Quintin Boat Club was founded in 1907 as a means of circumventing the hidebound rules of the ARA and Henley Royal Regatta. But the origins of the club go back further than that, to the Polytechnic Rowing Club, founded in the late 1880s, and its precursor, the Hanover United Athletic Club, whose rowing section was established in 1875.
Quintin Boat Club grew out of the institution which for most of its life has been the Regent Street Polytechnic and which has now evolved into the University of Westminster. The Regent Street Polytechnic was the UK’s first polytechnic and so was often known simply as “The Polytechnic”, even after other polytechnics had been established. We now think of polytechnics as degree-level educational institutions. But the Regent Street Polytechnic was originally very different. It was not even primarily an educational institution: education was merely one of its several facets. The vision of its founder, Quintin Hogg, was that it should cater for the social, intellectual, athletic and religious needs of young men, and later of young women. Initially the intellectual or educational activities of the Polytechnic were mainly in the form of what we would now call adult education courses or evening classes.
The Polytechnic started in 1873 as the Youths’ Christian Institute, later being renamed the Young Men’s Christian Institute. Its founder, Quintin Hogg (1845-1903), was a wealthy sugar merchant and philanthropist. Educational classes were provided right from the beginning. By 1878, when the Institute started offering technical courses, members’ subscriptions gave them access to a library, social rooms, a gymnasium and various other activities. A small additional fee was charged for the courses. Non-members could attend the courses but paid larger fees. Over the ensuing years and decades the range of educational and vocational courses rapidly expanded in response to demand. In 1882 the Institute moved to Regent Street, where it started using the name “Polytechnic” and became known as the Polytechnic Young Men’s Christian Institute. The Polytechnic proved particularly attractive to artisans and the lower middle classes (Our reason for using the slightly archaic word “artisan” will become evident later).
The Polytechnic Young Men’s Christian Institute was reconstituted as the Regent Street Polytechnic in 1891. During the 20th century the educational activities of the Polytechnic became increasingly dependent on public funding and increasingly came to dominate the Polytechnic’s other activities. The social and sporting activities gradually went into decline, and so ended Quintin Hogg’s vision of an institution in which all four facets were equally important.
Rowing at the Polytechnic
Organised sports started at the Youths’ Christian Institute towards the end of 1874 when some of its members founded a club which they named Hanover United Athletic Club after the Institute’s then location in Hanover Street, Covent Garden. (You won’t find Hanover Street on a modern map. It is now the southern part of Endell Street.) The club was intended to cover a variety of sports, the first being football, cricket, swimming and rowing, each of which had its own section within the club and its own captain. Little information survives about the first few years of HUAC’s rowing activities, which started in the spring of 1875. A Hanover United pair was later recorded as having won a race against another club in 1877, and in 1879 rowing was the most popular of the four sports within HUAC.
Initially HUAC’s rowers boated out of Audsley’s Boathouse, near Waterloo Bridge. They had no boats of their own and instead hired boats for each outing. Then for some years either side of 1880 they had no fixed headquarters but used boats from several different boathouses including Audsley’s, Ralph’s (at Wandsworth) and Green’s (at Barnes Bridge). Even crews training for a forthcoming race sometimes had three successive outings from three different boathouses using, of course, a different boat each time. In 1883 HUAC’s rowing section decided that it would be more convenient to have a single base and so moved into Green’s Boathouse, which was between Barnes Bridge and the future site of Thames Tradesmen’s boathouse. Green’s Boathouse was a well-known Tideway landmark for a hundred years until it burnt down in 1978.
In 1887 Hanover United Athletic Club was renamed Polytechnic Athletic Club and by 1889 its rowing section was formally known as Polytechnic Rowing Club (PRC). The captains board in the Quintin club room lists the captains of PRC from 1879 onwards but this is misleading in two ways. In 1879 there was no club called Polytechnic Rowing Club. The first few captains shown on the board were actually captains of the rowing section of HUAC. Furthermore, 1879 is merely the year from which the names of the captains are known. There were captains before then but no record of their names has survived. 1879 was in fact the year when Quintin Hogg started a monthly magazine for his institute. It is only because of reports in the magazine that the names of the captains are known continuously from 1879.
The late Victorian rowing scene was very different from today’s. Few rowing clubs on the Tideway had their own boathouse and many did not even have their own boats. Like PRC, many clubs boated out of a commercially-run boathouse and hired boats from its owner. In most rowing clubs, racing at regattas was not as important as it is now. There were far fewer regattas than at present and much more emphasis on scratch outings, on internal events within the club and on private matches against other local clubs. Head races were unknown; many clubs did not venture on to the water during the winter; and Sunday rowing was rare and generally frowned upon.
In 1888 Quintin Hogg paid to have a boathouse built for PRC on the present site at Chiswick. This was long before Chiswick Bridge was built. The area still had a rural appearance, and the boathouse was surrounded by the Duke of Devonshire’s meadows. The only other building in the vicinity was the neighbouring boathouse, which Ibis RC had acquired from Grove Park RC two years earlier. As well as the new boathouse, Quintin Hogg paid for a fleet of boats, including four eights, five fours, two tub fours and four sculling boats. In keeping with the Polytechnic’s ethos of muscular Christianity, the boathouse’s opening ceremony was performed by a recent rowing blue who was also a clergyman. Seeof the opening and The Times’s report of it. In the following year Freddie Peters was appointed as boatman, thereby starting a family connection that has lasted to the present day through three generations.
In the late 19th century – and well into the 20th – English rowing was riven by class differences. At the top were the type of clubs which were affiliated to the ARA and which raced at Henley and the other main Thames regattas. But Henley and the ARA had rules about amateur status that now seem ridiculous. If any member of a rowing club was a “mechanic, artisan or labourer” the club was not regarded as amateur and hence could not compete at Henley or at an ARA regatta. This banned not only competitors who were artisans: it banned any competitor whose club had any artisans amongst its members. This posed problems for PRC, whose members came from right across the social spectrum. Many other rowing clubs were similarly affected by the ARA’s stringent definition of amateur, so in 1890 some of them – including PRC – formed their own association, the National Amateur Rowing Association. NARA clubs could not row in ARA regattas and vice versa.
From 1891 the NARA held its own national championships – over 80 years before the ARA started to hold national championships. Several times during the 1890s PRC won events at the NARA championships. Indeed, at the 1895 championships PRC won four events: eights, coxed fours, coxed pairs and single sculls. After one championship PRC incurred the displeasure of the NARA for failing to return the trophy on time the following year. PRC explained in its defence that the trophy had been kept in Quintin Hogg’s safe and that his butler had gone on holiday, taking the safe keys with him.
Encouraged by its successes in the NARA championships, PRC wanted to prove itself in the highest company, which it could do only at ARA regattas and at Henley. With this aim in mind, PRC left the NARA in the late 1890s and started entering regattas with crews made up solely of members who were not artisans. PRC still had artisans amongst its members, so it is not clear how the club managed to get around the ARA’s ban on regatta entries from clubs that had any artisan members. Perhaps some regattas did not investigate too carefully the amateur status of clubs which submitted entries. In 1898 PRC entered a four for the Wyfolds but the Henley Stewards rejected the entry because they considered that PRC’s amateur status was not in accordance with Henley’s rules. The first wins at regattas affiliated to the ARA came in 1901 when PRC won three events at Windsor & Eton Regatta and two at Reading Regatta.
A notable PRC oarsman in the early 1900s was Karl (‘Bean’) Vernon. He learnt to row at PRC and raced for the club in regattas but he later moved to Thames RC, where he won a silver medal at the 1912 Stockholm Olympics. For many years until his death in 1973 he was a renowned figure on the Tideway, coaching at several clubs including Quintin.
The Birth of Quintin Boat Club
After some initial success in getting ARA regattas to accept its crews, PRC started to have more difficulty. By 1907 the club decided that a different approach was needed if it wanted to race in ARA regattas. In June 1907 a club called Polytechnic Boat Club was formed within Polytechnic Rowing Club. Membership of PBC was restricted to PRC members who satisfied the ARA’s amateur definition. The new club was immediately affiliated to the ARA. Soon afterwards the ARA asked the new club to consider changing its name in order to avoid confusion between Polytechnic Boat Club and Polytechnic Rowing Club. Various possible names were considered, including Quintinian Rowing Club, but in October 1907 Polytechnic Boat Club formally changed its name to Quintin Boat Club. This was in honour of Quintin Hogg, who had died in 1903, poisoned by fumes from a gas heater whilst in the bath of his room at the Polytechnic.
Members of Quintin Boat Club were eligible to race in ARA regattas and at Henley. But Quintin Boat Club was merely a flag of convenience for racing at these regattas. Polytechnic Rowing Club continued to be the main vehicle for rowing at the Polytechnic. For example, all internal club events were PRC events, not QBC events. Probably only a small proportion of eligible PRC members – those wanting to race at ARA regattas – became members of QBC. And in QBC’s early years the oarsmen who raced as Quintin would have regarded themselves more as members of PRC than of QBC. In some ways their position was similar to that of present day Leander oarsmen who occasionally race as Star & Arrow. The oarsmen racing as Star & Arrow think of themselves as Leander oarsmen not as Star & Arrow oarsmen.
The new club’s first regatta entry was at the 1907 Windsor & Eton Regatta where it won junior fours. The first entry after the change of name from Polytechnic Boat Club to Quintin Boat Club came the following year, in junior sculls at Kingston Regatta. Unfortunately, the Quintin sculler capsized when leading in his first race. In the years up to the First World War Quintin had only occasional successes at regattas and did not enter Henley.
Between the Wars
|1920||Quintin’s first appearance at Henley Royal Regatta, in the Thames Cup. Quintin has had crews at every Henley since then, except for 1921. One member of the 1920 crew was F.G. ‘Tiny’ Mitchell. Weighing over 15 stone in an era when the average Thames Cup oarsman weighed under 11½ stone, he seems to have been the heaviest oarsman ever to row at Henley up to that time.|
|1921||A rowing tank and a wooden building to house it were built by club members as a memorial to those who died in the Great War.
Hilda Mitchell, the wife of ‘Tiny’ Mitchell (see 1920), presented a trophy for an annual match between Quintin and its neighbours, Ibis RC. The match for the Hilda Mitchell Cup was the best of three races – eights, fours, and pairs. The match lapsed with Ibis’s demise in the early 1990s but was revived in 2014 for an annual event against Putney Town RC.
|1924||The wooden 1888 boathouse was pulled down and replaced by the present one.|
|1925-51||Frank Harry, who was one of the driving forces behind Quintin’s success, was captain 16 times during this period (1925, 1927-37, 1946, 1949-51). He later became Quintin’s president.|
|1926||Quintin took part in the first Head of the River Race. Quintin is one of a handful of clubs that have competed in every one.|
|1926-30||Quintin reached four Henley semi-finals in five years.|
|1928||In the final of the Silver Goblets Cedric Daniel & Jack London were beaten by Killick & Beresford of Thames RC.|
|1930||Ibis RC refused Quintin’s request to use the Ibis boathouse regularly on Sunday mornings. From around 1900 and especially after the First World War, it had become more common for clubs to row on Sundays. Because of the Polytechnic’s strict Christian principles, its boathouse had always been closed on Sundays, and Quintin members felt that this put them at an increasing disadvantage against other clubs. We are not sure when the Polytechnic eventually relented and allowed Sunday rowing.|
|1931||First HRR appearance of our long-running president until his death in 2015, Dick Hylton-Smith. He rowed in the Thames Cup for Polytechnic Schools Boat Club.|
|1934||Freddie Peters retired as boatman after 45 years and was succeeded by his son, Tom. Tom Peters had already been assistant boatman since 1923.|
|1936||Quintin came 5th in the Head of the River Race, the club’s highest ever finishing position. Admittedly, there were only 131 crews.
Quintin’s first appearance in the Grand Challenge Cup at Henley. They raced Tokyo Imperial University, who were on their way to Berlin to represent Japan in the Olympic Games. The race was close for over half the course but shortly before the Mile the Japanese spurted to 50 and gained a length. Along the enclosures they raised the rate to 56 and won by two lengths.
|1937||Quintin’s second and – so far – last appearance in the Grand, losing to Kingston by a length.
Quintin raced at a regatta in Paris, probably the club’s first ever foreign trip.
|1938||ARA and NARA clubs were at last allowed to enter each other’s regattas. Although this removed the need to have Quintin Boat Club separate from Polytechnic Rowing Club, there seems to have been no immediate desire to merge the two clubs.|
|1944||The rear of the boathouse was hit by an incendiary bomb and over 50 boats were destroyed, including all the racing boats. The only boats that were salvaged and capable of repair were a tub four, a double sculling skiff, a gig scull and a “coach and pair”. Luckily, the damage to the building was not as great as was first feared. Although the ground floor was burnt out, the first floor suffered much less damage and the structure of the building was relatively unscathed.|
After World War Two
|1945||Wally Horwood won the Barrier Sculls at HRR. The 1945 HRR was a one-day regatta over a three-abreast shortened course starting at the Barrier. None of the normal events were held.|
|1947||Wally Horwood and David Garrod won the Double Sculls at HRR (see picture
A Quintin four including our president, Dick Hylton-Smith, won the Wyfolds at HRR (see picture ).
|1950||Quintin changed its blades from two vertical stripes to the present two diagonal stripes to avoid confusion with Oriel College, Oxford.|
|1951||Polytechnic Rowing Club amalgamated with Quintin Boat Club. The combined club took the name of Quintin Boat Club, which was now the more well-known club, rather than that of the older Polytechnic Rowing Club. The Polytechnic Students Boat Club (which has now become the University of Westminster Boat Club) remained separate. In view of its merger with PRC, QBC should perhaps have held its centenary celebrations in 1975 rather than in 2007.
After the wartime damage the boathouse was rebuilt. Apart from extending the boathouse at the rear, most of the work was internal. One of the two large windows at opposite ends of the clubroom was bricked up and replaced by the present fireplace and chimney. The refurbished clubroom also incorporated a bar. Previously, the boathouse – in common with all Polytechnic premises – had no alcohol licence. The club’s request for a bar met with some stiff opposition at the Polytechnic. Quintin Hogg’s daughter, who was a leading light in the Polytechnic and one of its governors, was strongly opposed. After much debate, the Polytechnic’s board of governors voted to allow the bar. According to the minutes of the board meeting, the chairman “felt that the Governors could rely on the club officials to ensure that there would be no excessive drinking and no pressure brought to bear on younger members to drink or to spend more than they could afford”. The boathouse was formally reopened in August 1951.
|1958||John Peters (one of Tom’s sons) won his first pot for Quintin, as a 12 year old cox. Since then he has won hundreds of times as a Quintin oarsman, has been captain many times and is now one of the club’s coaches and its sole honorary life member.|
|1961-75||In this 15 year period Quintin finished in the top 10 of the Head of the River Race more often than not.|
|1962||An annual eights race between Quintin and the University of London was instituted for the Canada Challenge Bowl. The bowl had originally been presented to Polytechnic Rowing Club in 1908. The race has not been held for many years.
Bill Barry lost the final of the Diamond Sculls to the Australian, Stuart Mackenzie (Leander). (This was Mackenzie’s sixth consecutive Diamonds win.)
|1962-64||Bill Barry represented Great Britain as a sculler in each of these three years.|
|1963||Bill Barry lost the final of the Diamonds by two feet to a Swiss sculler, G. Kottman (see picture).|
|1963-66||Bill Barry won both the Scullers Head and the Wingfield Sculls four years running.|
|1964||Having represented Great Britain as a sculler in the European Championships in August, Bill Barry was brought into the coxless four for the Tokyo Olympics in October. The four won the silver medal.|
|1964-68||Quintin won the coxless division of the Fours Head five years running.|
|1965||At HRR, the Stewards was won by a Quintin four including Bill Barry. In the final, they broke the course record by 6 seconds (see picture
). The four represented Great Britain in the World Championships later in the year.|
The England team in an Anglo-Dutch youth match at Henley included John Peters and Lionel Bailey as the coxless pair and Pat Barry as the single sculler. Both of them won. This was in the days before junior international championships. In later years both Lionel Bailey and Pat Barry won GB senior vests while rowing for Tideway Scullers.
|1966||Quintin’s traditional racing tops (white zephyrs with a dark blue ribbon) were replaced by the present singlets of a slightly lighter blue with two diagonal white hoops.|
|1967||Quintin lost the final of the Wyfolds to Tideway Scullers by ½ length (see pictures of all the crew's races).|
|1968||The Quintin eight was one of the favourites for the Thames Cup (see picture
). But this was the infamous ‘Year of the Stream’, when an unprecedented downpour after the first day produced an abnormally strong stream which rendered the latter part of the course grossly unfair to crews on the Bucks station. In the quarter final, Quintin – on Bucks – were leading Cornell University at Remenham but lost by 1½ lengths. Cornell went on to lose the final, in which they had the Bucks station.|
The Quintin eight was selected to row as England at the Home Countries International, held at Lake Blessington in Ireland. Quintin won, with Ireland a length behind in second place (see picture ).
|1970||6th in the Head of the River Race. This was arguably Quintin’s best ever result, since the finishing position of 5th in 1936 was achieved in a much smaller field.
Tom Peters retired as boatman and was succeeded by Ernie Vincent.
|1971||In the final of the Silver Goblets Chris Dalley & Rob Winckless were beaten by Locke & Crooks (Leander).
A Quintin coxed four won the national selection trials and represented Great Britain in the European Championships.
|1973||Quintin’s eight won at the National Championships.|
|1975||In the final of the Thames Cup Quintin lost to Garda Siochana (Ireland) by a length (see picture
Graeme Mulcahy represented Great Britain in quad sculls at the World Championships.
|1976||Sally Parsons (now Mrs Sally Peters) became only the second woman ever to compete at HRR. She was coxing Quintin’s second Thames Cup eight, which was racing as Townmead RC. For many years up to 1981 HRR did not allow clubs to enter more than one crew in any event for fours or eights. Latterly some clubs got around the ban by forming subsidiary clubs, solely for the purpose of entering second crews at HRR. Townmead was such a club, for crews from our local ARA division.
Graeme Mulcahy won the Wingfield Sculls.
Quintin came second in lightweight eights at the National Championships, beaten only by the GB eight that later in the summer took the silver medal at the World Championships (see picture ). The GB eight included Brian Fentiman.
|c. 1976||The wooden building housing the rowing tank had become increasingly dilapidated. It was demolished and replaced by the present brick and concrete structure, but leaving the tank unaffected.|
|1977||Graeme Mulcahy again represented Great Britain in quad sculls at the World Championships.|
|1978||A Quintin/Marlow composite coxed four lost in the final of the Prince Philip at HRR.|
|1979-87||Graham Lloyd and Roger Hine won 31 elite pairs events.|
|1984||A Quintin quad lost in the final of the Queen Mother at HRR but won the National Championships.|
|1988||Ernie Vincent retired as boatman and was not replaced.|
|1990||Bobby Thatcher and Danny Simmonds won J16 double sculls at the National Championships.|
|1991-92||Bobby Thatcher represented Great Britain in the world junior championships in both years, winning gold in the coxless four in 1992. In later years he raced at senior level in the Olympics and World Championships. In 1992 Alistair Lees-Jones also represented Great Britain in the world junior championships.|
|1993||The most recent Quintin crew to reach a Henley semi-final – in the Wyfolds, where Quintin lost to the eventual winners (see picture).|
|1997||Internal rebuilding of part of the boathouse removed the committee room and created a women’s changing room.|
|1999||Women admitted as rowing members.|
|2001||Quintin Head started.|
|First Quintin entry at Henley Women’s Regatta.|
|2004||First Quintin entry in Women’s Head of the River Race.|
|2007||Quintin Boat Club celebrated its centenary.|
|2009||‘Learn to row’ courses started. Raw recruits had previously been taught on an ad hoc basis.
The rowing tank was boarded over and the building was converted into a gym. The tank had been out of bounds for some years prior to this, after being declared a safety hazard by the University of Westminster.
|2012||Victor Ludorum at British Rowing Masters Championships.|
The Polytechnic Magazine Archive
In 2011, the University of Westminster made available in digitised form an archive of the Polytechnic Magazine, and its precursors, "Home News" and "Home Tidings". The archive currently runs from 1879 to 1960 and contains a wealth of material concerning Hanover United Athletic Club, the Polytechnic Rowing Club and Quintin Boat Club. It is available at https://polymags.westminster.ac.uk and more information about the University of Westminster Archive Services may be found at http://www.westminster.ac.uk/archives.
Memories from the 1960s about rowing at Quintin — from Lionel Bailey
Always held on the last w/e of May. The Hartington Road Horse Chestnut trees in full blossom. The field adjacent to the clubhouse filled with white canvas boat tents, converted Coal Lorries standing by to transport the one piece wooden VIIIs and IVs at the end of the day.
Tom & Mrs. Peters
The Boatman and his wife, their taciturn demeanour masking hearts of gold.
Basil Kemp-Gee, Honorary Bar Steward
Immaculate in blazer, club tie and white shirt, opening the bar at midday on Sunday with bowls of cheese and pickled onions for his customers. See.
Lou Barry and Ron Needs
Two of the finest post war coaches this country has produced, both operating from the club at the same time. The coaching and training schedules provided by these two gentlemen laid the foundation for the success enjoyed by the club during the following two decades.
Lou, a natural communicator and master of the telling one liner. Ron, with his slightly more earnest approach, none the less effective, racing along the tow path on his bike, pausing to draw breath and clear his throat before delivering his words of wisdom.
The quintessential club man. One of life’s gentlemen, he had a wonderful ability to find the right turn of phrase whether he was commiserating with a losing novice, or congratulating a winning head crew.
He strode through the club like a Colossus during the Sixties. His winning the Scullers HOR and the Wingfields four times running, a never to be forgotten achievement, nor the performance of the record breaking, winning, Stewards IV he rowed in at Henley Royal Regatta in ’65. They went on to represent GB at that year’s European Champs, but unfortunately could not repeat their July form.
The Club’s Wyfold IV crew of ’67
The four were coached by Ron Needs at HRR. They met a star studded Tideway Scullers School crew in the final, and lost by half a length. Their consolation was to win outright the IVs Head of the River later that year.
The Thames Cup VIII of ’68
Again coached by Ron Needs. After the disappointment of the "flooded" HRR, they were selected to represent England at that years Home Countries International, held on Lake Blessington, Dublin. The club defeated the Garda Siochana Boat Club, representing Ireland, by one length on their home water. A result to be reversed seven years later in the final of the Thames Cup at HRR.
The IVs Head of the River
During the decade Quintin Boat Club won this event four times outright and the Coxless IVs division five times running, not to mention one Junior IVs title.
One of the most memorable occasions was the 1965 race rowed in appalling conditions. The club Ist IV started off at No1 only to see the following six crews sink behind them before they crossed the finish line, victorious for the second year running. The average age of the crew that year was 20.The club also recorded its one and only Junior Coxed Clinker IVs title in that storm tossed race.
Held on Saturday evenings in the club room. Toe-curlingly embarrassing non events of the early ’60s, where six men and a dog stood round an empty room save for an enormous mahogany table set centre square, gave way to joint jumping standing room only affairs, invariably organised by Mike Ealand. The club house would be full of drop dead gorgeous girls and tongue tied oarsmen strutting their stuff to live music from a rock group or West Indian Steel Band Mike had conjured up from somewhere.