15 February 2021
By Göran R Buckhorn
With the help of Teresa Stokes’s research, Göran R Buckhorn has written a sequel to his article about rower and sculler Guy Rixon, who also proved to have been a punter just as his brother ‘Beau’. ‘Punter’ here means in the British sporting sense – one who propels the watercraft ‘punt’ with a pole. Guy also seems to have been a boxer of sorts.
In early February, I published the post “Guy Rixon: The Writing Sculler” about the oarsman Guy Rixon. While I had found information about his races at Henley Royal Regatta between 1897 and 1906, I knew next to nothing of his early years or his life after his rowing career had ended.
As I found him an interesting character, I asked in a note at the end of my article if any HTBS readers could shine more light on ‘the writing sculler’. One of HTBS’s loyal readers, Teresa Stokes, who also has graced these pages with articles, was quick to reply saying that thanks to her membership of ancestry.co.uk she had found more information about Guy Rixon.
Guy Clarence Theodore Rixon was born on 21 September 1878 at Hale Cottage, Hale Street, Staines, Middlesex. He was the seventh child (of eight) of Theodore Robert Rixon, who was a solicitor, and his wife Sarah Margaret, née Paine. According to the 1891 census, Guy Rixon was a boarder at Christ’s Hospital School, Newgate Street, London.
On 17 August 1895, 15-year-old Guy was mentioned in an article published in Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News as the winner in a junior punting regatta organised by the Thames Punting Club. A few days later, at the Sunbury Regatta, which included the Amateur Punting Championships of the Lower Thames, Guy Rixon took the junior championship title. At these regattas, Guy’s older brother by 11 years, T. Beaumont ‘Beau’ Rixon, became the senior punting champion.
The Rixon family and relatives seem to have been keen boaters.
In Records of Henley Royal Regatta (1903), it is reported that, at the 1869 Henley Royal Regatta, a T. K. Rixon stroked a Staines Boat Club crew in the Wyfold Challenge Cup. Racing for the cup this year were six crews: Staines BC, Kingston RC, London RC, Oscillators Club (of Kingston), Oxford Etonian Club and Oxford Radleian Club. This being the time when each race at Henley could have up to three crews on the course at the same time, Staines and London lost to Oscillators. As both Oxford Etonian and Oxford Radleian withdrew, Oscillators met Kingston in the final. After a hard race, Oscillators beat Kingston by a bare length.
I wonder if the ‘T. K. Rixon’, who stroked the Staines crew at Henley in 1869, was actually Guy’s father, Theodore Robert? One of Guy’s great-nieces, Susan Bownass, who was in contact with Teresa Stokes, wrote:
I have two rowing trophies, the first dated 1868 for a canoe race [sic!] in the Windsor & Eton Regatta, won by T. R. Rixon, Guy’s father Theodore Robert. The second is dated July 31st 1869 for Scratch Fours at the Staines Regatta; the winner’s name is not engraved on it, but I must assume that Guy’s father won it as it’s in my possession.
As we know that Theodore Robert Rixon raced at the end of the 1860s, it is highly likely he also raced at Henley in 1869, although the record states that it was a ‘T. K. Rixon’. A misprint in the Records? Either way, it seems males in the Rixon family all had the name Theodore.
Another Rixon racing at Henley was an A. C. Rixon, who coxed an eight for Twickenham RC to victory over R. I. E. College, Coopers Hill in the first heat of Thames Challenge Cup in 1899. However, the Twickenham eight lost its second heat to a crew from Jesus College, Cambridge. Again, we are left to guess, but was maybe A. C. Rixon a cousin of Guy’s?
While Guy and his father might have been handy at the oar, Guy’s older brother Beau was utterly skillful with the punting pole.
In the 1898 Rowing by R. P. P. Rowe and C. M. Pitman in the Badminton Library, there is a special, richly illustrated section with different chapters on punting written by P. W. Squire. The author gives a good description of pleasure punting, amateur punting and professional punting. Beau Rixon is mentioned several times, being the amateur champion in 1893, 1895 and 1896. It is stated that Rixon is
of medium height, is strongly built and powerful. His watermanship in a light racing-punt, and activity at the turn, are unequalled. He is a self-taught man, with a good style, but one peculiar to himself, and is very fast. He reaches very far forward and carries the stroke well through…
In a series of illustrations in the punting section in Rowing, W. Haines, the professional punting champion in 1891, 1894 and 1897, is showing the punting stroke:
P. W. Squire writes that not only is William ‘Bill’ Haines a professional punter but also a professional rower. Haines might not have been a well-known name for us today, but Hylton Cleaver mentions him in his A History of Rowing (1957) as a world champion: ‘… you will find a British professional coxswainless four rowing with swivels [italicised by Cleaver] in 1896 and winning the world’s championship in Texas [italicised by me]. This crew consisted of Bill Barry (bow), Jack Wingate (2), Bill Haines (3) and George Bubear (stroke).’
Let us go back to Guy Rixon. In 1897, he rowed in his first race at Henley Royal Regatta, in a Thames RC’s eight in the Grand. His last race at the regatta was in 1906, when he lost his first heat in the Diamonds to Tasmanian H. Bourke. Four years earlier, in April 1902, Guy Rixon had been admitted to the Freedom of the City by patrimony, to the Company of Clothworkers. Later he became a stock jobber at the London Stock Exchange.
In early March 1906, Londoners could read in the newspapers that ‘a stockbroker and well-known amateur sculler’ had assaulted another man, William Cochrane, in the cloak room at a dance at the Empress Rooms, Royal Palace Hotel, Kensington. On 6 March, the ‘well-known sculler’ Guy Rixon and Mr. Cochrane were called to an investigation at West London Police Court. (See a 1914 image of West London Police Court here.)
Rixon had come into a dispute with Mr. Cochrane regarding an unpaid dance ticket from a previous visit that Cochrane did to the Empress Rooms when Rixon was the ‘door steward’. William Cochrane refused to pay, saying that he was expecting an apology from the Secretary of the Committee of the dance who had been ‘very rude’ to him. According to an article in the West London Observer of 9 March 1906, Rixon admitted that he had told the complainant he was going to hit him and advised him ‘to put his hands up’. Rixon then hit Cochrane on the forehead, ‘cutting it to the bone’. Cochrane refused to fight and was taken to a doctor. The magistrate, Mr Garrett said, according to the West London Observer, that ‘it was scandalous such a scene should take place in such a place.’ Rixon was fined £5.
During the First World War, Guy Rixon joined the 9th Hampshire Regiment where he rose to the rank of Captain. Rixon never married, and by 1939 he was living at 10 Wetherby Gardens, Earls Court, London SW5 with his widowed sister Amy.
Guy’s great-niece named Susan Bownass wrote to Teresa Stokes: ‘I do remember visiting Great Uncle Guy (my paternal grandmother Edith Paine’s brother) and his sister Amy, Lady Humphrey, at their flat in Basil Street. I knew he had been on the Stock Exchange, but I have no record of what he did after retirement. We always called him Uncle Guy.’
Sarah Crane, a great-great niece of Guy Rixon, who is too young to remember him, wrote to Teresa: ‘I knew he rowed but even more that he enjoyed punting. I thought I had a little cup he won, but I can’t find it. I remember his flat that he shared with my great-grandmother in Basil Street but not him’.
After some research work Teresa Stokes wrote to me: ‘Passenger lists show that he did a great deal of travelling all over the world – I don’t know if it was for holidays or work.’ Teresa continued: ‘He may have dropped his first name at some point, as the probate calendar states that Clarence Theodore Rixon of 23 Washington House, Basil Street, London SW3 died on 20 June 1963. This is a very smart address, half a minute walk from Harrods in Knightsbridge.’
Many thanks to Teresa Stokes, Susan Bownass, Sarah Crane and Deirdre Graham for their comments and assistance in helping me to research and write this article.