As far as I know there was no rowing activity amongst the first (1964) intake of graduate students to the University of Warwick. 1965 saw the first batch of undergraduates and among these were three or four who started rowing informally at Stratford Rowing Club. Of those, one had rowed previously at Ealing G.S. and another had coxed at Tonbridge but there was no move amongst the first undergraduate intake to found a proper University Boat Club or to engage in competitive rowing.
A number of us who entered as undergraduates in October 1966 had previous competitive rowing experience. I had been captain of Kingston Grammar School Boat Club, rowing in the P.E. at Henley and for Kingston R.C. ; John Fawthrop had rowed at Tiffin School and subsequently for Kingston R.C. and Andy Hughes-Hallett had rowed at Radley. There were also a number of other undergraduates (John English, Dave Hitt et al) who were interested in taking up the sport.
We began by joining the previous year's rowers in driving down to Stratford R.C. to go out there (in 1966 this involved long delays driving via Leek Wootton and through the centre of Warwick as the by-pass had not yet been opened). From the outset, it was clear that some of the 'old guard' at Stratford R.C. resented this intrusion of undergraduates although there were some members who were interested in our beginnings and who gave both help and advice. One of these was Chris Morgan, a sixth former at Kenilworth G.S. and another was Henry Hatton (also a member of Leander) who later coached us on a number of occasions. There was no invitation to combine forces with Stratford R.C. However, John Fawthrop and I did 'represent' the university at Evesham and Hereford regattas rowing in 'Coxed Open Pairs' in a borrowed Stratford clinker boat. Not surprisingly, we brought up the rear (hopefully without too much discredit to later crews) at both these events!
By the summer of 1967, John and I felt that being based at Stratford was not going to lay the foundation for a successful University Boat Club. Apart from the political issues, the stretch below Clopton bridge was far too short and comprised one large bend above the weir. By this time, the large huts, which had been used on the East Site by the contractors during the first phase of building, were standing empty and I realised that since they were just over sixty feet in length they had boathouse potential to rack IVs and even VIIIs. We discovered that one of the Assistant Registrars, Hugh Patterson had an interest in rowing and so we approached him to see whether one of the redundant sheds shed might be appropriated to start a University Boat Club. Initial meetings were encouraging but we lacked a site on which to place the potential boat shed.
I am not sure at what stage it happened - probably in the summer term of '67, but by the start of 1967-68 academic year John Fawthrop and I had become Treasurer and Captain respectively. The University Boat Club gained a seat on the Union's sports committee and I also started the process of registering the Club with the ARA. We designed the first rowing kit as well as the red, black and white oarblade which I note is still in use.
The 1967 Freshers' Conference saw the number of undergraduates topping 1,000 for the first time. We enrolled both experienced rowers and novices (no women in those days) though it was still unclear as to where we should row. We made forays to neighbouring university clubs (e.g. Leicester and Birmingham) by coach but no water seemed right - especially back at Stratford where the potential surge of varsity novices sent shock waves through the Stratford R.C. committee.
We desperately needed to find suitable water within easy reach of the campus. I began to look at the local Ordinance Survey map to examine the Avon between Stoneleigh and Stratford and then tried to 'prospect' for any stretch which offered hope by driving around and trying to find the river from the nearest road. Historically, the uppermost stretch of the Avon on which rowing had taken place was the one above Warwick weir. Warwick School had stopped rowing after a four had allegedly been swept over the weir with the loss of at least one life. Warwick Boat Club had a clubhouse above the weir but had long since ceased competitive rowing to focus on tennis (though they later restarted rowing - probably as a result of the birth of UWBC - and not without success). I decided to borrow a canoe and paddle down the river from above Leamington. My study of the map suggested a long stretch of reasonable width between Warwick Castle and Barford. Since this was before the M40 or even the precursor link road over the Avon between the Stratford end of the (by 1967 almost completed) Warwick by-pass and the Warwick to Banbury road it had proved impossible to reach the stretch on foot as all the riparian land was privately owned. Nearly forty-five years later, I remember my intake of breath, having portered my canoe around Warwick weir as I began to paddle downstream and saw what opened up before me on the water. First, I floated gently beneath the medieval walls of Warwick castle next into a widening reach and then on between densely wooded banks and under a stone footbridge on what I guessed to still be part of Lord Warwick's estates. On and on the stretch seemed to go with portions wide enough for side by side racing practice. What a find! I could scarcely contain my excitement having found what I realised was the stretch of water we desperately needed. I could even see that there were possible sites on the lower reach for a boathouse. Wow!
We approached Hugh Patterson again to tell him that we had found the ideal stretch for the Boat Club. He did some research and we discovered that the riparian owner on the lower reaches nearer to Barford was Mr Smith-Ryland, Lord Lieutenant of Warwickshire and a supporter of youth sport at county level. Through Mr Bruce-Lockhart, University Development Officer we were able to set up a meeting with Mr Smith-Ryland who could not have been more helpful. We met him at his Estate office in Barford and he then drove us with his tenant farmer to show us a site below the proposed single arch road bridge about to be built across the Avon and we also agreed access across his farmland. The tenancy was set up with very generous river usage and at a peppercorn rent. Mr Smith-Ryland also persuaded Lord Warwick to allow us to row (other than in the duck shooting season!) on his water so the whole stretch was now at our disposal for rowing.
Encouraged by these developments and with the Club officially registered with the ARA, we set about acquiring equipment: oars from Kingston Rowing Club, two matched coxed clinker IVs from Wallingford RC and a new coxless IV from George Sims at Eel Pie Island, Twickenham. The first 4- comprised:
Bow & steers: Godfrey Bishop
2 John Fawthrop
3 Dave Brown (ex- Bedford Modern School)
Str: Diegan Morris (a graduate student, ex-Radley and brother of Sean Morris, President of OUBC)
Coach: Henry Hatton (Leander and Stratford RC)
This crew had little time to train properly but we raced at a number of Thames and other regattas with varying degrees of success. At least the Club's colours began to make an appearance and there was encouragement from all sides.
Novice crews were formed and land training started at Woodlands School, Coventry (the University had no sports centre at this stage) and also weight-training on the top floor of the Rootes social building. Boats were kept under the flood arch of the new road bridge pending the erection of the new boathouse in 1968. Unfortunately, the Avon flooded in August 1968 and carried the two clinker IVs to a field above Barford weir. We realised as a consequence of this mishap that we'd need a raft which could cope with the rise and fall of the Avon and this was duly ordered and installed.
The Club was increasingly active socially and we built up a core of supporters. I spent '68-'69 in France as part of my degree but I kept in close touch with developments which included the arrival of more experienced oarsmen (e.g. Eugene Deed and Don Trenear-Thomas). By December 1968 we were able to hold our first Boat Club Dinner at The Bear, Berkeswell which was a great success. I managed to acquire an VIII from Kingston RC which I believe was used for the first time in the Tideway HOR in 1970.
I married in my final year ('69 - '70) at Warwick and so was less involved by that stage. John Fawthrop had graduated in 1969 but the seed we had planted was sprouting fast and it is so encouraging to note how successful the Club has become for men and women. The 'temporary shed' was clearly a good move - having lasted for well over forty years and the stretch obviously accommodates different levels of rowing without too much difficulty. At least one schoolboy I later coached (James Nickless at Monkton Combe) went on to row for the University and I hope that UWBC will soon achieve top success at Henley - a far cry from 'Open Coxed Pairs' at Evesham in a borrowed clinker boat !
This is from a set of 5, taken for a feature on the rowing club in CAMPUS, the weekly UofW newspaper that preceded the Warwick Boar.
They are from either 1968 or 69, but I think early 1969 is more likely. I have about 20 editions of Campus in a box somewhere, and might be able
to find the article if it's important. The reason I think it is 69 is because when I joined the Boat Club at the Freshers' weekend in October 1967,
we didn't have any boats or water, and used to borrow the facilities and boats of Stratford BC, almost opposite the theatre.
By October 1968 relations were getting a little strained with Stratford (boat damage allegations etc.). The club Captain (Godfrey Bishop,
I think) had managed to get funding for a brand new Sims coxless four from the Rootes Memorial Fund, had obtained a second hand
Restricted Coxed Four from somewhere (Kingston RC probably), and had worked with the University to obtain a big second hand wooden
shed (which I think may have been a contractor's site office, as the white-tile buildings on the main site, Rootes etc. had just been built)
Best of all, somebody (Vice chancellor Jack Butterworth ?) had persuaded Smith-Ryland, who was a very big landowner in south Warwickshire,
and possibly the Lord Lieutenant of the county, to let us row on the Avon between Warwick and Barford weirs. Jack Butterworth was practically
world class when it came to getting money and facilities for his new university.
So by the winter of 68-69 I think we were rowing at Barford, and this photo is looking downstream from a point about half a mile downstream
from what was the Warwick bypass, and which is now probably the M40.
The boat on the left is the new 4-, with crew members from those who had rowed at school (probably only Sen 3 or 2), and the boat on the
right is the novices in the beamy 4+rst. I think the photos were taken either by Neil Wigglesworth (now Lancaster John O'Gaunt RC) or
Ray Brown, the pair of them having paddled an old clinker 4+ downriver to get some action shots with a camera. We didn't have any women in
the club in the early days, as none of them were daft enough to spend their spare time in an old shed with no loos in the middle of a cabbage field.
The New Boat, heading downstream under the Warwick bypass. Photo taken from the boathouse landing stage, i think.
Blades are almost certainly second-hand wooden Suttons or Aylings ex-Kingston RC. They hadn't invented carbon fibre
boats and blades at that time.
Bow John Fawthrop ?
2 Eugene Deed
3 Dave Brown
Str Don Trenear-Thomas
This was taken off the bypass bridge on another occasion I think, but is the same outing as photo No 5.
It shows the Novice 4, but our immensely patient coach (name forgotten, don't know where he came from,
but wasn't at the University as far as I know) has subbed in at 3, probably to demonstrate to the stupid
crew how it should be done. So:
Bow Mark ?? (Canadian, postgrad I think, reading History )
2 Andy Greenwell (Economics)
Str Andy Benson (reading French)
Cox (temporarily, usually a rower) M.Yussif Agha (ex-Karachi, reading Hist/Pol)
As you can see from the puddles, lots of work, not much cover (or style)
See photo 4 for crew list, though Yussif is at 2 and Andy Greenwell is proving he can't row properly at 3 either.
The boat is the 4+Rst
Coach is standing up, and our regular and long-suffering cox is holding the rigger. Photo taken looking
downstream from a boat in mid-river. The landing stage is outside the boathouse, just downstream of the
Warwick Bypass bridge.
When the summer term ended, it was only halfway through the regatta season, so 4 of us who were
based in the London area in the hols borrowed boats and raced as UofW Novice Four. 1969 I think it was.
The aim was to have some fun, and raise the profile of the new university's boat club.
In those days novices all raced in eights or Restricted fours (wide wooden things, but a bit lighter than most (though not all)
old-fashioned clinker fours). Sometimes the Regatta provided the boats, so all we had to do was turn up
with a set of oars. Even if they didn't, you could borrow a restricted 4 pretty easily, and the point about these
boats was that they were all the same, so you weren't at risk of borrowing a boat you couldn't balance.
So we went to Maidenhead Regatta, and Egham, and I think Henley Town, and I think we did Putney Town
and Visitors Regatta too. I took the oars on my Minivan (ie the van version of a ''swinging sixties" mini) as I
was the only one with a vehicle and a roofrack. We borrowed a cox from Kingston RC (son of a friend of
Godfrey Bishop, I think).
We got through a few rounds, but didn't win our novice pots, as there were usually between 8 and 16 novice
crews entered for Thames regattas in those days, and we weren't really fit or strong enough.
So this photo is more to show off the first version of the Warwick Uni kit. The pink patch on the bow man's
vest is a faded printed Bear and Ragged Staff, and side-buttoned cotton shorts with double seats, or
knitted woollen shorts (Ray Brown, extreme right) were what you wore. Lycra was another 20 years away.
A part from Ray Brown, crew was Steve Rawles (stoke) and Andy Greenwell, and a bow man whose
name I've forgotten, (but it wasn't Yussif). Photo taken at Maidenhead Regatta as a souvenir of a point on the
learning curve, probably by my girlfriend Heather Sewell, who was the union Vice President, and one
of the people on the infamous High Court Injunction when we occupied the University Registry the following
Ask the librarians for a book called 'Warwick University Ltd" by E.P. Thompson (pub. Penguin 1970) if you
want to know all about THAT !
It wasn't all beer and boating in the early years of the university, you know.
Letter from Andy Greenwell [12/3/1999]
Old Boat Club Members.
I saw, in the ARA's "Regatta" magazine, that you are trying to find
ex-members of the University of Warwick Boat Club.
I rowed for Warwick from October 1967 until May 1970, when occupying the
Registry and trying to sack the Vice Chancellor (Black Jack Butterworth) and
his business cronies seemed to be more important.
For the first year or so we borrowed boats from Stratford on Avon Rowing
Club, and used to paddle up and down past the tourists in Stratford on
Wednesday afternoons and Saturday mornings. In those days you could follow
that with a stroll across to the theatre to buy a cheap (on-the-day) ticket
for the evening's performance, followed by a pint or two in the Dirty Duck
and a bit of shopping in the afternoon. I seem to remember that this
arrangement came to an end when Stratford accused UofWBC with damaging some
of their boats, (which we knew nothing about, and which is the sort of
problem that you always seem to get when two clubs share a boathouse).
Godfrey Bishop (the Captain, ex-Kingston on Thames RC and whom I later met
(in 1989) as a rowing coach at Worcester) and (I think), Don Trenear-Thomas,
managed to get permission to row between Warwick Castle and Barford Weir,
with a wooden boathouse which had been in use at the main Warwick campus
moved to Barford next to the Warwick Bypass. He also got a floating landing
stage, a new 4- (Sims?) (from the Rootes Memorial Fund, I think) and some
second-hand restricted 4+ and I think a clinker or restricted 8o, I believe
from Kingston. Some time later we sank in mid-river in the 8o, as it was a
bit leaky and filled up before we could finish the outing.
I also recall a one piece wooden (?shell) eight being purchased from
Kingston, and a motley crew of London-area-based UofW BC members assembling
one vacation to row it downstream through Teddington and Richmond locks to
Sims at Putney to be sectioned. This half-marathon journey down onto the
tideway was because couldn't afford to hire one of the boat lorries which
used to carry one-piece eights up and down the Thames Valley to regattas in
the 60s. I don't think the De Graaf tri-axle boat trailer had been invented
We used to race at Stratford and Evesham Regattas, and one summer, four of
us raced a Novice or Senior C (= Sen 4 or 3) 4+ at Egham, Maidenhead, Henley
Town & Vistors and Staines. I don't think we won, but it was useful
experience and useful flag-waving for the very new University (the first
undergraduates to be accepted by Warwick only started 2 years before our
We also raced against the 'local' universities, Birmingham, Aberystwyth, and
Leicester, and I remember one memorable set of fours races on Edgbaston
Reservoir in the snow, followed a few weeks later by a race against
Leicester at Barford, also in a snowstorm. I think that would have been in
1969. We had taken the sectioned restricted 4+ and the oars to Edgbaston on
a roofrack on my mini-van, with the riggers, seats and all 5 of us crammed
I subsequently gave up rowing for nearly 10 years, as I got a job in Bedford
and thought the boat club there were an unwelcoming lot. However in 1979 I
began going out with young woman who had stroked the OUWBC boat, and started
rowing again for Sudbury RC in Suffolk. We raced quite often at Cambridge,
all over East Anglia and the south east. When I split from the OUWBC lady, I
rowed for Bedford for a couple of years (and realised that the unwelcoming
lot of 10 years before were really quite a good crowd), stroked one of their
eights at the Tideway, etc.
In 1983 I got a job in Cheshire and rowed for Northwich RC's Vet B crews
until about 1987, including going to the FISA Vets in Ghent in an eight in
1984. We didn't win, but since we had Kingston on Thames and Lea RC in our
final, we didn't do too badly. I started umpiring around that time.
In 1987 I took up coaching a small WJ15 squad at Northwich, who'd had a few
outings for a 'fun' inter-schools regatta. I taught them to be less of a
nuisance to the rest of the crews on the river, by rowing competently, and
subsequently won numerous regattas and heads with them, getting a 4th in
WJ16 8o in the Nat Champs in Strathclyde in 89, a 2nd in WJ4+ at Nottingham
the following year, and representing England in the Home Countries
International later in 1990. Since I was learning coaching, weight training
instruction etc. about half a step ahead of the girls, I think we did
pretty well. We also had quite a good time, racing in London and Bedford,
Gloucester and Ross on Wye, Glasgow and Sheffield and anywhere in between.
In my spare time I was the NW Region's Junior rep on the ARA Junior Rowing
In 1990 I moved clubs to row for Runcorn RC, and last weekend I was
organising the officials for the Runcorn Eights Head, over 500 competitors
racing a distance of 5500 metres. I currently do a bit of ergo-ing and
sculling, but haven't had time to race for a couple of years (I have a
number of other interests which are quite time consuming).
Well, that's told you a great deal more than you wanted to know, hasn't it?
I think the point I'd like to make, is that the rowing I learned at Warwick
gave me an easy entry into a social and sporting scene when work took me to
a strange town (whether it was Cambridge or Cheshire). I've rowed in some
crap crews, and some that were pure delight (a scratch outing in a new boat
with Peterborough's Sen 1 4+ on the Nene one evening, when I was over there
on business for a couple of days, for example) but I'm sure that outings on
the river over the last 30 years have helped to offset the stresses of work,
(first in Finance, and later in IT), and kept me sane.
The only other person I still know from Warwick rowing days is Neil
Wigglesworth, who was at Warwick at the same time as me, and who has been a
stalwart of John O' Gaunt Rowing Club at Lancaster, and Lancaster Regatta,
for at least the last 15 years. He's still racing in Vet 4 events.
ex- University of Warwick BC (1967-70)
ex- Sudbury RC (1979-80)
ex- Bedford RC (1981-83)
ex- Northwich RC (1983-90)
Runcorn RC (1991 - present)
WGBC (2007 - present)