11 June 2020
By Daniel Walker, text & photography
To those of us who row on the upper reaches of the Tideway above Putney Bridge, the down-river section seems like a foreign country, they may not row differently but the river certainly looks different – wider and more fearsome. The section of the Thames through central London is a desert for rowing, with no clubs below Putney Bridge until the stretch around Greenwich where four clubs are based in three locations.
When COVID-19 and the lockdown restrictions were introduced, my plans to photograph every boat or club house from ‘across’ the river – the Greenwich Foot Tunnel was closed – was defeated, and I was restricted to the south side of the river.
A slight interloper to this series, the Ahoy Centre Greenwich is an indoor and fixed seat rowing centre, which additionally supports rowing challenges, including an English Channel challenge (which I have a secret desire to do).
Poplar, Blackwall & District
With its origins among the watermen & lightermen of the River Thames, Poplar, Blackwall & District RC, founded in 1854, is the oldest club on the Tideway. Referring to their home before moving to the current building, the club’s website reports ‘Cold running water was added in 1949. Prior to that washing consisted of simply jumping into a barrel of cold water’. The present boathouse, complete with hot running water, and an apparent lack of barrels of cold water, opened in 1970.
For those who are keeping track, this is the first boathouse located on the north side of the river since Fulham Reach, 16 miles away.
Trafalgar Rowing Centre (Globe RC & Curlew RC)
The Trafalgar Rowing Centre, fronting onto the river and backing onto a delightful narrow paved street in Greenwich, is home to both Curlew and Globe rowing clubs. Both clubs also row on the Royal Albert Dock, where the boats are kept.
Originally a corporate rowing club, Stones RC, after Stones Engineering Works, Globe Rowing Club renamed themselves after The Globe public house where they were based in the 1930s.
Dating from at least 1866 and with roots that stretch back considerably earlier, Curlew RC have used various premises in Greenwich (mainly public houses it must be said) and is now in the Trafalgar Centre, maintaining rowing’s close links with the brewing trade, the present location is handily adjacent to two pubs – the Yacht and the Trafalgar.