Hexham Rowing Club

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Hexham Rowing Club was originally founded as Hexham Boat Club in November 1878, probably prompted by the formation of Corbridge Rowing Club a little further down the Tyne earlier that year. The Club name was changed to Hexham Rowing Club in the 1990s.

Hexham Rowing Club was created in November 1878 at a meeting in the North Eastern Hotel, now the Station Hotel. 70 men attended the meeting with another 50 who intended to join. It was the heyday of professional rowing in the North East and every stretch of water had its town rowing club: Corbridge, Ebchester and Hexham. Each club was a training ground for potential professionals like Bob Chambers and Harry Clasper who would be "sponsored" by bookies and wealthy entrepreneurs as well as gentry. There were 20 professional rowing clubs at one time on the banks of the Tyne.

The club was initially called The Hexham Rowing and Swimming Club. Its first Chairman was William Taylor and the committee was made up of 13 members. Subscriptions were 10 shillings a year. The club purchased two open boats (£10 each), a pleasure gig (£12) and two sculling boats(£12 each). The proposed boathouse on the "Island" at the top of the river was later changed to the present site. This required the permission of the Lord of the Manor, Lord Allendale, and the County Surveyor. It was built of "tar and paper" and burnt down in 1900. The replacement boathouse was in use until the new build in 2001.

The Club has been known as various names over the years, Hexham Rowing and Swimming Club, Hexham and Ebchester Rowing and Swimming Club, Hexham Boat Club and Hexham Rowing Club. Swimming remained an integral part of the club until the late 1970's when members preferred to swim at Fenham Baths rather than use the river. Single Sculling was the preferred sport at Hexham and throughout the town clubs until the Second World War.

Notable rowers were Jack Dodd, who won the world renowned Tyne Christmas Handicap in 1906. Joseph Robinson, who won the Hexham Christmas Handicap in 1912. Jack Hopper who competed throughout the 1920's and 1930's as a professional winning most of the major events throughout the north and further afield. He later retired and continued rowing at Hexham into his late 70's.

Roger Bean has the boat 'Jack Hopper' from the club and has kindly shared this video with us. He has been tracing the boats history and he says, "Tracing the history of the boat has been extremely interesting (and not quite complete yet) and has brought me new friends and experiences. J.Hopper is the sole survivor of six matched boats built in 1956 by Sid Radley of Vincent Radley and Sons on the river Lea in London. They were commissioned by The Worshipful Company of Fishmongers, one of the oldest London Guilds, and trustees of the Fund financing the ‘Doggett’s Coat and Badge Wager’, a race run annually since 1715 for Thames Waterman’s Apprentices over 4 miles 6 furlongs on the Thames. It is the longest continually run sporting event in the world. The six committee boats were named after Prime Wardens of the Fishmonger’s Guild (a previous Prime Warden is HRH the Duke of Edinburgh). J.Hopper was originally named ‘Maxwell’ after Wing Commander Gerald Constable-Maxwell MC DFC AFC AEM - a Prime Warden of The Worshipful Company of Fishmongers in 1956. I’m now hoping to get the boat into a museum for safe keeping".

Sweep-oar rowing began in Hexham in the 1960's with boats given by Talkin Tarn ARC and later Tyne United, a professional club which closed when the sport went wholly amateur in the 1950's. Hexham remained a dominant force throughout the 1960's and 1970's.

The creation of a separate junior rowing club in 1980, based on the Queen Elizabeth High School affected Hexham Boat Club as it was then. The club was consequently quite moribund throughout the 1980's. The 1990's saw a revival of its fortunes, however, and the purchase of new boats and a sustained recruitment campaign has seen the renamed Hexham Rowing Club flourishing. Hexham is one of the first clubs in the North to actively recruit older rowers, especially women, and promote the idea of recreational rowing for fitness.

Hexham Regatta has always been a major event in the North East. Its Christmas Handicap was a significant competition in the professional calendar in the early part of the 20th Century and attracted competitors from all over the British Isles. Even in the 1980's, when the club was unable to provide the staffing, Tyne Green water-sports Association was created partly to keep the regatta alive because of its importance in the North East rowing scene. Fortunately, the revival in the clubs fortunes mean that Hexham RC can easily organise its own event, which expands year on year.

Hexham has always benefitted from the fact that the reach of water at Tyne Green, although short, is probably one of the best in the North East. It is ideally suited for a range of water-sports and is eminently suitable for training beginners in reasonably safe conditions as well as providing a base for recreational rowing for fitness; which was one of the reasons for forming the club in 1878.