1850: Oxford University B.C. was the only entrant for the Grand
The Diamonds was won again by T.R. Bone (Meteor Club, London)
The Eton Book of the River by Byrne and Churchill says -

The first few years of Henley Regatta had witnessed a struggle for existence which must nearly have ended fatally in 1850, when the regatta was reduced to one day, when there were no heats for any race except the Diamonds, and no contest at all for the Grand, Ladies' or Stewards'.

[ Somebody probably said "What we need is a Royal Patron to convince the Universities that this is a respectable affair! ]


1851: His Royal Highness Prince Albert became the first Royal Patron of the Regatta, since when it has been known as `The Henley Royal Regatta'.
Oxford University B.C. won the Grand in 7:45
The Diamonds was won by E.G. Peacock (Thames Club, London)

Programme, 1851

1852: Oxford University B.C. won the Grand
The Diamonds was won by E. Macnaghten (First Trinity B.C., Cambridge)

1853: Oxford University B.C. won the Grand in 8:03
The Diamonds was won by S. Rippingall (Peterhouse, Cambridge) in 10:02
Christ's College Cambridge Boat Club Records -

In the Phillipps Pairs, R Gordon and J B Barlee beat J Brakenridge and W H E Ridsdale by about 40 yards
[ And 115 years later your web scribe had the honour to win that same Phillipps Pairs Challenge Oar at Christ's ]

Both pairs entered for the University Pairs, which were won by R Gordon and J B Barlee by 3 strokes ...

R Gordon and J B Barlee entered for the Silver Goblets at Henley, winning by 2 lengths from G B Forster and J Wright (St John's Cambridge).

"It was the remark of several Oxonians that the rowing of Mr Gordon was unsurpassed by anybody - Chitty particularly admired it."
[ Chitty was J W Chitty, stroke of the Oxford Blue Boat in 1852 and Captain. ]

The Records of Henley Royal Regatta, by H T Steward, says:
"A capital race for threequarters of a mile, when the winners gradually drew ahead and won by two lengths. Time 10 mins."

This coloured print shows no less than nine grandstands at the then finish on the Henley side, and five floating grandstands, and altogether reminds us that there was a very considerable organisation behind the regatta even at this early date.
[ This seems in strong contrast to the impression given by the quotation about 1850 above. It seems it was more flourishing as a social event than as a rowing competition?
As to the date this print is dated around 1853, but I have seen an identical black and white version dated 1842. On the evidence of the racing craft I think 1853 more likely.

Henley Regatta, c1853
Henley Royal Regatta, 1853

1854: First Trinity B.C., Cambridge won the Grand in 8:15
The Diamonds was won by H.H. Playford (Wandle Club, London)

1854 in "Hunt's Yachting Magazine" -


THIS is one of the most celebrated aquatic meetings in the world ; here meet year after year the students of the rival seats of learning Oxford and Cambridge, and consequently from their connexions a very numerous attendance of the principal families in the United Kingdom. The great interest manifested by all classes at the approach of the Henley regatta, makes it a national affair.

The attendance on the 29th and 30th of June last, was greater than was ever known before, and the weather being fine, the enjoyment of the sports was experienced without alloy. For sixteen years this regatta has been celebrated, and as will be hereafter seen it is not only the Collegians who row, but several amateurs, and crack watermen also exhibit their powers, and on this occasion some well contested matches came off.

This prize, a very handsome silver goblet, is the gift of Mr. Walford, of the firm of Makepeace and Walford, Serle Street, Lincoln's Inn, the silversmiths to the regatta ; it is for scullers, resident within a certain distance of the town of Henley, and stands in lieu of the silver wherry, formerly presented by the same firm.
First Heat. [ Mr. E. J. Giles, Henley defeated Mr. H. Sargeant, Henley]
Second Heat. [ Mr. T. Piper, Caversham defeated Mr. T. Benham, Wargrave]
Final Heat. Mr. T. Piper, Caversham 1 against Mr. K. Giles, Henley -
Mr. Piper having won the toss, took the Berkshire side, Giles being quite over on the opposite shore. There was a most excellent struggle at the start, lasting nearly up to Bemenham, when the quickness and determination of Piper began to tell, and he soon put Giles, who fell off very much in his rowing at this point, in the rear; when near the Poplars, Piper had increased his lead so considerably that Giles apparently gave up the contest.

First Heat. [Mr. H. Playford, Wandle Club defeated Mr. Nottidge, Argonaut's Club]
Second Heat. [Mr. R. C. Galton, Trinity Col. Cambridge defeated Mr. W. F. Short, New Col.Oxford]
This race was looked forward to with great interest by the members of both Universities. Mr. Short has, for some time, held a high reputation at Oxford, both as an oarsman and a sculler; last year he was the winner of the champion sculls there, and Mr. Galton was the winner this year of the Colquhoun sculls at Cambridge. They were likewise the bow oars of their respective boats in the last University match at Putney. Mr. Short took the Berkshire side, having won the toss, but at the start, Mr. Galton was off like lightning, took the lead immediately, and soon after passing Bemenham, was so well in advance that he took his opponent's water, and rowed the remainder of the distance without distressing himself, except a final spurt in which, though very pleasant for the spectators, we think better dispensed with in a trial heat, for till the race is quite finished, and the prize won, the more prudent course is evidently to husband what strength may yet be left. Both gentlemen rowed in boats built by James Messenger, of Teddington. Time, 11min. 12s; strong head wind.
Final Heat.
Mr. Playford against Mr. Galton
Mr. Galton selected the Bucks side, as the wind was rather fresh from that shore, and consequently the water there less ruffled, but on the word "off" Mr. Playford got a little the best of the start, and soon setting to work in excellent style, was at Bemenham nearly his length clear ahead; here Mr. Galton began to increase his exertions into a downright spurt, coming up fast with and at the same time drawing over towards his opponent: this continued some time, till the boats were so near each other that the umpire, who was rowing just astern of them, stood up in his boat to watch their proceedings more narrowly, and when they at last came in contact and Mr. Galton made an appeal, he was answered with the fatal words "You have lost." This termination of the race was of course the source of great mortification to all, and to none more we believe than to the gentlemen themselves, as, though the prize goes with the award, the respective merits of the scullers remain untested: there was a mutual desire that the question should be set at rest after the termination of the other races by a friendly match, but it did not come off on account of Mr. Galton having had so much hard work.

Oxford - Pembroke College against Cambridge - St. John's College
When it became known who composed the Pembroke crew, it was, naturally enough, inquired "What had become of Mr. King, the president of the O.U.B.C., and stroke oar in the late University crew ?" and we were truly sorry to find that indisposition had prevented him from rowing the greater part of the last term, and that it was still considered imprudent for him to undertake any great exertion. As it was, they had Mr. Hooper at No. 3 who rowed No. 5, and Cambridge had Wright, the stroke oar in that race; in other respects they seemed pretty well on a par, and the day before had rowed over the course without much difference in time. Great, therefore, was the interest excited in this race, nor were those who went down the river to see the whole of it in any way disappointed, for we seldom recollect to have seen a finer race from the commencement to the finish.
The Johnians won the toss, and in the opinion of many, took the wrong station in choosing the Berkshire side, as the wind at the time was blowing pretty fresh from north-west. Soon after the start, Pembroke got a few feet of her bows in advance, both crews working away most manfully, each determined to maintain the credit of their Universities, and from Remenham to the Poplars it was a continued burst of hard rowing, but the Cambridge crew were never able to alter their position, and Pembroke was hailed the winner in a perfect tumult of applauding shouts. This race, though a final heat, took place on the first day, by previous arrangement between the crews and the stewards. Pembroke rowed in a boat which had been newly built by Messrs. Searle, for the O.U.B.C. (who were the holders, but did not appear, and was an exceedingly good one; while St. John's had a boat built by King of Oxford last year, which was kindly lent to them by the Henley Club.) It is but justice to Logan of Cambridge to mention, that the only reason why his boat was rejected by the Johnians was, the great weight of their men, she having been built for a very small crew. Time of winning crew, 9m. 38s.; strong wind ahead.

THE SILVER GOBLETS. First Heat. Oxford - Cadogan, ChristChurch & Short, New College against London - Potter, Wandle Club & Playford, ditto
This was one of the easiest races of the regatta, for though the Londoners made a good fight as far as Remenham, and after that rowed a plucky stern wager, the Oxford men had there nearly drawn their length clear, and that without any great effort, at least it appeared so, and they continued increasing that lead to the finish. They rowed very well together, and had evidently bestowed great pains on their practice and condition, yet no one who saw the race could fail observing that the great ease with which they went ahead was very much owing to their beautiful craft, the maiden attempt of Messenger at a pair oar, and which travelled "like a witch". Time, 9m. 5s.
[Craven & Swaine rowed over in the second heat]
Final Heat. Cadogan and Short against Craven and Swaine
Immediately after starting, Messrs. Cadogan and Short went in advance, and won very easily, their opponents not having the shadow of a chance from the first, and rowing as if they were quite aware of it. Time, 9m. 36s.

Cambridge - 1st Trinity Club against Oxford - Wadham College
Trinity and Wadham are very old antagonists ; we find them in the year 1839, at the first Henley regatta, when there were no fewer than five Oxford eights entered, meeting in a heat together, and rowing one of the closest races on record; and they who contended in those days have reason to be proud of their successors, who this year acquitted themselves so honourably. Much credit is due to both to Trinity for facing the difficulty of keeping a crew together so long after term. To Wadham, but the fifth boat on the river, for coming forward, the sole representative of Oxford's eight rowing, to take up the gauntlet against all comers. When the two boats appeared through the bridge on their way down to the island, they were followed by many an anxious eye, while a large number of University men ran with them a considerable distance, in the hope of coming to some conclusion on their respective merits. Much had been heard of the strength and quickness of Wadham, of their exactness in time and swing; but on the other hand, there was a business-like fall of backs in Trinity, which was very winning.
At length they took their stations, Trinity having the Bucks side, and all being in readiness, the signal was given, and off they went. Trinity in about ten strokes shot nearly her length ahead, and every one imagined it was to be an easy thing; but never was there a greater error, for Wadham began to pick up most gallantly, and at Remenham had regained nearly all their lost ground, Trinity apparently losing their confidence, and rowing short. They were now almost oar and oar, and slashing away at a tremendous pace, when the bow oar in the Cambridge boat caught a magnificent fish - it was a sea fish not common in these parts - and the Black Prince had nearly come to an untimely end. This brought Wadham for a short time in advance, but Trinity soon recovered her rowing, and putting on a brilliant spurt, just managed to go in a winner by about half a length. The race was rowed in 7m. 55s. No stream, and wind fair.

Cambridge - Lady Margaret against Oxford - Pembroke College
This was another very excellent race, indeed first rate; the same two crews contended as in the race for the Stewards' cup, and for the first half mile was one continued burst for the mastery; opposite Fawley Court the Johnians, who rowed much better than in their first race, began to show in advance, and at the "corner" having got their length clear, took their opponents' water, and cheered on by the most tremendous shouts from the banks, they spurted past the winning post about two lengths ahead ; Pembroke kept it well up to the finish, but during the middle of the race, it cannot be denied that their rowing fell off, the stroke apparently becoming too short for them. Time, 8m. 48s.

According to ancient usage, a purse having been subscribed for by the spectators for the benefit of the umpire's crew, who well deserve, by their heavy duties and their general good conduct, this mark of approval, they divided themselves as follows, taking gentlemen to steer them, and rowed a short race for the amusement of their patrons:
Coombes's Crew: 1. Phelps 2. T. Mackinney 3. Newell 4. Coombes Mr. Lavien (cox)
Pocock's Crew: 1. J. Mackinney 2. B. Doubledee 3. Messenger 4. Pocock Mr. Cayley (cox)
It was won pretty easily by Coombe's crew, and the veteran, at an oar's end, seems really to be almost as fresh as ever.

TOWN CHALLENGE CUP. Wargrave Boat Club against Henley Boat Club
This was a hollow race all the way from Remenbam, where the Wargrave first got a decided lead, the Henley crew never even making an attempt at quickening; it was won by several lengths. Time of winners, 9m. 5s.

Cambridge - Trinity College against Oxford - Wadham College
The race for the Ladies' Plate having been so closely contested but a few hours previously by these two crews, it will readily be believed that immense excitement prevailed with regard to the issue of this; and on no previous occasion has so vast a multitude "gone down" the banks to catch the first sight of the coming boats, and those who went to the starting place were repaid by witnessing a capital struggle for the lead; Trinity took the Berks side, Wadham well over to windward, and on the word being given, the latter went at a tremendous pace, getting a little the advantage of Trinity, who, however, were soon up with them, and by very good rowing, steadily drew their boats in advance, and ultimately passed the winning post about two lengths ahead of Wadham, who rowed to the last with the greatest game, and whose steering in both races was faultless. Trinity rowed in their old boat (a perfect wonder of the art,) built by Searle some five years back, and Wadham in one by Hall, which seemed also to travel exceedingly well.

1855: Cambridge University B.C. won the Grand in 8:32
The Diamonds was won by A.A. Casamajor (Argonaut Club, London) in 9:27

1856: Royal Chester Rowing Club won the Grand
The Diamonds was won again by A.A. Casamajor (Argonaut Club, London)

1857: London R.C. won the Grand in 7:55
The Diamonds was won again by A.A. Casamajor (London Rowing Club)

1858: Cambridge University B.C. won the Grand in 7:26
The Diamonds was won again by A.A. Casamajor (London R.C.)

1859: London R.C. won the Grand in 7:45
The Diamonds was won by E.D. Brickwood (Richmond) in 10:00

The Gentleman's Magazine, John Nichols, vol 226

Formerly the appearance of a university eight was almost a matter of course; and in the list of winners of the Grand Challenge Cup, the 0.U.B.C, and the C.U.B.C. frequently recur.

Since 1859, when the London Rowing Club beat Oxford the first day, and Cambridge the second, the custom appears to have undergone a change. This performance of the London Club was a great feat, and two finer races were never rowed.

The victory over Cambridge was secured almost as much by a piece of happy audacity, as by the rowing, fine though it was. The London coxswain came across a little too soon, and it looked terribly like an approaching foul as he tried, amidst frantic excitement on the bank, to take the Cambridge water. Mr Casamajor who was rowing seven in the London boat, saw the imminent danger, and shrieked for a spurt. The crew answered as one man, and the boat shot clear; but with nothing to spare, for it was an uncommonly near thing, and the Cambridge men hunted the winners home, very close, as it was.

1859: The Thames, Mr & Mrs Hall


Cutters is the generic term used on the Thames for long oared boats, built for four, six, or eight rowers; they are outrigged, and covered at the head and stern with canvas: the eight-oared boats are seventy feet long.

A few remarks on the racing-boats of the Thames, and the "race", cannot here be out of place.
The most singular and the most peculiar of all the Thames boats, not excepting even the "punt", is the racing-boat. This boat is of various sizes, adapted either to a single rower, or to crews consisting of two, four, sometimes six, and frequently eight persons: the eight-oared boats being those which are employed in the more important races.
The boats themselves vary in form, being sometimes sharp at both stem and stern, in which case they are denominated "wherries"; when they are built flat at the stern, they are termed "cutters".
Wherries are now rarely built for more than two rowers; when there are more than two rowers, the boats are provided with accommodation for a steerer. In length these boats range from about twelve to nearly seventy feet, and they are always very narrow, being so constructed that they simply provide sitting room for their crews; the oars are sustained by "rullocks", or "row-locks", which project considerably from either side, and thus afford leverage for the rowers.
As would be expected, these fairy-like boats are built with the utmost care, the materials being usually the finest pine-wood, with fittings of mahogany. They are so exceedingly light that a man may carry one of the smaller ones on his shoulder with ease; their weight is sometimes no more than thirty-five pounds; and their draught is very small, yet, when in progress, the boat is, fore and aft, on a level with the water: where the rowers sit the gunwales have a slight elevation to prevent the flow of water, which sometimes passes over the other parts of the boat, that are accordingly protected by a covering of light oilskin. The rowers' seats and the "stretchers", or boards for their feet to rest against, alone occupy the open space allotted to them, which is, in fact, simply a kind of trough.
The rate at which an eight-oar boat progresses, if well pulled, is not less than twelve miles an hour.


It is evidently a delicate operation to embark in one of these gossamer vessels, and to occupy it is always attended with some degree of danger, in consequence of the equilibrium of the boat being maintained entirely by the even balance of the oars. And yet accidents are of rare occurrence, while the light craft are taught to yield to the most energetic exertions of their manly crews, who exemplify, in high perfection, the practical application of the truly English adage, of "A long pull, a strong pull, and a pull all together". It is a nervous thing even to look upon the voyager in one of these boats; for our own parts, we would as readily trust ourselves on the back of a wild horse on an Indian prairie; and we marvel much that the cool self-possession of the "boating-men" themselves should so generally preserve them from casualties. But at Oxford, and on other parts of the river, all the men and boys, and many of the women, learn to swim; there is always a charm in peril — danger is ever a pleasant excitement; and so it happens that these boats are in far more frequent request than such as cannot upset.

The boat-race itself is indeed an animated and a brilliant spectacle: there the island spirit of England shows itself after a most characteristic fashion — the enthusiasm of those who are actually engaged in the struggle extending its influence to the spectators of every class who crowd the river-sides.
At Oxford there are several races, which take place according to a prescribed order of arrangement during the spring and summer period of each academic year; and here almost every college has its representative afloat. There are few more striking sights than that afforded by the long line of dashing boats gallantly manned, covering the classic stream, and rushing over its waters between such a "run on the banks" as needs to be seen, and indeed to be shared in, to be adequately appreciated. The flash of the oars keeps time with the cheers of ardent and encouraging friends, who strive on land to emulate the speed of the swift skimmers of the waters; a victory achieved elicits still louder acclamations; and each race concludes amidst mingled congratulations, because of present success, and anticipations of future success in races yet to come.
The number of the boats, and the comparative narrowness of the stream at Oxford, render it impossible for the competing crews to be arranged side by side; they consequently start and pull in a line ahead, the object of each crew being to touch with their own boat the boat before them in the line. Such a "bump" leads to a change of places in the case of these two boats; and thus the best boat's crew bump their way to the "head of the river", where, if they can, they may hold their honourable and honoured position.
The fine "reaches" of the Thames at Henley are yearly the scene of boat-races, open to all competitors, and which afford an opportunity for every variety of racing-boat to show its own capabilities and the powers of its rowers. In these races the two Universities of Oxford and Cambridge take a part, together with the "crack" boats of London, and with other worthy rivals from various parts of the country. The matches include races with eight, four, and two-oared boats; and there are also "sculling-matches", as those races are designated in which each boat is rowed by a single person. The incidents so familiar on the river-banks at Oxford, at Henley are repeated on a still more important scale — the very circumstances of the Henley races raising to the highest pitch the interest inseparable from them. The broad river here allows the rival boats in every race to be placed alongside of each other; and thus, with even bows, they spring forth upon a career which not unfrequently closes upon them still being side by side, the winner having perhaps half his boat's length in advance.