Bridgnorth’s oldest sporting club has been rowing on the River Severn since 1868
It currently boasts over 60 members, rowing in fine rowing boats on the stretch of river leading out from Bridgnorth Park upstream towards Ironbridge.
The club also races in regattas both locally and further afield and also holds it’s very own Regatta, every June
Bridgnorth Rowing Club, one of the oldest sporting organisations in Bridgnorth, occupies ‘The Maltings’ Building on the edge of Severn Park. Records show the rowing club was founded on 17th June 1868, making it one of the oldest rowing clubs on the River Severn. Some of its founding members were, W.H. Foster, Esq. who was club president as well as a local MP and dignitary; the Captain H.B. Southwell, Esq.; the Honorary Treasurer Mr W. Burton; and the Honorary Secretary Mr. C.J. Turnbull.
The first prominent recording of the rowing club in the history books comes from 1868 when it hosted the then annual rowing match between Shrewsbury School and Cheltenham College. This was the second such match to take place with the series running from 1864 until 1877. The venues were regularly alternated between Tewksbury, Worcester and Hereford, with Bridgnorth hosting its only match in 1868; the course that year being chosen by Shrewsbury School. The race was then held in coxed four boats, with the result in 1868 at Bridgnorth being a win for Cheltenham by a number of lengths.
The next prominent recording of the rowing club in the history books comes from a copy of the 1877 Rowing Almanack where it is listed in ‘The Rowing Directory’ section, under ‘Provincial Clubs’. Bridgnorth is also mentioned in the ‘Record of Races’ section as having competed in a race against a four man crew from Pengwern Boat Club of Shrewsbury. This was held on the Severn on the 6th July, with the Bridgnorth crew consisting of: ‘R. E. Edkins, W. Warner, J. Taylor, E. Penzer (st), H. Jordan (cox)’.
In 1877 a series of meetings were held in Putney, which is where it is likely the active status of the club was mentioned and recorded for the Almanack. These meetings then lead to the formation of the Metropolitan Rowing Association in 1879. In 1882 this then went onto be renamed as the Amateur Rowing Association, following many additional members joining from outside the London area; the period when it is likely Bridgnorth first became affiliated. The Amateur Rowing Association then began its evolution into becoming the national governing body for the sport of rowing. In 2009 the Amateur Rowing Association was eventually renamed British Rowing, as it is currently known today.
The club continued into the 1920s, when following the events of the First World War, the Club went into decline and was eventually disbanded in 1924.
The rowing club was reformed in 1953 by a local policeman Constable Bill Williams, with the help of a Bridgnorth doctor Dr E.L. Rhodes who was club president until his death, and long standing club member John Wallis. The clubhouse was originally a Nissen hut, which had been donated by a Broseley farmer.
Other local rowing clubs showed their support by donating boats and other equipment and the efforts of the club members and supporters ensured many successful and supported regattas. The club achieved notable successes in the 1960s when four members won a novice event at Nottingham before going on to capture several more trophies. One of the group, Mike Dunn, went on to win two gold medals in a world championship veterans’ event.
Bridgnorth Rowing Club then went through a lean period until 1984 when a group of enthusiasts got the club ‘back on the water’. The club purchased ‘The Maltings’ in 1983, but it was a further 10 years before the development of the site could be started. In 1993 work commenced on ‘The Maltings’. Club member Richard Holt redesigned the building, much of the site preparation, including removal of steelwork, was carried out by club members.
The boathouse now consists of a large ground floor area with racking for single sculls, doubles, pairs, fours and eights. There is also a raised mezzanine area that houses the indoor rowing machines (ergometers) and weights gym. Upstairs there are changing rooms with showers, and a club room with a bar and a balcony with fantastic views overlooking the River Severn.
The club is regularly trying to update its fleet of rowing boats and equipment used by its members, and uses profits from the annual regatta, sponsorship and fundraising to help with this and to invest back into the sport of rowing, for all to make use of.
Bridgnorth Rowing Club regularly enters crews into the Head of the River Race, a 4 ¾ mile time trial held on the Oxford-Cambridge Boat Race course in the winter months, and attended by top club crews and internationals from all over the country and Europe. This event attracts around 500 crews, and the club always aims to put out its best crews.
The best result for the club’s senior men of the came in 2018 when the crew stormed home to finish 113th, that year also saw the clubs best ever finish for a second boat coming in at 287th; with both crews beating the previous best held since 2009, a year which also saw the club field a third men’s senior eight for the first time. The club’s senior men’s squad regularly puts in a strong performance finishing in the top 200.
2018 was also the most successful year for the club’s women’s crews at this event, with their best ever result of finishing 155th being achieved. The club’s women have regularly entered the event since 2011, having had a resurgence in the squad. The first women’s boat to compete in the Head of the River Race was in 1992, where they finished 157th.
The club’s veteran men’s squad have also performed exceptionally well in recent years in the Veterans Head of the River Race, with their best result coming in 2016 where they finished 30th overall, and an impressive 5th in their category. In 2014 the veteran men also entered the Veterans Fours Head of the River Race, finishing as the fastest crew in their category. In 2021 the club also saw a mixed master D (category 50 to 54 years old) quad compete in the Veterans Fours Head of the River Race. This crew who had been training and competing together for the past couple of years put in a brilliant performance to win their category and claim the title of fastest mixed crew for the event.
Finally, in recent years the club’s top rowers from the men’s and women’s senior squads have also come together to race in mixed eights in the Veterans Head of the River Race. In 2017 the mixed Master A eight (category 27 to 35 years old) put in a brilliant performance to win their event, beating tough competition including from London Rowing Club, one of the premier clubs in the country.
The club has also entered crews into the prestigious Henley Regattas, held in the summer, competing against the best rowers from within the country and around the world. The club has had many crews achieve notable success: in 1991 club member Paul Wallis represented the club at Henley Royal Regatta as part of a West Midlands Rowing Association composite crew who qualified in the Queen Mother Challenge Cup for coxless quads, the crew performed exceptionally well progressing through a number of rounds. In 2001 Bridgnorth entered a crew into Silver Goblets & Nickalls’ Challenge Cup for coxless pairs, the crew of Paul Wallis and Dave Drinkwater narrowly missed out on qualification by only a couple of seconds. In 2005 Bridgnorth had a crew achieve qualification into the Wyfold Challenge Cup for coxless fours, a fantastic achievement for the club, the crew was made up of Reuben Mortimer, Tim Grimsdale, Dave Drinkwater and Paul Wallis. In 2017 and 2018 another crew from Bridgnorth attempted qualification in the same Wyfold Challenge Cup event. The crew of Nick McNeil, Stuart Round, Rich Pilsbury and Daz Breakwell, with Adam James replacing Stuart in 2018, just fell short of the qualification time required.
In 2003 we had our first crew compete in Henley Women’s Regatta, in the Lightweight Double event, the crew of Jo Bayliss and Janet Holland put in a strong performance. In 2018 the club saw the return of its women competing, this time in the eights event with the crew consisting of Nicola Rushin, Jennifer Williams, Laura Cox, Sarah Graham, Louise Camm, Holly Campbell, Helen Stokes and Lucy Breakwell, coxed by Paul Wallis.
In 2002 the club entered a Veteran B eight in Henley Veteran’s Regatta, finishing runners up to Mosley. The crew consisted of Richard Holt, Geoff Nuttall, Tim Grimsdale, Clive Sandford, Rob Graham, Paul Wallis, Dave Drinkwater and Simon Quarmby, coxed by Jo Bayliss and coached by David Walker.
Finally in 2011 and 2012 the club entered a veteran D four into the Henley Veterans event, the crew made up of Richard Holt, Tim Grimsdale, John Allen and Paul Wallis also performed well.
In the year of 2017 the club had a large contingent of crews attend the World Rowing Masters Championships, held at Lake Bled in Slovenia. The club entered a number of crews across various boat sizes and age categories, and in men’s, women’s and mixed events; also combining with neighbouring clubs to form composite crews. The crews faced stiff competition from some of the best crews in the various age categories in the world, but all put in tremendous performances holding their own against the world’s best, and regularly achieving finishes in the top 3.
As well as these more prestigious national events the club also competes with crews at local events throughout the summer and winter seasons, at places like Shrewsbury and Ironbridge, and also further afield such as Bristol, Monmouth and in the North of England. During the seasons the club repeatedly performs well, with its crew regularly bringing home a horde of silverware.
Learning To Row
Are you interested in learning how to row or scull? As well as our Fun Regatta we also run Learn to Row courses where you will be taught how to us the rowing machine, how to handle a boat and most importantly how to row on the river.
The course is available to anyone over the age of 18, consisting of 4 sessions with coaches from across the club membership on hand to teach you skills you will need to get your rowing career off the ground!
Details of the spring 2023 course can be found here