An 1875 Durham Regatta Medal

1875DurhamRegatta - front 1875DurhamRegatta - back
The scene on the front of the medal shows people watching the start of the race from Prebends Bridge in Durham. The boats below the bridge are ready to start, but this could not happen today. For the first twelve years of the regatta, the races were rowed upstream, which must have been hard when the river was flowing fast, Peter Jefferies writes.

HTBS received an e-mail from Peter Jefferies about an old 1875 medal. Peter writes:

I was reading your website and noticed you have not got a photograph of this regatta medal, which is a very rare one.* According to the book A History Of Durham Rowing (1922) by A.A. Macfarlane-Grieve, this medal that was struck Birmingham in 1839, but was withdrawn by 1870 – but the book is wrong. The medal above was won by Durham School for the first heat in 1875 and presented by J.C. Wharton – it must be the one that got away.

I did some research on the medal: the crew was all well-to-do people. Take, for example, Algernon Grey, the cox, who was the grandson of the 1st Earl Grey from Northumberland and the brother of Sir Raleigh Grey, who also rowed for Durham and later at Oxford. Sir Raleigh led uprisings in the Boar War and was later jailed, then given a top job in South Africa. There is plenty about him on the web, for example here.

I have also been in touch with the grandson of J.K. Nicholson (J.K. Nicholson’s name is also on this medal), a nice person who owns a solicitors firm at Hexham. He was surprised, as he knew nothing about the history and told me he was going to study his family history.

*Editor’s note: Although Peter is right by saying that there has never been a photograph of this regatta medal on this site, HTBS’s Greg Denieffe has previously written about the Durham Regatta in his first entry of his “Crewcial Collectables” – “All things Durham” on 27 April 2015. In his article, Greg linked to another article on the Friends of Rowing History about the Clasper family. In the Friends of Rowing History article is a photograph of a medal from the 1843 Durham Regatta. The 1843 medal is now in the collection of the National Rowing Foundation, USA.


  1. Delighted to see this. I own another copy of this medal, without engraving on the reverse, which was the subject of lengthy correspondence in late 2014 with Paul Mainds, the recent CEO of the River & Rowing Museum and a Durham University rowing man. In the way of things, I started writing a joint article for HTBS, beginning as follows:

    “What the Durham Regatta Medal Had to Say – Paul Mainds OBE and Thomas Weil
    Every artifact both has and tells a story, so the scholar’s (or inquiring collector’s) task is two-fold: to find out about the object and to discern what the object has to say. This Durham Regatta medal provides ample grist for that undertaking. [image of medal]
    Regatta medals can give rise to, well, many blanks in the story.”

    And there, other tasks having come to hand, the effort ended, the balance-of-the-HTBS-story blank being far more extensive than the blank on the reverse of the medal. The medal is shown, incidentally, as item “3 – Durham Regatta Medal 1851” in the River & Rowing Museum exhibition catalogue titled “One hundred & seventy five years of Durham university rowing”.

    Should HTBS followers be interested in the “grist” of that correspondence regarding this medal, I would be happy to try and dig it out (an extract follows). You never know what may come to light when you prod the hive of the HTBS readership!

    “So, on the medal, the spectators stand on Prebends Bridge, looking downstream. Does the bridge still have the balustrade, or was that removed at some point?
    I take it that the two sets of towers that are visible high on the right palisade in the medal are both part of the cathedral. The perspective is very similar to what is called the “rotated” view painted by JMW Turner.
    Could that structure visible on the medal beyond the cathedral towers be Durham Castle? It is a little difficult to determine its relationship to the Framwellgate Bridge, which is clearly depicted. Do you think that the engraver was attempting to show the Milburngate Bridge beyond?”

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