moved into the boathouse. The club quickly became a powerhouse of women’s rowing, sending athletes to compete at every Olympic Games from Los Angeles to Beijing. In 2000 Guin and Miriam Batten were members of the quad which took silver in Sydney, Britain’s first-ever women’s rowing Olympic medal. Elise Laverick won bronze in the double at both the 2004 and 2008 Olympics.

Since the founding of Henley Women’s Regatta in 1987, the club has won there over 50 times, most recently winning both the senior single scull and elite lightweight pairs (in a record time) in 2017 and aspirational club eights in 2019. At Henley Royal Regatta, alongside many wins in composite crews, Thames won the highly competitive Remenham Challenge Cup for women’s eights outright in 2005.

On the men’s side, a steady improvement from the late 1990s onwards culminated in an emphatic and highly emotional win in the Wyfold Challenge Cup at Henley in 2003, followed up by a further Wyfold win in 2006. From 2010 onwards the focus moved to the Thames Challenge Cup for club men’s eights. Thames made the semi-finals in 2010, 2011, 2013 and 2014, and reached the final in 2012, but it was not until 2015 that the club’s top 8 beat Rudern, Tennis und Hockey Club Bayer Leverkusen, Germany to take the Thames Cup.

In 2016 Thames won the Visitors’ Challenge Cup for intermediate coxless fours in a dramatic final. The following year saw a historic Thames A vs Thames B final in the Thames Challenge Cup (spoiler: Thames won). In 2018 the club again won the Thames Cup, but also picked up its first-ever win in the Britannia Challenge Cup for club men’s coxed fours.

As we head towards our 160th anniversary, we are proud to maintain a successful record of excellence along with a vibrant, friendly social atmosphere which we hope the club’s founders would recognise and be proud of.