A Brief History of Egham Regatta…
The first Egham Regatta took place in 1909 & despite certain periods when the regatta did not function, (mainly during times of war & during the 1930’s) in the subsequent period of over 100 years, the regatta has always taken place on the Runnymede reach of the River Thames, normally just upstream of Bell Weir Lock.
The first regatta was held in September of 1909 and took just a month to organize! As the Regatta became more established, & the competition became more serious minded, it regularly took place the weekend before Henley Royal Regatta and it maintains that tradition to this day.
The old Minute Books of the Association are held in the Surrey history Centre in Woking and give a fascinating insight into both the sport and the workings and attitudes of a small town at the beginning of the Century. Certain themes keep cropping up such as the rivalries between local bands wishing to play at the event and which local firm would be given the tender to provide the regatta catering.
The first meeting was minuted thus:
10 August, 1909 –Catherine Wheel Hotel Egham High Street
“F P Stock in the chair
A vote was taken that a Regatta to be held on 9th September 1909 opposite the Varnish Works. It was proposed by Mr Leach and seconded by J Adams that the following races be held:
Rum Tum Double Sculling (lady cox), ditto Mixed, single sculling (lady cox), Double Punting, Single Punting, Canoe, Tub & Elopement races and swimming – to finish with King of the Mop in canoes and Fancy Dress.
Entrance Fees 1/6 single, 2/6 double punting & sculling, 1/- for any other”. [A fuller history of the Regatta can be downloaded here Egham Regatta History1909 – 2000]
After WW1 commenced on 4 August 1914 the archives record a Special Meeting of the Egham Regatta Association on August 7th 1914:
At that meeting, “A proposal was made that due to the very serious hostilities now taking place, that the Regatta be indefinitely postponed.
The Secretary was instructed to have some slips “POSTPONED” printed and these to be pasted across the Posters of Announcement”.
The Great War precluded any further regattas until 1919. On April 23rd, a meeting was held and a proposal made to re-institute the Regatta to be held on August 21st 1919.
In that year, the Windsor Borough Band came into the fray and undercut it’s musical competitors with a fee of 6 guineas!
Through the 1920’s & 30’s the Regatta had a chequered existence and entry number for the racing events fluctuated significantly. Indeed the Regatta was not held for several years in the late 1930’s however in an effort to revive interest, various different events were trailed. Namely:
- In 1928 a ladies Dinghy Race was introduced.
- In 1934 various scratch events were offered and there was still a Rum Tum Race for the Egham Town Cup.
Further land based attractions were also used to revive interest & records show that in 1930 the refreshments were supplied by Horlicks & Sons of Slough!
The Regatta was further disrupted by WW2 in the 1940’s and only re-commenced on a regular basis in 1955 this time as a purely rowing regatta. Fortunately, the Regatta survived & its schedule on the weekend before Henley Royal Regatta saw many serious crews using the event for their Henley preparations.
By 1978 skiffing and punting were reintroduced as the Organising Committee of Egham Regatta was now largely formed from members of the nearby Wraysbury Skiff & Punting Club (WSPC) who continue to host the event to this day. Accordingly, Egham Regatta is the only regatta in the country that still provides racing events for rowing, skiffing and punting.
However in the 1990’s due to growing numbers of entries from Junior crews that the rowing competitions should only now be open to juniors. This important decision has seen the Regatta thrive & it is now heavily oversubscribed and is one of the busiest Junior events in the national rowing calendar.
The stated principle objective in the original Egham Regatta Constitution prevails to this day. Namely “to encourage and further the interests of rowing and in particular to organise Regattas for this purpose”. Although the Regatta now makes a modest financial surplus, it regularly distributes funds back into the sport through contributions to stakeholder clubs or by making investments for the sport generally.