HRR 2020: Henley ‘Sans’ Rowing

On what should have been the third day of the 2020 Regatta, Henley maybe as quiet as it was in 1690 when Jan Siberechts painted this picture, ‘Landscape with Rainbow, Henley-on-Thames’.

3 July 2020

By Tim Koch

Tim Koch continues to mark each day of ‘the Henley that never was’.

Although the ancient town of Henley-on-Thames is synonymous with the famous regatta that was first held in 1839, it has obviously always had a life outside of the sport of rowing – as these historical pictures show.

A quiet Henley-on-Thames in 1867. The current bridge was built in 1786, but a wooden span over the river dated to at least 1232. Some speculate that the Romans had a stone bridge here around AD43.

Above the bridge

The ‘Carpenters Arms’ on the ‘Enclosure’ or ‘Berkshire’ side in 1812. The pub stood between 1714 and 1984 when it was demolished to make way for the new Regatta Headquarters.
A postcard from the 1930s. The boathouse attached to the ‘Carpenters Arms’ can be seen on the right.
A view from St Mary’s church tower, 1954. The ‘Carpenters Arms’ and its boathouse is on the right of the bridge as viewed here and, between the downstream side of the bridge and the Leander clubhouse, is a ‘mock Tudor’ house that was replaced by the existing bungalow in the 1960s.
A view of the ‘Carpenters Arms’ from the bridge, 1897.
The Regatta Headquarters, 2018.
This 1811 view of ’The Angel on the Bridge’ on the ‘Town’ or ‘Oxfordshire’ side has changed remarkably little since the pub was built in 1728.

Below the bridge

Henley Bridge viewed from the town side in 1796. The octagonal building on the opposite bank is the tollhouse. In 1786, crossing charges were one penny for a horse, three pennies for a carriage and five pennies per 20 farm animals. It took years to repay the bridge’s £10,000 construction cost but in 1873 the tollgate was pulled down ‘with much rejoicing’. The bungalow now on the site is called ‘Tollgate’.
To the left of the first house to be called ‘Tollgate’ is the vacant land that would soon house the Leander Clubhouse, opened in 1896.
Leander in the early 1900s.
Leander in 2017. Picture: @MonicaRelphGB.


A 1960s view down the regatta course. The funfair was still a feature when this picture was taken.
Temple Island in 1871.

In the town

As anyone who knows Henley-on-Thames will confirm, these old pictures show that the town centre today looks much as it did 100-plus years ago.

St Mary’s Church and the Red Lion Hotel c.1905.
Hart Street looking towards the Town Hall c.1900.
Hart Street looking towards St Mary’s and the river, 1950s.

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