Clubs and Boathouses of the Tideway: Part II

Barnes Bridge to Barn Elms

9 June 2020

By Daniel Walker, text & photography

Daniel Walker continues his exploration of the Tideway Clubs and Boathouses, now from Barnes Bridge downriver to Barn Elms.

Emanuel School Boat Club and Civil Service Boat House

Just below Barnes Railway Bridge sit the Emanuel School Boathouse and the Civil Service Boat House. Civil Service is home to Barnes Bridge Ladies and Cygnet Rowing Clubs. Cygnet was formed in 1890 for employees of the General Post Office and the various Civil Service rowing clubs were amalgamated into Cygnet after the Second World War. Cygnet took a while to find their home, boating first from Putney and then from Biffen’s boathouse in Hammersmith before settling down across the river from Barnes. Barnes Bridge Ladies, who share the boathouse, were formerly the Civil Service Ladies RC.

Linden House

Perhaps the most unlikely club house on the Tideway Linden House (the building with the red door on the photo) is home to Sons of the Thames Rowing Club and London Corinthians Sailing Club. The start box of the sailing club on the far right is a landmark of the Tideway. The building was acquired by the London Corinthian Trust in 2001. Sons of the Thames Rowing Club started in Erith and made its way to Chiswick, via Lambeth, Putney, Hammersmith (Rutland boathouse, behind AKRC), Hammersmith again (West End Boathouse), Hammersmith yet again (old St Paul’s Boathouse) and finally to Linden House in 2001.

Latymer Upper School

The Latymer Upper School boathouse is a rather uncompromising sixties four-story-building not wholly in keeping with the adjoining Victorian terrace. The blue plaque visible in the photograph commemorates oarsman Andy Holmes, Latymerian and Olympian (gold in 1984 and 1988), who died in 2010 from Weil’s disease.

St Paul’s School Boat House

One of the few boathouses above Hammersmith Bridge that is on the Surrey Bank, St Paul’s School moved to their current location in Barnes in 1968. The boathouse is a short distance above Hammersmith Bridge.

The St Paul’s boathouse is in a three-way tussle with Latymer Upper School and Barn Elms for the title of least visually appealing boathouse on the upper Tideway. Notwithstanding, the architectural merits or otherwise of the boathouse, the quality of the crews it produces is second to none, including the crew described as ‘the best schoolboy crew ever’, referencing the first eight from 2018 which won the Triple Crown of School’s Head, Championship Eights at National Schools Regatta and the Princess Elizabeth Challenge Cup at Henley Royal Regatta, set the fastest ever time over 2000m for a school crew (5:36.59) and of which all eligible members went on to be World Junior Rowing Champions.

Furnivall Sculling Club

Founded in 1896 as Furnivall Sculling Club for Girls, men were admitted to the club in 1901 but could not hold the captaincy until the second half of the century. The picture shows the club in the centre, the block of flats to the right was built on the site of the West End Boathouse, former home to many working men’s rowing clubs. Tim Koch (of course) has written about the many lives of the West End Boathouse here.

On the far left of the picture, the pale wooden gate is the entrance to the New West End Boathouse, which sits behind the blue cottage, is shared by Furnivall, Auriol Kensington and a couple of smaller clubs and provides the rack space for their larger boats – four and eights. The New West End Boathouse curves around behind the Furnivall building allowing eights to exit through the main doors of the club straight onto the ramp.

Auriol Kensington Rowing Club

Conveniently located between two public houses, Auriol Kensington RC occupies the former premises of Biffen’s boatbuilders, the ‘Anchor Boathouse’, built in 1869. As the business wound down before the Second Word War, Auriol Rowing Club took effective ownership in 1939 and (via the Auriol Boat House Company, the limited company formed for this purpose) acquired the freehold in 1947. Auriol RC and Kensington RC occupied different floors in the same building and amalgamated to form Auriol Kensington in 1981. The current building was substantially renovated in 2002/03 when the top floor was added.

Today small boats only (singles and pairs/doubles) are stored on the ground floor, but in Biffen’s day boatbuilding took place on the first floor.

Behind Auriol Kensington is another boathouse, the Rutland Boathouse, attached to the freehold of the Rutland Arms public house, which is sadly unused for boats these days.

The reader will not be surprised to learn that Tim Koch has also written about the Biffens.

British Rowing Boat House

Tucked away within the headquarters of British Rowing is a large boathouse – accessed via the double doors below the splendid bay window on the right of the building. Together with the pontoon it is only in occasional use these days – mainly on Tideway head race days, though the pontoon also sees action for Hammersmith Head and Regatta.

Fulham Reach Boat Club

Occupying the newest boathouse on the Tideway, Fulham Reach BC is within the Fulham Reach development downstream of Hammersmith Bridge, completed in 2014. In the picture, the boat- and clubhouse is to the far left, while the ramp and pontoon stretch down to the right.

FRBC’s main aim is to bring rowing to the state schools of the local borough, Hammersmith & Fulham – so far 11 of the 12 schools are taking part.

Barn Elms Boat House

We now move back to the Surrey Bank where we will remain until Greenwich. Barn Elms Boat House, a bit more than halfway down the Crabtree Reach between Hammersmith and Putney Bridges, is part of Wandsworth Council’s Barn Elms sports centre, built in 1967. The site is home to Barn Elms and Parrs Priory rowing clubs, a canoe club and a sailing club. The boathouse is home to one of the few remaining functioning rowing tanks on the Tideway – the tank features in a wonderful if rather short Pathe News film here.

Part III, which will cover the clubhouses on Putney Embankment, will be published tomorrow.

One comment

  1. Dan,

    An interesting read, thank you.
    FYI Barn Elms Boathouse was built by the LCC in 1958-9 , took in boats from April ‘59 and opened for Schools to use in the Autumn of that year. Ted Chitty was Boatman , Jim Murphy and Don Rowlands assisting. It was a very basic set up , a changing room, no shower, Boat racks/workshop and a small mess room , where Jim Murphy served up hot cups of tea to appreciative School boys in deepest mid winter , me included, who learned to row there from Autumn’60 to early ‘64 and have fond memories of the old place. 1967 might have been when a sorely needed upgrade occurred but, in those early days, it was one up from Tom Green’s !

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