The College Boat Club at Reading 1902-3

The recently published booklet ‘A History of Sport at University of Reading 1992-2018‘ was designed by Chris Lewis with research by Dr Margaret Houlbrooke. It records the foundation of the College Boat Club in 1895 that later became the Reading University Boat Club, and documents outstanding achievements in rowing and sculling by its many distinguished members, male and female.

As this and the following two posts will show, the history of boat racing at Reading was a gendered one from which women were excluded for many years. For the men, on the other hand, the foundations of competitive success were in place relatively early, although sometimes it may have been necessary to provide a bit more motivation.

In the ‘Spring’ Term of 1902 (our Summer Term: see note below), the section of the Reading College Magazine devoted to men’s rowing lamented:

‘Where are the Wet-bobs of the College, those who urged the need of a Rowing Section, and gave the scheme real support? Four boats—a Four, two Pairs, and a Tub-pair, are at the service of all who aspire to aquatic fame, and yet some half-dozen is the total of those who register the attendance at the river, and, to some of these, a slight cold, the prospect of a shower, or a little stiffness in the joints is sufficient excuse for shirking.’ (p. 17)

By the following autumn things had obviously improved because the newly titled ‘Magazine of University College Reading’ reported (p.17) that there was a prospect of a viable ‘four’, and that:

‘a goodly muster of enthusiastic men pay their tribute to Father Thames.’ 

‘Rowing Notes’ for Spring 1903 mentioned that a Coxed Four was in training and making good progress. Competitive events were planned and there were hopes of obtaining a coach from Oxford. Progress continued in the Summer Term with the news that coxed pairs and coxed fours were now racing, and culminated with the publication of the image below.

From the University College Magazine, Summer Term 1903 (final page)
  • Back Row:  W. H. Fearis (Hon. Sec.); J. H. Sacret (Coach)
  • Middle Row:  G. Canham (Captain) (Bow), 10 st. 1 lb.; C. H. Laver (Stroke), 11 st. 3 lbs.; T. M. Forster (no. 3), 11 st. 12 lbs.; A. F. Sandys (no. 2), 10 st. 4 lbs.
  • Front: H. Lloyd (Cox).

The next post will take a look at women’s boating at Reading at the beginning of the 20th Century.

Note

Reading College documentation divides the academic year into the Autumn Term, Winter Term and Spring Term (the Autumn, Spring, and Summer Terms of today) .

University College Reading officially adopted the modern system, but there are some documents that still use the original classification.

This has caused me some confusion.

Sources

University of Reading (2021). A history of sport at University of Reading 1892-2018.

Reading College Magazine, 1902, Spring Term, Vol. III.

The Magazine of University College Reading, 1902, Autumn Term, Vol III.

The Magazine of University College Reading, 1903, Spring Term, Vol I.

The Magazine of University College Reading, 1903, Summer Term, Vol II.

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