The story of the present Maidenhead Rowing Club starts in 1876, but the history of competitive rowing in Maidenhead, and even the name Maidenhead Rowing Club, goes further back to the first half of the 19th century.

The first record of a race being held at Maidenhead dates from 1831 when Eton College beat Westminster School over a 7-mile course from Maidenhead Bridge to Monkey Island and back (Bray Lock was not built until 1845), with Eton winning by over half a mile.


The first Maidenhead Regatta took place on the Cliveden Reach in 1839, only three weeks after the first Henley Regatta. Two crews from Maidenhead, the Lady of the Lake Club and the Star Club, competed for a silver cup worth 25 guineas against the Albion Club of Henley, with Albion beating Lady of the Lake in the final.


In 1840 the Star Club from Maidenhead raced in the District Cup at Henley Regatta, an event for coxed fours from local clubs. The bow of the Star crew was William Skindle, who from 1833 was the landlord of the Orkney Arms Hotel by Maidenhead Bridge which later became the famous Skindles Hotel. 

A Maidenhead Rowing Club was first formed in 1857 in the Orkney Arms Hotel after a pairs race on the Bray Reach. Whilst there appears to be no direct link to the present club, there are number of connections. For example, the provisional committee of the 1857 club included both P D Grenfell, a cousin of Lord Desborough who would later become closely associated with the present Maidenhead Rowing Club, and J H Clark, who was responsible for obtaining the lease on the land on the Berkshire bank between Maidenhead Bridge and the Riviera Hotel when the new club was established in 1876.


Whilst little information is available about the 1857 iteration of the club, there are records of Maidenhead Rowing Club winning the District Challenge Cup at Wallingford Regatta in 1861  and competing at local regattas in the period 1858 to 1860. 


The current Maidenhead Rowing Club was formed on 8 July 1876 at a meeting in the Bear Hotel in Maidenhead. Membership fees were set at £5 5s for Vice Presidents and £1 1s for honorary members. A site for the club was secured on the south side of Maidenhead Bridge on the Berkshire side of the river, where the club remained until moving to its present location in 1998.

The club’s colours in 1876 were maroon and gold. In Charles Dickens’ (the son of the famous novelist) Dictionary of the Thames of 1883 the colours are stated to be dark blue and primrose. It is not clear when the colours current colours of Brunswick green and white were adopted.


The Duke of Westminster (who then owned Cliveden) was the club’s first President. Although he does not appear to have been actively involved with the club, he remained President until resigning in 1894 following the sale of Cliveden to Waldorf Astor. He was replaced as President by Sir Edward Levy-Lawson (later to become Lord Burnham) who remained President until his death in 1916. When the club re-started after the First World War he was replaced as President by his son, Harry Levy-Lawson ( later Viscount Burnham). The Levy-Lawson’s were the owners of the Daily Telegraph and their association with the club came about through their ownership of Orkney Cottage, which still stands behind the wall alongside the regatta lawn, which they used as a summer home. Lord Desborough replaced Viscount Burnham as President in 1934, having been the club’s Captain almost continuously since 1879.


The first record of Maidenhead Rowing Club competing at Henley Royal Regatta is in 1878 when the club competed in the Town Challenge Cup for coxed fours. The first big victory for the club came in 1924 where a Maidenhead eight, after losing in the final in 1923, won the Thames Challenge Cup at Henley.


The success in 1924 prompted for the club to extend its premises. The clubhouse before this was a very small building, with a shed adjacent to it presumably used to store boats. In 1926, Jack Arnold led the construction of a much bigger boathouse adjacent to the original clubhouse - both were sandwiched between Maidenhead Bridge and the Thames Riviera Hotel. This boathouse would serve the club well into the end of the century.

A second win at Henley came in 1939, where a coxless four took the Wyfold Challenge Cup, beating Tigre Boat Club, Argentina in the final. This win proved exceptionally popular, as it was one of the few events that year that was won by an English crew. Aubrey Lion, who stroked the four, became president of the club in 1977.


At the 1948 Olympics in London, the club's Bert Bushnell teamed up with Leander Club's Richard Burnell to win the double sculls. Their journey to this gold medal, which saw them put together by Jack Beresford only six weeks before the games and included overcoming physical differences in the boat and social differences outside the boat, was retold in the 2012 BBC drama Bert and Dickie. Bushnell was an accomplished sculler, who represented the club well to win the Wingfield Sculls in 1947, as well as finishing runner-up in the Diamond Challenge Sculls at Henley in 1948, a result that ultimately led to him being selected to race the Olympic double as opposed to the single.


Post-war, the club was almost annually putting out entries to Henley and other large events, such as the Head of the River Race, as well as more local events. 

In the mid-1970s, the club admitted its first female member - Laura Lion (née Jenkinson). The rules of the club had to be changed for her to be admitted. Joining as a junior, Laura experienced a successful career in rowing, and is an active member of the club to the present day. The club is now equally represented in both genders.


Further Henley successes came in the 1980s, when the club experienced a golden age of sorts. Eric Sims won the Double Sculls Challenge Cup with Steve Redgrave from Marlow in 1981, and represented Great Britain several times. The Queen Mother Challenge Cup was won in 1984 in a composite with Bewdley. The crew was composed of E.R. Sims(b), J.P. Lawther, J. Ferris, J. Spencer-Jones(s)(Bewdley), coached by Derek Cook. The club's most recent non-composite win came in 1985, where M.W. Harlow(b), C.A. Shawcross, E.R. Sims, J.P. Lawther(s), Z. Barker(c) and Derek Cook (coach) won the Britannia Challenge Cup. The streak of Henley wins was accompanied by countless wins at the National Championships and a selection of club members representing Great Britain at senior and junior world championships. The last win at Henley for many years came from a composite crew of Maidenhead (B. Webb) and Windsor Boys' School in 1992, in the Fawley Challenge Cup.


The success of the 1980s prompted a desire to move to newer premises, with a bigger clubhouse to accommodate the ever-growing membership, and to replace the old clubhouse, which was in poor condition. A huge effort was made by many of the club members in order to secure the funding and planning permission for the new boathouse, including the bid for lottery funding. In 1998 the members of the club moved into a newly built clubhouse, opened by Steve Redgrave. The new building was able to house many more members, boats, and facilities. Membership has more than quadrupled since the move. 

The new clubhouse and capacity for more membership allowed the club's junior section to flourish. National titles continued to be won, and in 2007 the club had its last Henley win thus far, with P. Clapp taking the Fawley Challenge Cup in a composite with Henley RC. Since the win, junior quads from Maidenhead reached the Fawley semi-finals twice (2013 & 2017) and the final in 2018. In 2015 the club won the Victor Ludorum at the British Junior Rowing Championships. Countless national titles/medals and GB Junior representations decorate many of the club's current and alumni members. In recent years wins at Henley Women's Regatta and the Schools Head of the River were also achieved. 


Maidenhead has been the starting club for more recently successful athletes such as Rob Williams, who won silver in the LM4- at the London 2012 Olympics, and Jack BeaumontRio 2016 Olympic finalist and silver medallist at the 2017 World Championships.


In 2018, adaptive rowing was introduced at the rowing club, complete with accessible facilities and a small squad for current adaptive athletes.

The History of Maidenhead Rowing Club by Paul Lion is now available to buy. Paul traces the history of the regatta and club back to the early 1800s with pictures from the club's archives bringing it to life. Paul, in his own inimitable style, also includes stories of the famous and infamous people who have lived along our reach of the Thames, the floods and much more. With personal memories from many members past and present. If you would like to own a copy please contact me This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.