Friday, December 2, 2016

Rowing races on the canal

Some rowing fours from a century ago.
Rowing as a sport is not much associated with Wolverton. In the 20th century the nearest rowing clubs might have been found at Bedford in the east and Oxford in the west. However in the 19th century, when men were trying out all kinds of sports, rowing was a featured sport in Wolverton. They used the canal, rather than the river, although the canal had width limitations.

Richard Bore, who was the carriage works superintendent in the 1970s seems to have been very keen on the port and two of his sons were participants.

At the end of April 1877 Wolverton held its own Boat Race, with crews from the Galatea and Livonia Clubs competing against each other. Each crew had four rowers and a cox. The race was set up from Cosgrove Lock to Old Wolverton, a distance of 7 furlongs, just short of a mile. The particular challenge of this race was that there is no room for boats to pass each other, particularly on the Iron Trunk, so the solution was to have separate start and finish lines with one boat starting in front of the other. This probably reduced the drama of a race and turned it effectively into a time trial.

On this occasion Galatea beat Livonia by a length and a half. Two senior works officials presided over the race: Richard Bore as Umpire and William Panter as starter. William Panter grew up on Creed Street and was by this time a foreman in the works. He finished his career as Superintendent of the London and South Western Railway and was responsible for the foundation of Eastliegh in the 1890s.

The Livonia Rowing Club was still active in the 1890s. In August 1893 they competed in the Gayhurst Regatta, which, while featuring crews from the local villages bordering the river, Gayhurst, Tyringham, Great Linford, Little Linford, also attracted crews from Bedford and Eton College.

Competitive activity seems to have died in the first decade of the 20th century. The club was still active, but there are only reports of the annual trip to Fenny Stratford - rowing there on the canal, taking lunch at the Swan, and then making the return journey. The last report was in 1907.

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