About the Club

History of Trinity College's Boat Clubs

A Few Interesting Notes

The "Trinity Boat Club" dates from 1825 and was usually called First Trinity after 1833.

The Second Trinity Boat Club was first formed in 1831, but did not have a continuous existance until 1840. The Club consisted of Scholars and friends reading for an honours degree. In those days the majority of students were reading for an "ordinary degree" and so those who were reading for honours were in the minority. Second trinity was disbanded in 1876 for lack of support but, even then, its First Boat was still in the First Division.

The Third Trinity Boat Club was formed in 1833. Membership was soon confined to those members of the college who had been to Eton or Westminster. In spite of this, in the early years, Old Etonians and Old Westminsters could join First or Second Trinity. Some were members of two Clubs. Third Trinity was an important club rivaling First Trinity.

It is interesting to note that in 1897 a "Trinity College Boat Club" was formed, so that First and Third Trinity could send combination crews to row at Henley or in other regattas.

In general, there was insufficient time between the summer races and Henley to train these crews. In 1899 a combination crew was entered for the Grand and the Stewards, but was beaten in each event, while First Trinity won the Thames. The Next year, however, the combined First and Third Trinity crew won the Thames and the Visitors.

After the Second World War, during a time of austerity, it was decided that, in 1946, to amalgamate First and Third Trinity. The thinking at that time was that it would be cheaper to send crews to Henley if the clubs were amalgamated. Also, the concept of two boat clubs in one college was out of date. The elite nature of Third trinity, whose membership was only drawn from what were the two greatest rowing schools, was criticised.

The Third trinity Boat House was next to the present Club Boat House; and was eventually sold to St. Catherine's College Boat Club.

In 1839 The Trinity Boat Club (First Trinity) won the Grand Challenge Cup in the first Henley Regatta (not made "Royal" till 1851). The crew rowed in a boat named the Black Prince. They defeated the other three entries, who were Wadham College Oxford, Braesnose College Oxford and the Oxford Etonian Club.

Crews from Trinity have won the Henley Grand Challenge Cup five times: First Trinity four times and Third Trinity once. It is amusing to note that when First Trinity won the Grand in 1854 they were stroked by H.R.M. Jones, an Etonian member of Third Trinity who was made a "temporary member" of First Trinity for the summer.

The 1849 Boat Race was an extremely fine race won by Cambridge. All the members of the crew were from Trinity: seven from Third trinity and two, including the cox, from First Trinity.

Last century Trinity dominated Cambridge rowing and on some occasions the Clubs combined to make up crews to win races against the rest of the university.

In 1889 the first six boats on the river at the conclusion of the May Races were Third Trinity, First Trinity, Trinity Hall, Pembroke, Caius and Jesus. The successes of Third and first Trinity were celebrated by a joint bump supper in hall and the letting off of fireworks on the backs.

The table of results of races published in Rouse Ball's book A History of the First Trinity Boat Club, published in 1908, shows that between 1827 and 1908 there were 103 "Heads of River"; one a year until 1886 and thereaftertwo a year, when the "Lents" and "Mays" became seperate competitions. During that time crews from Trinity were "Head" on fifty-two occasions (First Trinity thirty-eight, Third Trinity twelve and Second Trinity twice). The next clubs were Trinity Hall sixteen, Jesus fifteen and Lady Margret twelve.

The years 1860 and 1861 were exceptionally successful for the college. At Henley in both years First Trinity won the Grand, the Ladies', the Visitors', and the Stewards'. Also in 1860 they came very close to winning the pairs as well! In 1865 Third Trinity won the Ladies', Stewards' and Visitors'. Crews from Trinity have won trophies at Henley many more times than any other Cambridge or Oxford College.

Crews from Trinity have won the Visitors' Cup at Henley twenty-eight times. Third trinity still holds the record for the most wins in the event, fourteen, although, having being amalgamated with First Trinity in 1946, it has not entered the event for the last fifty-one years.

It became customary quite early in the history of Cambridge rowing for First Trinity to hold a dinner after the races. In 1838 this took place at the Hoop Inn, when thirty-eight sat down for dinner. The event was ended by the arrival of the Junior Proctor, but those present did themselves well because the club paid for 47 bottles of Champagne, 12 of Sherry, 6 of Mosel and 2 of Claret, besides 6 quarts of ale and £16 14s of punch!

The first May Ball was held in 1866, a year when First Trinity was head of the river and Third Trinity second. The ball was soon established as a regular event. It was first held in the Lion Hotel and then in the Corn Exchange, before moving to Marquees on the backs. Gradually the event became known as the First and Third Trinity May Ball but, in the early years, it was managed by First Trinity, who also had the profits. By 1900 the profit was divided between the two clubs.

The amalgamation of First and Third Boat Clubs seems justified because in that year, 1946, First and Third won the Visitors' Challenge Cup at Henley and in the following year a strong crew won the Ladies Plate. The official record states "First and Third won all their races by a comfortable margin, only against Eton in the Final having to keep going hard all the way".

The Club won the Ladies Challenge Plate again in 1954 and 1967. That was the last time a college crew from either university won this event. The rules of entry have since been altered so that they are now similar to those for entry to the Grand and they allow crews to be selected from more than one club. It is unlikely that a College crew will be able to win this even in the future. In winning the "Ladies" seventeen times trinity has won more often than any other Oxford or Cambridge College.

These are a few notes of interest to members of trinity about the boat clubs which have been the most successful in either university. Compressing them so that they fill only two sides of paper is equivalent to shaking up the contents of a bottle of champagne and endeavouring to catch the contents in a sherry glass.

Michael Farrow, 28th February 1998


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