City of Cambridge is the oldest town rowing club on the Cam. Early records show the existence of the ‘Cambridge Boat Racing Club’ in 1844, the largest contingent of which went on to become the ‘Cambridge Town Rowing Club’ in 1863. The Town club was formed by John Harvey in the working men’s club that used to be located on Market Hill; this formed the core of what became City of Cambridge Rowing Club in 1932. The club’s colours are Dark Blue, Claret and Old Gold. 

ambridge Town Oar Races

Records are patchy for the first part of the twentieth century but it seems that City began to record excellent results in both the Bumps and the Eight’s Head on the Thames from the late ’40’s onwards. In 1953 the first eight finished 53rd on the Thames and held the headship in the Town Bumps (see below for more Bumps detail). In the same year (the club’s official 90th anniversary) the first Town regatta was run on the Cam. The course ran from the Pike and Eel (which became the Penny Ferry and is now housing) all the way up the long reach and round to the Plough. The Cambridge Daily News reported that R. Evans of St Neots was disqualified for knocking M. Clay of Nottingham and Union into the river during their singles race. Clay appeared to collect the trophy ‘soaked to the skin, his hair on end and in bare feet’. The City Sprints are now held in front of the boat houses over a shorter course, and often produce similar drama!

At a meeting with City members at the Pitt Club in 1955 H.A. Ives of the ARA reported that due to financial constraints no GB 8 would be sent to the Olympics that year, remarking bitterly that “‘our friends from behind the Iron Curtain are in every event'”. He also controversially commented ‘I think you are all too parochial. You should discover that Bumps are not the be-all and end-all of rowing'”. It was a theme that was revisited by City honorary member Dennis Baker in 1964 when he commented on the ‘insularity of Cambridge town clubs’ and it has been a cause for discussion amongst the Cam rowing community ever since.

City took a big step towards financial security in 1959 when the club purchased the freehold to the boathouse and in 1963 celebrated it’s official centenary. More to come…

City in the Bumps…

University Bumps had been held from the 1820’s onwards but the town bumps only really took shape with the formation of the CRA (Cambridge Rowing Association) in 1868. It seems that City were head of the river in the Town Bumps in 1875 but suffered something of a low-ebb until 1914 when they rowed themselves up to 3rd. In 1949 the 1st boat won their blades and in 1951 they were head of the river for the first time since the headship was lost in the 1870’s. They retained the headship for the next 6 years and in 1958 had the chance to equal Rob Roy’s record of 8 consecutive headships (set from 1904 to 1911). In the build up to the Bumps Robs and City posted identical times in the ‘Timed Race’, on the first night of the Bumps proper Robs caught 99’s to go second and leave themselves three nights to catch City 1. But for all their endeavour Robs could not bump a determined City crew and the record was equalled. A new record of 10 consecutive years as head boat was set by City before they were eventually toppled in 1962 by 99’s.

Since then City’s Women have risen to the fore and gained headship in 2008 which they then held for the next 9 years. City have a number of crews racing in all divisions of the Town Bumps and typically around 20 boats in total across the men’s and women’s divisions.  

City in the 50’s 

Many thanks to Peter Jennings for writing this…

In 1949 Cambridge Town Rowing Club I, as CCRC was then, won their oars bumping four crews who no longer exist ( Beehives I, New Museums I, Scouts I and Pye I ) gaining them third place behind ’99 I and Rob Roy I. 1950 was a year of change, not only in the name of the club as Cambridge became a City. The crew lost several older members who retired and it rowed over on all four nights.

The 1951 crew had only two members left from 1949, the cox John Fuller and Peter Jennings who rowed at seven. This crew won the Time Race and was the first CCRC crew to compete at Henley Royal Regatta beating Reading University in the first round of the Thames Cup by three-quarters of a length in 7 minutes 28 seconds. Expectation for the Bumps was high and the crew lived up to this expectation by bumping Rob Roy I and ’99 I on the first two nights, rowing over Head on the second two. The crew was Jaques, Harvey, Court, Ward, Moy, Thulborn, Jennings, Messias and Fuller. This period of success and beyond was achieved under the Club Captaincy of Dennis Baker, who was foremost in developing crews to row outside the confines of the River Cam and CRA bumping races and was encouraged to do so by Dr D G Simpson, the Club President. Not insignificant in this success was that we enjoyed the coaching of David Jennens, the then CUBC Stroke who “finished-off” the crew in ’49,’50 and ’51. In 1952 CCRC I rowed over Head. Four of this crew rowed at Henley beating RAF Benson in the first round of the Wyfold Cup.

In the post WW2 period all town crews on the Cam rowed in clinker built boats and thus performance at The Thames Head was judged against other clinker crews. The first sortie to the Tideway was in 1949. The best overall placings during that period were in the low 20s, but results were always among the better clinker crews. In 1952 the crew won the Clinker Division Pennant.