Early Years of Molesey Amateur Regatta
Here is a series of articles, taken from minutes and newspaper articles, describing the early years of the regatta, which was founded in 1867 by Molesey Boat Club. The club decided not to take on the running of the regatta in the following year, because “it was too onerous an undertaking”. An independent committee was then formed to run the regatta albeit with considerable support and backing from the club. This is still the case today. The regatta committee also runs the annual Molesey Veteran Head, and makes a financial contribution to the club, when funds permit.
Early Years – rebirth of the regatta – 1872
A meeting was held on 10th June 1872 at the Vicarage East Molesey to consider the possibility of holding a regatta in connection with the Molesey Boat Club. The Rev’d WC Boys (President MBC) was in the chair. Letters of support from eighteen people were read out. It was moved by Mr Cann and seconded by Mr Garland that a regatta be held as soon as arrangements can be made, and funds ascertained. Carried unanimously. A Regatta Committee of eleven people was elected, and an Acting Committee of twenty one people. A Treasurer and two Secretaries were also elected. It was requested that the Regatta be held on 26th July and that the Captain,MBC, be requested to insert notices in ‘Bell’s Life’ and ‘The Field’. A meeting was held on 14th June 1872, which decided that the Molesey Amateur Regatta be postponed till next year. A meeting was held on 4th June 1873 at Vine Road East Molesey to consider the propriety of holding a regatta in the month of July 1873. It was resolved on the motion of Mr Scanlon, seconded by Mr Monckton, that a Regatta be held this year and that it be the “Molesey Regatta”, on 26th July 1873. Secretaries, Treasurer and Auditor were appointed. The Regatta was to be announced in ‘The Field’ and the ‘Sportsman’. Meetings took place on 11th June, 13th June, 16th June, 18th June, at which it was estimated that the cost of the Regatta would be £180 out of which sum 110 guineas was promised by several of the gentlemen, it was reported that Kingston had taken 26th July for their regatta, Mr Payne was requested to communicate with the Kingston RC, Mr Payne reported communicating with Kingston RC and that they had very kindly waived all claim to 26th July and their regatta would take place on 2nd August. On the 2nd of July Mr Tagg’s offer to place the upper portion of his Island at the disposal of the Committee was accepted in principle, and accumulated funds of £171 2s 6p were noted: events were agreed to be- Junior Fours, Senior Pairs, Junior Pairs, Senior Sculls, Junior Sculls, Canoe Race, Punt Race and Scratch Eights. On July 4th it was decided that Mr Tagg should attend a meeting. On 7th July it was agreed that there was a need for 12 efficient watermen, 3 policemen, 1 judge, 3 men in 3 punts, 2 ticket collectors, 3 men in 3 punts at the start, a supply of hurdles, necessary flags and staffs for decorating the enclosure, guns and ammunition, reeds and weeds to be properly cut and cleared away, a tent or tents, proper men to help to carry racing boats and assist competitors embarking, towing raft to Island and returning it to the Clubhouse by 27th July. On 11th July, there was concern about the amount of money raised, although Mr Scanlon reported that arrangements were being entered into for procuring the attendance of the band of the Royal Artillery, consisting of 20 performances and the Bandmaster for the sum of 21 guineas. Also, it was agreed to add a sailing canoe. The prizes consisted of 8 silver goblets gilt at £5, 4 silver gilt goblets at 90/-, 2 silver goblets at £12, 2 oxydised silver jugs at 78/9, 1 silver goblet at £10, 2 oxydised silver tankards and cover at £5, 7 partial gilt EP mugs at £3 18s 9p, 8 claret jugs at £3 18s 9p, 9 oak 3 handled mugs at £4 10s 0p and 10 partial gilt oxydised beakers at 32/-. These articles were purchased from Mappin & Webb for £121 13s 0p. It was agreed that the members of the Committee be distinguished by small scarlet rosettes, out of compliment to the winner of the Wingfield Sculls Amateur Champion of the Thames 1873, Mr Dicker (MBC).
The 1873 Regatta was successful, though it did include dropping the cap of a silver cup into the river, and the drilling of holes in a Kingston boat.
Early Years of the Regatta – 1873
After an interval of six years the river at Molesey has once more presented an appearance which should be witnessed yearly, and the success which attended the regatta last Saturday will, we doubt not, ensure the annual appearance of an aquatic gathering which can hardly be equaled, and which could scarcely be excelled. Six years hence, the Molesey Boat Club organized a regatta and carried it out in a commendable manner; but experience taught the members of the Club that the undertaking was of too arduous and gigantic a nature to be again attempted by them. Hence the hiatus. The regatta of which we are now about to speak, though the Molesey Boat Club by its prominent members entered largely into the managing element, had no connection whatever with that club, but was originated and conducted by a body of gentlemen who are cosmopolitan – in the rowing world. The president was the venerable and noble Lord St. Leonards, who spent some time in watching the races; while on the list of stewards and committee were names of men of high social position, and of experience in such matters. When the idea of holding a regatta was started it was resolved to have a thoroughly good one, and to carry out the undertaking on a liberal and broad basis. That was the resolve which was present in the minds of the promoters, and that they acted strictly in accordance therewith is now an accepted fact. Recent improvements on the large island above the lock, on which stands the Island Hotel, afforded more than usual facilities for the purpose; and in fixing their headquarters at Mr. T.G. Tagg’s house – the established favourite resort of fishing and boating men – the committee made a choice which they had no reason to regret. Mr. Tagg is waterman to Her Majesty and also to the Canoe Club – appointments which testify to his ability as a waterman. The upper end of the island, containing nearly six acres, was given up by Mr. Tagg to the sole use of the committee. In that enclosure was an assembly of spectators the like of which has not been on that island before. There were several tents, in one of which Mr. Tagg dispensed good eatables and drinkables, and that at so moderate a price for what was supplied, that we could imagine a caterer at similar gatherings who ‘knows how to charge’ would have thought him – well, if not insane, in a state bordering thereon. This was Mr. Tagg’s first essay at providing for such a company, and all who partook of his viands or drinks were completely satisfied. Liberal indeed was Mr Tagg in his bill of fare, for to joints, ham, tongue, fowls, pigeon and steak pies, he added pineapples and other fruits. Lord St. Leonard and the Hon. Miss Sugden drove over to witness the races, and by request Mr. Payne and Mr. Keeling crossed over with the challenge cup to show his lordship, in doing which a slight mishap occurred. Mr. Keeling was holding the cup while Mr Payne took his seat in the punt, when the punt made a lurch. Mr. Keeling was thrown off his balance and not knowing that the cover of the cup was unfastened, he merely held the cup by the stem on to the pedestal, and the cover fell into the water. After groping about for some time in vain, Mr Bone K.R.C. went in and dived repeatedly, but without finding the missing article. A gipsy lad also swam across the river and dived, but was equally unsuccessful. When the water was clearer at night, Charles Wood, a son of Mr. G.E. Wood, brought up the cover, which was handed to Mr. Payne without a scratch.
This would be an incomplete notice if no mention were made of the prizes, for they were not only attractive in appearance, but intrinsically valuable. Rowing men who have seen scores of collections of prizes, and are judges of such goods, unanimously agreed that a better lot had never been seen on the Thames. The prizes which went to the winners of the challenge cup were tall silver goblets with relief in silver arabesque, on elegant pedestals. The winners of the junior fours had pretty silver gilt goblets with festoons of flowers richly chased in dead silver. For the senior pairs the prizes were silver gilt goblets, massive and richly engraved. The prizes for the canoe and other races were equally handsome, but the ‘loving cup’ won by Mr. Sergeant for punting was coveted by many. It was a three-handled oak cup with bands of solid silver, and would be an ornament to any sideboard. The beakers for the scratch eights were much admired, and presented a striking contrast to the ‘pewters’ generally offered. Cornet 2nd August 1873
EARLY YEARS OF THE REGATTA – 1874
The French impressionist painter Alfred Sisley painted the Regatta in 1874 on a three month trip to England. A copy of Sisley’s painting, now in the Musée d’Orsay, Paris, is usually on display at the Regatta.
Early years of the regatta – 1875
When we consider that this fixture clashed with the Eton and Harrow cricket match, it must be allowed that it was very well attended. Molesey, however, is so far from London that a good amount of local audience could naturally be looked upon, even if Londoners found a counter attraction at Lord’s. Mr Grove kindly threw open the lawn of Garrick’s Villa, between the road and the river, to such spectators as were provided by the committee with tickets of admission; and the fringe of the turf was prettily filled with ladies and their cavaliers savans.The band of the Royal Artillery attended, and played selections during the afternoon. The eyot opposite the villa was crowded with pic-nic parties, admission to this also being by ticket. The wind blew almost a gale downstream, and severely taxed the watermanship of all, especially juniors. The steering in all races in which there were no coxswains (and these preponderated) was very bad, but the force of the wind may be some excuse for this, for it blew in violent gusts, and caught sometimes one, and sometimes another side of the boats, and so turned them. Be it as it was, fouls or collisions with the bank were the rule rather than exceptional, but the decisions of the umpires, Messrs Ireland and Woodgate, were in all cases accepted with good grace by the competitors. The course is rather an awkward one for those who do not know the water; at the same time it is a fair one under the new rules which compel a boat to keep its original course. There are two curves, not sharp but gradual; the first is in favour of the boat on the Middlesex side, the last vice versa, and they about equalize each other. The starting post is just below the new Lambeth Waterworks, and the winning post about seventy yards below the end of the lawn of Garrick’s Villa, where old John Phelps officiated as a judge. The total length is about a mile, and there is no time for competitors to go to sleep at the start in so short a distance. There were innumerable pleasure boats but the course was well kept by the Thames Conservancy, and none of them came into collision with the racing boats. We would suggest to the committee that another year it would be well that the flags which stand in mid-stream at the two ends of the Upper Eyot to mark the course and keep off pleasure boats should have boats affixed to them to make them more conspicuous to competitors. Several of the pair oars and scullers came into collision with them during the day, putting out any chance that they might have had, and narrowly escaping upsets. The umpiring was done from a remarkably speedy steam launch built by De Vignes, engineer, of Chertsey, and capable, so we were informed of doing as fast as thirty miles an hour. This would make her the fastest steam launch afloat. (The Sportsman 13 July 1875.
Early Years of the Regatta – 1875
Sir, – On Saturday last I rowed up the river to Moulsey Regatta with a party, and in company with many other boats, moored on the bank of the island, reserved by the committee, opposite the lawn of Garrick’s Villa. After each race, in which there was any competition, a large steam launch followed, and in the narrow channel made such a suck from the bank that, with the return and the wash, instead of being able to view the races, it was stand by the boat each time one came by. I saw a member of the committee and expostulated with him, as I imagined it was a steamer hired by him; but he said they had nothing to do with it. The annoyance became so great (and in consequence of the high wind we could lay nowhere else) that we left at half past five, and just in time, as there was a worse wash than ever, half swamping many boats; one I saw half full of water, the seat drenched, and two ladies wet to their waists.
Upon asking the launch for her name as we passed her on our return, “Umpire” was given; meaning, I suppose, that they were carrying the umpire, as I ascertained the number of the launch is 39, without a name, and belongs to Mr Des Vignes of Chertsey. I have not had the opportunity of calling the attention of the Conservancy to this breach of their rules, or how it was that, in the face of their own servants, who were keeping the course, it was allowed to take place.
I may perhaps remark that I like a cruise in a steamer, but if any friends of mine were to drive on the river as some do, without the slightest regard for the comfort or convenience of other people, I should request to be put on shore, as I am fond of, and use the river in all its ways, and cannot see why, with a little mutual forbearance, there may not be room for all. Next Saturday is Walton regatta; let us hope that any steam launches that may be there will show more consideration.
This popular regatta took place on Saturday last, the 10th inst., and was very well attended. The spectators mustered in great force, there being a very large company present , both on shore and afloat. The grounds of the Garrick Villa and the island opposite were at the disposal of the committee, and those who were provided with tickets had the entrée of both, punts being in constant requisition to carry people across, and it is very lucky that no accident happened, for they were sometimes overcrowded, and rolled about in a very dangerous manner. The entries were bad, and the racing, with one or twp. exceptions, indifferent; so that we have but little to do, more than chronicle the events and their results. Messrs John Ireland and Woodgate were umpires, being carried along in the steam launch built by Des Vignes of Chertsey. The course was from opposite Mr Clayton’s house down to the lower end of the grounds of Garrick’s Villa, that is to say, a short distance below the Moulsey end of the Eyot.
Racing commenced soon after twelve o’clock, the stations being numbered from the Surrey shore. The band of the Royal Fusiliers played some excellent music throughout the afternoon, and we recommend committees of regattas to come to engage them in preference to bands which only play at long intervals during the afternoon.
Early years – 1876 (from the Surrey Comet)
Molesey Amateur Regatta was held last Saturday over the usual course from Rush Island, Hampton to a flag opposite Garrick’s villa, in the presence of a large and brilliant company of spectators. The island was again placed at the disposal of the committee by Mr. Brown, and the pretty lawn of Garrick’s villa was again kindly lent by Mrs. Grove, admission to both being for subscribers only. Quite a flotilla of small boats lay moored under the shady side of the island, from which an incessant popping of champagne corks proceeded during the afternoon. Indeed it was evident that the majority of the company had come with the sole object of having a pleasant picnic in a very picturesque reach of the river, and it was patent to the most casual observer that the chicken and lobster salad, and claret cup and champagne came in for a much larger share of attention than the racing.
There was a good display of bunting, and the day being bright and pleasant and not too hot, the time passed away very agreeably, the enjoyment of the proceedings being greatly enhanced by the full band of the Royal Artillery, who were stationed on the lawn, and discoursed most excellent music.
The racing commenced at 11 and did not terminate until about an hour after the appointed time. The apathy which prevailed among the public as to the results seem to extend also to the officials, and as the representatives of the Press were not accorded the privilege of following the races on the umpire’s steamer, it became most difficult to obtain correct details of the racing. As a natural consequence scarcely two of the London Papers which published reports of the regatta gave the results alike, and numerous mistakes were made!
Early years of the regatta – 1881
MOULSEY REGATTA (The Sportsman)- “Few more charming spots can be imagined for aquatic picnicing purposes than the banks of old Father Thames in the vicinity of Hampton Court, and thus it comes about that the annual regatta at Moulsey is invested with more importance than it is intrinsically worth. As the picturesque locality of Henley is responsible for the greater part of the popularity of that gathering, so in a smaller way at Moulsey the annual race meeting of that ‘important’ body, the Moulsey B.C., receives more notice than it otherwise deserves. This gathering was all but defunct a few years ago, but fanned into renewed life by kindly Press notice, it last year bore promise of a brighter future. Almost too soon, however, have the executive kicked away the ladder by which they mounted, and they on Saturday commenced preparations for an ignoble tumble by wantonly insulting their only supporters – the representatives of the public Press. The fourth estate it must be conceded, were treated with every consideration last year, but on the occasion under notice the manager took upon himself to mildly imitate the Henley stewards in the matter of snubbing the reporters. He did not succeed in effecting his object with anything approaching dignity, and his remarks about the members of the Press learning ‘how to behave themselves’ are simply too mean and contemptible to notice. Not only was access to the launch denied, but the customary invitation was withheld from the island and the lawn, and thus the opportunity for reporting more than a brief return of the racing was not forthcoming. The launch, strange to say, broke down ere half the day was over, and as no numbers were hoisted thereon, the only way to get at results was to interview competing crews on their return. Fouls occurred in several of the heats, but whether they affected the issue or not is unknown. The weather on Saturday was rather threatening, being very cloudy for the greater part of the day; but although on one or two occasions, a few drops of rain fell, nothing serious in the way of wet was experienced. Ladies were therefore able, as of yore, to come out in their most picturesque attire, and the company on Garrick’s lawn made as usual a brilliant display of toilets, whilst the numerous boats plying on the river and being lazily paddled to and fro lent animation to the scene. That the attendance was not so numerous as last year was, however, generally conceded. The band of the RH Artillery, under Mr Lawson, was one of the chief attractions, and so far as the day gave an opening for pleasuring, all was well. The form shown in the rowing was not exceptionally good. Most of the crews were decidedly stale, and there appeared to be but little life thrown into the various encounters. The programme was an exceptionally long one, and it is but fair to say that it was got through punctually, although, as the competitors were left to use their own sweet wills for the most part, with never an umpire to keep his eye upon them, there was no reason for delay. Appended will be found a return of the various events, insofar as we were able to ascertain them in the total absence of facilities for so doing.
Early Years of the Regatta – 1888
1888 has been picked as a year to be featured because of the recent gift to the regatta of a lovely silver hip flask, which was a winning prize on July 14th 1888 – the same day as in this year. It was a surprise this year to find that the regatta was to be held on the second Saturday in July, instead of the traditional third Saturday – perhaps they were also surprised in 1888. Mr Stephen Sandford, who lives in Botley in Oxfordshire, has been good enough to present the flask to the regatta after it was won so many years ago by a family predecessor. It is on display in the prize area.
Here are extracts from the regatta minutes of 1888:
On June 30th 1888, it was decided that Bellini’s band should be paid £12 ten shillings, and that another band be engaged for a sum not exceeding £25. Mrs Packham’s arrangement for the watermen’s lunches for 2/- per head was agreed to. Mrs Payne was authorized to sell the programmes for £10 as last year. Messrs Kennedy and Howell undertook to engage a steam launch for the umpire. A note of thanks to the chairman closed the meeting.
On July 5th 1888, Mr Payne reported that he had sold the programmes for £10 to Mrs Stript. Mr Kennedy stated that he had not been able to hire a steam launch and it was left to him to endeavour to do so. Mr Payne reported that he had engaged the band of the Royal Artillery for £25. Messrs Kennedy and Roberts were authorized to select the prizes for a sum not exceeding £130.
There is no minute recording the regatta held on July 14th, the next minute however does show that Mr Kennedy had managed to hire a steam launch.
Early years of the regatta – 1894
With the largest number of entries ever received, there were no less than 24 races at Moulsey on Saturday, July 28th, coming off at 20 minute intervals during the greater part of the day. Under these circumstances the officials had a difficult task to keep to time, and this was rendered more onerous by the bad behaviour of the spectators in small boats. They crowded on the course opposite the lawn after each race in such a manner that it was almost impossible for the umpire’s launch to make its way through, and the Staines B.C. boat was seriously damaged. But it was far worse when these small boats continually obtruded themselves into the course while the races were in progress, there being several narrow escapes. Unless some stringent measures are taken in future it will be absolutely impossible to hold the regatta at all. It is quite useless as the committee have done for years, by the legend on their programmes to “gentlemen as sportsmen” to do their utmost in keeping the course clear, for the majority are clearly not sportsmen, and many of them can hardly be described as gentlemen. Some of these people considered it the proper thing to do to abuse the umpire and other of the officials and deliberately to obstruct them, while making vague and unfounded charges of disregard for their, the trespassers’ convenience: others managed their craft in such an incompetent way that they increased the risk of accident. Unfortunately the officials of the Thames Conservancy greatly failed in their duties, for while some did their utmost to carry them out, others were lax and careless to a degree.
Saturday was one of the finest days of the present pluvious summer, being delightfully fine and hot, though occasionally there was a strong breeze blowing up the course; still it often dropped to nothing. Under these favourable conditions, the attendance was the largest ever known, the lawn of the Garrick Villa, which Mrs. Grove again kindly placed at the disposal of the committee as an enclosure, being crowded. Opposite it there was a long line of prettily decorated houseboats well filled, while afloat there have never been so many craft. An alteration in the course was made this year, the start being some 400 yards lower down the river than opposite the pumping station of the Lambeth waterworks, where it used to be. Thus was avoided the bend coming to Platt’s Eyot, and a straight run to it was insured. To make up the loss in distance it was continued about 200 yards past Mrs. Grove’s lawn. Fouls however were as numerous as ever, and Mr W H Eyre, TRC, found his office as umpire no sinecure. The chief honours of the meeting rested with the Kingston and Thames Rowing Clubs, who were most successful, the Moulsey Boat Club for once not carrying off a single prize. It was satisfactory to find the Twickenham Rowing Club amongst the winners, as it is a long time since they have caught the judge’s eye first. They have had however many difficulties to contend with, but with the new lock at Richmond a better time should be in store for them, of which perhaps their victory on Saturday was an earnest.
Early Years of the Regatta – 1896
The annual Molesey Invitation Regatta, the most preposterously non-sensical of any kind held on the Thames. Took place above Molesey Lock on Saturday afternoon. Occurring as it does after the business-like regattas held with such frequency on the river during the summer, the pantomime performance of the Molesey boys comes as an agreeable relaxation. The course was a short one, commencing opposite the Island Hotel and ending at the headquarters of the Molesey Boat Club. The Surrey shore was thronged with spectators, including many smartly dressed ladies. Blowing of trumpets, carried by the secretary and members of the committee, proclaimed the starting of the races, and the booming of a small cannon denoted their completion. The first race to claim attention was one in which coracles were used, and was divided into five heats. Propulsion of the boat which first found favour among the early Britons is not easy, but several of the competitors were evidently fully acquainted with the peculiarities of the boat, and displayed a fairly good turn of speed. Others less familiar paid the penalty of ignorance, their boats upsetting them into the water amidst the derisive laughs of the multitude.
Tomfoolery was accentuated in the succeeding race, described as a Canadian Canoe Scramble, in which contestants had to perform the exceedingly difficult feat of navigating with an ordinary scull a canoe, in which each had to stand erect. The race was in four heats, and the competitors appeared in costume of a highly grotesque character. Of the five rivals in the first heat, two were attired in ladies’ bathing dresses, the most conspicuous being of a gorgeous red material, whose wearer was crowned with a large sun-bonnet of large size. The merriment was increased by one of the crowd afloat falling into the river through the breaking of his punt pole. The next moment there came a long a steam launch, bearing the name of Siesta, having on board the straw figure of the Grand Old Man reclining in a camp chair. Meanwhile the five canoe scramblers had reached the starting post, and on the signal to go they went wobbling down the course. All managed to maintain their equilibrium until reaching a ryepeck secured in the middle of the river at the end of the course, round which the competitors had to glide and finish up stream. Two of the competitors were soon floundering in the stream.
The third event on the programme was described as a Trilby Race. For this a dozen competitors were brought to the riverside, and at the blast of a trumpet they went slap-dash into the water and made for a punt of barge-like dimensions, which had been moored in the centre of the stream. On board the craft was a large tub in which the boots and shoes of the swimmers had been thrown higgledy-piggledy, and around this they were quickly swimming. Somehow the tub was overturned into the river, and for a time there was a fishing for footgear, peals of laughter emanating meanwhile from the spectators. The conditions under which the prize to be won was for the competitor to arrive back on shore with his boots or shoes on and properly laced up; but few succeeded in thoroughly doing this. The punt appeared later on with a strange and motley group of passengers – fourteen in all competing for the prize of best dressed dummy including Mrs. Langtry, W.G. Grace and Lord Salisbury. . twelve competitors raced out in canoes, the winner being the first back with a dummy. This was won by W.F. Cooper who secured Mrs. Langtry. The concluding frolic of the day was water jousting.
The Surrey Comet “again it is our pleasure to chronicle a brilliant success for the annual amateur regatta held under the above title for the 29th time on Saturday. Indeed it is a moot question whether in the matter of attendance all previous records were not beaten.
During the morning heavy clouds hung about, and gave the committee cause for apprehension lest the forecast of the day be verified. But such is the popularity of the gathering that no such apprehensions had weight with the public, and the craft on the river and the assemblage on the lawn gradually increased, until at about 3 pm the sun shone out, and gave the finishing touch to a most brilliant scene, and the success of the day was assured.
The ladies especially (and they were in the majority) added much to the brightness of the scene, and as if to defy the morning’s threatening outlook, came forth in their most brilliant colours. White predominated, and this tended to give prominence to the other tints in heliotrope, pink etc., while the dainty colours used in the arrangement of the head-dresses, and of the sunshades, formed a charming picture.
Of music there was a continuance during the afternoon. Stationed on the Lawn was the Royal Artillery Mounted Band, which played a choice selection under the baton of Mr Henry Sims; alternating with the string band of the Garrick Strollers.
The handsome and costly collection of prizes were as usual displayed in the Temple.”
Early years of the regatta – 1897
Glorious weather favoured this annual river gathering on Saturday, and at no time was the executive caused a moment’s anxiety as to the success of the regatta being assured. Indeed the fierceness of the sun’s rays was almost overpowering, and the heat was so intense that shelter was greatly sought after.
As a brilliant scene, Molesey has always, next to Royal Henley, held pride of place, and Saturday’s gathering, it was generally admitted, eclipsed any of its predecessors since its institution in 1887. The pretty lawn of Garrick’s Villa was again very kindly placed at the disposal of the committee by Mrs. Grove, and this was as usual, the centre of attraction. Indeed without this lawn, with its velvety turf and flower borders ablaze with colour, the regatta would be deprived of one of its chief factors of success, and it is to be hoped that the day is far distant, when the privilege of using it will be denied.
On Saturday ladies were present in large numbers, and their dainty costumes (white predominating) and brilliancy of colour in hats and sunshades made up a picture on the lawn and river that it would be impossible to describe. Looking down upon the whole from the mound beyond the historic Temple, it can only be said that it was dazzling in the extreme. Flags were hung the whole length of the lawn and from other points, and added much to the gaiety of the scene.
This year, royalty graced the proceedings, and quite a stir was caused when at about five o’clock H.R.H. the Princess Frederica walked out onto the lawn from Garrick’s Villa, the Royal Artillery band playing the National Anthem. Her Royal Highness had previously been taken up and down the course on board Mr Peacock’s launch Ehcysp, which was used by Mr. Hoptroff for clearing the course.
Turning to the programme, it can only be described as excellent. Entries were numerous for the nine events, and included the cream of Thames amateur oarsmen and scullers, the most notable absentee being Blackstaffe, this year’s amateur champion. Racing commenced at the early hour of 10 a.m., and was continued at intervals of twenty minutes throughout the day up till 7 p.m., programme being well kept. The final heat of the senior eights was looked forward to with much interest but Kingston, in beating Thames by a length and three quarters in a time of five minutes and twenty one seconds, retained their supremacy and came through with flying colours, and received quite an ovation on their return. The course was from Platt’s Island to about a hundred yards below Garrick’s lawn, and this was admirably kept by Mr. Hoptroff and a staff of Conservancy men, the manner in which this arduous task was performed being favourably commented upon on all hands.
Early Years of the Regatta – 1897
Splendid weather prevailed for Molesey on Saturday, for although it was hot in the morning, a breeze sprang up afterwards. With very numerous entries, an early start was necessary, and the racing concluded fairly up to time, but the programme was considerably knocked about by alterations.
The attendance at Mrs. Grove’s on Garrick Villa, which she again kindly lent to the committee, was very large. There were not quite as many boats on the river as usual, and therefore it was possible to keep a clear course for competitors. It was slightly altered, the Start being from the Cherry Orchard, instead of higher upstream; and the finishing point was where it had been recently – about fifty yards below the lower end of the lawn. The judges’ telegraphing arrangements were hardly satisfactory, for sometimes it was impossible to obtain the times of the races, or to be certain which crew had won, several contests being exceedingly close. Mr. E. T. Sachs, MBC, who officiated as judge, did the best he could with the means at his disposal. Mr. G. Russell Milner kindly placed his fast launch, Aerolite, at the disposal of the committee, and Mr. F. Fenner, LRC, umpired from her bows, Mr. A. Piper, MBC, relieving him during the day for a time. On the conclusion of the regatta, the prizes were presented to the winners by H.R.H Princess Frederica, bringing a most successful meeting to a close. Subsequently there was a display of fireworks, and the river in the neighbourhood of Tagg’s Island was brilliantly illuminated, as is usual. Of course, A.R.A. rules were in force, while stations counted from the Surrey shore. (Surrey Comet)
Early Years of the Regatta – 1898
Success was the drawback to Molesey Regatta this year, and, paradoxical as this statement may seem, it is none the less true. The entries were so numerous that there was far too much racing for one day, and, with only about fifteen minutes between each contest, it was impossible for the one umpire officiating to go down to the lawn and communicate with the officials, or he could not have returned to the start in time for the next race. Hence, there was some confusion over several of the events, and a certain amount of friction. Next year should the entries be again as numerous, two days will be probably be devoted to the meeting. The day was delightful, though the wind was a little too strong. It blew from S.W. down the course, which was from the Cherry Orchard at West Molesey to a point about a hundred yards below the lawn of Garrick’s Villa , and so was rather shorter than usual. Although the Thames Conservancy launches kept an excellent course through the mass of moored boats from the Church to the finish, they nevertheless made the great mistake of allowing launches to go up the Gut by Platt’s Eyot, when races were about starting, so that there were several narrow escapes from collisions: and at least one crew was completely stopped by the launch Sappho. Some little trouble was caused at the start by the punts not being securely anchored. The waterman who was entrusted with the job of seeing to these punts placed them in charge of two boys, who were not provided with anchors, but only with weights to hold the punts in position, the consequence being that with the drag of the wind and the drag of the racing craft, they were continually shifting. The Hon.Secretary, Mr J.A. Milner, and all the officials worked hard in the interests of the regatta, but there was too much to do, and the rush with which everything had to be carried through was the cause of minor troubles. This was hardly the case with more serious matters, the chief of which was that the decisions of Mr F.Fenner, L.R.C., the umpire, were repeatedly called in question. If we are informed correctly, these matters are likely to be brought before the A.R.A. at its next meeting. ….
Early years of the regatta – 1899
The regatta archivist reports with regret that the minute books for this year and many either side of it were badly damaged in the floods of East Molesey in the sixties, reputedly exacerbated by the sluice-keeper of the Mole being too inebriated to perform his one duty. However this account of one hundred years ago has been preserved: In the account of last year’s regatta it was stated that probably this season the meeting would be extended to two days, and, fortunately, this was done as otherwise there would have been the same difficulty in carrying the programme which was then experienced. On that occasion there were twenty-nine heats, while this year the programme had one less, and, as a dead heat was re-rowed, there were exactly the same number of races as in 1898. The regatta was held on Friday and Saturday the 28th and 29th July, proceedings commencing at 3 p.m. on the first day, and at noon on the second, but it would have been better had they done so an hour earlier on each day. The weather was glorious, and a gentle breeze blew down the course somewhat tempering the heat. Mrs Grove again kindly lent her lovely lawn at Garrick Villa to the committee, and there was a very large attendance, even on the first day, while on the second it beat all previous records. On the Friday evening an al fresco concert on the lawn was arranged, and proved a great success, the atmospheric conditions being perfect for such an entertainment. Afloat on Saturday there were, perhaps, not quite so many boats as have sometimes been seen, but they were very numerous, and better arrangements were made for them to distribute themselves, so that there was never any really serious block, and an excellent course was kept by the Thames Conservancy officials. Mr F.Fenner, L.R.C., once more umpired from the Hibernia, and unfortunately his decision in one instance was disputed. St.G.Ashe attempted to argue with him, and to teach him his duties, in a most improper manner, but naturally gained nothing by so doing. The course was again slightly altered this year, and made a little longer, the start being some hundred yards above the Cherry Orchard, opposite the lower end of the Waterworks new wall, and the finish nearly a couple of hundred yards below the lower end of the lawn of Garrick Villa, stations as usual counting from the Surrey shore. The duties of Hon. Secretary were admirable performed by Mr C. W. Kent, O.U.B.C., who must be congratulated on the success which attended his first effort in that capacity.
Music in 1899
The Royal Artillery Mounted Band played Unter dem Freihetsbanner (Blon), MorgenBlatter (Strauss), Il Conte D’Esses (Mercadante), A Runaway Girl (Caryll), Tireé du Chant des Voyageures (Paderewski), Lohengrin (Wagner), Zampa (Herold), O Star of Eve (Wagner), Reminiscences of all Nations (Arr. F. Godfrey), Slumber Song (Schumann), Reminiscences of Auber (Schumann), The Geisha (Jones). Three Dances from Henry VIII (German), King Cotton (Sousa).
The Anglo-Hungarian Band played Wein Blut Wein, Wein Weib Gesan, Geisha, Lustige Bruder, Foldzint, Belle of New York, Weaner Madlin, The Eton Boating Song, Arc en Ciel, An Artist’s Model, La Plus de Bal, Racosky.
In 1899 in the Bell Inn on June 8th, the regatta committee voted £100 to the Milner Memorial Fund for the new Molesey Boat Club. In 1999 and in Milner’s very building the present committee voted £2000 for the planned development at Molesey Boat Club!
Early years of the regatta – 1900
The regatta archivist reported last year that the regatta papers for this period had been badly damaged in the floods of the sixties. However 1900 is just readable, and here is an account from the Comet of August 4th 1900.
“The body of the gentlemen constituting the executive of this popular regatta must be heartily congratulated on having again achieved a brilliant success. For years the gathering has been increasing in favour both with our best amateur rowing clubs, and with that very numerous class who treat such regattas as river picnics, so that in rowing and attendance it has grown to be recognised as, next to Royal Henley, the principal meeting of the river season.
Owing to the increased entry of previous years, Friday and Saturday were fixed upon for the regatta, and it was hoped that the brilliant weather we have experienced would continue. On the afternoon of the first day however a severe thunderstorm burst over the neighbourhood while the racing was in progress and marred the proceedings. This, however proved beneficial to the second day, and on Saturday the weather was all that could be desired – bright sunshine tempered by a refreshing breeze. Mrs Garrick, the highly esteemed owner of Garrick’s Villa at Hampton, again very kindly placed her beautiful lawn at the disposal of the committee, and contributed much to the success of the regatta. This of course formed the principal rendezvous, and was crowded with ladies and gentlemen representing the elite of the neighbourhood. The brilliant dresses of the ladies, with the gay display of bunting, and the bloom and foliage of the lawn, made an extremely picturesque scene.. On the river every conceivable kind of craft was requisitioned. Turning again to the lawn, there was an abundance of beautiful music from the band of the Scots Guards, alternating with the Anglo-Hungarian band … an attempt was made after the thunderstorm to bring the concert off, under difficulties as more rain was coming on, but a piano was placed in the Temple, and several songs duets, recitations and musical selections were given from the steps of the building.
The programme of races was, as usual, a very attractive one, and afforded opportunities for racing of nearly every description. The course was from the old Cherry Orchard, to a point above the upper end of Tagg’s Island, and boat tents for the accommodation of competitors were erected in Hurst Park near the Hampton Ferry.
Mr F.Fenner, London RC, officiated as umpire and starter, and for his accommodation, Mr. Labat’s speedy steam launch, Hibernia, was engaged. There were nine events set down for decision, and twenty four races were necessary, the entry throughout being a good one. Nine races were held on the Friday, commencing at noon with a Thames Cup Eight race between London and Molesey. Saturday’s racing also commenced at noon, the last race at seven o’clock in the evening being the final of Junior Eights between Anglian BC and St. Paul’s School. Thames RC won the Garrick Pairs and the Senior Pairs, London won the Thames Cup Fours and Senior Eights, Twickenham RC won the Thames Cup Eights, Broxbourne RC the Junior Fours, Kensington RC the Junior Sculls, and the Senior Sculls were won by St. G.Ashe, unattached.
The course was kept clear by a staff of Thames Conservancy men under Mr Laurie, who had the use of Mr. Peacock’s steam launch, Ehcysp. There was a free ferry between the Surrey shore and the lawn, a number of Commissionaires were on duty, and the policing arrangements were very satisfactory.”
Early Years of the Regatta – 1910 from the Surrey Comet
Molesey Regatta of 1910 will probably go down to posterity as marking an important point in the endeavour which so many regatta committees have made to induce a greater flow of public subscriptions. It has been long recognised that merely to invite contributions to the expense fund has had but an unsatisfactory response; now, however, that something practical has been done in the matter other executives will probably follow where Molesey has led. The idea of the sale of small flags to all and sundry at half-a-crown each originated with Mr J. Bradford, whose beautiful houseboat, Gipsy, is so well known to all river users. The prominent display of this flag was fairly certain of arousing an emulative spirit, and the anticipation of a brisk trade was realised, the regatta funds benefiting to the extent of £80. Fully seven hundred of these neat little emblems in the somewhat sombre Molesey colours must have been disposed of, and the executive, through Mr Bradford, may claim to have given some solution to the problem which has so long confronted them – namely how to get a river public to pay something for its day’s sport.
Early Years of the Regatta – 1912
A miserably wet and chilly day was the depressing precursor of Molesey Regatta, but fortunately for the multitude to whom this river festival is a great and special occasion, Saturday brought much better things.
There was an appreciable rise in the temperature, with an absence of wind that was most agreeable to those afloat, and though the sunshine which is so essential to complete the brilliance of a Thames regatta was limited to an occasional gleam, the freedom from rain was, after all, the thing that really mattered. Towards evening the sky brightened considerably enabling those who remained on the course for the Venetian fête and fireworks display, to have a thoroughly enjoyable time. Molesey Regatta has many qualities that put it ahead of similar gatherings on the Thames, and its reputation as the premier assembly after Henley is jealously guarded.
Garrick Island, opposite the lawn, also contributed to regatta funds, a charge for landing being made by permission of the London United Tramways Company. And the directors of Hurst Park Ltd., again placed a portion of the racecourse at the disposal of the committee for boat and dressing tents, ample accommodation being thus ensured. The sale of flags in aid of the funds was undertaken with conspicuous success, and to Molesey belongs the distinction of being the pioneer in this now almost universal custom at Thames regattas.
At quite an early hour in the morning the occupants of a number of skiffs and punts were in the best positions in the shade of the trees bordering Garrick Island, and they lacked nothing in attempts at entertainment by the numerous concert parties, whose energy in the circulation of collecting bags attached to fishing rods was redoubled as the number of boats increased. It is seldom a regatta passes without the provision of some work for the boat builders, and minor collisions were heard at intervals, in one case it being a matter of considerable difficulty to free a dinghy which had become impaled by a punt.
The lawn at Garrick Villa presented a scene of rich colour, when viewed from the Temple in which the challenge cups and presentation prizes were on view. Backed by the magnificent foliage which so agreeably screens it from the road, and gay with strings of bunting, the enclosure was a much favoured resort, and its great length make it a most desirable promenade.
Although the course at Molesey presents many difficulties to those accustomed to long stretches of open water, whilst it is of greater length than those at Kingston, Walton or Staines, there are generally some excellent finishes especially in the eights and fours. Saturday’s proceedings were no exception, whilst the rarity of a dead heat occasioned considerable excitement. This was in the Junior Eights, in which the six heats were keenly contested, and it was a surprise to many that the question as to which crew in the dead heat (London or Vesta) should enter the final should have been decided by the spin of a coin.
The charming dresses of the ladies with the widely varied colours worn by members of the rowing clubs, formed a feast for the eye. A nautical touch was added by the presence of a signalling corps from the Royal Navy School, Greenwich, who were kept busy transmitting messages and results from the lawn to the boat tents.
An anecdote from 1913 – from the memoirs of J.D.M. Bourne (MBC HRR Grand crew)
On 10th June 1913 I went to Molesey to see whether I could not resume my rowing career. Rather to my surprise, the coaches considered me very promising, and installed me as stroke of a Junior Eight, which won two heats at Walton Regatta on 12th July, but lost the final to Kingston. On 19th July 1913 at Molesey Regatta I stroked a Junior Four that won a heat and the final, and a Junior Eight that beat Thames Rowing Club in the final. That was probably the proudest day of my life. I know that expression is supposed to be reserved for the day one puts a ring on Her finger, but on that occasion one does rather wonder if it is going to work out alright – whereas at Molesey I had no doubts that I was a first class oarsman !
Interesting Minutes – 1985
Committee: J Tilbury, G Foot, D Lusty, E Bates, J Waterer, N Baker, G Waterer, P Mitchell, M Denny, J Denny, A Paterson, R Plowright, P Hodgson (MRA), H Pickett.
1 J Van Ingen was again missing from the meeting. It was understood from his wife that he was in America and also she did not think that he was interested in carrying on the function of Treasurer. It was decided that J Denny would take over as Treasurer and would be assisted by Mark Taylor-Thomas.
2 A new poster, advertising the regatta, has been designed. The evening function is to be included on the poster
8 Canvas banners – Black with white lettering £51.25 plus VAT plus printing, or White with black lettering £102 plus VAT plus printing. It was decided to order two black with white lettering.
9 Enclosure – E Bates submitted plans for a new enclosure, estimated at £857.
12 The evening dance must be a closed event with a ‘ticket only’ entry, and a proper floor is needed for dancing. A Sub-Committee for the Evening Function is to be set up consisting of Mrs. B. Bates, P. Hodgson, J. Waterer, D. Lusty and J.Tilbury
20 Martin Cross is to be written to, to be asked to present the prizes.