To mark this week’s annual Henley boat race between Oxford University and Cambridge University, we take a look at our collections relating to the University’s Boat Clubs.
Starting from Phyllis Court to Temple Island along the famous ‘Henley Reach’, the first Oxford-Cambridge Boat Race for men happened in Henley in 1829. The event didn’t occur again in Henley until 1975, when a Boat Race between men’s lightweight crews from Oxford and Cambridge was organised by Richard Bates, a Cambridge Undergraduate.
The Women’s Boat Race took place in Henley between the years 1977-2014, along with a race between the reserve crews Osiris (Oxford) and Blondie (Cambridge). In 1984, the women’s lightweight race was instated, and a 1,750 metre contest between the two top male and female crews from the Oxford and Cambridge bumps races was inaugurated in 2010.
Another famous route used for boat races between Oxford University and Cambridge University is based along the River Thames from University Post, Mortlake to University Stone, Putney. The plan below shows the route, which is part of a handout for the river race that the University of Southampton participated in on 22 March 1952.As part of the University Archives collection we hold photographs of the Men’s and Women’s Boat Clubs that were part of Hartley Society (previously called the Hartley University College Past Students’ Association). Dating from 1956, the photographs consist of formal ones with the men in their rowing blazers and women in their whites, and celebratory ones showing the christening of new boats given to the Clubs.
The photograph below shows the University’s first team to be entered for Henley Royal Regatta, in the Thames Cup division 1962-3. They also achieved 12th place out of 150 crews in the Reading Head of the River race.Southampton University Boat Club (SUBC) registered with British Rowing in 1929, and its first president from that year was Mr Randall Cesson. The diagram below shows the planning of the Club’s logo during the late 1950s. In the University’s Boat Club papers (MS 310/46) can be found a range of resourceful items dating from 1946-2015; including correspondence, lists of race results and crews, pamphlets, photographs, and programmes. The correspondence relates to the organising of fixtures, the repairing of boats, and the purchase of equipment. Here is a quote from a circular relating to a Club meeting to members of the Men’s Boat Club dated circa 1960s:
“All present and past members and all newcomers who are interested in rowing are invited to attend. The year’s rowing programme will be discussed as will be the training of novices. The latter is considered to be of paramount importance; all novices who show keenness and interest as well as ability will find themselves rowing in eights after a few weeks initial training in small boats.”
[Men’s Boat Club circular, MS 310/46 A2075/4]An insight into the training regime for SUBC in the 1960s can be viewed from the body-building exercise sheets in the Club papers. Such exercises were suggested to be done daily for 45 minutes. Steps included “Sitting, legs straight, hands on floor near hips, alternate leg raising as high as possible” for 50 seconds, and “make like a windmill with arms in circles, breathe deeply” for 30 seconds. The sheet includes 38 steps altogether, ending with “Weight enough until tomorrow”!
SUBC is now one of the largest clubs of Team Southampton with over 100 members. Alumni include several world class athletes, notably Olympic Silver Medallists Per Sætersdal, Miriam Batten, and Guin Batten.For further information on SUBC go to: