Brasenose College Boat Club

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College Boat Clubs of the University of Oxford
Brasenose College Boat Club
Rowing Blade Black.svg
Brasenose boathouse (right) and rowing blade colours
Established terminus ante quem 1815
Head of the River – Men 1815, 1816, 1822, 1827, 1839, 1840, 1845, 1846, 1852-54, 1865-67, 1876, 1888-91, 1928-31
Location River Thames (known in Oxford as the Isis)
Sister college Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge
Senior Member Prof. Guy Houlsby[1]
Men's Captain Ed Matthews[1]
Women's Captain Becky Dawes[1]

Brasenose College Boat Club (BNCBC) is the rowing club of Brasenose College, Oxford, in Oxford, England. It is one of the oldest boat clubs in the world, having beaten Jesus College Boat Club in the first modern rowing race, held at Oxford in 1815. Rowing at schools such as Eton and Westminster School Boat Club predates this.[2] In addition to the 1815 "headship", the club has won both the Summer Eights and Torpids headship many times, and has recorded numerous victories in most events at the Henley Royal Regatta.

The club's colours are black and gold, with black blades. The 1st VIII, however, may wear the distinctive "Childe of Hale" colours — red, purple and gold — which are traditional in Brasenose rowing.[3]


Brasenose has a long history on the water. One of the forebears of the current first boat raced in the very first Henley Regatta in 1839.[4] BNCBC won the Visitors' at Henley in 1851 (the first "Royal" Regatta) rowing as "Childe of Hale Boat Club" in an attempt to hide their identities. In 1868 the stroke, W. B. "Guts Woodgate", of the BNCBC Stewards' Cup entry told the cox to jump out of the boat immediately after the start of the race. The crew went on to win the race but the umpire disqualified the crew. Five years later, the Regatta Stewards changed the event to one for coxless fours, with BNC crews going on to record legal wins in the event.

In 1846 Oxford University Boat Club gave up their barge and this was then used by Brasenose for many years.[5]

The beginnings of competitive rowing[edit]

A river scene, with two eight-oared boats racing in the middle of the river, one just in front of the other. There are crowds on each bank and some sailing boats and barges by the far bank. In the distance, trees and church spires.
A print of eights racing at Oxford in 1822, thought to depict the Brasenose College boat

The first record of a rowing race in Oxford dates to 1815, with a race between Brasenose College and Jesus College on the Isis, which the Brasenose crew won.[6]

In the early days of Oxford college rowing, these two colleges were the only crews competing, and were joined shortly thereafter by Christ Church[6] and Exeter. Students would row to the inn at Sandford-on-Thames, a few miles south of Oxford, and race each other on the way back. The races would start at Iffley Lock and finish at King's Barge, off Christ Church Meadow. Flags hoisted on the barge would indicate the finishing order of the crews. Crews would set off one behind the other, the trailing boat(s) trying to catch, or "bump", the boat ahead.[6] The bumped boat and the bumping boat would then drop out and the bumping boat would start the next day's race ahead of the bumped boat. The aim was to become the lead boat, known as Head of the River. For identification, crews wore college colours and emblazoned the rudder of the boat with the college coat of arms.

A man wearing a purple and yellow neckerchief and jersey, and a black and yellow hat, under flag showing a complicated shield on a yellow background
An 1840s depiction of Brasenose college's rowing outfit

In 1822, crews from Jesus and Brasenose raced each other to become Head of the River. One Brasenose rower apparently "caught a crab", slowing the boat. The Brasenose boat was bumped by the Jesus boat, but then began to row again and finished ahead. As there were no definite rules in those days, both the Jesus and Brasenose men competed over which college's flag should be hoisted to denote the Headship. One of the Brasenose crew ended the dispute by saying "Quot homines tot sententiae, different men have different opinions, some like leeks and some like onions", referring to the leek emblem on the Jesus oars, and it was agreed to row the race again. The Brasenose crew won the rematch, and the incident has been said to be shown in an 1822 picture, the earliest depiction of an eights race at Oxford, painted by I. T. Serres (Marine Painter to George IV).[7]

To this day, Brasenose and Jesus Men's 1st VIIIs compete in an annual race on the Isis for the 1815 Challenge Plate.

"Childe of Hale"[edit]

A wooden statue of the Childe of Hale, John Middleton

John Middleton, the "Childe of Hale," was a 17th-century giant, standing over nine feet tall, from Hale in Lancashire. He accompanied his landlord, Sir Gilbert Ireland, to the court of James I, where he took on the King's champion wrestler and won. Sir Gilbert, later Lord of the Manor of Hale, was a member of Brasenose College at the time, and he brought Middleton to College on his return from court, where two life–size portraits were painted of him wearing his "London costume" - a fantastic outfit of red, purple and gold. When, in 1815, the students came to establish a Boat Club, it was this story and tradition that was used as inspiration. The Childe of Hale has since been a role model for generations of rowers and a portrait still hangs in the college.

By tradition, the First VIII is now called "The Childe of Hale," and the First VIII wears the colours of the Childe's London costume — red, purple and gold. This follows an older tradition where each new boat would be given a name.[3]

Henley Royal Regatta[edit]

In the first Henley Regatta of 1839, Brasenose competed in the only race, the Grand Challenge, against two other Oxford boats (the Etonian Club and Wadham) and First Trinity, Cambridge. It is recorded that:

The Etonian Club were dressed in white guernseys with pale blue facings, rosette sky blue. Brasenose had blue striped guernseys, blue cap with gold tassel, rosette yellow, purple and crimson. Wadham wore white guernseys with narrow blue stripes, dark blue cap with light blue velvet band, and light blue scarf, and Trinity College were attired in blue striped guernseys, rosette French Blue.

Brasenose destroyed any chance of successful competing by rowing down from Oxford and arriving the day before the race. The race was won by First Trinity, Cambridge.[8]

Brasenose competed again in 1846, 1847 (winning the Ladies Plate beating First Trinity, Cambridge),[9] 1851 (winning the Ladies Plate beating Christ Church),[10] 1861 (win the Wyfold and Silver Goblets),[11] 1862 (win the Stewards' Cup, Silver Goblets and Visitors' Cup),[11] 1863 (Silver Goblets and Visitors' Cup),[11] 1864, 1865, 1867, 1868 (win the Silver Goblets),[12] 1869, 1871, 1874, 1876, 1877, 1878, 1882 (win the Visitors' Cup), 1888 (win the Visitor's Cup),[13] 1890

Brasenose has won a number of championships at the Henley Royal Regatta, including the Diamond Challenge Sculls five times; the Stewards' Challenge Cup twice (in which Brasenose College Boat Club invented the coxless four; see details below); the Ladies' Challenge Plate three times; the Silver Goblets and Nickalls' Challenge Cup six times; the Visitors Challenge Cup five times; the Wyfold Cup once;[14] and the Thames Challenge Cup; in addition to winning the Grand Challenge Cup in composites with Leander Club several times in a row in the 1890s. Brasenose won the Ladies Plate a further time in 1920 when they beat Magdalen College, Oxford.

More recently, Brasenose College Boat Club gave 1994 Temple Challenge Cup winners Imperial College their closest race of the regatta.

Wins at Henley Royal Regatta

Year Race Crew members
1847 Ladies Plate D. Jones (bow), P. Earle, J. Oldham, J.A. Ogle, F.C. Royds, W.H. Smith, G.R. Winter, T.W. Nowell, R.H. Knight (cox)[9]
1851 Ladies Plate O.K. Prescott (bow), P.H. Moore, H. Barton, W. Houghton, J.J. Hornby, J.L. Errington, K. Prescott, R. Greenall, St.J. Balguy (cox)[10]
1920 Ladies Plate D.C. Bennett (bow), W.P. Mellen, A.R. Armitage, J.G. Mower-White, W.T. Lindesay, P.R. Wace, E.S. Collie, E.D. Wetton, F.L. Garton (cox)
1861 Wyfold Cup R. Shepard (bow), W.C. Harris, W. Champneys, W.B. Woodgate, C.I Parkin (cox)[11]
1861 Silver Goblets W Champneys, W.B. Woodgate[11]
1862 Stewards' Cup W.C. Harris(bow), R. Shepherd, W. Champneys, W.B. Woodgate, C.I. Parkin (cox)[11]
1862 Visitors' Cup W.C. Harris(bow), R. Shepherd, W. Champneys, W.B. Woodgate, E.G.R. Parr (cox)[11]
1862 Silver Goblets W Champneys, W.B. Woodgate[11]
1863 Silver Goblets W.B. Woodgate, R. Shepherd[11]
1863 Visitors' Cup W.C. Harris(bow), D. Pocklington, R. Shepherd, W.B. Woodgate, F.J. Huyshe (cox)[11]
1864 Diamond Challenge Sculls W.B. Woodgate[11]
1867 Diamond Challenge Sculls W.C. Crofts[15]
1867 Diamond Challenge Sculls W.C. Crofts[15]
1868 Silver Goblets W.C. Crofts, W.B. Woodgate[12]
1869 Diamond Challenge Sculls W.C. Crofts[12]
1877 Diamond Challenge Sculls T C Edwards-Moss[16]
1878 Diamond Challenge Sculls T.C. Edwards-Moss[16]
1882 Visitors' Cup A.W. Arkle (bow), E.L. Puxley, R.A. Baillie, P.Y. Gowlland[16]
1888 Visitors' Cup W.C. Kent (bow), W.F.C. Holland, H.R. Parker, L. Frere[13]

Invention of the coxless four[edit]

Walter Bradford Woodgate was larger than life. He once wagered he could walk the fifty-seven miles from Stones Chop House in London's Panton Street (near Leicester Square) to Brasenose in time for breakfast.[17] The leading oarsman of his age, he won eleven Henley titles in the 1860s, including three in two days in 1862, when he narrowly missed a fourth victory after dead-heating the final of the Diamonds. In a cause celebre, he introduced the coxless IV to this country, when he got his Brasenose cox, Frederic Weatherly (later a well-known lawyer and writer of the song "Danny Boy"), to jump overboard at the Henley start in 1868. While Weatherley narrowly escaped strangulation by the water lilies, Woodgate and his home-made steering device triumphed by 100 yards and were promptly disqualified. At Oxford the Reverend Woodgate's son earned pocket money by writing sermons. As a fresh-faced Brasenose freshman, he appeared as Lady Barbara in the College play, partook liberally of the wine and four kinds of punch at dinner afterwards, woke in his petticoats, and attended chapel with the rouge still on his cheeks. And two years later he founded Vincent's Club, "an elite social club of the picked hundred of the University, selected for all round qualities; social, physical and intellectual".[18]

A special Prize for four-oared crews without coxswains was offered at the regatta in 1869 when it was won by the Oxford Radleian Club and when Stewards’ became a coxless race in 1873, Woodgate “won his moral victory,” the Rowing Almanack later recalled. “Nothing but defeating a railway in an action at law could have given him so much pleasure.”[19]

Brasenose and "Childe of Hale Boat Club" went on to record legitimate victories in the event.

Modern history[edit]

A women's boat club was established with the admission of women undergraduates in 1974. The Women's VIII won blades in 2001 and is now competing with the best colleges, winning blades consecutively in Eights 2008 and Torpids 2009. Blues from OUWBC now join the list of College members to represent the University against Cambridge.


Brasenose holds the record for most consecutive headships in Torpids.

In the Summer Eights Brasenose held headship in the following years:

  • 1815, 1816, 1822, 1827, 1839, 1840, 1845, 1846, 1852–54, 1865–67, 1876, 1888–91, 1928-31.

The Childe of Hale (M1) made a strong bid to regain the headship in the 1990s, bumping as high as second on the river in Torpids and fourth on the river in Summer Eights.

Notable people[edit]

Brasenose has a rich tradition of representation in The Boat Race and in the other Oxford-Cambridge races. Below are the names of Brasenose students past and present who have won "blues" or colours competing for OUBC and the other university boats.

Past rowers include C.W. Kent, called the greatest stroke in the world in the 1890s,[20] and BNCBC member Andrew Lindsay who was part of the Great Britain Olympic 8 that won gold at the 2000 Summer Olympics.[21]

Walter Woodgate, Boat Race winner, eight-time Henley champion and inventor of the coxless four
OUBC Blue Boat Isis (OUBC reserves) OULRC Blue Boat Nephthys (OULRC reserves) OUWBC OUWLRC

M.P. Plotkowiak (2007, 2009) J.W. Scrogin (2004) D.B. Perkins (2002) Andrew Lindsay (1997, 1998, 1999) R. Blanda (1997) R.H. Manners (1993) J.O.B. Sewall (1961) E.V. Vine (1954, 1955) E.C.B. Hammond (1953) W.J.H. Leckie (1949) W.W. Woodward (1948) John Cherry (1936, 1937, 1938) S.R.C. Wood (1936) R.W. Holdsworth (1931, 1933, 1934) R.A.J. Poole (1931, 1932) C.M. Johnston (1930, 1931, 1932) J. de R. Kent (1932) G.M.L. Smith (1931) A. Graham (1929) J.C. Morphett (1929) Sir J.H. Croft (1926, 1927, 1928) H.C. Morphett (1928) G.H. Crawford (1926) G.J. Mower-White (1923, 1924, 1925) W.P. Mellen (1923) P.R. Wace (1923) N. Field (1910) H.C. de J. du Vallon (1901) H.R.K. Pechell (1896, 1897, 1898) W. Burton Stewart (1894, 1895) J.A. Ford (1892, 1893) C.W. Kent (1891) F. Wilkinson (1891) W.F.C. Holland (1887, 1888 1889, 1890) H.R. Parker (1887, 1888, 1889) L. Frere (1888) F.J. Humphreys (1884, 1885) E.L. Puxley (1883) R.H.J. Poole (1880, 1881) H.P. Marriott (1875, 1876, 1877, 1878, 1879) T C Edwards-Moss (1875, 1876, 1877, 1878) J.P. Way (1874) H.W. Benson (1874) M.G. Farrer (1873) J.M. Clintock-Bunbury (1871)[22] F. Crowder (1866, 1867)[22] D. Pocklington (1864)[22] R. Shepherd (1863) W.B. Woodgate (1862) W. Champneys (1861)[22] H.F. Baxter (1859, 1860)[22] W. Houghton (1849, 1852)[22] R. Greenall (1852)OUBC President[22] K. Prescot (1852)[22] J.J. Hornby (1849) F.C. Royds (1847, 1848) OUBC President[22] G.R. Winter (1847, 1848) OUBC President[22] J. Oldham (1847)[22] F.E. Tuke (1845) OUBC President J.J. Somers-Cocks (1841) G. Meynell (1840,1841) W. Lea (1841) E. Royds (1840, 1841) W.B. Garnett (1840)[23] J.J. Somers-Cocks (1840) R.G. Walls (1839, 1840)

T. Watson (2011,2012) J.L. Carlson (Cox, 2010) E.P. Newman (2010) A.N. Keats (2005) T.H. Baker (2001) T.J. Whitaker (1993) K.W. Kobach (1991, 1992) E.M. Martin (1983, 1984)

V. Stulgis (Cox, 2012) J.L. Carlson (Cox, 2011) M. Neve (2010) B. Bell (1998) D. Brocklebank (1997) J. Bailey (1995) D. Bridges (1995) R. Weeks (1944) D. Long (1990) D. Horner (1989) P. Drew (1988) W. O’Chee (1987) J. Hawkins (1986) J. Kirwan (1986)

T. Gunter (2012) H. Engel (2007) O. Gilmore (2002)

Sara Williams (1976)

Dom Shields (1998) Roma Backhouse (1993) Sarah Phipps (1993) Karen Ball (1992)



  1. ^ a b c "Oxford University Rowing Clubs: Brasenose". Oxford University Rowing Clubs (OURCs). Retrieved 12 March 2013. 
  2. ^ "Westminster School Boat Club History". Retrieved 12 March 2013. 
  3. ^ a b (Sherwood, p. 98)
  4. ^ (Sherwood, p. 71)
  5. ^ (Sherwood, p. 92)
  6. ^ a b c (Sherwood, p. 8)
  7. ^ (Sherwood, p. 10)
  8. ^ (Sherwood, p. 306)
  9. ^ a b (Sherwood, p. 311)
  10. ^ a b (Sherwood, p. 314)
  11. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k (Sherwood, pp. 320–322)
  12. ^ a b c (Sherwood, p. 326)
  13. ^ a b (Sherwood, p. 337)
  14. ^ (Buchan, p. 115)
  15. ^ a b (Sherwood, p. 324)
  16. ^ a b c (Sherwood, pp. 331–334)
  17. ^ "Crabbing at Henley". Henley Standard. July 5, 2010. Retrieved 12 March 2013. 
  18. ^ "Vincent's Club". Retrieved 12 March 2013. 
  19. ^ The Rowing Almanack And Oarsman's Companion. 1921. pp. 148–149. 
  20. ^ "Leander Club". Retrieved 12 March 2013. 
  21. ^ "Profile: Andrew Lindsay". Retrieved 12 March 2013. 
  22. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k (Buchan, pp. 102–107)
  23. ^ (Sherwood, p. 22)


External links[edit]