All of the major ancient civilisations used rowing to advance their
cultures, both in war and peace-time. The victors of many a sea
battle were those that could out-manoeuvre their opponents on the
water. The Athenians frequently won because ancient war ships, such
as the Trireme, were used to ram enemy ships at great speed powered
by 170 oarsmen.
rowing is one of the oldest and most traditional of sports. Races
between oared galleys were held in ancient Egypt and Rome. Although
rowing was always popular with fishermen and sailors, it was not
until the 1700's that the sport became popular with ordinary citizens,
when watermen would race in long barges on the Thames.
Thames is the setting for three of the most celebrated rowing events
in the world: Doggett's Coat and Badge Race, the oldest rowing contest
in the world, held annually since 1715; the annual boat race between
the universities of Oxford and Cambridge; and the Henley Royal Regatta.
Boat Race by NG Crayford courtesy of the London's Transport
rowing became an event at the first modern Olympic Games in Athens,
Greece, in 1896. The sport of rowing as we know it today began in
1829 with the first Oxford-Cambridge race and the Henley Royal Regatta
which started in 1839.
River & Rowing Museum preserves rowing's significant artefacts,
building a library and archive about the activity, which started
with the Egyptians and Phoeniecians and continues today with University
Blues and Olympians. The Museum is a home for rowing's heritage
in the domain of Henley Royal Regatta and the world-famous Leander
displays on the art of rowing and the search for speed will enable
visitors to learn more about the sport. Exhibits already include
the boat used by Steve Redgrave and Matthew Pinsent who won Britain's
only Gold Medals in the Atlanta Olympic Games as well as the world's
oldest-known competitive rowing boat.
Henley's history is intrinsically linked to the river. Displays
and exhibits trace the history of the town's development through
the ages, highlighting the influence of the River Thames. In the
Middle Ages poor navigation above Henley made the town a centre
for transfer of goods between land and water transport. The present
stone bridge, depicted in Sibrecht's painting at the museum, replaced
the wooden one in 1786.
is a small Thames-side town with a world-class reputation. It is
known throughout the world that rowing means Henley and that Henley
means rowing. Henley hosted the first University Boat Race in 1829,
established the Royal Regatta in 1839 and hosted Olympic regattas
in 1908 and 1948. Henley is the home of rowing history in Britain,
and the Museum is a temporal home which fosters this spirit. Once
pivotal to trade between Oxford and London, Henley is now a centre
of recreation on the river.
opening of Henley's own branch line on the Great Western Railway
in 1857, meant ever-larger crowds came to the regatta for rowing
and revelling. Once a market town dependent on river trading and
trade, Henley-on-Thames developed a diversity of industries in the
course of its history from glass making, brick making, breweries,
engineering, more recently motor, financial and software companies.