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The club's founders in 1884 chose the very best sailing location on the Upper Thames.

David Frost, a long-standing club member, Rater sailor, and keen historian, wrote a history of the club for the 130th anniversary in 2014, shown in full below. The article includes links to film of sailing at UTSC in the 1920s!

1884 - 2014

The Upper Thames Sailing Club was founded on the 18th October 1884, the inaugural meeting being held at the Ray Mead Hotel near Boulter's Lock, Maidenhead. Although little is known of this historic occasion, the first flag officers were Sir Roger Palmer, Commodore, Charles Hammersley, Vice Commodore, Colonel Fitzroy Clayton, Rear Commodore and Mr A A Wood as Secretary. The club attracted 50 members in the first year.

In 1887, three years after the founding of the club, Queen Victoria celebrated her Golden Jubilee. Upper Thames decided to commemorate this event with a regatta, held over the course of one week in June. Bourne End Week had arrived. In those days the event had considerable prestige, ranked almost with Ascot and Henley between which two events it was neatly sandwiched.

First Clubhouse

The first clubhouse was built at Townsend's Wharf, some 200 yards downstream from the present site and described as "commodious and nicely furnished having a good view from the balcony". By 1889, however, the members were feeling cramped and at the Annual General Meeting held in February 1890 it was announced that a piece of land had been purchased and that the club intended to build a large new club house. Upper Thames was going from strength to strength:

The new building was ready for Bourne End Week and was described as a "pretty structure situated between the Ferry Hotel (now the Spade Oak) and the old headquarters". There was a clubroom, 34ft by 17ft, an additional men's room, a bedroom, a sail room and balcony. A tennis lawn was promised for a later date although no more was heard of this scheme. The architect was Mr Vernon and the builder Mr CW Hunt, both of High Wycombe.

In 1893 HRH the Duke of Connaught, third son of Queen Victoria, accepted the Presidency of Upper Thames Sailing Club and in the same year the Queen presented to the club a challenge cup for the First Class Boats. Whilst such "Queen's Cups" are not unusual among the coastal-based "Royal" sailing and yacht clubs, Upper Thames is believed to be unique in that it is the only inland club to be so honoured.

The 1920s

Regatta days in 1926

In 1925 two additional plots of land adjoining the north western boundary of the club were purchased for £300; on these now stands the Fury boathouse presented by Scott Freeman in memory of his son, following a tragic accident; 'Fury' being Robert Freeman's beloved International 14. Also in this year a telephone was installed at a cost of 25/-.

Throughout 1929 the question of an electricity supply to the club was discussed. The initial approach from the Western Electricity Supply Co. who were offering us a reduced instalment fee and price per unit as an incentive to be able to cross our property with poles and lines for adjoining properties. After some discussion the committee decided the club did not require electricity and refused permission for the proposed lines. 1929 also saw the first House Committee, under the guidance of the secretary. The new Steward 'Mills' was installed and Mrs Newbigin, wife of the Vice Commodore, revived the old practice of displaying tubs of flowers on the lawn. The question of renting additional land for Car parking was turned down as it was thought that an annual rent of £10 was excessive!

Thames A Rater Video from British Pathe

Queens Cup 1923Queens Cup 1926Queens Cup 1929BEW 1933
Queens Cup 1923Queens Cup 1926Queens Cup 1929Bourne End Week 1933

The 1930s

In 1933 it was decided to make some improvements to the club buildings, particularly to improve the lot of the ladies and also to provide a committee room. The work was done by Percy White of Staines who put up the Fury at the same time.

Gig sailing at UTSC1933 saw the first instance of camping during Bourne End Week, the precursor of Sin City. Beecher Moore, owner of Vagabond (A Rater) and at that time an impoverished student, had applied for permission to erect a bell tent on the lawn. Permission was granted but the following year the committee decided that this practice could not continue; arrangements were made, however, for camp beds to be put up in the new boathouse.

In 1934 the committee once more debated the question of electric light, again deciding that such new fangled inventions were not for them. The committee continued to discuss the question of electric lighting and in 1938 they finally went ahead.

In 1939 the Common Furniture Beetle invaded the club house. Luckily the infestation did not prove too severe and, once the commodore had provided himself with a report from the department of Scientific & Industrial Research on methods of eradicating the beetle, the insects really did not stand a chance.

The 1940s and 1950s

In 1945 the purchase of land for a car park came up, and finally an agreement was reached. The cost of the land was £300, an investment which has repaid itself in convenience many times over.

Throughout the 1950s the committee continued to maintain the fabric of the club and improve its facilities. Whenever additional land adjoining the car park became available it was purchased, usually through the generosity of Scott Freeman. In 1955 a strip of land connecting the car park and the club lawn was purchased and a railway foot crossing was established, although it would not be until 1968 that permission for a gate wide enough for boat access would be granted.

The 1960s

Throughout the 1960s it seemed to have been agreed that the club would not last another decade, therefore only the absolute basic necessity in maintenance was under taken. Thankfully at the AGM in 1965 a full structural survey was completed and did not "forecast an early collapse". It was agreed it would be a great pity to exchange a building of character, on an attractive sailing reach, for something "utilitarian and ugly". Fifty years later we can only be thankful that the threat to the club never materialised. In 1969 work started on the refurbishing of the club house - the club was completely re decorated and a new bar fitted on permanent loan from the brewery, Wethereds.

Since the 1960s

In the following years Upper Thames continued to purchase additional land Sin City was purchased ensuring camping for all at the ever-popular Bourne End Week. Upper Thames Way was opened to allow access from Spade Oak whilst maintaining access through the Abbott's Brook estate, more recently the club has purchased a further plot of land around Sin City.

Upper Thames has never been the sort of club where the members arrive, sail their boats and go straight home. From the earliest days, when visiting yachtsmen were entertained to a champagne luncheon at the first regatta, there has been as much emphasis on good fellowship and a high standard of hospitality as on good sailing and a high standard of sportsmanship. Looking back, it seems almost inevitable that Upper Thames should have been the organising spirit of the SBA sailing week: the setting of the club, its sailing waters and "commodious" club house, but above all the willingness of the members to share their good fortune with their guests, and to take pains to ensure their enjoyment both on and off the water, has led to a reputation second to none.

Last updated 23:01 on 16 February 2024

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