Our Heritage

Town rowing since 1880

Club History

 Founding of the Club

The club was founded in 1880, making it one of the older clubs still in existence in Cambridge. Although 23 Cambridge town clubs were founded between 1843 and 1880, only City of Cambridge still remains.

On 5 June, 1880 an item appeared in “The Cambridge Chronical” which reads as follows:

“A new boat club has been started by the Church Temperance Society of Cambridge and Chesterton, under the name of ‘Rob Roy’, and it will be open to members of the various branches.

“The following officers have been elected for the present season: The Rev. J. Martin, president; Captain P. Going, vice president; the Rev. G.H. Ling (Corpus), treasurer: Mr Percy Talbot, secretary; Mr C.V. Key, first captain; Mr J.W. Chandler, second captain; and the Rev. A.E. Meredith, Messrs. R. Meddings, W. Stearn, E. Tredgett, H. Gautrey, J.R. Newman and S. Clayton, committee.

“Strict temperance is to be enforced to liquors and language. Pair-oared and four-oared races have been arranged and an eight is to entered for the Town Races.”

The Early Years

Robs first went Head of the River in the Cambridge Town Bumps in 1886, and this was repeated in 1897, when Robs began the first of it’s stretches at the top by retaining the position for all but one of the next 14 years (1897 – 1902 and 1904 – 1911).

The Inter-War Years

After World War I it was not until 1920 that Town Rowing resumed, with the club being reformed in 1919. and Robs took until 1925 to return to the Headship, but this was then retained until 1928. 1929 saw the loss of the Headship “after a grueling race a matter of inches from the post” but it was regained in 1930, lost in 1931 and then regained and held for 1932 and 1933. The next four years were lean, but in 1938 Robs was back as Head of the River on the final night, before losing it in 1939.

World War II

The outbreak of World War II brought Town rowing to a standstill again until 1945, although during the War a composite crew with ’99s was entered in the University May Bumps under the name “Robnines”, although we do not currently have any details of how they fared.

Nine club members, including Mr. W H Johnson (Secretary) were killed during the War.

Post-World War II

After World War II Robs retook the Headship in 1946, but after this…


The Presidents speech notes for the 75th Anniversary dinner held in 1955 recorded that “from time to time Robs have successfully competed an Regattas at St. Ives, St. Neots and Oxford”, showing that even then travel away from the Cam for races was relatively rare.


The notes for the club’s 75th Anniversary Dinner record that “some winter rowing has been carried out” (1965) and it was hoped that by intensifying this that the club’s fortunes would improve. This dedication paid off, as Robs returned to the Headship in 1967, and it was then held through to the end of the decade.

In the late ’60s and early ’70s Rob Roy “completely dominated local events, regularly winning the Winter League, both divisions of the Time Race, and the Jude Rudder for the fastest CRA crew in the Head of the Cam in May” (Centenary Dinner notes, 15 March 1980).


After holding the Headship from the beginning of the decade, it was lost in 1976. Robs then returned to the top for 1978 and 1979.

1974 was a successful year for the club, beginning with the men coming 26th in the Tideway (Eights) Head, the highest ever result for a Cambridge crew. This was followed by the club reaching the quarter-finals of the Thames Cup at Henley Royal Regatta. It also saw the club begin organising it’s second autumn head race, the Cambridge Fours Head, in October.

In 1976 the club contributed half of the Cambridge town lightweight eight which won the bronze at the National Championships, beating the Cambridge University lightweights in the final.

In 1977 the Robs Senior A four were the most successful crew at that status in the country, picking up 14 regatta and 8 head race wins. Kevin Bowles also collected the first National Championships gold medal for any Cambridge club, winning the under-16 sculls, and he took this success on to the following years, being selected to stroke the GB Junior quad at the Junior Worlds in Belgrade, Yugoslavia, in 1978 and again at the Moscow Junior Worlds in 1979.


The President’s notes for the Centenary Dinner on 15 March 1980 recorded that “the Rowing Members…have put up with the most appalling facilities over the years. We can only hope that in the near future the club will at least have a home in the combined CRA boat house”. At this stage the Club’s boats were spread between the Loading Bay, Caius Boathouse, and the Sculling Shed. [Can anyone identify where the Loading Bay and the Sculling Shed were?]

1981 saw the end of Dr E Bevan’s reign as President, and celebrated in style with a record of 51 wins for the club, and although small in number (only 5 scullers were in training at the beginning of the season) the club grew through the year with wins at Junior, Senior and Veteran levels. Many of the wins came from Bill Parker, who was unbeaten in Veteran C single sculls, winning 22 races nationally through the season, and a further 8 in the double scull with Tom Davies, where they were again unbeaten.

Robs took the Headship again in 1983 and held it until 1985, and then retook it in 1988 until 1989.


Robs held the Town Bumps Headship from 1991 until 1995 and then again from 1998 to the end of the decade.

Simon Goodbrand, who started sculling at Robs, showed his promise by being selected to represent GB in the Junior quad in 1994, coming 3rd. This was followed by being selected to represent GB at the Nations Cup (Under-23 World Championships) in 1995 and 1996 (finishing 8th in the single scull both times) and 1997 where he finished 4th, again in the single scull. He was then selected for the senior GB squad in 1998, racing in the double at the World Championships in Cologne, Germany, where he came 9th.


Robs also held the Men’s Headship from 2000 until 2006, but it was lost to Cantabs in 2007.

Robs took the Women’s Headship from ’99s in 2007 after a strong year for the Women’s squad with good results at WeHORR (19th overall) and Women’s Henley (semi-finalists in Intermediate Eights).

History Links

Rob Roy BC Officers 1880-Present lists the Officers of the Club, so far as they are known, from the Club’s foundation in 1880 through to the present day.

Rob Roy people gives further information about those people who have made a significant contribution to the Club in the past, and have made it what it is today.

Prizes gives further details about the Club’s prizes, which are awarded annually at the Club dinner.

Our Events page explains the history of the events run by the Club.

Results in Town Bumps gives as much information as is currently known about the Clubs performances in the CRA Town Bumps. Further information about the Bumps can be found on the Bumps page here.