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A Brief History of City of Bristol RC

Written by Brian Stephens

The City of Bristol Rowing Club was founded in 1952 as part of the Bristol and Severn Dock labour board Sport, Social and Welfare club, under the name of the Bristol and Severn Rowing Club. The membership was closed to the general public, being open only to Bristol Dock Labour Board employees, either dockworkers or staff.

The dockers firstly trained at Bristol Ariel R.C. and competed at the National Dock Labour Board Regatta at Putney, London. The club was officially affiliated to the ARA on July 8th 1954. The Club bought their first boat in 1955 - a clinker four from Bristol Ariel and a second boat with the help of a grant from the N.D.L.B. These boats were kept at the river police station at Princes Street Bridge.

The crews began to race at Henley Royal Regatta in 1956, along with Marlow, Reading Amateur and Putney regattas in eights wearing blue vests. Two Bristol Dockers fours were selected to row for the National Dockers Rowing Club first eight - the 'Argosies'. Argosis racing colours were Norfolk green, and the Bristol and Severn RC adopted this colour henceforth. Their first trophy was won in 1958 at Putney in the closed N.D.L.B regatta and in 1960 they began to win open regattas.

Due to changing circumstances around the harbour the club was required to relocate several times. Besides the storage at the river police station, some boats were kept at the timber yards where the Baltic Wharf housing development now stands. In the early 1960's the club's eight was kept in an alley near Buchanan's Wharf in Welsh Back where the only way to launch was by offering the bow into the water and then crawling along the seats.

By the late 1960's the club was ensconced in Burton Shed, near the Dockers Social club premises where they remained for the next 18 years. By now, the docker members were growing older and younger men preferred other sports to rowing. The decision was taken to open one third of the club to men of other professions. This move proved a success and in 1983 it was decided to open the club to all comers and change the name to the City of Bristol Rowing Club. This coincided with the relocation to leased premises at the Albion Dockside Estate where the present boathouse now stands, near Bristol Marina.

The boathouse in 1983 containing the club's fleet of 8 boats. We now have over 40!

Following the establishment of the club as an open club, women members began to arrive, and in recent years the membership has developed to include a substantial percentage of oarswomen. Throughout the eighties and nineties the club experienced a very cosmopolitan membership with rowers appearing from Germany, France, Holland, Canada, U.S.A., Spain, Poland, Yugoslavia, Australia, India, Egypt, New Zealand, Pakistan, Austria, Eire, Jamaica, Scotland and Wales. Pupils of various schools have joined forces to make up racing crews and it is the clubs intention to promote the activities of the junior oarsperson, allowing them to represent their particular school or to row as City of Bristol juniors.

In recent years the senior oarsmen and women have emulated their founding members. The men have pre-qualified for Henley Royal Regatta in the Thames Challenge Cup for eights and the Wyfold fours, and in 2009 reached the semi finals of the Britannia coxed fours. Similarly the women regularly race at Henley Women's Regatta. The club aims to further the achievements of these crews with emphasis on senior men's and women's rowing and equally importantly junior rowing and sculling. Currently there are coaches present who are qualified to train oarsmen, scullers and coxswains to national level, and the club is looking seriously at extending their present facilities in order to accommodate more members. The club has come a long way from its Dockers beginnings and is now a fully open establishment that prides itself on being totally welcoming to all comers.

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