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Probably the oldest Open Rowing Club in England.

It is thought that the club was formed in 1830, the year after the first Oxford and Cambridge Boat Race was held at Henley. This was because the towns folk became interested in the sport of rowing.  In those days clubs were formed by the members of “Gentlemen’s Committee Rooms” who met at local inns. Over the years several local inns were used including The Angel on the Bridge and The Carpenters Arms (no longer here) and we hired our boats were hired from the local Boatmen.

Junior 8 boating from old boathouse 1948_jpg.jpg

Henley Rowing Club competed in the local rowing events and took part in the first Henley Regatta, now Henley Royal Regatta, in 1839.  The club we won the “Town Challenge Cup,” rowing in a boat called “The Wave” and went on to win the event no fewer than 23 times prior to 1884. Since then the Town Challenge Cup has been part of the local town regatta held after the Royal in late July. The Club has also won The District Pairs twice and the local Amateur Sculls 9 times until they ceased to be raced at the Royal Regatta. Members of Henley Rowing Club took part in an event celebrating the 150th Anniversary of Henley Royal Regatta in June 1989 by recreating the first race for the “Town Cup”.


The Club was always trying to resolve the problem of not having a proper boathouse and in 1888 were able to hire room in the Red Lion Hotel Boathouse, which was located in Riverside North. A local firm, Messrs. T. Shepherd and Dee, had a thriving boat building business there in the 300ft long building. They made pairs and sculls for local rowing clubs and also exported boats to Germany, Holland and South America. By 1896, the Club had a membership of over 50 with at least half of them active oarsmen. The Club met at The Red Lion and Mr. W.F.D. Smith MP was President. Times were still hard because in 1900, although the club owned boats, we owed over two years back rent, for boat storage to Hobbs amounting to £47. This caused the Committee considerable concern and they decided a solution had to be found.

The club was fortunate to gain support from the local brewery, Brakspear and Sons, who in 1903 offered to provide part of their brewery premises, the stables at the corner of New Street and Riverside North, as a boathouse at a nominal rent. The Little White Hart next door became the Clubs “Headquarters”.


The club continued to operate during the war years although were no regattas. The club allowed use of the boathouse by the Royal Engineers who were stationed in Henley. By the end of the war five members of the club died in action. The first post-war club organised event was the Henley Rowing Club Regatta in 1921.


1946 was a further milestone in the Club’s history. Henley United Rowing Club, founded in 1886, “to provide facilities for working men and youths” and with a rented boathouse between the Little White Hart and the Brewery stables, amalgamated with Henley Rowing Club. This provided additional boats and members and the enlarged Club prospered.

HRC crew HRR 1948.jpg

Boats had to be carried across the road to reach the river with someone directing traffic on the corner.  On more than one occasion cars failed to stop but it was always possible to make room for them to pass underneath! Weight training was in an upstairs back room which had a timber floor until the brewery converted the room below to a kitchen for one of their staff.

We were then moved to the brewery’s coal cellar! In difficult times Brakspear’s waived rent fees enabling the club to continue.     


In 1979 as the Club was still lacking its own boathouse and clubroom The Henley Town Council leased a portion of the old swimming baths site to the Club and building work started. This took several years to be completed with much of the work done by the members themselves. The Boathouse was finished in 1986 and was opened officially, on the 1st June by Thomas Keller, President of F.I.S.A. Subsequently the Town Council have granted a lease for the whole of the swimming baths site and with grants from the Town Council, The Lottery and The Foundation for the Sports and The Arts further developments of the site has taken place to improve facilities including a separate gym and new changing rooms completed in 2011.


The Club has over 350 members and continues to be successful locally, nationally and internationally. The Club’s annual total of wins repeatedly puts as one of the top clubs in the country. In 2005 the Club recorded its first open win at Henley Royal Regatta when it won the Thames Cup. 


Prior to this the closest to winning was the 1976 Thames Cup crew who lost to Harvard by a canvas. 

Juniors have also been successful at Henley Royal Regatta with two Fawley Cup wins (as composites in 2003 and 2007) and the inaugural Junior Women’s Quad Scull event in 2012.

Four members of Henley Rowing Club were presented with British Rowing Medals in 2012. The ceremony took place at a special lunch in the Great Hall of the Merchant Taylors Livery Company in the City of London to just sixty persons nominated “for dedicated service to the sport of rowing”. 

John Friend was awarded the prestigious British Rowing Medal of Honour having been involved with the Great Britain Multi-Lane Umpires Commission for more than 20 years and was an Olympic starter — a position you can only hold once — in Athens in 2004. He also officiated at two world championships and Henley Royal Regatta.

The three others were awarded the Diamond Jubilee Medals:

Following a highly successful rowing career, Ian Pankhurst served both as Club Captain and then as Chairman when his professional qualifications were fully utilised in the construction and extension of the boathouse.


Ex GB international and Henley medalist Mervyn Theaker served for many years in the Derby and Nottingham area in official club positions and at major rowing events. Retiring to Henley joined the club to row and served as Secretary up to 2016.


Rod Murray has contributed to rowing by taking on roles including that of Chairman at local, national and international rowing events including Henley Royal Regatta and the World Championships. He was also specially commended for raising the standard of umpiring in the Thames region.

HRR Results

Our best performances since 1900.


Thames Cup Finalists (lost by 1 length to First Trinity, Cambridge)


Thames Cup Semi-Finalists (lost to Isis BC by ¾l)


Silver Goblets Semi-Finalists (lost to Nereus and de Where, Holland by 1¼l)


Thames Cup Semi-Finalists (lost to Garda Siochana, Ireland by 1¾l)


Thames Cup Finalists (lost to Harvard University, USA by a canvas)


Britannia Cup Finalists (lost to Tideway Scullers School by 2⅓l)


Fawley Cup Semi-Finalists (lost to Bedford School by ½l)


Britannia Cup Semi-Finalists (lost to Wallingford by 1l)


Double Sculls Semi-Finalists (lost to Augusta Sculling Center, USA easily)


Fawley Cup Semi-Finalists (comp with Burway and Windsor Boys, lost to Leander by 3 feet)


Fawley Cup Semi-Finalists (lost to Windsor Boys School by ½ length)


Fawley Cup Winners (composite with Marlow and Kings Worcester)


Thames Cup Semi-Finalists (lost to Reuss, Luzern, Switzerland by ½ length)


Thames Cup Winners


Prince of Wales Finalists (composite with Tideway SS – lost to Leander Club by 1l)


Fawley Challenge Cup Winners (composite with Maidenhead Rowing Club)


Ladies Plate Semi-Finalists (composite with Leander – lost to Molesey BC and NYAC, USA by 1½l)


Britannia Cup Finalists (lost to York City by 1l)  


Britannia Cup Semi-Finalists (lost to Ortner BC by 3 lengths)


Thames Cup Finalists (lost to Molesey BC by 1½ lengths)


Diamond Jubilee Winners of the inaugural event


Diamond Jubilee Semi-Finalists (lost to Gloucester RC by 4½l)


Diamond Jubilee Semi-Finalists (lost to Isle of Ely RC by 2¼l) 


Fawley Cup Finalists (lost to Leander Club by 1¾l)


Diamond Jubilee Semi-Finalists (lost to Latymer Upper by 2½l)


Thames Cup Semi-Finalists (lost to Thames RC by 1½l)


Diamond Jubilee Semi-Finalists (lost to Headington by 2½l)


Prince Phillip Semi-Finalists (lost to Winter Park Crew, USA by ½l) 


Diamond Jubilee Semi-Finalists (lost to Wycliffe by 1½l)

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