The Club competed from about 1810 and raced at regattas in the Thames Valley and at Henley but was formally founded at a dinner held at the Marlow Town football club in 1871, crews had been competing under the Marlow Rowing Club name for many years prior to the official founding of the Club.
The “Records of The Marlow Rowing Club 1871 – 1921.” were published to mark the club’s 50th year and records the founding of the club: At the first Dinner held by the Marlow Football Club (founded 1870), which took place at “The Compleat Angler” Hotel on March 30th, 1871, a discussion took place on the advisability of establishing a Rowing Club for Marlow. “A strong and unanimous feeling in favour of the proposal being manifested,” Mr. W. J. Shone and Mr. A. C. Faulkner promised to take the necessary steps.
1871 The meeting at which the Club was founded was held at “The Compleat Angler” Hotel on May 16th, 1871.
Mr. O.P. Wethered, was voted to the Chair, and there were also present Rev. T. G. Cree, Messrs. W. J. Shone, J. G. Crossman, A. C. Faulkner, C. M. Foottitt, T. H. Wright, S. H .Wright, J. Batting, C. E. Allum, and R. H. Smith.
It was proposed by Rev. T. G. Cree, seconded by Mr. C. M. Foottit, and carried, “That it is desirable to esablish a Rowing Club for the town and neighbourhood of Marlow.”
Rules were passed, and the following elections took place:
President: Mr. T. O. Wethered.
Hon. Treasurer: Mr. T. H. Wright.
Hon. Secretaries: Messrs. C. M. Foottitt and S. H .Wright
Committee: Rev. T. G. Cree, Messrs. A. C. Faulkner, W. J. Shone, J. Batting, and C. E. Allum.
At the first meeting of the Committee on May 22nd, bye-laws were drawn up, and it was decided that the Club colours should be purple and maize. Mr A. C. Faulkner was appointed Captain and Rev. T. G. Cree Deputy-Captain.
Quarters were secured at Haynes’ boathouse under Marlow Bridge (Bucks side) and it was decided to hire the necessary boats.
The first Club race was rowed on July 21st, 1871, for prized presented by Mr. C. M. Foottit, [Batting and Batting won in a pair against Aldrige and Curtis]
Funds were raised by a few supporters of the Club to purchase the Monthly Challenge cup (value £20), and this was presented to the Club to be raced for by pairs until such time as the members were sufficiently numerous to compete in fours. The first competition took place on July 25th. [Gibbs and Haynes won by a length “Names of coxwains not recorded”]
Sir William Clayton, Bart.presented to the Club a trophy in the shape of a pair of silver sculls, to be called “The Clayton Challenge Sculls.” As sculling boats were not available, the first contest (and a few in subsequent years) was made a pair-oar race for members who had not won prizes. It was held on August 2nd – Sir William’s birthday, and in honour of that occasion, it was reported that “Marlow’s tuneful bells were rung at early morn and dewy eve.”
In August it was decided to alter the name of the Club from the Great Marlow Rowing Club to the Great Marlow Amateur Rowing Club.
The first crew entered by the Club at a regatta was a four for the Town Challenge Cup at Henley Royal Regatta on June 29th, and the crew lost to Reading in the first heat. The first race won by the Club was the Junior Fours at the Windsor and Eton Regatta on August 28th, the crew beating Eton Victoria in the first heat and Windsor Albert in the final
The first Club four-oared race was rowed on October 3rd, being the outcome of a discussion as to whether the crew which won at Windosr and Eton was the best which could have been selected . J. Batting selected the rival crew. The Captain gave a cup and silver pencil cases as prizes, and it was reported in the local press that the race aroused the greatest interest, “the bridge and banks being thronged with spectators.” After a desparate race, during which “the people on the banks were almost hushed into silence by the uncertainty and pertinacity of the contest they were watching,” Batting’s crew won by 18 inches against the successful juniors.
1872 At the first Annual Meeting of the Club, held on March 28th, it was reported that the expenses for 1871 amounted to £90 12s. 8d. ….
The Club’s history reflects many of the changes in English society. It was affected by the Victorian schism between amateur and working men and professional sportsmen. Marlow Rowing Club is an amateur club and many regattas inserted amateur into their title such as the famous Marlow Amateur Regatta founded in 1855. The official definition of an Amateur was finally produced by the Henley Royal Regatta Stewards in 1874. It referred to gentleman pursuing a pastime and not racing for money as was prevalent at that time and no artisans (ie working class and manual labourers) were allowed to compete as an amateur! A tankard from Marlow Regatta 1855 resides behind the club bar which was won for coxed fours with both Wethereds brothers are engraved on it. They later became officers of the club. Marlow Amateur Regatta has only recently dropped Amateur from its name.
The Club’s first major win following its “official” formation was at Henley Royal Regatta in 1872 when it won the Town Challenge Cup for Fours. The Club won it four further times consecutively between 1874 and 1877 and on the last occasion the competition was raced in 1883. In the late Victorian period, prominent local families such as the Boytons, Claytons, Higginsons and Wethereds supported the Club and attracted friends from the universities and London to row on the Marlow and Cookham Reaches. They were very successful in competition although 5 members of the major trophy winning crew of 1913/14 became casualties in the First World War.
From a social beginning, a competitive club sprang up and became locked in friendly rivalry with other local clubs, rowing up and downstream to their regattas, or loading boats on coal-lorries to take part in Tideway events. Marlow first competed in the Head of the River Race in 1932, starting 67th out of 131. Since 1945 Marlow Rowing Club has been shaped by a number of able coaches, and highly motivated club and international athletes who have helped to change the expectations of the Club. Bill Findlay, Bryn Evans, Alan Clay and Roy Light came close to winning the Wyfold Challenge Cup at Henley Royal Regatta, beaten in the final in 1954 by the Royal Engineers. Often working from a narrow base of local athletes, coaches like O. H. Collins, Bill Hobbs, Lesley Langton, Derek Mays-Smith, Mike Spracklen, John Pilgrim Morris, Francis Smith, who discovered and coached Steve Redgrave, produced good, well-organised crews.
Mike Spracklen, the internationally renowned coach, captained the club in its successful 1959 season, when it won over 20 trophies. In the previous year Mike and his partner Geoff Baker won gold medals in the Empire Games Double Sculls. In 1964, Marlow finished tenth in the Head of the River Race, thirty seconds behind the winners. At the end of a successful season in small boats, the Club won the 1964 Daily Telegraph Cup at Maidenhead Regatta in a closely contested final. In the 1960s and 1970s the Club was small in numbers compared to today.
However club spirit was strong and a series of excellent crews were produced from a small squad of local athletes, competing successfully around the country, and in particular at Marlow Amateur Regatta, winning the Town Cup and Pairs against first class opposition. Neil Christie and Andrew Justice rowed in the 1976 Olympic Games.
A local junior, Steve Redgrave, began his outstanding career at Marlow in 1978. Coached by Francis Smith, Redgrave formed the nucleus of a crew that further helped to change the Club’s expectations.
The Club won its next Henley trophy in 1981, when Steve and Eric Sims won the Double Sculls, and he repeated the feat with Adam Clift in 1982. Redgrave continued this successful run, winning the Diamonds Sculls in 1983, the Prince Philip in the winning Olympic Coxed Four in 1984, the Diamonds again in 1985, and holding the Silver Goblets with Andy Holmes in 1986 and 1987. In all he has won 21 Henley medals, the last one in the Queen Mother Cup in 2001, twelve World Championship Medals, 9 Gold, 2 silver and 2 Bronze, 3 World Cup Golds and 3 Commonwealth Games Gold medals. His Olympic record is second to none with 5 Gold medals and 1 Bronze medal, the fifth Gold being achieved in the coxless fours at the 2000 Sydney Olympics. Steve and his wife, Ann (Marlow Rowing Club’s first woman club captain) live in Marlow with their children. He is a life member of Marlow Rowing Club, along with Matthew Pinsent.
Marlow Rowing Club’s contribution to international rowing has been immense particularly over the last 30 years. It has produced winning athletes at all levels both men and women at senior, junior and veteran (now called Masters). It has not only produced probably the greatest oarsman of all time but also many other winning internationals and coaches not least of which was Mike Spracklen who coached Steve Redgrave to his first two Olympic Gold medals. He then went on to coach the US and Canadian national squads winning World and Olympic gold medals.
Other international successes continued. Gillian Lindsay won the Double Sculls World Championship in 1998. Alex Beever, Lisa Eyre and Sue Walker were World Champions in the Coxless Four in 1997, and were Bronze Medallists in the Eight in the same year. Cath Bishop, was the British and World Ergo Champion and World Record holder, and a World Silver Medallist in the Coxless Pair in 1997, and won the Pairs World Cup in 1998. Altogether, twelve athletes from Marlow Rowing Club prepared for the 2000 Sydney Olympics where Gillian Lindsay and Katherine Grainger won Britain’s first ever Olympic Women’s Rowing medal in the silver medal winning eight. Cath Bishop and Katherine Grainger then won silver in the pair at the Athens Olympics in 2004.
In total Katherine Grainger (originally from St Andrew’s Boat Club) has won five Olympic medals and is Great Britain’s most decorated female Olympian. Zac Purchase has an Olympic Gold and Silver medals in the lightweight double sculls and four World gold medals. Naomi Riches has Gold and Bronze Paralympic medals from London and Beijing to accompany her haul of five World Golds.
On 3rd August 2011 a major fire broke out at 3am, probably caused by thieves bending a security light to steal tools from a nearby shed. It destroyed the 1896 clubhouse beyond repair. The club lost the left hand side of the building including all the boats in the two boat-bays below and some of the historic pictures and artefacts in the clubroom above.
The rest of the club was seriously smoke damaged and the club had to relocate to a tent while part of the club was patched up and cleaned. The club was back racing and winning within 3 days.