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Robert "Honest Bob" Chambers (1831 - 1868)

Robert Chambers

Robert Chambers was born at St. Anthony's, Walker nr Newcastle-upon-Tyne in 1831, and was the first of the three great professional oarsmen to die. He died from tuberculosis on the 4th June 1868 at the early age of 37.


  • Born in St. Anthony's, Walker, nr Newcastle upon Tyne.
  • 1856
  • (June) Durham Regatta: 3 Claspers and Chambers won fours for 20, H. & J. Clasper won pairs.
  • Thames National Regatta Winship & Bruce beat H.Clasper & Pocock in pairs, H.Clasper, Pocock, Chambers, MacKinney won fours for 100.
  • 1857
  • (August) Thames National Regatta 2 Claspers, A.Maddison, Chambers won fours for 100.
  • (28/08/1857) Manchester Regatta: H.Clasper, Chambers, Ault, Winship won fours.
  • (September) Lancaster Regatta: Clasper's crew beat Taylor's crew.
  • 1858
  • Thames National Regatta: H.Clasper, Chambers, T.MacKinney, T.Pocock won fours and 100.
  • 1859
  • (19/04/1858) Robert Chambers beat Thomas White of Bermondsey, "it was this victory, in a measure unexpected, which was the principal cause of his being backed against Kelley" (Bell's Life 20/08/1859; also reported in the Times 20/04/1859). Both Ned Corvan and Joe Wilson composed songs about this race.
  • (30/04/1858) Illustrated London News write up.
  • (27/06/1858) Durham Regatta: H. & J. Clasper won pairs beating Chambers & Winship. H. & J. Clasper, Chambers, Winship won fours.
  • (August) Bell's Life August 1859 on Robert Chambers' style "was magnificent and few who saw him row that latter part of the race will ever forget that majestic, even, and stupendous sweep of the sculls, or the finished fall of his compact shoulders, and his well defined muscles."
  • Thames National Regatta: H. & J. Clasper, Chambers, Winship won fours and 100.
  • (23/08/1858) Manchester Regatta: H. & J. Clasper, Chambers, Winship won fours.
  • 1860
  • (18/06/1860) Durham Regatta: H. & J. Clasper, Chambers, Winship shared fours' prize of 23 with Taylor's crew.
  • (21/07/1860) Royal Thames National Regatta final H. & J. Clasper, Chambers, Winship fouled by Shakespear and Thames crews and lost for 100, Thomas crew of Putney and AP Lonsdale crew of Manchester and Tyne. The committee offered Clasper 10 for the race but Clasper challenged the others to race for no stake, which they declined. To add insult to injury when Harry went to race his pair with his son he found two holes had been drilled in their boat.
  • (26/07/1860) Derby Regatta: H. & J. Clasper, Chambers, Winship won fours.
  • (27/08/1860) Manchester Regatta: H. & J. Clasper, Chambers, Winship won fours.
  • (September) Robert Chambers defeated Harry Kelley for the Championship of England, the first Tyne sculler to do so. George Ridley sang "O, ye Cockneys all, Ye mun think't very funny' For Bob he gans and licks ye all, an' collars all your money."
  • (27/09/1860) Newcastle & Gateshead Regatta: H. & J. Clasper, Chambers, Winship won fours.
  • 1861
  • Thames Regatta won by a Tyne four.
  • Engraving of the Kilmorey crew of 1861 George Hammerton, John Tagg, Edward Winship, Robert Chambers, Robert Clasper
  • 1862
  • Thames regatta Harry Clasper stroked the winning four.
  • (July 1862) Crew was H. & J. Clasper, E.Winship, R.Chambers cox R.Clasper.
  • 1863
  • (16/06/1863) Robert Chambers v Thomas Green of Australia for the Championship of the Tyne, the first "International World Professional Sculling Contest" - a match worth thousands of pounds.

    "half the world travelling o,er to lay wor Tyneside law,
    the tother half now may try an still we'll keep the craw,
    aw says aw'll lay me brass on Bob an work the winnin seam."

  • Harry Kelley beat Chambers and Cooper at Eau Brink Cut near Kings Lynn for the national title. Kelley went onto claim the world title by defeating Hamill of Canada in 1865.
  • (28/08/1863) Tyne Regatta: Kelly, Chambers and Cooper race for the Tyne Champion's cup for 50, Green absent as ill, race ended in acrimony and dispute, the scullers refused to rerow on Monday.
  • 1864
  • (05/09/1864) Chambers v Cooper on the Tyne race postponed to the following day as Chambers' boat was holed, Cooper had beaten Chambers twice over shorter distances, but this time Chambers won. Cooper was a Redheugh ferryman.
  • (Autumn) Dispute arose over a race between Chambers and Robert Cooper.
  • Race painted by John Warkup Smith the next year.
  • 1865
  • (September) York Regatta got Clasper, Chambers and Cooper down from the Tyne to promote rowing (Yorkshire Gazette 30/09/1865).
  • Championship match Harry Kelley v Robert Chambers who used a sliding seat designed and made by Adam Deas of Gateshead.
  • 1867
  • (May) Kelley defeats Chambers for the Championship of England, "The name o'Chambers, honest Bob, Aw's sure 'ill nivor dee, The brave, the game undaunted man That struggled hard to be The hero of a hundred spins, The champion frae Tyneside, That kept the world se lang at bay, Tho lick't, yor still wor pride," sang Joe Wilson. Chambers was probably already dying from Tuberculosis.
  • 1868
  • (04/06/1868) Robert Chambers "Honest Bob" of Walker died. "Massive crowds lined the route of the funeral cortege as it moved from Pottery Bank in St. Anthony's to Walker Cemetary. Flags on the boats of the Tyne General Ferry Company flew at half mast and the bells of St. Nicholas Church boomed out a sonerous death march pace" (The Tyne Oarsmen - Peter Dillon)
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