Between the divisions of 2018 May Bumps, I had time to admire the boathouses of various Cambridge colleges. Generally, they are more pleasing to the eye than those of ‘the other place’, Oxford. The reason for this is that, for much of their history, Oxford’s college boat clubs based themselves in moored barges, slowing moving to more practical land-based buildings between the 1930s and 1970s. With the Cam unsuitable for mooring barges, Cambridge clubs have always based themselves on terra firma. Originally, college boats were housed by commercial boatyards along the Cam. The first college boathouse was built for Trinity in 1872, and by the end of the 19th century, most of the colleges had boathouses of their own.
Thus, Cambridge mostly built their boathouses when money was easier to come by – while Oxford looked for much of its building funds in more cash-strapped times. A further difference is that the Cambridge clubs have spread their ‘boathouse row’ along a much longer stretch than the Oxonians have available. While this gives many buildings along the Cam more space, I rather like the crowded intimacy of the Oxford set up, particularly when viewing their version of the Mays, “Eights Week”.
Here is a selection of views of some Cambridge boathouses – though it is far from a complete record.
Not all the boathouses on the Cam are old. Some of the newer ones are replacements for some long-serving structures, others are new homes to newer colleges or to newer boat clubs.