Marlow Regatta has a long history going back to 1855 and is set to continue since its move to the man-made rowing lake at Dorney, Eton (near Windsor) in 2001. The move has allowed the Regatta to expand and to attract a larger number of international competitors which has grown year on year.

2007 was the first 2 day Marlow Regatta at Dorney, with over 11 hours of racing on the Saturday and on the Sunday for the first time. In 2011, Masters events were introduced on Sunday for the first time and looked set to grow in popularity. Regrettably since 2014 the Regatta has had to revert to a single day as the Dorney Lake course at Eton is unavailable for hire on the Sunday after Marlow Regatta’s usual date.

With thanks

No account of the Regatta would be complete without the mention of five men, Alfred Davis, Frank Harman, Charles Rowe, Giles Every and Tony Evans, who between them ran the regatta for one hundred and thirteen years. Alfred Davis was elected secretary in 1892, a post which he held until his death in 1924. He was succeeded by Frank Harman, who served as Hon Secretary from 1925 to 1947. He was elected President in 1951 which office he held until his death in 1955.

Charles Rowe started as an assistant to Alfred Davis in 1912 and was elected Assistant Secretary in 1925. Later he became Secretary until his retirement in 1966. In 1967 he was elected President but sadly only lived to hold the post for one year. Giles Every took over the post of Hon Secretary from Charles Rowe and through his enthusiasm and hard work brought about many of the changes that produced the high attendance of both crews and crowds in the 1970s and 80s. His tragic death with his wife in a car accident just after the 1984 Regatta was a sad blow not only to the Regatta but to the Rowing world in general. A stone memorial to his memory is to be found marking the start of the old Marlow course near Temple.

Tony Evans took over the role of Hon. Secretary in June 1984 and oversaw the further expansion of the regatta at Marlow, with over 200 crews competing at the 2000 event. With the development of the rowing lake by Eton College at Dorney, Tony led the initiative to persuade the regatta's subscribers to move Marlow Regatta there in 2001. A move that has been vindicated by the increased competitor entry levels from 200 in 2,000 to over 460 in 2005. Tony stood down as Hon Secretary at the 2006 Annual General Meeting.

Multi-lane racing

Since the move to Dorney Lake, Marlow Regatta has benefited from the facilities available and has seen considerable growth in the number of competitors attending the regatta. The last year on the River Thames saw 190 entries, but by 2003 at Dorney Lake this had doubled to 380, including new events for Junior women, additional events for the Junior men, plus new events for lightweight men.

The Open events have been particularly well attended, with crews from the USA and Australia regularly attending.

The 2004 regatta saw just short of 400 entries and a full days racing. As the regatta continues to grow, how long before the single day cannot cope with all the required races? The option is available to expand to a two-day event, with additional attractions for the supporters, to accommodate the additional racing.

2005 is the 150th anniversary of the first recorded Marlow Regatta and to mark the occasion both Marlow Regatta and Marlow Town Regatta and Festival will be celebrating the event.

The Vote

Supporting papers arguing the case both for and against the move were circulated prior to an Extraordinary General Meeting which was held on November 29th in the Shelley Theatre, Court Garden. After some lively but orderly debating a secret paper ballot resulted in the decision to move, votes for being 120, against 48, with one spoilt paper. This is again a bold step for the Regatta, similar to the decision in 1913 to change to a radically different date. History has a way of repeating itself, and a new Committee, dedicated to holding an event on the Thames at Marlow is currently busy organising an event to be held the week before Marlow Regatta. The new event will include dragon boat races and in general be a more light-hearted regatta and festival Thus we are returning to the years before 1891 when there was a "serious regatta" and a "Carnival" event.

Marlow Regatta at Dorney Lake now has the opportunity to build its reputation as one of the best regattas in the country. By moving, it has preserved its hold on its date of just two weeks before Henley. Ironically, given the history, this date has proved to be one of the Regatta's chief assets. It is to be hoped that the move to a multi-lane course will prove to be equally wise.

Over the years the cost of staging the Regatta has steadily increased. In 1892 the cost was £196 and by 1914 this had risen to £265. The next regatta in 1919 cost £514 and by 1939 this had risen to £731. In 1946 it was £974 and £133 of this went in entertainment tax. The £2,000 mark was passed in 1956 and £50,000 was reached in 1995. The 2,000 regatta accounts showed that the event cost £67,000 to stage.

1966 to 2000

Due to changes in ARA rules many events were reclassified in 1972 and the two school events dropped. However, events for Junior 16 and Junior 15 eights were re-introduced in 1983. A further change in the ARA rules in 1988 again caused another re-alignment of events. From 1975 to 1979, events for Quadruple sculls and coxed pairs were offered. The coxed pairs only attracted three entries in 1975 and none in 1976 so were dropped. Quadruple sculls were slightly more popular, but never attracted more than three entries and so were dropped in 1980. The Regatta was perhaps a little ahead of its time since Senior Open Quads were again offered in 1991, followed by Junior Quads, which replaced Junior Coxed fours, in 1992. Both these events are now well supported.

To celebrate the Centenary of the Thames Amateur Rowing Council an additional event for Sprint Eights, racing over a 500m course from Bisham Church to the Finish was organised in 1982. This proved popular with both crews and spectators and was retained in the programme along with a further sprint event for Senior 2 Eights. Both these events were only open to crews racing in the longer distance events. These changes met with the approval of the crews since the record entry of 246 crews was achieved in 1993.

Marlow Regatta history_1980

In 2000, a proposal backed by the Committee, to move the Regatta from the Thames at Marlow to the purpose-built multi-lane Eton Rowing Course, under construction at Dorney Lake, was put to the Subscribers. The Committee's view being that new courses were being planned or built in several locations and that top-class crews would no longer wish to compete on the traditional river courses. Its view was confirmed since there was no race for the Grand Eights Challenge cup at the 2000 Regatta through a lack of entries.

1933 to 1966

In 1936 Tokyo University entered for the Grand and attracted a great crowd who they amazed by rowing over 60 strokes in the first minute and not dropping below 45 over the whole course. They won the event but when they tried to repeat their success at Henley the longer course was too much for them and they blew up.

There were of course no regattas from 1940-45 but 1946 saw a revival with double sculls being introduced for the first time. The event was won by a crew from Buenos Aires.

During the 1950's the Regatta thrived reaching a peak entry of 182 in 1956. In the previous year the Regatta built an extension to Marlow Rowing Club to give additional changing accommodation which was desperately needed, but in spite of this the facilities for boating the crews from the Club and from Meakes yard were overstrained and possible alternative sites were sought.

In 1963 all the boats were moved to Bisham where splendid facilities were provided by the Central Council of Physical Recreation. In 1973, however, Bisham Abbey grounds were laid out as a golf course and once again alternative sites were sought. In 1974, thanks to the generosity of the landowners, the boats were moved back to the Bucks bank adjacent to the enclosures.

Coxed senior fours were introduced in 1963 and in 1966 Junior-Senior Eights and Junior-Senior Fours were added. In 1968 the course was lengthened to one mile by moving the start further upstream and in 1976 was slightly shortened to give the metric distance of 1600m.

1913 to 1933

In 1914 the school fours were re-established and a referendum of schools confirmed that this event should be rowed "on fixed seats not more than 8" wide."

There were no regattas in the War years 1915-18 and the 1919 event was the first post-war regatta on the Thames. It was styled the Victory Regatta and there were events for Allied Forces VIIIs and Allied Forces IVs. The programme rather poignantly also shows crews from St.Dunstan (Blinded Officers B.C.) who were coxed by their sighted nurses. It was this year that the Finish line was moved from just above Marlow suspension bridge to a point within Higginson Park, to eliminate some of the effects of the final bend. Both Start and Finish were moved about 250 yards upstream.

During the years between the Wars, entries steadily increased. In 1921 the Junior Senior fours became a Senior fours event. In 1924 racing on a Friday evening had to be introduced. In 1929 the restriction of the Town Cup to local Clubs was dropped and it became a Wyfold class event. In 1931 the School Eights event was started for school second eights and it is interesting that heats had to be rowed on Friday evening as the school doctors were adamant that schoolboys must not be allowed to row more than two races in one day.

Prior to 1933 the regatta enclosure was very low lying and liable to flood but in that year the Committee arranged for the land to be raised and £96 was paid to the "Unemployment Relief Committee", which organised the work.

1891 to 1913

The combined regatta proved a great success and was repeated in 1893 and 1894 with the addition of a ladies dongola race, but in 1895 it is recorded that General Sir George Higginson and Walter Wethered complained of the lack of serious rowing events and deplored holding a carnival rather than a regatta. As a result of these complaints the events in 1895 were:- Grand VIIIs, Junior-Senior VIIIs, Town Cup IVs, Junior Sculls, Dongolas, Ladies Dongolas, Water Polo and Tug of War. In 1896 the Ladies Dongolas and Water Polo were dropped leaving only the Tug of War as a non-rowing event and this was finally dropped in 1901.

When the carnival events were dropped, Marlow Rowing Club revived its own regatta which thrived for many years initially as Marlow Aquatic Sports and Rag Regatta and later as just Marlow Rag Regatta.

During the first decade of the 20th century, the regatta became firmly established, the Junior-Senior VIIIs became the Marlow VIIIs and later a new VIIIs event was added, Senior sculls and Senior Pairs were also added. In 1913 the Thames Amateur Rowing Council, who arrange Thames regatta dates, allocated the second Saturday in August, which had become Marlow's traditional date, to Staines Regatta. This caused great consternation in Marlow and after seriously considering a mid-week date, it was decided to hold the regatta on Saturday June 21st. two weeks before Henley. This was a bold decision as at this time the regatta season opened with Henley and it was unheard of to hold a pre-Henley event. The decision proved to be very sound and from that day to this, Marlow has been held two weeks before Henley.

Early days to 1891

The Hilldale crew from the USA competed in the Senior IVs and this is the first recorded overseas entry. Unfortunately there was a dispute about their amateur status and they were not allowed to enter at Henley. All clubs boycotted them at Marlow except the local Marlow Rowing Club who were defeated easily.

By 1884 the Regatta was thriving and there were seven entries for the Grand and in 1886 the school IVs were transferred to Marlow from Henley. But by 1889 there were again difficulties. Henley had extended to a three-day event being held on a Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday and Marlow was finding it difficult to get entries on the Saturday. In 1890 the regatta was held on the Friday after Henley but this failed to attract additional entries. In 1891 they tried to revert to the Saturday, but Kingston Regatta claimed that day and so in order not to have a clash of dates, Marlow was again held on a Friday, but was not a success.

In the years up to 1891 there were two regattas at Marlow, the Marlow Amateur Regatta and the local regatta organised by Marlow Rowing Club which was a more light-hearted affair held in August. Following the lack of entries for the main regatta it was resolved "to hold a regatta on more popular lines than Marlow Amateur Regatta which had ceased to exist owing to the lack of support from Metropolitan Clubs." Gen.Owen Williams was elected President, Alfred Davis Secretary, and the regatta was held on Saturday, August 13th with the following events;- Junior VIIIs, scratch VIIIs, Junior IVs, Water Polo in canoes, Tug of War, Dongolas (crew of 6 paddling punts), Ladies double sculls, and a novelty race. The regatta was followed by a Venetian fete and fireworks display in the evening.

The first hard evidence of a Regatta at Marlow is a poster (now in a picture frame hanging in the Marlow RC 'Bar Room') advertising the events and conditions of entry for a “Great Marlow Regatta” to be held on 16th August. There is no mention of this being “The First Great Marlow Regatta”, so it is likely that there had been others, but perhaps not on a regular basis. Indeed, even this poster states that the Regatta would take place on Thursday 16th August and not Thursday 9th as previously advertised. Presumably something had gone amiss with the arrangements!

Thursday strikes us now as being an odd day for such an event, but the events offered shed some light on this. There are events for professional Watermen and events for Amateurs; a distinction which was made in rowing right up to 1956, when the NARA and the ARA, the Associations representing professionals/ Working Men’s Clubs and Amateur Rowing Clubs were amalgamated into the ARA. (ref.1) There is a great deal of social history involved in this agreement which took over fifty years to achieve and was started by RC Lehmann, who was both President of Marlow Regatta and Secretary of the ARA in the early 1900’s.

The Waterman raced for purse money; two guineas for the winner of a sculling race, whilst the amateurs raced for trophies. Presumably the watermen were given time off by their bosses to race (or were they self-employed?), there is some kudos to be gained from employing or being the fastest waterman. For the Amateurs rowers, since most were from either universities or from the landed gentry, then a Thursday was as convenient as any other day.

The 1855 regatta was small by today’s standards. It was also fairly local; entries were invited from those residing between Wargrave and Bray. Events offered for waterman were; a sculling race, a four-oar race, a double punt race, a pair oar race, a punt race. For Amateurs; a pair-oar race, a sculling race, a four-oar race. This produced a regatta of 12 races. In total 13 watermen took part and 14 amateurs. Several men raced in more than one event, and some raced in three events. There is no mention of the length of the course, but for those who were racing in three events it is to be hoped that it was no further than from Bisham Church to the Bridge! There is no report of the Regatta, but it was obviously expected to be quite an occasion since the poster states that “an excellent Band will attend”. The list of Stewards and Officials implies that all the local dignitaries lent their support:

Major-General Sir William Robert Clayton, Bart,
Sir Gilbert East Gilbert-East Bart,
Lt Colonel Brownlow Knox, MP,
B Atkinson, Esq.
LW Wethered, Esq.
JS Wilkinson, Esq.
Treasurer: WL Ward
Secretary: TO Wethered

Whether this Regatta was considered a success or not, is unknown.

Certainly at this period, the river was used for outings and excursions and generally enjoyed by all. The stylish report in the Bucks Free Press of August 21st 1857 states that a “Grand Aquatic Excursion under the patronage of the Odd Fellows” took place. In this a party left Marlow Bridge on board the “Queen of the Thames” Pleasure Boat at half-past nine. They were accompanied by the Wycombe Sax-Horn Band, who had arrived in Marlow “shortly after eight o’clock and by their brazen note caused a rush of people from their breakfast table to the street and afforded a loud contradiction to the assertion that the Sax-Horn band was dying or dead, judging from the evidence we should say there was no symptom of dissolution about them, and we can truly assert, after what we know of their Tuesday’s performance, that their lungs must be in a most healthy state or they could not have got through the arduous labours of the day in the satisfactory manner they did, and in proof of their services, were appreciated we may mention that three hearty cheers were given them on the return home at night”.

The “Queen of the Thames” headed downstream and “the company on board received large accessions to its numbers at Bourne End and Cookham”. Eventually, they moored at “The Island of Formosa”, just opposite Cliefden House (sic) where Mr Barlow, the owner, had “made all arrangements, by mowing and rolling the grass ready for a grand picnic and dance.” The party finally made it back to Marlow by 10’o’clock in the evening where a firework display was staged. In Marlow, rival attractions of a cricket match and a Monstre Cirque had also come to an end, so that “a very large assemblage of persons congregated on the bridge and at the riverside to witness the fireworks and to greet the return of their fellow townspeople.” The report ends with a paragraph thanking the members of the organising Committee who had been foremost in making it such a great success; Messrs. Tulfrey, Allum, Watts, Grey, Green, Batting, J.Smith, Tomasini, and Hobbs.

A similar outing is reported for 1858 under the auspices of Marlow Choral Society, one of whose grand aims “is to promote friendship, kindly sentiments and harmony throughout all classes in this town, and everyone will acknowledge the good results already achieved and heartily wish success to so deserving a society.” After such a glowing opening sentence it may be a slightly double edged comment that goes on "We are almost inclined to believe the annual summer fete is more universally popular than the usual Christmas concert; certain we are that the loss of either would be sincerely regretted by the many who now enjoy both”. No apology is made for the long quotes from these articles, which have a style all their own:

“The fete like the Choral Society is formed on a broad basis and is intended to afford all classes a pleasing day’s amusement. Inasmuch as a character alone is the test of fitness for membership, so the same standard is adopted in the sale of tickets for the fete, so that on these occasions there is a free mingling of all respectable classes, both rich and poor.”

“Tuesday the 13th inst, was the day fixed upon for the excursion, and it was not difficult to discover from the air of busy importance, worn by so many of our fair towns-women, that it was viewed by them as a day of more than ordinary interest. The housewife considering how best to tempt the appetite, and the young ladies were even more deeply interested in planning such pretty attire, as should when coupled with their beaming smiles, win the hearts of the “Lords of Creation”. The morning was dull and gloomy, and many anxious and beseeching glances were cast towards the threatening sky; in almost every instance however, the wish was father to the thought, a fine day was augured by all.”

“The enlivening strains of the Wycombe Band was heard throughout the town, shortly after 9 o’clock and served to hasten many a prolonged toilet, and decide many a waverer who halted between two opinions. The Band proceeded to Remnantz, the residence of OP Wethered Esq. the treasurer of the society and thence after playing several pieces in the court yard, proceeded to the boat, intended to carry the merry party. Here all was life and animation; numbers flocked on board, and hampers of all sizes gave evidence that the provisional department had been well cared for. The bridge and shore were thronged with spectators to view the embarkation.”

“It was near 11 o’clock before all were on board, and at five minutes to that hour the Prince of Wales was cast off. The band struck up “the Triumph” and by dint of close pressing, a small space was cleared on deck, and a few couples thus early commenced the amusements of the day. It is not necessary to dilate on the magnificence of the scenery on either side of the Thames, throughout the entire distance. It was in a small boat on the river, in this neighbourhood, that Shelley loved to wander during the time he was composing the “Revolt of Islam”. The journey was much enjoyed by everyone, and each mansion or hamlet as it was passed, sent forth its modicum of the curious, to view the rare spectacle of a gaily painted boat, sparkling with youth and beauty, and filling the air with sweet harmony. On arriving at the old Abbey, all with one accord arranged themselves in groups and vigorously attacked the creature comforts provided; when exhausted nature had been replenished, each resorted to amusements most suited to their taste; dancing appeared the all-absorbing attraction and the powers of physical endurance displayed by its numerous votaries in this sport, was surprising.

In the course of the afternoon, P Borgnis Esq. who is everywhere respected made his appearance on the ground, and it was not long before he had a large group assembled about his boat, partaking of wine, cake and fruit etc. that his kind and liberal heart had suggested to him might prove useful at such time, and the hearty rounds of cheers accorded him by every person in the company, was only an outward expression of the sentiments, which everyone felt towards one who is always doing good for the society, and who is respected by every person who knows him. Shortly after 8 o’clock, the last dance was announced, and about 80 stood up to old “Sir Roger de Coverly”, then the re-embarkation was soon effected and cheers were again given to Mr Borgnis, Mr O.P.Wethered and Mr CRCS Murray, for the use of the ground and the boat with her human freight of between 200 and 300 persons got under weigh. The most unpleasant event of the day marked the journey home, owing to the carelessness on the part of the driver of the horse, which towed the boat, and the drunkenness of the man at the helm. Shortly after the start, the horse slipped into the river, but after some delay regained terra firma; the disgraceful fellow at the wheel was also relieved of his responsible duties and then good progress was again made, and all were safely landed at home at about 11 o’clock.

All expressed themselves highly delighted with their day’s excursion, and but for the unfortunate mishap, everything would have passed off in a most favourable manner.”

It must be remembered that this was in 1858, well before the days of radio and cinemas let alone television, so a day thus spent was a real highlight and anticipated with great excitement.

A Regatta provided a similar focus for enjoyment and amusement, thus in 1861 in the South Oxfordshire Gazette of July 5th, rather oddly positioned between a report about “The Band of Hope” who had “enrolled a large number of juveniles under the Temperance banner in this town”, and a report from the Court of Probate and Divorce, Clark v Clark and Window, under the heading Boat Race it says;

“Why is Marlow without its Regatta? While nearly every town of any importance upon the banks of the Thames boasts its annual boat race we are as almost quiescent upon the subject as a town in the midst of a desert. We make scarcely any use of our natural facilities for the enjoyment of a most healthful and invigorating amusement. The establishment of an annual Regatta would do much to make rowing more generally practised amongst us. We have frequently heard rumours that a regatta was to be started and that the members of our borough and numerous other gentlemen, both permanent and occasional sojourners in this neighbourhood, expressed their desire to support such a scheme. It only requires them, some persons of position and influence to take the matter up to ensure its success; the plan is worth at least a trial, and those who will undertake it will obtain, as they deserve, the thanks of the many who consider that good boating ought to be fostered and encouraged. Our attention is directed to this subject by a little affair on the river that came off last Wednesday, and which, though very unpretending attracted rather a large number of persons, clearly evincing that the interest in the sport may be dormant, but is certainly not dead.”

“The first race was between two pair-oars over the course from Bisham Abbey to “The Anglers”, in which Messrs P Toone and J Sawyer, Hobbs cox beat Messrs B Cook and S Cook, Haines cox as they liked, by 70 or 80 yards. The next was a double punt race starting opposite Bisham Church.

Messrs Cresswell and White were on the Berks side and Jones and Gale on Bucks. A very even start was made, and a most gallant and exciting struggle ensued; Cresswell and White maintained a slight lead until opposite the residence of F Berger, Esq. Court Garden, when Jones and Gale put on a fine spurt, overtook and finally forced themselves into their opponent’s water; the contest was still continued with great severity, the race finally ending in favour of Jones and Gale by about two boat’s length. The racing concluded with a double punting race, four entries.

Messrs Cresswell and T White   1
Messrs Shaw and Lloyd   2
Messrs Jones and Gale   
Messrs W White and Rockwell   Heat Dead

This race caused much amusement by the frequent fouling and much excitement by its closeness. Jones and Gale were floored by running their boat across a pile. Cresswell and White ultimately gained the prize.”

Whether any similar events took place in the following years is unknown, but a letter dated August 24th 1865 1st Class Regatta again puts the case for holding a first-class Regatta in Marlow:


At a preliminary meeting at the Town Hall, Marlow on Monday 7th inst. GH VANSITTART, Esq. in the chair, to take into consideration the feasibility of establishing a first-class Regatta at Marlow the following Resolution was unanimously accepted:

  1. That it is desirable to establish an Annual Regatta at Marlow in the summer of 1866 and that a Provisional Committee be formed to ascertain the feelings of neighbourhood on this point, to collect subscriptions and to report to a public meeting.
  2. That the Provisional Committee consist of the following gentlemen: Messrs GH Vansittart, J Carson, P Borgnis, TO Wethered, OP Wethered, JS Carson, T Rolls, RP Wethered, WJ Shone, T Wright, A Lawrence, G Rowle, R Foottit, GS Perace, J Roberts, J Adams and RH Smith.

In accordance with these resolutions the Provisional Committee met on 16th instant when it was resolved that a circular should be sent to the inhabitants of Marlow and its neighbourhood, soliciting Donations and Subscriptions for the several Cups and Prizes to be offered for competition and towards the annual expense.

Will you have the kindness to inform me if you will afford the Regatta your pecuniary support:

A CHALLENGE CUP value 100 Guineas
A STEWARD’S CUP value 80 Guineas
A LADIES’ CUP value 60 Guineas
A TOWN CUP value 50 Guineas

Also Presentation Cups and other prizes.

I am sir your obedient servant,

WL Ward  Secretary Pro Tem.

Presumably a regatta was held, but no records have been unearthed to date to substantiate this. At this time, many regattas were held both on the Thames and elsewhere, particularly on the Tyne, on a fairly haphazard basis. Also many private matches were held, the most famous being the University Boat Race first held in 1829. This is still a private match, hence the theatricals of “the challenge” etc, that are still carried out to day.

At some time between 1865 and 1870 there must have been a meeting between the rowing enthusiasts of Maidenhead and Marlow, since there is a programme for Maidenhead and Marlow Regatta, held on June 27th 1870. From subsequent reports, it would seem that the regatta was held at Marlow or Maidenhead in alternate years. It was termed a “First Class Regatta”, and had no events for watermen, but attracted entries from Clubs such as London, Kingston, Twickenham and Cambridge University. Amongst the Cambridge oarsmen were John B.Close and James B Close who with a third brother all gained their rowing “blues”. (John was in the winning crews of 1871 and 1872, James in those that won in 1872-1874, and  brother WB. Close in the crews of 1875 – 77, wining one, losing one and rowing the dead heat of 1877, which was raced at 8.27 am!).  The 1870 entry from Marlow is recorded as Marlow Amateur Boat Club, but in fact Marlow Rowing Club was not founded until 1871.

The Rowing Almanack 1875 which reports all the races for 1874 and all the preparation that Oxford and Cambridge did prior to the boat race, only mentions Marlow Regatta in passing stating that the “Chester Regatta Challenge Cup for coxless fours was won by Royal Chester RC , which won the Challenge Cup at Marlow, and ought to have won the Wyfold cup at Henley Royal Regatta”. In these days Henley Royal Regatta offered a Town Cup for local crews and the Marlow crew won this, beating a crew from Henley RC.

The 1879 Almanack gives a rather better account of Maidenhead and Marlow, stating that it was held on 6th July and  “came off with great success.” Henley Royal Regatta was held on Thursday and Friday, 4th and 5th July. At Marlow, in the race between Kingston and Thames for fours, Kingston won “cleverly”. It is obvious that even in these very early days, it was recognised that there was an art to steering the Marlow course! In the Final of the Eights Cup Thames RC and Kingston RC raced a dead heat, “ the crews being so distressed that it was decided that each Club should hold the cup for 6 months and the members of both crews should receive medals of equal value.”

The 1880 Almanack reports that Maidenhead and Marlow took place at Maidenhead on 28th of June. It was clearly not a great success since it continues; “ the Bucks station proved so much to an advantage of its possessor that it was almost useless to row the races and, as a proposal to reverse the course was refused, a London RC eight withdrew.” Presumably there had been a lot of rain in the preceding week and the crews were racing upstream. Even at today’s Maidenhead Regatta, the Bucks station can, by dint of careful steering obtain a significant advantage from hugging the bank towards the Finish, particularly in strong stream conditions. In 1880, London weren’t the only crew to withdraw. Thames won a heat on the favoured side, and then scratched when they found they had to race on the un-favoured station in the Final. So the Regatta was clearly something of a disaster. Anyone concerned with the organisation of any sporting event can imagine the arguments that would have continued behind the scenes disguised in the report by the phrase “a proposal to reverse the course was refused”. One good result was that Marlow RC must have drawn the better station, since they won the Town Cup!

The last Maidenhead and Marlow Regatta was held in 1881 on Saturday 19th June, with the Henley Royal Regatta held on the previous Thursday and Friday. Presumably it would have been held at Marlow. Winners at this Regatta were Reading RC (Town Cup), Bath Avon RC (Challenge Cup for Fours), Mr Powers of Downing College Cambridge (Senior Sculls), Mr Shackle (a local sculler) (Junior Sculls), Marlow RC (Junior Fours Cup) and Thames RC beat Kingston RC by 1/4L in the Final of the Challenge Cup for eights.

Again the 1882 Almanack, in reporting the rowing scene for 1881 is probably being highly diplomatic when it records that “Maidenhead and Marlow Regatta which used to be held on the Saturday after Henley Royal Regatta unfortunately fell through in consequence of some disputes, but we trust that we may find it in its usual place among the fixtures of 1882”.

In the last chapter, there was great detail about the first foreign entry (in 1882, from the Hillsdale Club, Michigan, USA), and the problems this caused due to their professional/amateur status. This chapter now takes a look at what the Regatta was like during the whole decade. The information and details have been culled from the Programmes of racing (The regatta archives have these for 1882,’84’,86,’88, the Regatta’s minute books, a history of the Oxford v Cambridge Boat race, and also the Marlow RC Book of Records, which covers the first 50 years of the Club’s history (1871-1921).

There is also the Programme for the 1880 Maidenhead and Marlow Regatta, which has a combined Committee drawn from the two Clubs, and two Hon Secs, Mr J.G.Crossman from Marlow and Mr H.H.Hodges from Maidenhead. This was in fact the last combined Regatta to be held since the two Committees failed to settle their differences, and, as far as we are aware, no event was held in 1881, although a “Local Regatta”, more like the Marlow RC “Rag Regatta” with events such as Water Polo in Canoes, and aquatic tug-of-war, probably did take place; more of this later. However, the programme for 1880 gives an idea of what these regattas were like. The events and entries were:-

Eights (8o) – entries from London RC, Thames RC (Heat 1), Twickenham RC, Kingston RC (Heat 2)

Senior Fours (4-) – entries from Kingston RC, Thames RC, Twickenham RC (Heat1) (n.b. coxless fours 3 abreast!), Moulsey RC (sic), Avon RC Bath, (Heat 2)

Junior Fours (4+) – entries from West London RC, Marlow RC, Coopers Hill RC (Final)

Town Fours (4+) - entries from Cookham RC, Maidenhead RC, Reading RC (Heat 1), Greenwood Lodge RC (Wargrave), Marlow RC (Heat 2).

Senior Sculls - entries from Moulsey RC (A.Payne), Thames RC (W.Chillingworth), Downing College, Cambridge (G.W Powers) (Final)

Junior Sculls - Kingston RC (J.E.Bowen), Thames RC (A.E.Kent) (Heat 1), Grove Park RC (M. Keogh), Medmenham RC (W.E.Shackle). (Final)

Racing started at 1:00 pm and continued at 20-minute intervals.  After 14 races, the Final of the Eights was at 5:40 pm. The instructions on the programme intended for all the spectators who were afloat and competitors reads:- “A Gun will be fired directly a race has started when the course must be cleared, and all boats will be required to retire behind the line of flags. Boats not ready to start at the times named will be disqualified. Every racing boat must carry its colours in the bow. The name of the winner will appear at the winning post after each race. The prizes will be distributed after the last race when all winners are requested to assemble as quickly as possible. There will be a grand display of FIREWORKS after the Regatta.” The word “fireworks” was in capitals, and it would be interesting to know how “the line of flags” was implemented; did “flag” mean buoy?.

During the 1880s, the majority of entries were from the Thames Valley based stalwarts such as Thames, London, Kingston, Twickenham, Marlow, Reading, and Maidenhead RC’s. Other entries were from Grove Park RC, Medmenham RC, Greenwood Lodge RC (Wargrave), Cookham RC, West London RC, Cooper’s Hill RC, and Albion RC which no longer exist. Cambridge Colleges were well represented by 3rd Trinity, Trinity Hall, Pembroke College, Lady Margaret BC (St John’s Coll), and Clare College. It is something of a surprise to see crews from further afield including Royal Chester RC, Ryde RC, Burton-on-Trent, Evesham RC, and Avon RC Bath. Royal Chester RC regularly entered an eight, whereas some of the others were just single scullers. Another source of entries was from “scratch” crews formed from either current or ex-members of the “Blue” boats from Oxford and Cambridge Universities. It would seem that these crews could be assembled at fairly short notice, to race at the Regatta. It is to be presumed that this was a common practice at this time, and not peculiar to just Marlow Regatta. Looking through the programmes that have survived and from other sources, Bourne End seems to have been a “gathering centre”. This is due to the fact that R.C. Lehmann (Rudi) who had been at Cambridge University but missed out on a Blue, was a member of Marlow RC and acted as the ring leader. He rowed in the 1884 regatta at No3 in an Abney BC eight (colours dark blue, light blue and cerise!), and again in 1888 at 3 in an Orkney Cottage BC (colours chocolate and brown – so what colour was chocolate?) Senior coxless Four and also at Bow in an Abney BC eight. There is also an R.C.Leymann rowing at Bow in a Kingston RC eight in 1880; this may have been the same man. He continued to be involved in rowing for the rest of his life, so his name will come up again, later. He lived in a large house (Fieldhead) on the river in Bourne End. For more details on R.C.Lehmann and on the derivation of Abney BC, Orkney Cottage BC and much more local history, see Appendix A.

The table below gives an idea of some of the “Oxbridge” competitors that were racing at this time. It is clear that many were doubling or even trebling up. Even so, many events had such small entries that a straight final was always a possibility, and the programme/draw was always organised to allow a period of recovery between these races.


Boat Race crew

Marlow Regatta Crew


CUBC 1883,’84,’85

1886 Trinity Hall BC 8o, Sen 1x, Sen 4-, 2-


CUBC 1882,’83

1884 Thames RC 8o, Sen 4-

1886 Thames RC 8o, Sen 4-, 2-

1888 Thames RC 8o, Sen 4-,2-


CUBC 1882,’83, ’86,’87

1884 Thames RC 8o, Sen 4-

1886 Thames RC Sen 4-, 2-, Australasian BC 8o,


CUBC 1886,’87,’88,’89,’90

1886 Abney BC 8o, Third Trinity BC. Sen 1x,

1888 Abney BC 8o Third Trinity BC. Sen 4-, Sen 1x,

W.F.C Holland

OUBC 1887,’88,’89,’90

1888 Abney BC 8o, Orkney Cottage BC Sen 1x


OUBC 1885,’86,’87

1886 Marlow RC Town Cup 4+, Sen 1x


OUBC 1883,’84,’85,’86,’87

1886 Abney BC 8o

1888 Abney BC 8o, Junior 1x


OUBC 1885,’86,’87

1886 Abney BC 8o


CUBC 1887,’88,’89

1888      2-


*Francis O.Wethered was President of OUBC in 1886, and Hon Sec & Treasurer of Marlow Regatta in 1888.

The third entry in this list is S.Fairbairn; a name which will be known to many in rowing. Steve Fairbairn, was an Australian who went to Geelong Grammar School in Australia, and then to Jesus College, Cambridge, as did 5 of his brothers. He became famous as a coach and was for many years linked with Jesus Coll, Cambs, Thames RC. and London RC. He is known for a style of rowing and training known as “Fairbairnism”; “mileage makes champions” being a well-known phrase/ dictum. He also started the Head of the River Race on the Tideway, where the milepost is a memorial to him.

It is fair to assume that he would have been the “gatherer” of fellow Australians to form the Australasian BC eight which entered in 1886.

The table below gives an idea of the size of these Regattas.

Entries at Marlow Regatta 1882-88 (only even year’s programmes survive)



Ch. Cup


Town Ch. Cup


Public Sch. Ch. Cup




Sen 4-

Local 4+

Junior 4+

Sch 4+

Senior 2-

Sen 1x

Jun 1x






No Event









No Event






















With the decision to stop holding a “Marlow and Maidenhead Regatta” on alternate years at Maidenhead and Marlow, a meeting, on Thursday, March 2nd at the Crown Hotel was called by Mr T.O. Wethered who took the chair. It was attended by fourteen of the “good and great” gentlemen of Marlow. Initially, they had to agree that they thought it a good idea to hold a Great Marlow Regatta, to replace the combined one. After some debate, which included the possibility of combining it with the Local Regatta, they voted, unanimously, to run one, and hold it the day after Henley Royal Regatta i.e. a Saturday. They felt that if £200 could be raised by subscription, it would be financially viable. It was decided to form a Committee to make the necessary plans. Colonel O.P.Wethered proposed that Colonel Owen Lewis Cope Williams MP should be asked to accept the office of President.  In previous discussion at the meeting it had been mentioned that it was thought that he had promised to provide a Challenge Cup and also subscribe £50. This proposal was accepted by nem con. The proposal to form a Committee initially had a list of about 20 names, but the final proposal was for a committee of 9 persons plus Secretary and Treasurer. The names proposed by Mr Jackson, seconded by Mr Hewitt, were:- Mr Crossman, Mr Foottit, Mr Jubber, Mr Kirkpatrick, Dr.Shone, Mr Tudor, Mr G.Ward, Col O.P Wethered, and Mr T.H Wright. Col Wethered then proposed that Major Carson and Mr V.Awdry should be appointed joint Secretaries and  Mr A.Lawrence, Treasurer. All were carried.

A list of 38 names was proposed to invite to become Vice Presidents, who were expected to make a financial contribution. This reads like a “Who’s Who” of Buckinghamshire, starting with Lord Carrington, Lord Boston, The Hon. T.T. Freemantle, Sir Robert Harvey, The Honourable Rupert Carrington…..Major General Higginson is 9th on the list!

At the Committee meeting at the Complete (sic) Angler on Monday 13th March, all the Committee were present. The minutes of the previous meeting were not approved, since the list of proposed Vice Presidents had not been included. Colonel Williams had agreed to present a Challenge Cup and subscribe £50. The national sporting papers had refused to promote the event unless an advert was taken and paid for. This option was not taken up. A Sub-Committee was formed, to consider whether there needed to be changes made to the Henley Rules, for Marlow Regatta. The date for closing entries was set for 1pm on July 4th. The list of events to be offered was also decided, but sadly, the entry fees are not recorded!

At the meeting on 24th. April, the Rules Sub-Committee proposed that all that needed to be added was the following, which also appeared on the Reading Regatta papers; “Open to Amateurs as above, the weight of coxswains not to be less than 7 stone. The qualifications and general rules of the Henley Royal Regatta as published as far as they may apply will be observed. The Committee reserve the right of refusing any entry. Foreign entries must be received and the fees paid on or before the 1st. June 1882”. Some names were proposed to canvas for Subscribers / financial contributions. A sub Committee was also formed to decide upon the presentation prizes. Mr Foottit agreed to talk with the Thames Conservancy on the number of men and water police that would be required.

The 1st June sees two new names, Mr C Hammersley and Mr P Borgnis in attendance along with nine members of the Committee (See Appendix A for info on these two gents). Financially, things were looking promising, so good quality prizes from Stephen Smith & Co at 35, King Street, Covent Garden, could be considered. (These would have been items such as boxed sets of cutlery etc). A prize Sub-Committee was set up to visit, and make a selection. Offers of Challenge Cups from Mr Hammersly, Mr Bognis and Mr Langley were accepted. The ownership of cups from the old Marlow & Maidenhead Regatta was clearly causing problems.

At the meeting on 9th June, the problem referred to previously of the Hillsdale crew from USA was also discussed at “considerable length”. As was the position regarding Challenge Cups, which resulted in Mr Borgnis being thanked for his Cup, which was to be presented for Junior Fours, and Colonel Wethered for his cup, which was to be presented for Senior Sculls. A Cup, originally awarded at the combined Regatta, was to be purchased from Maidenhead RC, for the Senior Fours event, and Mr T.O.Wethered for the Town Challenge Cup. The charge required by the band of the Honourable Artillery Company was considered too high, so the cost of the Band of the 3rd. Batt’n Oxfordshire Light Infantry was to be sought.

All these matters were raised at the next meeting on June 15th, when the Prize Committee’s suggestion, following their visit to Covent Garden, were approved. A cup costing 40 guineas was to be purchased for the Senior Fours if the purchase from Maidenhead RC fell through. The entry from the Hillsdale crew was formally accepted. (The acceptance proposal letter is attached in the Minute book).

On 4th July, the committee met to carry out the draw, and assign stations. A cup for Senior Fours had been purchased since no agreement had been reached with Maidenhead RC. A vote of thanks was passed to Colonel Williams for his magnificent cup (the current Grand Challenge Cup). Agreements were signed by those who had donated Cups present, and the Officers, that, should the Regatta fall through, the cups would be returned to the donors.

The Regatta took place with the entries as tabled above. There is no account of the Regatta, except that at a Committee meeting held on 3rd November, Mr Curtis, standing in for Mr Lawrence (Treasurer) presented some interim accounts that showed a balance in hand of £190 and about £230 to be paid, while there was still £50 to come in. It was resolved to pay what was owed, up to the amount in hand and that “application be made to get in the remaining subscriptions.”

1883 A General meeting had been called for March 5th. but too few had been present, so the meeting was postponed for 1 week when thirteen were present. It had been announced that the Regatta would take place the day after Henley Royal Regatta. Mr Awdry had written to the acting Secretary of that Regatta to ask for their dates and had received a reply which said that the Henley date wouldn’t be fixed until the end of March, but he expected it to be 5th and 6th July. The Accounts for 1882 showed a surplus of £10 3s 1d. After very little discussion, it was proposed that all the previous year’s Officers should be re-elected; carried nem con. The dates for entries (Overseas and England) were fixed. The question of which set of Rules to follow was left to the Committee to decide. Mr Foottit offered the use of his house boat “Evelyn” to act as the Judges stand, this was gratefully received since it would save the cost of erecting a stand.

At meetings held on 8th April and 12th June, minutes report that:

  • The Regatta should be held under the Amateur Athletic Association Rules. (Basically to follow their definitions of amateur and professional)
  • No Foreign entries had been received.
  • Bills (i.e.posters showing the date and events) should be sent to the Clubs
  • Money was collected from those present to be sent as a contribution to a memorial for a Mr Chambers who had Umpired at earlier Regattas.
  • Names were proposed for those who should be responsible for collecting Subscriptions
  • Mr Borgnis’s lawn (see Appendix) was to be used on the same terms as last year.
  • Major Carson and Mr Kirkpatrick proposed & seconded the proposal that two of the Henley umpires should be asked to fulfil the same office at Marlow.
  • Mr Foottit would try to find a suitable launch for Umpiring.
  • There was no need to get prizes as good as those given the previous year. The same Sub-Committee as last year was permitted to spend between £80 and £100.
  • Mr Roberts would be asked if his landing stage could be used again.
  • Mr Foottit had been obliged to withdraw the offer of his houseboat as a judges stand, so it was agreed to erect a stand for this purpose, but not a grandstand.

At the next meeting on June 25th apart from reviewing the actions previously agreed, Mr Foottit and Mr Wright reported that they had engaged some men to do the weed cutting, and this was in progress. Two of the Henley Umpires were unavailable, so other names were suggested. Mr Meakes’s launch “Ethel” had been engaged as an Umpire Launch. Mr Roberts (who owned the wharf, which abutted the bridge, opposite the current MRC Clubhouse) had agreed that his landing stage could be used, at a cost of £5-5-, from which £2-2- should be deducted as his subscription. A slightly larger dressing tent should be hired. Mrs Williams should be asked to present the prizes, and if she was unable to do so, then Mrs Simpson Carson should be asked. Lunches for the Committee were left to Mr Foottit to arrange, with Mr Maskell arranging lunches for the Police. The same number of Police should be asked to attend as previously.

At later meetings on June 28th and July 3rd there were reports on the weed cutting, questions regarding the performance of the proposed Umpire’s launch; could it keep up? The tentage (120ft for boats, 30ft for dressing, 30ft for Band) requirements were approved, and, since the tentage contractor just happened to be sitting nearby in the Complete Angler, the order was given to him. Captain Etheridge (Thames Conservancy, had been written to, regarding carriages on the towpath. Mr Shaw, owner of the boathouse opposite the current MRC Clubhouse (Now Tierney Court), had declined to supply the starting punts and ryepecks. This was now put in the hands of the “Weed Cutting Sub-Committee”. Two Umpires had yet to reply by June 28th but Mr Jenner and Mr Herbert had agreed by July 3rd and Mrs Williams had agreed to give away the prizes.

So, on July 3rd the draw, stations and programme was arranged. Presumably the Regatta took place.

The final meeting of the year was held on July 23rd at which the only topic reported was finance. No detail is given except that some money was still due to be received, and that all bills should be settled, as far as possible, and every effort made to get in the money owed.

1884 Saturday, January 19th. At the AGM, a letter had been received from the Stewards of Henley Royal Regatta explaining that they might be moving to a three-day event, and taking Sat 5th July for the 3rd day. If this were to be the case, the Committee debated as to when would be the best date for Marlow Regatta?  They came to no conclusion but asked the Secretary to write to all the prominent Clubs, asking them for their opinion. They would also arrange to meet with the Secretary of Henley, to see how likely this was. The Balance sheet for 1883 was discussed, and it was decided to throw several contracts open for tender. It was also decided to issue tickets for Lunch, to be signed by the Secretary. (Read into that what you will!) The cost of presentation prizes should be reduced by 25%. All the previous year’s officers were re-elected.

March 1st. Some replies had been received from the leading RC’s, but Col Wethered said that he had been informed that the Henley Stewards were also meeting that same afternoon. He had been in communication with some of them and they had expressed their intention of urging very strongly that, in the event of the Henley Regatta occupying three days it should be Wednesday, Thursday Friday and not Thursday, Friday, Saturday. Mr Awdry, as Secretary had had a personal interview with the Secretary of Henley Regatta, at which he had learnt that “there was not the least chance that the Regatta would occupy 3 days” since they were not going to offer the Town Cup event and also enforce stricter rules for entry into the Diamond Sculls. So, Mr Wright proposed that Marlow Regatta should be held on Saturday July 5th subject to notification from the Henley Regatta authorities that they would not be occupying that day. It was also reported that Mr Crossman was about to leave the area, so would no longer be able to be a member of the Committee, but would like to be kept in touch with the Regatta. It was therefore decided to add his name to the list of Vice Presidents. Messrs A.H.Knox and E.K. Mann were to be asked to join the Committee. A printing Sub Committee was formed, charged with reducing the cost.

May 14th. General Higginson chaired the meeting. It was noted that Henley had informed Marlow that it was most unlikely that they would be occupying the Saturday, so it was decided to put Saturday July 5th into the sporting papers as the date. Mr F.Higginson was elected a Vice President, and Mr S.H.Wright elected to fill the one vacant place on the Committee. It would seem that some form of petition had been circulated at the 1883 regatta, complaining about the presence of steam launches at the Regatta. Whether this was an early action by the environmentalists, or from spectators who objected to being covered in smoke, smuts and steam, or oarsmen who didn’t like the rough water, is not obvious. However, the Committee passed a motion saying that such launches were welcome “for the advancement of sport and convenience of spectators”.

At a brief meeting on June 20th apart from noting that the amount raised by subscription was small, they had received a letter from Maidenhead RC asking that, as their crew had “Rowed over” in Junior Fours the previous year (presumably no other crew entered) were they now classed as Seniors? The answer was yes; “ ….the Committee considered that same penalty would apply to a row over, as to a race”.

The only additional details that emerge from the minutes of the meeting held on June 26th were that Mr Hammersley had agreed that his launch could be used for Umpiring, weed cutting would cost £4-10-00, and a landing stage “not more than £7-00-00.” Mr Kirkpatrick’s sentry box could be used as a Judges stand, and placed on Mr Borgnis’s lawn; only a winning post would be placed on the Bucks bank. Tickets were to be issued to Subscribers to allow them to access Mr Borgnis’s lawn. Clubs who had won trophies the previous year and had not yet returned them, would be written to.

The draw and stations were decided on July 1st and most unusually, the Committee met again on Regatta day and decided that it would not be advisable to alter the rules for the Town Cup, which should remain an event for fours with coxswains.

At the post regatta meeting on July 26th it would seem that the men from the Thames Conservancy who were due to “keep the course” had not been present, so the Committee members had done the job. The treasurer said that it was possible that the previous year’s deficit of £34 would be covered by the current year’s receipts.

The 1885 Committee meeting, called for 2:30pm on April 28th, was too poorly attended to meet the quorum, so it was called again for a General Special Meeting on Wednesday, May 6th at 2:30pm when 11 were present. Since the joint Secretaries had tendered their resignation, it was proposed that Mr Jaquet be Secretary, he expressed his willingness to serve, but asked for a few days to consider the matter, before accepting such an important position, and to see how it fitted in with his other duties. The Committee agreed to this condition, and said that they would be very pleased to have a gentleman with such a prominent position in the sporting world, as secretary of the Regatta, and felt that it would further increase the popularity of the event (Does anyone know of this Mr Jaquet? N.b. it may be Jaquel?). There was also some debate about an outstanding bill of £40 from Stephen Smith & Sons, which was ordered to be paid. Allowing for this, the balance sheet for 1884 showed a deficit of £13-6-0.

Other matters of some importance were that they debated whether to adopt the Rules of the Amateur Rowing Association, however, since ono-one knew much about them this matter was deferred to a later meeting. Mr. Redknap offered the use of his launch for Umpiring.

On opening the meeting on 4th June 1885, Mr Kirkpatrick said that the main purpose was to decide whether to hold a Regatta or not, since attempts to find a Secretary had failed, because Mr E.W Jaquel, having reviewed his other commitments had decided that he could in no way undertake any responsibility in connection with the Regatta. Even now, with about one month to go, the Committee “felt that the Regatta ought to be carried out this year, and that they would make allowances for any shortcomings and a probable deficit at the end of the season consequent on such a late start. Mr Kirkpatrick would undertake to see the 1885 Regatta through”. At this meeting it was also decided to row the Regatta under the Rules of the Amateur Rowing Association, instead of the Rules of Henley Regatta Committee, and that “an announcement to this effect should be prominently displayed on the bills” (i.e. posters). This, again, was mostly concerned over the ongoing problem of defining amateur / professional.

The minutes also say “The Henley Regatta Committee having thrown out from their programme the Public Schools Challenge Cup, the Marlow Regatta Committee at the coming Regatta offer for competition a Challenge Cup and Prizes to be rowed for by crews from the Public Schools. That the race be for fours with coxswains and that it be rowed under the same conditions and rules as far as practically as the late Public Schools Cup at Henley. That the question of providing a Challenge Cup remain over until a later meeting, and that the Secretary be requested to communicate with the Henley Committee asking if there is any truth in the report that they would be willing to hand over their Public Schools Challenge Cup to the Marlow Committee and otherwise to ascertain their view on the matter and on what conditions they would be willing to hand over the Cup.”

The meeting also had just heard, with deep regret, of the sudden death of Mr John Langley, who was one of the earliest supporters of the Regatta, and a donor of one of the Challenge Cups. They asked the Secretary to write, expressing their deep sympathy to his widow and Mr John Langley Junior and the rest of the family.

At the meeting on June 18th Nothing had been heard from the Henley Committee. The only other unusual matter was that the Secretary was asked to write to the County Surveyor, drawing his attention to the bad state of the Bridge!

Even at the following meeting (June 26th) still no reply had come from the Henley Stewards, but the prize Committee had identified a suitable Cup which could be purchased and suitably engraved at three days’ notice. Concern was expressed over the poor performance of the Marlow Band at the previous Regatta. Mr Foottit undertook to see that it was adequately strengthened and improved.

On Tuesday, 30th June, it was resolved that Col Wethered and the Secretary should “be appointed a deputation to wait on the Henley Stewards on Thursday or Friday, and arrange for the possession of the Public Schools Challenge Cup for the coming Marlow Regatta”. Also Mr Borgnis, agreed that he was willing for the arrangement for the use of his lawn to rest in the hands of the Committee, and to withdraw his previous plan of admitting the public free. He wished however to reserve to himself a number of tickets as necessary for his friends. (see Appendix A for notes on Mr Borgnis) The allocation rules for the lawn tickets was then set at:-

Subscriptions from        10/6 to 1/1/-      2 tickets

                                         1/1/- upwards   4 tickets

With 2 additional tickets for every 1/1/- . Officials free.

The 1986 Minutes start in a new minute book. The Secretary, no doubt wishing to start with a “clean sheet”, usefully gives a list of Committee Members and Vice Presidents to whom notices of meetings must be sent:-

Mr C.M. Foottit            High Street, Marlow

Dr W.J.Shone               Dr.                    “

Mr J.Tudor                   West St.            “

Mr G.R.Ward                New Court        “

Mr S.H.Wright              Thames Lawn    “

Mr T.H.Wright                          “          “

Mr A.H.Knox                 Abney House    Bourne End       Maidenhead

Mr R.F.Campbell           Beaumont Rise  Marlow

Mr F.O.Wethered          High Street       “

Col O.P.Wethered         High Street       “                     

T.O.Wethered Esq.        Remnantz         “

Major Cunliffe               Dial House        “

Peter Borgnis Esq.         High Field         “

Rev. Arthur Fearon        The Vicarage     “

The AGM was held on April 22nd at the Complete Anglers Hotel, with eleven present. The balance sheet for the previous year showed an “estimated” balance against the Committee of £2.16.11. This was accepted. The Regatta was to be held on July 10th, the Saturday following Henley. The President, Vice Presidents and all the Officers were re-elected. Mr F.O.Wethered was elected to the Committee in place of Mr C.Jubber who had left the district. A vote of thanks was passed to Mr Kirkpatrick for “his services as Secretary, and for coming forward at a time when no one could be found to take on these duties”.

“Col Wethered explained the arrangements he had made with the Henley Stewards for the possession by the Marlow Committee of the Public Schools Challenge Cup. The Conditions are embodied in a formal receipt of the Cup given by Col Wethered on behalf of himself and the Committee of the Marlow Regatta, a copy of which receipt is as follows:

Great Marlow
July 4th 1885

I acknowledge the receipt this day from the Stewards of the Henley Royal Regatta, of the “Public Schools Challenge Cup” hitherto rowed for at that Regatta.

I undertake to return the Cup to the said Stewards at the end of any year commencing with the date of the preceding Henley Regatta on receiving notice in writing to that effect from the Secretary to the said Stewards. Or, should the said Stewards at any time decide that they will not again require the Cup, I undertake and agree to purchase the same from them at the price which they paid for it. And, further, that should they, notwithstanding any such purchase, at any future time to reinstate the Public Schools Race in their programme, they shall be at liberty to repurchase the Challenge Cup at the same price.

Signed:   Owen Peel Wethered
For self and Committee of the Great Marlow Regatta

The Stewards of the Henley Royal Regatta also wished to have some memorandum engraved on the Cup to explain it being rowed for at Marlow. Col Wethered therefore wrote to Mr Cooper, the Secretary, suggesting the following memorandum which was agreed to be the Stewards.

Rowed for at Great Marlow Regatta
By permission of
The Henley Stewards

Mr Cooper writing to Col Wethered on 6th July, mentions that the Cup cost £45”.

This is a rather long extract from the Minutes, but felt necessary, since if HRR ever ask for it back, it would be good to have a second copy, just in case the Minute books become lost! Hopefully, in some future minutes, there will be a record of a purchase! Whilst some of the Marlow Regatta Cups have been awarded for many different classifications of events, the originals dating from around this period have, it is thought, been kept to events very similar, if not identical to the original specification.

The next few pages of the minute book contain accounts of meetings, which are entitled “Copy of meeting notes made by the late Mr Kirkpatrick” with no date apart from 1886. Matters agreed were that Mr Redknap should be paid £15 for the use of his boathouse, on Saturday July 10th, and that “it should be fitted up properly to so as to conveniently hold 30 boats”. An umpire launch was to be hired at £10.  There are no further minutes dated for 1886.

On Monday 22nd April 1887 an Annual General Meeting of Subscribers was held at the Complete Angler Hotel. There being no minutes of a previous meeting, Mr T.O.Wethered asked the Treasurer, Mr Lawrence to produce his balance sheet. Mr Lawrence said that he could find no further bills in the Secretary’s box, but he thought there should be some, and after some discussion, it was concluded that the accounts could not be passed.

It was proposed to hold a Regatta in 1887, and that Mr F.O.Wethered should be Secretary. Dr Dickson was voted onto the Committee and new Vice presidents were to be approached. The list of Vice Presidents was now: Lord Boston, Major General Higginson C.B. the Rt Hon W.H.Smith.  MP, Suir Samuel Wilson, P.Borgnis Esq. T.S.Cocxks Esq. J.P.Ellames Esq. the Rev A.Fearon, C.Hammersley Esq. R.S.B.Hammond Chambers Esq. Harding Cox Esq. Mahor Cunliffe, A.Lobb Esq.  A.MacKenzie Esq. W.D.MacKenzie Esq. W.S.Menzies Esq. C.B.Phillimore Esq. L.W.Wethered Esq. Col O.P.Wethered T.O.Wethered Esq. R.Wharton Esq. Edmund Yates Esq. E.Vansittart-Neale Esq. Major Cook A.Hutton Esq. A.D.Cripps Esq. H.J. Vansittart-Neale Esq. R.H.Murray Esq. H.J.Cripps Esq. JP

There was clearly a great deal of confusion resulting from the death in office of the Secretary Mr.Kirkpatrick, with the finances in a state of some disarray. Nevertheless, it was decided to proceed with a Regatta in 1887. At the following meetings on 8th May and June 6th 1887, it was reported that some entry fees from 1886 had now been received, but there was still a confused situation, and it was thought that the entry from the Australasian BC Cambridge had in fact scratched the day before the Regatta. It is worthy of note that the Marlow Town Band was considered to be much improved and were asking for 10/- per man to play at the Regatta. There were 16 men in the Band. The price for admission to Mr Borgni’s lawn was to be reduced to 2/6d for 1 ticket, 2 tickets for 10/6d and 4 for £1/1/0. and that the Committee should have tickets to give away, and they should “not have to pay, as last year”. This was proposed by Mr Wright, subject to approval by Mr Borgnis. However, when they met on June 15th. These prices were revised to “5/- for non-subscribers and 2/6 for subscribers and all tickets to be checked”, which makes more sense! The accounts for 1886 were also approved

The outstanding items at the 1888 AGM were that there was a proposal that the offices of Hon Secretary and Hon Treasurer should be amalgamated. Mr F. O Wethered agreed to take on the role of Hon Sec and would consider the Treasurer’s position and let the Committee know his decision at the next meeting. All the usual votes of thanks to those who had acted in an official capacity and also to Mr H.E Rhodes Esq. for putting his launch at the disposal of the Regatta when the “Merlin” broke down. At the Committee meeting on 9th June they realised that one name had been omitted from the list, and that was the name of the Late Mr P.Borgnis. It was therefore proposed to write to Mr R.S.B.Hammond Chamber expressing their thanks etc. Also, Mr F.O.Wethered had consulted with Mr Lawrence, and as a result, was willing to take on the joint roles of Secretary and Treasurer. It was stated that the Marlow Town Band was now practically defunct. Major Cook of the 4th Batt’n. Oxfordshire Light Infantry had written to Mr T.H.Wright offering the services of his band at a cost of £12. After some discussion, this was accepted. The Hon Sec said that to prevent the fiasco which had occurred the previous year, when the Umpire’s launch had broken down, he was intending to write to the Henley Stewards to see if one of the Henley launches could be used. Most of the other matters have been regularly referred to, but this is the first mention of a weighing machine for weighing coxswains, a band boat for the Band and a Telegraph. Many items were left to the Hon Sec to arrange, including a different Signal Gun, of which the Hon Sec said he would see that it “was not such a great nuisance as last year”. Mr Wright would see that when talking with the Thames Conservancy, there would be a good head of water on Regatta day. There was also a possibility of having access to a field near Bisham for the boats.

The pre- Regatta meeting on July 3rd. carried out the draw, and left the times of races to the Hon Sec. Previously, all the Public Schools had been asked whether they wished the event for fours to be rowed in boats with fixed or sliding seats. The majority wished to stay with fixed seats. However, only one entry had been received (Bedford Modern School). There was some debate concerning the giving of prizes for this event. The Committee wished to present the prizes, to encourage entries, but since there was a statement on the bills advertising the Regatta, that no prizes would be given in the event of only one crew entering, they felt obliged to follow this rule. The Hon Sec had obtained the use of the Henley Umpires’ launch “Javelin”. Mr Foottit’s houseboat would be the band-boat, with the Regatta paying just £2 to bring it down from Henley. The boats would be kept at Meakes & Redknap’s at a cost of £15.


A committee meeting was held on Feb 25th at which the only matter was to approve the Balance sheet. This was duly done. With the addition of just one extra person, the AGM of Subscribers was then held. It had been heard that Henley would again be held on Wed, Thur, Fri, so Marlow could be held on Saturday (July 6th). After votes of thanks had been passed to all who had contributed towards the previous Regatta. Mr F.O.Wethered was asked to be Hon Sec again, and he replied that he would, with the help of one other, and that he had asked Mr Campbell to assist him as he did for the Rowing Club Regatta. This was approved, as was his election to Treasurer. It was reported that all members of the Committee had attended meetings with the exception of Mr A.H.Knox, so he was not re-elected. Two new members were elected; Mr Culnane (Culhane?)and Mr H.P.Kilby. It was reported that several Subscribers had complained that they had received no notification of the AGM. Mr Wethered said that he had only circulated a notice to those who he thought would attend, but in future, all would be sent a notice.

Committee meetings were held on June 3rd. and July 2nd. with all tasks being allocated to committee members at the first. The only new information being that the lawn now belonged to Mr G.R.Ward. The Challenge Cups were to be engraved by Mappin & Webb. Last-minute decisions were that the Band would be the 3rd. Batt’n Oxfordshire Lt Infantry, on Mr Kilby’s boat. Hired for £2-2-0, and since neither Mrs Williams nor Lady Curzon could not present the prizes, and having decided that it need not necessarily be a lady, Col Wethered would make the presentations.

Following the previous year’s practice, the Committee meeting (12th March) just approved the Balance sheet, and was then followed immediately by the AGM. The joint Secretaries and Treasurer were congratulated on a very successful Regatta, which had produced a surplus of £70. For some reason, Henley would be held on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, so the question arose that should Marlow Regatta be held on the Friday or the Saturday? Mr Campbell was in favour of the Friday, and this was supported by letters from London, Kingston and other Clubs, so it was agreed that Friday, July 11th. would be the day. Apart from electing all the officers and Committee, the only other matter raised was the question of changing the Public Schools event from fixed to sliding seats, which was left to the Hon Secs to decide, as was any question relating to foreign entries. At the June 12th Committee meeting, responsibilities were assigned to various members of the Committee, which only met once more, on July 6th. when the draw was made. The only fresh items were that the men employed on Mr Ward’s lawn were to be paid 10/- and not given lunch by the Regatta and that the Hon Secs were asked: “to confer with the promoters of the Musical Society Concert with regard to the importance of having the boat securely moored”.

Appendix A

Abney BC

Rudi Lehmann lived at Bourne End in a fairly large house (Fieldhead), just downstream of Bourne End Railway Bridge. The house, “Fieldhead” is now the Kingfishers home for the elderly. a retirement home accessed via Fieldhead Gardens and is surrounded by more modern housing.

His downstream next-door neighbour, albeit some good distance away due to the size of the estate, was Abney House, originally built around 1800 and much extended during the next 80 or so years. There is some confusion as to who occupied/owned the house, since in the Regatta minute book for 1885/6 it has Mr A.H.Knox at Abney House, who was on the Committee for some years until 1889, when he was removed from the Committee since he had a poor attendance record, presumably because he had left the area. However, another reference states that in 1880 the house was bought by Charles Hammersley, a wealthy London Banker. It is possible that since the house by now had grown extensively and also had a lodge, that both accounts are true. Charles Hammersley played a key role in the growth in popularity of boating and “messing about on the river” in the late 19th century. He joined the Marlow Regatta Committee in 1882 and became the first Vice Commodore of Upper Thames Sailing Club (at Bourne End) when it was started in 1884 and was a lead person in the Bourne End Regatta (Rowing) which started in 1887. Abney House still stands and can be seen from the river, but is now divided into 5 semi-detached houses. It is quite possible that this large house was where the crews gathered together by Rudi Lehmann were staying prior to Marlow Regatta, boating from these lawns.(The river frontage was over 375m.) Hence the name Abney BC. Nearly all the grounds which once surrounded Abney House have now been developed for modern housing, with the road bearing the name Abney Court Road providing access from Hedsor Road.

Orkney Cottage BC

Another name used by Lehmann-gathered crews was Orkney Cottage BC. requires more research, but is probably related to Orkney Lodge, which is shown on a fairly recent Land Ranger map, near to Cliveden.

Greenwood Lodge RC (Wargrave)

I am informed by Rod Murray was the name of a large house near the crossroads in Wargrave. The name has now been changed to Millward??

Rudolph Chambers Lehmann

Rudolph Chambers Lehmann (1856 -1929) was born in Ecclesall, nr. Sheffield to Augustus Frederick Lehmann and Nina (nee Chambers). His mother was the daughter of Robert Chambers, a Scottish author and naturalist. Their social circle included the likes of Charles Dickens, George Eliot, Robert Browning. He was educated at Highgate School and Trinity College, Cambridge. He rowed in Trial Eights but never made the Blue Boat. He was admitted at the Inner Temple in 1875 and called to the bar in 1880. He edited the Cambridge undergraduate magazine Granta and was a contributor to, and on the editorial staff of, Punch magazine for over 30 years.

He acted as finishing coach for both Oxford and Cambridge boat race crews from 1891 to 1903, coaching both crews in 1892! He coached many other crews, both at home and abroad including Leander, Harvard Univ (USA), Brasenose College BC, Trinity Coll Dublin, and Berlin RC.

He was Hon Sec of the Amateur Rowing Association from 1893 to 1901, and much involved in trying to settle the differences between the NARA and the ARA regarding the definitions of amateurs and professionals.

He was elected as Liberal MP for Harborough in 1906, which he held until 1910. As mentioned above, he lived in Bourne End, Buckinghamshire, and was a JP for the County and High Sheriff in 1901. He married Alice (an American lady) and they had four children, Helen Lehmann, Rosamond Lehmann (novelist), Beatrix Lehmann (actress) and John Lehmann. To celebrate his marriage, he gave Marlow RC an eight and a four as well as a splendid, and unusual silver trophy, which is still presented at the MRC Club Supper, now, I think, to “the outstanding crew of the year”.

Peter Borgnis

Peter Borgnis (1810 – 1888) was the great grandson of an Italian painter who settled in England when he was commissioned by Sir Francis Dashwood to paint murals at West Wycombe Park, in the mid-eighteenth century.

Peter Borgnis was a great benefactor to the town of Marlow, being a school governor (probably of Sir Wm Borlase’s School ?) and patron of the cricket Club as well of his connections with the Rowing Cub and other gentleman’s Clubs. As mentioned in the piece about the “Marlow Donkey”, he was much involved in the early days with the Great Marlow Railway Company being a Director until shortly before his death.

His address in one of the Minutes is given as “High Fields”, which is a house laying well back, and up towards Marlow Common, from the Henley Road. There are several references to his lawn being used for subscribers and others from which to view the Regatta. This is the area of land now occupied by Marlow RC. Upon his death (1888), the ownership passed to a Mr J.A.H.C.Borgnis, who leased the land to Mr George Ward, who in turn allowed the lawn to be used by the Regatta.


The Marlow Branch line.(“The Marlow Donkey”)

Prior to the arrival of the GWR branch line linking Maidenhead to High Wycombe, access to the Bourne End area was by road. Cookham Toll Bridge replaced a horse ferry in 1840 and was rebuilt in 1867. The name Bourne End at this time referred to an area near to the junction of Hedsor Road and Ferry Lane, with the hamlets of Cores End, Well End, Upper Bourne End, being quite well separated. Hence when the railway was built in 1854, the station was called Marlow Road. The advantages of a good transport link encouraged development near the Station, and eventually, the name Bourne End migrated north and engulfed the original hamlets, although their individual names are still in use.

Originally, this was a broad gauge line but was converted to standard gauge in 1870. The Great Marlow Railway, linking Bourne End to Marlow was opened in 1873, and to avoid confusion the station was then re-named Bourne End.

As this is a side issue to the history of the Regatta, all that can be said here is that there is an excellent book entitled “The Marlow Branch” by Paul Karau & Chris Turner, (foreword by Anthony Wethered) which gives incredible detail of the development. The reason for including it at all here is that many of the names involved with the initial project are those also involved in the Regatta ie. Owen Peel Wethered, Col Williams MP, T.O.Wethered, Mr Borgnis, Mr Ward, Mr Foottit, Sir Wm Clayton, Mr J.Langley, to name but a few. The Great Marlow Railway Act was passed in Parliament and given Royal Assent on 13th July 1868. It incorporated the Great Marlow Railway Company and gave it powers to construct a railway from the Wycombe branch of the GWR, to Great Marlow. The initial Directors were O.P.Wethered  (a brewer) (Chairman), Mr P.Borgnis (a gentleman living at Highfields) (Vice-Chairman), James Carson (a Magistrate of “Spinfields”), Mr T.O.Wethered (another member of the brewery family and MP for Marlow), James Rolls of Palmer House, Thomas Rolls (a wine & Spirit Merchant in the High St), Robert Foottit (A chemist and druggist in the High Street).

The line was constructed, to GWR standards, by the Great Marlow Railway Company. Many living in Marlow had bought shares to finance the Company, hoping for dividends when it opened. Throughout the construction period, there was a mix of local actions such as buying land, placing contracts, and also specialised railway matters in which GWR played a part. The line was opened on Friday 27th June 1873; the target date, since Maidenhead and Marlow Regatta was due to be held on Saturday June 28th. The line was operated by GWR and the Great Marlow Railway Company until 1st July 1897, when it was formally amalgamated with the GWR.

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