North East Rowing On-line
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Hexham Rowing Club
Hexham Rowing Club 1878 - Present
Hexham Rowing Club was created in November 1878 at a meeting in the North Eastern
Hotel (now the Station Hotel). About 70 young men attended with promises from another 50
who intended to join.
It should be remembered that this was in the heyday of professional rowing in the North
East before the creation of the Football Association. For Alan Shearer read Bob Chambers.
For Bobby Robson read Harry Clasper. Every stretch of water had its town rowing club:
Corbridge, Ebchester, and Hexham. Every amateur club was also effectively a training
ground for potential professionals who would be 'sponsored' by bookies and wealthy
entrepreneurs as well as gentry. There were some 20 professional rowing clubs at one
time on the banks of the Tyne.
The club was initially called: The Hexham Rowing and Swimming Club.
The first committee had 13 members.
The first Chairman was William Taylor.
Subscriptions were 10 shillings a year.
The club initially intended to purchase two open boats at £10 each, a
pleasure gig at £12 and two sculling boats at £12 each.
A proposed boathouse on the 'island' at the top of the river was later
changed to the present site. This required the permission of the Lord of the
Manor (presumably Lord Allendale) and the County Surveyor.
The boathouse which was later built was of 'tar and paper'. It burnt down in about
1900 and was replaced by the wooden boathouse which still forms part of the
building to this day.
The club name changed over the years, sometimes more as a result of informal usage. At various times it was:
Hexham Rowing and Swimming Club
Hexham and Ebchester Rowing an Swimming Club
Hexham Boat Club
Hexham Rowing Club
Swimming remained an integral part of the club until the late 1970's. Although
latterly the club members preferred to go to Fenham Baths rather than use the river.
Single sculling was the preferred sport at Hexham and throughout the town clubs until
the Second World War. Notable rowers from Hexham were:
Jack Dodd, who won the world renowned Tyne Christmas Handicap in 1906.
Joseph Robinson, who won the Hexham Christmas Handicap in 1912 before emigrating
to Australia and making the ultimate sacrifice at Gallipoli.
Jack Hopper who competed throughout the 20's and 30's as a professional winning
most of the major events throughout the north and further afield. He later retired and
continued rowing at Hexham into his late 70's.
Sweep-oared rowing began in Hexham in the 1960's with boats given by Talkin Tarn ARC
and later Tyne United, a professional club, which closed when the sport went wholly
amateur in the 1950's. Hexham remained a dominant force throughout the 1960's and 1970's.
The creation of a separate junior rowing club in 1980, based on the High School affected
Hexham Boat Club as it was then. The club was consequently quite moribund throughout the
1980's. The 1990's saw a revival of its fortunes, however, and the purchase of new boats
and a sustained recruitment campaign has seen the renamed Hexham Rowing Club flourishing.
Hexham is one of the first clubs in the North to actively recruit older rowers, especially
women, and promote the idea of recreational rowing for fitness.
Hexham Regatta has always been a major rowing event in the North East. Its Christmas
Handicap was a significant competition in the professional calendar in the early part
of the 20th century and attracted competitors from all over the British Isles. Even
during the 1980's, when the club was unable to provide the staffing, Tyne Green
Watersports Association was created partly to keep the regatta alive because of its
importance in the North East rowing scene. Fortunately the revival in the clubs fortune
means that Hexham RC can easily organise its own event, which expands year on year.
Hexham has always benefited from the fact that the reach of water at Tyne Green,
although relatively short, is probably one of the best in the North East. It is ideally
suited for a range of watersports and is eminently suitable for training beginners
in reasonably safe conditions as well as providing a base for recreational rowing for
fitness; which was interestingly one of the reasons for forming the club in 1878.
Bob Manning 2004