Henley Saturday: Pictures from Regattas Past

A mobile post office at Henley in 1937.
A mobile post office at Henley in 1937.

2 July 2016

Tim Koch has found a pen and some postage stamps:

Due to other commitments, I will not be immediately producing a HTBS report on Saturday at Henley. As always, the results are constantly updated on the Henley Royal Regatta website and racing can be viewed live and on demand on YouTube. I am, however, sending out postcards. In the days when labour was cheap, an hourly postal delivery service in urban areas was common and a card could be used as a text/SMS. A man delayed at work in a city could send a note home to the suburbs announcing that he would be late. Postcards were also bought as souvenirs to keep, never intended for posting.

The Belgian winners of the Grand in 1909.
The Belgian winners of the Grand in 1909.
A grandstand erected outside the Red Lion Hotel.
A grandstand erected outside the Red Lion Hotel.
A favourite view on a card posted in 1904.
A favourite view on a card posted in 1904.
More of the same.
More of the same.
A race in the Diamond Sculls. The names on the board on the left are difficult to make out but I think that they are (Harry) Blackstaffe and possibly (Daniel) Fitte. This would make it a Vesta RC v Vesta RC race.
A race in the Diamond Sculls. When I originally posted this article, I suggested that the indistinct names on the board on the left were Fitte and Blackstaffe. We rowing history nerds like a challenge and, as can be seen in the comments section below, it seems fairly certain that the names are actually Fox and Blackstaffe and that the year is 1901.
Before the 1914 -1918 War, houseboats lined the Bucks bank. The look very romantic but there were constant complaints that their lavatories discharged directly into the river.
Before the 1914 -1918 War, houseboats lined the Bucks bank. The look very romantic but there were constant complaints that their lavatories discharged directly into the river.
Temple Island out of Regatta time.
Temple Island out of Regatta time.
Henley’s main street and town square is little changed.
Henley’s main street and town square is little changed.
The Red Lion Lawn still exists.
The Red Lion Lawn still exists.
King George V and Queen Mary visited Henley Regatta in 1912. Here the Royal Barge, rowed by the Royal Watermen, goes through Henley Bridge.
King George V and Queen Mary visited Henley Regatta in 1912. Here the Royal Barge, rowed by the Royal Watermen, goes through Henley Bridge.

Below are a few other images of Regattas past, not postcards but still great images of an event that is always changing in order to appear the same.

Distinguished visitors in 1937 (click to enlarge).
Distinguished visitors in 1937 (click to enlarge).
Flappers in the Enclosure in the 1920s.
Flappers in the Enclosure in the 1920s.
In the dressing tent, 1939.
In the dressing tent, 1939.
Drying kit outside the boat tents sometime between the Wars.
Drying kit outside the boat tents sometime between the Wars.

Updated on 4 July to reflect comments below by Malcolm and Tim.

6 comments

  1. Tim Koch wonders whether the sixth postcard is Blackstaffe versus Fitte. This sent me to the HRR record books. It seems that they never raced each other at Henley. The name above Blackstaffe’s on the board looks to me as if it has only three letters. If so, Blackstaffe’s opponent must have been C.V. Fox, who twice raced Blackstaffe in the Diamonds. In 1899 Fox, sculling for Pembroke College Oxford, lost by just over two lengths. In 1901, when Fox was representing the Guards Brigade R.C., the two of them met in the semi-final. Fox won by a length and a quarter and went on to win the final.

  2. Excellent work Malcolm, ‘HTBS types’ love a bit of detective work. Now, Fox is first named – does this tell us which station he was on? If so, was he on different stations in 1899 and 1901? This would tell us the exact year. Eventually, I will change the text to reflect your comments.

  3. In 1899 Fox was on Bucks. In 1901 he was on Berks. The photo seems to have been taken from the Berks bank looking across to Bucks. Logically, the sculler on Bucks should be at the top of the board. That’s the way it’s now done both in the HRR programme and on the progress board. But do we know whether it was done that way around 1900?
    Unfortunately, the weather doesn’t provide a clue to the year. The parasols and shirtsleeves imply that the race was on a hot day, but that seems to be consistent with both of the two possible days.

  4. I have a digital copy of part of the HRR programme for 1897. It lists the participants with Station No. 1, Berks, on top and station no. 2, Bucks, just below it. This makes sense if you are viewing the regatta from the Bucks side of the river.

    The programmes now have the stations numbered the same but with Bucks on top. The is because most people are viewing the regatta from the Berks side of the river.

    The Stewards’ Enclosure on the Berks side opened in 1919 and therefore I believe this is when the switch came about. On the board, Fox is on top which before 1919 would have him racing on Berks.

    This would make the year 1901. Of course, I may be right or I may be a berk (don’t look too deeply into the origins of that pejorative). As Tim knows, I have a keen in interest in Charles Vincent Fox.

    Link to the history of the Steward’s Enclosure: http://www.hrr.co.uk/spectators/stewards-enclosure/

    • The switch in the HRR programme from Berks at the top to Bucks at the top was much later than 1919. I have a 1939 programme with Berks at the top.
      Even though Berks was apparently at the top of the programme in 1899 and 1901, it’s possible that Bucks may have been at the top on the board, since the board seems to have been positioned mainly for the benefit of spectators on the Berks bank.
      I don’t think we will be able to resolve this question unless we can find a photo of that board in a known race.

  5. I think I’ve now solved it. A photo of the final of the Grand in 1901 has recently appeared on eBay: http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/381743984838. It shows Leander (who were on Bucks) beating the University of Pennsylvania (Berks). In the background is the same board that was in the photo of Fox and Blackstaffe. Although the names on the board can’t be read properly, from their length and shape it’s clear that University of Pennsylvania were at the top and Leander at the bottom. In other words, that board showed the Berks crew at the top. Hence, in the photo of Fox and Blackstaffe, Fox must have been on Berks and so the photo must be 1901.

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