SRA History – By Tim Tomlinson

THE SKIFF

Design

The skiff is a clinker-built craft whose design goes back to before Viking. The clinker boat building technique, of over-lapping timber planking is known to have existed in the Thames region from before the 6th century from the Anglo-Saxon ship burials of Snape and Sutton Hoo.

Many of the terms used for parts of the skiff are of Germanic origin – “tholes”, “thwarts”, and “sax”. Planks on either side of a wooden keel are laid down following the outline of a sham (temporary pattern) placed across the keel. The planks are nailed in place and then a transverse strengthening framework of ribs is added. Oars (or blades) are held in place by wooden pins called tholes at the side of the boat rather than rowlocks or outriggers. The tholes are designed to give way if too much pressure is put on them, thus protecting the boat itself from damage. The thwart, or seat, is fixed rather than sliding.. The sax runs round the top of the boat to strengthen and protect it.  Blades are made of wood with leather collars. Sloping bows allow a skiff to beach on tidal river banks unlike a gig which has a vertical bow for manoeuvring around ships and docks.    

Sutton Hoo ship burial showing clinker-built form
17th century chandler’s sign showing two people fishing in a skiff

History

In mediaeval times skiffs were probably general working boats used for fishing and transporting goods – smaller than the Thames wherries that were used as river taxis and for larger transport. The ability to moor  on sloping riverbanks allowed for  watermen carrying fare-paying passengers. Skiffs were shorter than the wherry though of  comparable width, and therefore more manoeuverable. 

 In the 18th century Capability Brown created artificial lakes in landscaped gardens on wealthy estates, which became popular as boating lakes. When locks were built along the Thames, the river became a succession of boating lakes. So, the humble skiff found a new role as a leisure craft – which appealed, among others, to romantic poets such as Shelley and Thomas Love Peacock, who recorded their expeditions on the Thames. 

History Cont.

Skiffs have been  built to individual customer’s specifications, so there could be a wide variety of designs.  They are usually for one or two scullers possibly with up to two passengers or someone to steer. Variations of the skiff may have sails or more than two scullers. Skiffs have a seat for a coxswain who steers the boat by ropes attached to a rudder, particularly when there is more than one sculler. Single scullers usually steer themselves, but some single skiffs allow for a cox/passenger as well.  When fitted with such luxuries as carpets and cushions, a back-rest for the passengers and possibly a hooped cover for camping, the skiff made an ideal craft for pleasure boating. On the down side, in the early 19th century, many frequent references to skiffs in the press concerned tragic incidents, when inexperienced and careless boaters were carried over weirs. By the middle of the 19th century, the railway made access to riverside towns much easier. This was an opportunity for the inhabitants of a busy city to have leisurely afternoons on the water, and particularly for young couples seeking to escape the constraints of home. There were then thousands of skiffs on the river. This was the time when books were published such as ‘The Wind in the Willows’, ‘Alice in Wonderland’ and ‘Our Mutual Friend’ all with river connections. The term skiff has acquired wider use, and is applied to all sorts of boats such as small motor driven workboats in America, or sailing boats in Australia. The French term for a single scull is ‘le skiff’

Lower Halliford with the residence of Thomas Love Peacock on the right

Skiff Competitions

Competitive rowing developed on a different line with technical changes such as narrower hulls, outriggers and sliding seats, but hundreds of spectators would come to watch Henley Regatta in more stable and comfortable, picnic-bearing skiff. With so many skiffs on the river it was inevitable that people should start racing them, and by the end of the century most towns and villages on the Thames had their own regattas —  some of these were established rowing regattas that had skiff races and often included punt and canoe races; some were for tradesmen, and some were for professional watermen only;  but the majority were for amateurs, as defined at  that time, though a few included separate events for occasions, with fireworks, processions of decorated and illuminated boats (called Venetian Fétes), and nearly always a military or town band in attendance. They often also included fun events such as canoe obstacle races, canoe polo, mop fighting in canoes, one-armed punting, tug-of-war in punts and jousting in punts, but punting in canoes was taken rather more seriously. The supreme example of a regatta specialising in events was that of the Wog Wog Boating Club of St Margaret’s, Twickenham whose 1910 programme included ladies’backwards sculling, canoes paddled by hands only, and a blindfold punt race with the punts paddled by tin plates

The Amateur Rowing Association (ARA) was founded in 1882, which was merely a change of name from the existing Metropolitan Rowing Association, founded in 1879. The ARA became the governing body of rowing and had published a set of Rules for Amateur Regattas and Laws of Boat Racing together with a definition of an amateur which, while not altogether new, caused a split in the rowing world. The Thames Punting Club (TPC) had been founded in 1885 and acted as the governing body of punt racing, with a set of rules based on those of the ARA, but a similar body to govern canoe racing, the British Canoe Union (BCU), was not formed until 1936.

Below Kingston, towards Ham, there was a riverside farm known as Bank Farm. In the late 18th Century, a General (probably Henry) St John acquired the estate and commissioned John Nash to design a mansion, and Humphrey Repton to design the gardens. The house was very close to the river and at an angle so that there were two main fronts with three bow windows each. By the 1850’s Bank Grove, as it became known, had an international reputation for its garden with camelias. In 1870, after a couple of intermediate owners, the estate was acquired by Charles James Freake, an architect who was responsible for much of South Kensington. Inevitably, he put a heavy Victorian from on the House. He used his wealth for philanthropy and the estate became host to many charitable functions and his home was visited by many notable artists and performers. Freake, having become a baronet, died in 1884 and his widow, who inherited three homes decided to purchase a place in Twickenham instead. The estate was put up for sale with about 64 lots designated for housebuilding, while the mansion and its immediate grounds were purchased to establish the Albany Club. 


The Albany became a popular social and sporting club, with regular performances of concerts and plays.  The house had a long river frontage which provided for water sports including sailing, canoeing, skiffing and punting. At the time there were numerous “Teddington” regattas for watermen, tradesmen, and other organisations, but the Albany club decided in 1892 to launch a regatta for amateur skiffi racng and punting, which was called the Teddington Reach Regatta. This was modelled on the water sports and Venetian Fair of Hampton Court and Dittons Regatta. In 1892, a boathouse was built nearby which became Turks old boathouse and was used for a while by the Royal Canoe Club. Members of the Albany Club who went out in skiffs and competed at regattas started to form a dedicated group and in 1895 decided to create a separate Skiff Club, which operated from the Albany site initially. In 1897, the Albany chose to enhance the status of their regatta by presenting the four main events – Gentlemen’s Doubles, Ladies’ Doubles, Ladies’ and Gentlemen’s Doubles, and Gentlemen’s Singles – by the title of Skiff Championships. The trophy for the Gent’s Doubles was nominated as the Albany Cup, In the same year, the Royal Canoe Club vacated the boathouse to set up in its chalet across the river, and the Skiff Club moved into the boathouse. Competing at various regattas, members of the Skiff Club became frustrated at the lack of common rules and poor umpiring at various regattas and set up the Skiff Racing Association in 1901 to bring the situation to order. Although the Mansion at The Albany was destroyed by fire in 1909, the Skiff Club and Teddington Reach Regatta thrived on the Tedddington Reach for another 60 years.

Alfre Sisley

Regatta at Hampton Court

Artist unknown

The Albany

Albany Club early home of the Skiff Club

Formation of the SRA

In the late 19th century, boat racing  was conducted either under rules formulated by the regatta concerned, or under a set of rules known as the Henley Rules formulated in 1839 and later modified in 1872. However, they were often somewhat haphazardly applied, particularly in some of the more light-hearted skiff regattas There were no officially qualified umpires, and the umpiring and judging tasks were often performed by worthy gentlemen of the local town or village who probably had little experience of boat racing. 

It was clearly felt that a similar body should exist to govern skiff racing for, on 6th February 1901, seventeen delegates from the committees of various skiff regattas on the Thames, and from The Skiff Club, met at Anderton’s Hotel in Fleet Street, London to adopt the constitution and rules of a possible body for skiff racing. A committee had previously been formed under the Chairmanship of F.S. Lowe, who seems to have been the main instigator of the move, to draft a set of rules. These followed, as far as possible, the lines of the ARA, and the draft been approved by R.C. Lehmann, the Hon. Secretary of the ARA. After some discussion the seventeen delegates adopted the rules, and thus the Skiff Racing Association was born; its stated aim was to maintain the standard of amateur sport in skiff and kindred races’. Subsequently a committee of the Association was elected consisting of twelve members with F.S. Lowe as Chairman, a post he held until 1949.  G.J. Davis was elected Hon. Secretary, a post he held for the next 33 years. On 15th March 1901 the ARA considered a request from the SRA asking for recognition and support of its aims, to which request the ARA resolved to agree so long as the rules of the SRA were not inconsistent with the rules of the ARA, a condition which the SRA has closely followed ever since.

Before the  First World War

The first Chairman of the SRA was F S Lowe, and the first secretary Graham Davis. They were both in office throughout the period. 

During the founding year there were eleven affiliations to the Skiff Racing Association from four clubs and seven regattas. 

The four clubs were:

  • The Skiff Club
  • Broxboume rowing Club
  • Maidenhead Rowing Club
  • Reading Rowing Club

The seven regattas were:

  • Boume End Regatta
  • Cookham Regatta
  • Sunbury Regatta, (founded in 1877)
  • Wargrave Regatta
  • Windsor and Eton Regatta
  • Teddington Reach Amateur Aquatic Sports, (founded in 1892)
  • Hampton Court and Dittons Amateur Aquatic Sports and Venetian Féte. (founded in 1887)

At this time The Skiff Club, founded in 1895, was the only existing club devoted exclusively to skiff racing. Subsequently several more skiff clubs were formed and affiliated. These were:

  • The Walton Skiff Club in 1903 to 1905
  • The Caversham Skiff Club in 1905
  • The Upper Thames Skiff Club (at Shiplake) in 1906
  • The Laleham Boating and Punting Club  in 1906
  • The Wallingford Skiff Club in 1908

The first competition instigated by the SRA was an inter-club event for single sculls in 1905. F.S.Lowe presented a cup, of Indian design and workmanship, to be competed for by teams from clubs affiliated to the Amateur Rowing Association or the SRA, each team to consist of five men with up to three substitutes. The first event was won by The Skiff Club against the Walton Skiff Club, with F.S.Lowe himself umpiring from a double skiff. But the event was not well supported – in 1906 The Skiff Club was the only entry and sculled over. In 1907, 1908 and 1909 The Skiff Club beat the Upper Thames Skiff Club, though in 1908 only two members of the latter club put in an appearance, and in 1909 it could only muster a team of three (F.S.Lowe sculled for the UTSC in 1907 and 1909). In 1910 there was no event, The Skiff Club being the only entry but declining to scull over. In 1911, in order to make it easier for clubs to field a team, the teams were reduced from five scullers to three, but this measure failed to improve matters – The Skiff Club and the Laleham Boating and Punting Club entered, but no scullers from the Laleham club turned up and The Skiff Club sculled over. In 1912 The Skiff Club was only prepared to enter if there was some opposition – there was none, and therefore no event.

Meanwhile in 1909 two long-distance races in double skiffs were instituted, which together became known as the Isleworth Skiff Marathon. One race, under Amateur Rowing Association and SRA rules, was for amateurs, who competed for a cup presented by Mr H. Heldmann, J.P. of Isleworth; the other race, under NARA rules, was for non-amateurs, who competed for a cup presented by Messrs E. and J.L. Beck. Both races took place on the same day and at approximately the same time. In 1909 the amateur event was restricted to competitors residing below Teddington Lock, but this restriction was lifted in 1910. No lady coxswains were permitted. Boats, and sculls if the competitors wished, were provided by the Committee, but a dimensional restriction on the boats precluded the use of racing skiffs, though this restriction was removed in 1928.

From 1909 until 1913 the Isleworth Skiff Marathon course was from St Margaret’s Boathouse, just below Richmond Lock, to Putney Bridge, turning round any pier of the bridge, and back to the start, a distance of a little over 16 miles; the average winning time for this course was 2 hours 36 minutes. 

The 1910 AGM reported that: ‘The regattas held under the rules of the association appear now to be conducted almost universally on correct lines, and it is only occasionally that there is any friction. \

One early problem faced by the SRA was the difficulty that regattas had in providing matched skiffs for competition — sometimes contestants raced in their own boats; typical dimensions for double skiffs at the time varied from 20 to 25 feet in length and from tour to five feet in beam. In 1897 The Skiff Club had a matched set of three double racing skiffs built by R J Turk, 26 feet in length and four feet jn beam. with locked stretchers with straps and strung tholes, These skiffs were widely admired and frequently lent to regattas.

Two further regattas were affiliated to the SRA at this time:

  • Pharoah Island Regatta (at Shepperton) in 1912
  • Egham Regatta in 1913. 

In 1913 the Lowe Cup event was changed to a Single Sculling Junior-Senior Skiff Championship of the Thames, and was allocated by the SRA to Wargrave and Shiplake Regatta. It attracted five entries. In 1914 the event was allocated to Hampton Court and Dittons Regatta but, owing to the outbreak of war, the regatta was cancelled.

Of these early affiliated members the only ones still affiliated are The Skiff Club, Sunbury Regatta, Teddington Reach Amateur Aquatic Sports  and Hampton Court and Dittons Amateur Aquatic Sports and Venetian Féte. From about 1905 the events were known simply as Regattas rather than as Amateur Aquatic Sports

Regattas and the Skiff Marathon races lapsed during the First World War

Between the Wars

F S Lowe was Chairman of the SRA throughout the period until 1939 and Graham Davis was secretary until 1932.

In 1920 the Teddington Reach Regatta including the Skiff Championships, which had not been held since 1913, was revived and scheduled for 28 August.

When the Marathon races were revived in 1921 the course was shortened to St Margaret’s Boathouse to Barnes Bridge and back, a distance of about 9 miles; the average winning time for this course was 1 hour 19 minutes.

Some of the SRA affiliates ceased to become members, but in 1923 there were two newly founded clubs that affiliated. These were the Dittons Skiff and Punting Club (DSPC) and the Thames Valley Skiff Club (TVSC). The following AGM of the SRA (held at Anderton’s Hotel, EC) states “it has been reported to the committee that in a few instances the costumes worn by ladies is unnecessarily scanty. The committee desire to formulate no rule on this subject, but prefer to leave this to the good tastes of the ladies.” The regattas programme for the 1923 season was as follows.

  • 14 June   Chertsey
  • 21 June  Dittons Skiff and Punting Club
  • 28 June   Bray
  • 5 July       Hampton
  • 16 July              Kingston Borough
  • 26 July              Weybridge
  • 2 August            Thames Valley Skiff Club
  • 9 August            Hampton Court and Dittons
  • 9 August            Cookham
  • 9 August            Laleham
  • 15-16 August      Sunbury
  • 16 August          Wargrave and Shiplake
  • 22-23 August      Teddington Reach
  • 30 August          The Skiff Club
  • 6 September       The Royal Canoe Club
  • 13 September      Skiff Marathon Races (Isleworth)

The Lowe Cup was not competed during the years 1914 to 1924. In 1925, with the arrival of the newly-founded Dittons Skiff and Punting Club and the Thames Valley Skiff Club it was found possible to revive the competition as a team event with teams of three, and it has continued in this form since then.

Wraysbury and Old Windsor Regatta became affiliated to the SRA in 1926

In 1928 the Isleworth Doubles Marathon course was changed to go from Putney Bridge to St Margaret’s Boathouse, a distance of just over 8 miles; the average winning time was 1 hour 2 minutes and the record time was 49 minutes 54 seconds, though the records for this course are sparse.

The Wraysbury Skiff and Punting Club (WSPC). was founded in 1932 and affiliated to the SRA.

In 1935, an inter-club double-sculling team competition similar to the Lowe Cup competition for single sculling was introduced. For this, the Graham Davis Challenge Cup was presented to the SRA, in honour of Graham J. Davis, jointly by the SRA Committee, The Skiff Club, the Thames Valley Skiff Club, the Dittons Skiff and Punting Club, the Wraysbury Skiff and Punting Club, and many of his friends,

Competitions lapsed during the Second World War and were not revived  until afterwards. 

After the Second World War.

For many of the years up to 1970, BAM Clarke was secretary of the SRA followed by GB Lewis, Two chairmen are identified – K Foat, and S Oriss  

The Wargrave Boating Club (WBC) was affiliated in 1948, and the Laleham Skiff and Punting Club (LSPC) in 1952 

In 1953 the Tiny Knight competition was established in honour of Mr A.A. Knight of Dittons Skiff and Punting Club. The event was to encourage up and coming competitors and therefore winners of senior events were excluded from competing. A trophy was presented by a group of his friends from all the clubs..

In 1955 the SRA was notified that the Heldmann Cup, which was originally presented for the Isleworth Marathon, was in the custody of Quintin Boat Club. They proposed to hand it over to the SRA who would be expected to be responsible for its safety and for the future conduct of the racing. The SRA approved the proposal and in 1956 revived the Marathon race over the 4 1/2 mile course at Walton-on-Thames, the racing time being approximately 40 minutes.

In 1957, V.R. (Rex) Ormiston, for 50 years a member of the Committee of the SRA, was appointed the first President of the Skiff Racing Association. He died two years later and the Ormiston Memorial Trophy was founded in 1959 in his honour. The trophy was first awarded in 1960.

In 1959, Novice status was introduced, and clubs were asked to put on a full programme of events for their regattas.

The long serving F E Bell became treasurer in the 1960s. in 1960 the ARA introduced a system of qualification for umpires and the SRA followed suit a few years later with a system based on one year as a Probationary Umpire before, if approved, being upgraded to a Qualified Umpire. 

The Lensbury Skiff Club resigned its affiliation in 1961.  

In order to boost its income, the SRA in 1962 introduced an Associate Membership open to past scullers and others interested in the SRA or who had rendered service to skiff racing; the income accrued therefrom was used to purchase a set of anchors (for mooring stakeboats) 

It was not until 1965 that a sub-committee was formed to Standardise skiff and scull dimensions: these were published in the 1970 SRA Handbook for both single and double skiffs. 

In 1966, the Royal Canoe Club and the Richmond Canoe  Club both resigned from the SRA. WBC’s membership lapsed for a period in the 1960s when it became more of a social boating club, but it has since been reinstated. Laleham Skiff and Punting Club suffered financial problems and effectively ceased to function in 1966, though it continued membership of the SRA until 1974. For a brief period between 1967 and 1969 the Sun Skiff Club was affiliated; this club took its name from the Sun Printing Works at Watford where an enthusiastic member of The Skiff Club had taken up employment. The club boated on the Grand Union Canal which ran close by the works. 

1970s

Vic Wood was chairman of the SRA in the 1970’s and Mike Jearam was secretary for many years. F E Bell was treasurer. 

In 1973 the SRA introduced the Most Improved Sculler award in an attempt to encourage technical improvement in sculling

Laleham Regatta resigned in 1974. As a result of development on the site of the Albany Club at Kingston, it was decided that the Teddington Reach Regatta could no longer be held there and the Skiff Championships moved to Henley in 1974.

The SRA was also much concerned with the expense of building wooden skiffs and the diminishing number of boat-builders that could build them and, between 1975 and 1983, there was a lot of discussion on alternative materials and methods of construction. including glass-fibre, cold-moulded wood, plywood and even aluminium. The clubs, however, were very reluctant to change. and fortunately found enough money — and boat-builders — to carry on with their beautiful clinker-built wooden skiffs.

In 1976, the inter-club event was extended to include inter-club competitions for ladies in single and double skiffs Miss P.A.Chuter offered to present a cup for one of these events. The SRA accepted her offer and decided that the cup should be used for the single-sculling event. In 1977, with the agreement of Mrs Jose M.Wilkins, The Skiff Club offered a trophy to the SRA for the ladies’ double-sculling inter-club team competition. She had presented a plate to The Skiff Club for a Ladies’ Single Punting Club Championship in 1971, but in 1972 the club vacated its premises in Kingston, punting within the club ceased, and the trophy was never competed for.  The offer was accepted and the plate suitably engraved, but with a presentation date of 1976 to coincide with the inauguration of the event. Mrs Wilkins wished the trophy to bear her maiden name of Churchill, as that was the name she was known by when she was an active member of The Skiff Club and the Dittons Skiff and Punting Club.

The Single Skiff Marathon was also inaugurated in 1976 by the SRA Committee and is named the Jack Rosewell Singles Marathon as tribute to Jack Rosewell who organized the Doubles Marathon on behalf of the SRA for 20 years. Mr V.A.C. Wood donated the trophy which was named The Jack Rosewell Memorial Trophy.

In 1977. the Teddington Sculls long-distance race was inaugurated, which also had skiff events

In 1978, Egham Regatta was re-affiliated to the SRA after a long absence. Chertsey Regatta became affiliated to the SRA in this period.

1980s

Vic Wood was president of the SRA in the 1980s. He was also chairman until 1984 when Mike Jearam took over, followed by G Grant.  P Jelley, Keith Banks and Martin Eggington were secretaries. FE Bell was treasurers until S Wright took over.

In 1982 the SRA used funding from Associate Membership to assist in the purchase of a boat trailer.

The Walton Reach Regatta was affiliated to the SRA in 1983.

In 1983 the scope of the Tiny Knight Race was widened to include a section for ladies’ crews. In 1988 Mr and Mrs R. J. Pembery presented a trophy for the winning crew of the ladies’ section, plus a book in which to record the names of the winners, and named it the Nancy Knight Trophy in honour of Mrs Annie Clara (‘Nancy’) Knight, the wife of ‘Tiny’ Knight and mother of Mrs Pat Pembery. 

In 1983 Mrs M.L. Birch presented a trophy named the Gerald V. Birch Memorial Trophy in memory of Gerald Birch, who was President of Thames Valley Skiff Club from 1978 to 1982 and who died in office. The trophy is awarded annually to the lady sculler with the fastest time in the Single Skiff Marathon. 

For a number of years, the Wraysbury Skiff and Punting Club had organized a long-distance double-sculling race for its members to encourage winter training. In 1984 this race was opened to other clubs and crews under the title of the Wraysbury Long Distance Scull.

In 1984 a written examination on the SRA Rules was also introduced for Umpires. ARA Qualified Umpires were also  allowed to umpire at skiff regattas.

In 1985 two more clubs affiliated: Henley Rowing Club and the Falcon Rowing and Canoe Club, an old Oxford club founded in 1869. Henley Rowing Club’s membership was short-lived, lasting only about three years, but Falcon’s lasted until 1997. 

1990s

Vic Wood was president followed by Mary Birch and Dick Thompson. Martin Levy and Mike Philipps were Chairmen.  Secretaries were Martin Eggington and Mary Birch. Martin Eggington was also Treasurer until Fiona Andrews took over. 

Wargrave Regatta, which subsequently became Wargrave and Shiplake Regatta, resigned in 1991

A more recent club to affiliate is the Granta Skiff Club from Cambridge, a club formed in 1994 by an ex-member of DSPC; though small in numbers its members compete regularly in the Thames skiff regattas. 

At a committee meeting in December 1994, the SRA agreed that a long-distance event for mixed crews, to be held in the early part of the season, would be a good addition to the racing calendar. The Skiff Club offered to stage this event, and the first Mixed-Double Skiff Marathon was held in May 1995. 

In 1996 Granta Skiff Repatta arranged for skiff races to be included in the Cambridge Sprint Regatta 

An updated version of skiff dimensions was published in 1997.

In  1997  Westminster School Boat Club, which skiffed and punted from DSPC at the of the enthusiasm of a specific master at the school, became affiliated. Membership lapsed about ten years later with the reirement of the member of staff..

Skiff events were included in Walton Amateur Regatta from 1994 and the regatta became affiliated in 1998.

Twenty First century

Gordon were Mike Philips J Dobbin and Simon Leifer. Secretaries were Keith Thompson and Gordon Laughland. Fiona Andrews was Treasurer throughout.

In 2007 The Dittons Skiff and Punting Club organised a long-distance event for single scullers in the early part of the season. This event proved a success and the SRA decided to include it, from 2008 onwards, as a permanent fixture in the racing calendar.

In 2007 the Junior Pennant was introduced to encourage competition between junior scullers.

            An early season Mixed Marathon event was inaugurated in 2008 in memory of Simon Mepham OBE, following his unexpected death in February 2006, aged 50. The Simon Mepham Mixed Marathon Trophy was presented to the SRA by his partner, Sarah Birch, 

In 2011, the Mixed Marathon event at the Skiff Club was renamed in tribute to Gordon Dear, former president of the Skiff Racing Association who died in that year.

Sunbury Skiff and Punting Club was founded in 2011 and joined the Association 

In 2012 the Sunbury Skiff and Punting Club organised a long-distance event for double scullers in the early part of the season.

In 2017 Junior sculler of the year award was introduced.

CURRENT CLUBS

The four long-standing affiliated clubs have all had problems with their headquarters over the years. 

The Skiff Club 

The Skiff Club started life in the Albany Club at Kngston but, in 1897, took over the rooms in Turk’s Albany Boathouse, previously occupied by the Royal Canoe Club. In 1972, owing to a large increase in proposed rent and to deteriorating conditions on the waterfront, the club reluctantly left the premises that had been for its home for 75 years and. thanks to a kind offer by Twickenham Rugby Club, moved to Eel Pie Island to share the premises of that club. The Skiff Club remained at Twickenham until the end of 1988 when, because Twickenham needed the space occupied by The Skiff Club, the club moved to Molesey Boat Club, where it spent the two years. Molesey then had plans for redevelopment, so The Skiff Club had to move on and spent the next two and a half years boating from Thames Tradesmen’s Rowing Club at Barnes on the Tideway — a new experience an up-river club. During all this time there had been protracted negotiations with Sunbury with a view to establishing a permanent base on Rivermead Island. Despite a certain amount of local hostility, planning permission was finally obtained. but the cost of building a club house to the standard required by the planning authority was too great, and the whole project was eventually abandoned. But The Skiff Club been always been keen to return to a Kingston base and an opportunity arose when the Albany Park Canoe and Sailing Centre became available on a shared basis with a Youth Club; the Centre was only a few hundred yards from Turk’s boathouse and, in May 1993, the Club moved on. The new premises, however. turned out to be not entirely ideal — no bar for instance — but then news arrived that British Petroleum were selling their Leisure Services site at Teddington which included Walbrook Rowing Club, a suitable boat-shed for skiffs, and squash and tennis facilities. The Royal Canoe Club was situated nearby on the end of Trowlock Island, and the upshot was that The Skiff Club and the Royal  CC pooled their resources and with the help of  a grant from the Sports Council, bought the site. thus incidentally securing the continued existence of Walbrook RC..The Skiff Club occupied the site in November 1993 and thus, after 21 years of nomadic existence had found  a settled home on its original stretch of water.

The Dittons Skiff and Punting Club  

The movements of Dittons Skiff and Punting Club have been more localized than those of The Skiff Club. Its first home, in 1923, was at Hammerton’s Boathouse at Ferry Road in Thames Ditton. In 1967 the lease terminated and the club found new premises a little way upstream at Abany Cottage, a large old house at the end of Alexandra Road. At the time, a number of wartime army huts in Richmond Park were up for sale, and one of these was purchased and erected in the front of the house for use as a boatshed. The local council, however, eventually decided to terminate the lease and to redevelop the site as a block of flats, but to include, as part of the construction  a new two-storey boathouse designed to the requirements of DSPC. This was paid for with the help of grants and the members’ own contributions; the freehold was donated by Elmbridge Council. After two years spent in temporary accommodation nearby, the club moved into its new boathouse in 1995 — one of the finest on the Thames. This move has not distracted DSPC from achieving a number of entries in the Guinness Book of Records: in 1989 it recorded the fastest time for rowing the full length of the Thames from Lechlade to Southend Pier; in 1994 it achieved the longest distance (141 miles) rowed in 24 hours; in 1996 it sculled a Waterman’s Cutter from Dover to Cap Gris Nez in a time of 2 hours 42 minutes and 20 seconds, beating the previous record by nearly 53 minutes. and a relief crew sculling back to Dover also beat the previous record by over 31 minutes.

Thames Valley Skiff Club 

The club started its life in 1923 and  for a brief period was at Rosewell’s Boathouse near Walton Bridge. It  then moved to Clark’s Boathouse at Sunbury where it stayed, except for a short interlude at Rivermead House when the Fire Service took over Clark’s, until just after the Second World War. The club then moved back to Walton and boated from the Anglers Hotel until 1966. when it moved downstream a little and took over the site of the old Walton UDC Bathing Place.. Punting was introduced in 1973, since when the club has been very successful in that sport. The club redeveloped the clubhouse in the years from 2003 to 2004.

Wraysbury Skiff and Punting Club 

The club had its first home in 1932 near Haine’s Boathouse in Windsor. Following a greatly increased rent demand in 1971, the club moved its boats to Beaumont Boathouse in September 1972 but stayed in its clubhouse on a short-lease basis while an alternative site was sought. In 1974 the club received permission from Egham Council to use an area of land downstream from Egham Meads and to erect two second-hand prefabricated buildings to provide a clubhouse and boathouse. The buildings were duly erected and occupied by the club in 1975. The club was again in trouble in the early 1990s, owing to Egham Council’s intention to use the site as a Magna Carta Heritage Centre. In conjunction with Eton Excelsior Rowing. Club, WSPC negotiated the purchase of a plot of land in the Dorney Reach above Windsor, with the intention of building two boathouses, one for each club. Full planning permission was received in 1997 and Eton Excelsior have gone ahead with its building. but WSPC’s plans to build are on hold because Egham Council has abandoned its Heritage Centre and has offered the Club an extended lease tor 28 years.

Sunbury Skiff and Punting Club

The club was founded in 2011 and quickly developed an enthusiastic membership. The lub had no clubhouse, but was initially able to make use of the mooring at the riveside residence of Mrs J Graham. The club established a 6K skiff race for Double scullers in 2012, running from Sunbury Church to Tagg’s Ait and back to the Phoenix public house. In 2019 the club obtained a spot for boating near Shepperton.