12 December 2022
By Jane Kingsbury
After reading about the book on the Argonauts’ celebration of their club’s 150th years on HTBS, Jane Kingsbury was reminded that she had just finish reading the first part of a book on the history of Northwich RC.
I have just read the first part of the history of Northwich Rowing Club in Cheshire, a much humbler club than Argonaut Rowing Club in Toronto, but which played an important role in the community in which it was based. Today it has also reached the point where its oarsmen and women are of international standing.
In his book A History of Northwich Rowing Club Part One – 1875 to 1945, author Paul Lavell points out in the preface to his history of the first seventy-five years of the club, the membership during that time was restricted to men and they were all of a similar social class. When the second part of this history is written, it will no doubt reflect a very different period, with the status of the club established and women playing a full role in the club.
Perhaps here I should declare an interest, being an oarswoman myself and finding mention in the book that my grandmother and grandfather rowed together in a local regatta in Edwardian times and my father played an active role in the club during one of its darkest periods.
A lot of the material in the book reflects the scarcity of records, but Paul Lavell takes trouble to set the development of the club in the context of the world events that influenced society: the Boer War and the First and Second World Wars, during which many members went to the front and some of them were killed; and the Great Depression, which threatened the financial survival of the club.
National events on the rowing scene also played a part with some members not being able to row because of the national rowing rules at the time. Tradesmen were not allowed to compete at regattas for many years, so social status mattered. Despite these setbacks as well as local factors such as the state of the boathouse and bridges and locks on the River Weaver navigating the club kept going. Other crucial factors were encouraging the contribution of local businessmen and encouraging local schoolboys in the club.
For anyone interested in the development of English rowing at the grass roots level and the importance of a local rowing club, this book is a well-researched and interesting read.
A History of Northwich Rowing Club Part One – 1875 to 1945 is in paperback, £15, and can be ordered from the publisher:
Cheshire Country Publishing
Martins Lane, Hargrave, Chester CH3 7RX
Telephone: 01829 741651
Email: editor@cc-publishing. co.uk