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Club History

At the beginning of the 19th century amateur oarsmen began to take a regular part in boat racing, and one of the first clubs devoted to the sport of rowing was founded in Chester.  Amateur races began to find a place in the annual Chester Regatta which had first been raced in 1733 and in 1832 there were 3 events for amateur rowers, 2 for boatmen and one for 'fishermen's gigs' and this was rowed by women. At this time there were no races or involvement of any gentlemen rowers. However within a few years a gentleman's Regatta emerged to the exclusion of manual workers.


At the time of the accession of Queen Victoria in 1837, the formation of a dedicated rowing club on the Dee had become known and it claimed a sporting prowess for gentility and respectability for gentlemen of influence enabling them to advance the new sport of Rowing.

The 27th May 1838 saw the formation of a permanent and regular rowing club. This was also in unison with the first birthday of Queen Victoria's accession to the throne. To mark the occasion The Chester Victoria Rowing Club was formally organised at the Castle Of Chester.


In 1840 the club was granted Royal patronage, one of only few UK Clubs, and the name was changed to Royal Chester Rowing Club. In 1854 the Club took their positions seriously enough to employ a 'Trainer' or in today's terms a 'coach'. He in turn was instrumental in constructing a 'keel less' boat, the first of its kind and forerunner of today's racing boats, naming her 'VICTORIA', enabling her crew to win several events almost immediately.  Full of confidence and ambition in 1856 Royal Chester became the first eight ever to represent the North of England at Henley.  

Boating in the 1900s on the Dee (1).jpeg
Royal Chester 1953 Henley_Thames_Cup

Chester had now set a precedent and Oxford University commissioned a similar designed boat in 1856 as an 8 and this enabled them to win the yearly battle between Oxford and Cambridge, in 1857.

1856 was the next milestone for Royals with the design and construction of 'Eugenie' another keel-less eight, entering the 2 most prestigious events at Henley, enabling Royals win again while setting a very high standard and a new regime in boats and racing.


Unfortunately Chester did not return to Henley for 18 years and lost in their return in the finals by half a length, and all this after unfortunately hitting the river bank.


1877 saw the erection of a club house on the banks of the Dee which still stands today with the date engraved in the woodwork over the boat bay doors creating the original structure. The only addition over the years is the clubroom and gym.

Rowing by now had become a growing sport and the Amateur Rowing Association was formed with Royals being a founder and important member in 1882.  Royal Chester during this time had always maintained a connection with the Kings school sharing coxes and some facilities from 1882.


Up to now rowing was a male sport and with the New ARA instigation in 1965 'Cadet' rowing was established and really the forerunner of Junior Rowing as we know it today.


1968 saw another initiative with the introduction of 'vacation rowing for schools' and trophies were won in the new 'cadet class' at Bridgnorth Regatta. 3 years later 2 members of the winning crews were racing against each other in the Oxford and Cambridge Boat Race.


Ladies started a new section of the club in 1975 attracting a dozen members; while a new category of Veteran rowers were being established for social and competitive rowing. Royals registered as a Youth Club with the Education Authorities enabling a new branch to enlarge and flourish very much as we do today.

1977 saw the advent of an intensive schools programme to encourage rowing locally. The success of juniors enabled one of the clubs most successful athletes, Richard Stanhope, to start his rowing career with wins on the Dee in 1976 and then go on to win successive events in crews and single sculls, becoming an Olympic oarsman and medal winner in 1980, stroking the GB crew to silver in Moscow. He competed in a further 3 Olympics, 8 World Championships and 8 wins at Henley Royal Regatta.


Junior rowing is very much our continuing theme with competing in and recognition along with selection to National Events.


Women's rowing in the 1990's went also from strength to strength with medal winners Claire Davies and Lisa Eyre. Lisa rowed for GB during the years of 1995 to 1998, winning bronze and gold medals while Claire twice won silver medals in 1991 and 1992. Our women's crews are still flourishing and looking to create new winning crews.


Winning is very much in the history and veins of the club and today we have a full cross section of members from Juniors to senior men and women to Masters who compete seriously and socially.  Royals have established their prowess within the rowing fraternity and will continue to challenge and train winning athletes.

See a collection of historic pictures

Chester Regatta late 1800's
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