The club was founded in the 1877 to represent the University as a whole. At the time only the College boat clubs, University College Boat Club and Hatfield College Boat Club represented the university in rowing . The team's colour is Palatinate - a shade of purple that is specific to the City of Durham. The colour is derived from that worn by the Prince Bishop of Durham's armies and is commonly used by all University Sports Teams.
In 1989 the DUBC Freshman Squad was established, and since then Durham's reputation for taking novice athletes to International standard competitors has continued to grow .
One of the clubs earliest and best known coaches was Eric Halladay. He was involved in Durham University Rowing from the 1960s through to just before his death in 1997, and coached Geoff Potts to win the first ever World Rowing Championships in Lucerne lightweight race and finish 4th overall in 1974.
In 2001, Durham University Women's Boat Club merged with Durham University Boat Club (then all male) to form DUBC.
Before merging, DUBC had been operating out of Newcastle University Boat Club on the South Side of the Tyne at Newburn, and DUWBC had operated out of Tyne Rowing Club on the opposite side of the river. The merged club began to operate solely out of Tyne RC, but in summer 2009 switched to Tyne United RC on the southern bank of the river with the opening of a new boathouse and storage sheds.
The Club also has a new boathouse facility on the River Wear in Durham, the Robert Gillespie Boathouse which was opened in 2012 and includes an Ergo gallery and indoor rowing tank .
In recent years the club has gone through a period of sustained success. At the Head of the River Races the club has consistently been placed in the upper ranks of UK and International University crews. At the Men's Head of the River Race the 1st VIII won the Ortner Shield (for Universities) in 2005 and finished 10th overall. In 2008 the men came in 6th, achieving the best ever position achieved by DUBC at the Men's Head of the River Race.
The Northumbrian University Boat Race has been held since 1997 and is an annual challenge between the Universities of Durham and Newcastle, in a similar vein to the Oxbridge Boat Race. The event is held annually on the River Tyne in central Newcastle-upon-Tyne in May. The event has been traditionally dominated by Durham who have won eight out of twelve competitions, with Newcastle University overall winners for the first time in 2009.
Previous athletes from the club have competed at the U23 World Rowing Championships, Senior World Rowing Championships and other International Competitions. Athletes from the club have achieved medals at both Senior and U23 World Championships.