King's College Boat Club

This online exhibition is based on one using original archival material, shown to visitors to the May Bumps 2016 and 2017. That exhibition was curated by the College’s archivists and King’s College Boat Club [KCBC] members, not least Ellie Archer, Neil Paul, Olivier Sluijters and Ellen Berry.

Copyright: Many of the items shown in this exhibition are relatively modern and in copyright so we would request that you don’t copy the images without permission. We have tried to clear copyright on all items but if you have any concerns about copyright, please let us know. For contact details, please see the 'Archive Centre' link below.

The Boat House

The original King’s boat house stood next to that of Downing near to Midsummer Common. This was built in 1894 and used until 1969, when it was knocked down by the City Council in order to build the Queen Elizabeth Bridge. At this point the club moved to its present location on Logan’s Way, into a “temporary” boat house which remained in use until 2015. The new boat house was completed in early 2016 and officially opened by the Provost of King’s College on Saturday 11th June.

For an account of the circumstances which led to the “temporary” boat house see the download below the gallery.


Those readers who are not familiar with the Bumps system may benefit from visiting the Cambridge University Combined Boat Clubs (CUCBC) website and reading their explanation.

Alan Turing was part of the Second Mays boat of 1935, who won blades. He took up rowing when he returned to King’s as a Fellow in 1934. Rowing was not the only sport he enjoyed; he was later a candidate in long-distance running for the British Olympic team in 1948.

1952 was an extraordinarily successful year for the boat club, going up a net of 25 places. The Lent first boat of 1952 went up five.  Sir Adrian Cadbury (1929-2015, KC 1949) was not in the boat as he was rowing for the Blues (Cambridge University Boat Club) at this time. The Fourth Mays boat of 1952 went up a record breaking nine places, with a double overbump on one day. KCBC celebrated by burning a boat on the backs!

The Bumps are celebrated with a dinner for KCBC members and alumni, at which there are usually toasts and songs. Attendees of these dinners often had their programmes signed, sometimes with fictitious names or amusing remarks.

Queen Mary University of London (QMUL)

The relationship between King’s and QMUL dates back to the second world war when King’s hosted QMUL boat club in Cambridge. An annual commemorative race between the two clubs was then instated, to be raced alternately on the Cam and on the Thames each year. It seems this tradition ended sometime around 1977 and been reinstated several times since. The exhibit shows a photo of the race in 1973 and two letters, dated 1991 and 1992, when the captains at the time successfully reinstated the fixture. The event seems to have occurred for several consecutive years after this before ceasing again. The tradition was reinstated in January 2015 with a race on the Cam and the event was successfully repeated in the next two years.

The Women’s Boat Club

The women's boat club was formed in 1973 under the name Queen Margaret of Anjou Boat Club (QMABC). The name QMABC was dropped in 1996, and since then all King's crews since have rowed under King's College Boat Club. In 1973, Sally Millership also coxed the Men’s 2nd VIII, being prevented from coxing M1 as the Amateur Rowing Association (ARA, now British Rowing) decided mixed crews were not part of their policy (and M1 wanted to row in ARA events). The following year she became the first female member of a King’s M1 boat, shown in the photo. In 1976, Leo Sharpston and Rachael Scarth became the first King’s representatives in Cambridge University Women’s Boat Club (CUWBC) boats, both rowing for Blondie (the reserve crew of CUWBC). Rachael was CUWBC President for 1977-8, having ‘won a Blue’ (i.e. rowing for Cambridge in the annual Boat Race against Oxford) in 1977.

More recently, in 2015, Fanny Belais earned her blue competing for CUWBC in the first women’s race to be held on the Tideway (rather than at Henley).

Useful Resources - King's College Boat Club

Illumination of Queen Elizabeth I (SAC/1)
Index page to the Archive Centre's online exhibitions, which each highlight a particular aspect of the College's history.
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