2016 marks 150 years of Royal Canoe Club. We have a long and illustrious history, which we promise to learn more about it (and to share what we learn on this page)!

Our founder

John MacGregor, a Scottish Lawyer, living in London launched canoeing as a recognised sport and recreation in the late 1800′s. He went on extensive tours on the lakes and rivers of Central and Northern Europe.

These tours were undertaken in a craft which he designed and built and which he named ‘Rob Roy’. His boat is kept at the National Maritime Museum and from time to time is displayed. . He then extended his travels to the river Jordan and the Suez Canal, all his trips being recorded in a series of books.

Through his books and lectures, which he gave on his return, he formed a group of interested gentleman who met in the Star and Garter Hotel in Richmond on the 25th July 1866 to form the Canoe Club – the first such club to be formed in the world. Membership quickly grew and included Diplomats, Doctors, Lawyers and Businessmen. They all apparently used ‘Rob Roy’ craft and encouraged others to participate in their chosen sport.

Always a racing club

The first recorded Regatta was held at Thames Ditton on April 27th 1867, when 15 canoes took part in a paddling race and a canoe chase and in December of the same year, six members took part in the first long distance race over a 12 mile course between Teddington Lock and Putney Bridge.

In 1874, the Club instituted an annual competition for the PADDLING CHALLENGE CUP and the SAILING CHALLENGE CUP followed in the next year. Both are still raced for today and to win either means as much to present day canoeists as it did to the first to compete for these magnificent trophies.

Royal connections

In 1867, Edward Prince of Wales (later to become King Edward VII) became Commodore of the Club and in 1873, by command of Queen Victoria, the Canoe Club became the ROYAL CANOE CLUB, this was a significant honour for the club, which was devoted to small craft at a time when larger yachts were a status symbol. We are very proud of our name.

In 1922, Edward, Prince of Wales (later to become the Duke of Windsor), became Commodore a position he held until he succeeded to the throne.

The clubhouse

During the first 10 years, the Club regularly held meetings on the Thames at Teddington and established a camping ground there but it was not until 1878 that a Clubhouse was obtained. This was in Turk’s Boathouse at Kingston. Michael Turk’s Grandfather applied to become a member of Royal Canoe Club, but his application was refused as it was considered that he was “in trade.” Michael Turk, has been made an Honorary Member of Royal Canoe Club, to put right the wrong which we now felt was done to his Grandfather. In 1897, the Club obtained a lease of land on Trowlock Island, a site which was later purchased. The timber building put up at a cost of £500 is still the main base for canoeing.

Illustration by Suki Hubbard
Illustration by Suki Hubbard

The sailing canoe was introduced in the early 1870′s and a section still exists within Royal Canoe Club for Canoe Sailing, although it is no longer at Teddington, the modern design of the craft and the building which has taken place along the river over the years, have made the water at Teddington unsuitable for such sailing craft.

The Olympic Games

Royal Canoe Club members had the honour of representing their country at the Berlin Olympics in 1936 when canoeing was introduced as an Olympic Sport. Members have represented their country at every Olympic Games since 1936. After the 1936 Olympics, members of Royal imported single and double seat racing Kayaks to Great Britain, the first such boats to arrive and the Club has remained a Centre of Excellence ever since.

Expanding the site

In 1993 an opportunity arose to acquire premises which had previously been owned by BP as part of their Company’s leisure activities. The BP site was ideal, being situated on the mainland whereas Royal’s Clubhouse was on the island. Suddenly we could offer so much more.

Walbrook Rowing Club, part of the BP set up, had until our acquisition had sole use of the mainland clubhouse. The format of Walbrook Rowing Club prevented rowers who were not employed by BP from becoming members, therefore membership was fairly small. Once Royal Canoe Club became involved, membership to Walbrook became open and the rowing section has grown beyond all recognition since and continues to go from strength to strength. Already two members representing England in the Home Countries Regatta held in Eire during 1999.

The Skiff Club, which also once had been based at Turk’s boathouse, also joined with Royal Canoe Club in acquiring the BP premises. Prior to our purchasing the BP site, The Skiff Club, did not have a permanent base from which to operate from and were only too pleased to be able to contribute in a small way to the purchase of the BP premises. The Skiff Club has a very active core of members, who contribute to the success of the site.

Dragon boating is another sport which we can offer. Several of our members are part of the successful Great Britain Team competing at World and European Championships and are current holders of gold, silver and bronze medals.

A sad loss – Ted Cronk

It is with considerable regret that we hear of the death of Ted Cronk on the last day of May after bravely fighting pancreatic cancer.

Ted was one of the K1 4×500 meter relay team at the Rome Olympics in 1960 that was eliminated in the semifinals on Lake Albano, in an event won by the United Team of Germany.

The whole British kayak team at the Rome Olympics included Rev Basil Pratt, Ron Rhodes, John Harris, Raymond Blick, Bob Lowery and Marian Tucker, a group managed by John Dudderidge.

Ted was still paddling a decade later from the Hawker Siddeley Aircraft Factory Club, which used to be 100 meters downstream of the Canoe Club on the Kingston Bank. From there he encouraged the development of a number of young paddlers that became prominent in the sport during the 1970’s. His enthusiasm for the sport and the pleasure of just boating on the river were infectious.

Ted’s wife Ann paid tribute to a wonderful husband, father of 2 sons and grandfather to Joanna Alexander and Sienna.

Ted raced with a group of paddlers that have served the club and the sport over a period of many years His like will always be a sad loss for the canoeing community.

David Lawrence, Chair of the Royal Canoe Club Trust.