Sir Steve Redgrave opens a new Upper Thames club house
Which is the only rowing club that actually sits on the Henley Royal Regatta course? No it’s not Leander or even Henley Rowing Club both of which are upstream of the finish, it is in fact Upper Thames Rowing Club. Founded in 1963 and originally operating out of one of the houses in Henley’s New Street, Upper Thames moved to its current site in 1968 occupying the old ‘boom sheds’ that had recently been vacated by the Regatta.
Having grown over recent years to accommodate increased novice, junior and women’s membership the club found itself in 2005 with many more members than its aging facilities would accommodate, despite the completion that year of a new boat shed.
Skip forward a few years, and Sunday 20 September 2009 saw the official opening of Upper Thames new club house by Sir Steve Redgrave CBE. With numerous rowing luminaries in attendance including national coach Jurgen Grobbler and HRR Chairman Mike Sweeny; Sir Steve talked about how Upper Thames had provided him with many happy rowing memories, as competition while a junior, a base for his Liverpool squad and as a happy, accommodating venue to relax in later on, not to mention a handy landmark.
Designed by Stroud & Burley Architects and built by HiLife Construction the new club house is a testament to the hard work of numerous volunteers’ especially former chairman Mike Green and Henley winner Jim Birkett, plus all the members of the Upper Thames committee under the leadership of current Chairman Steve Dance. Steve very single-mindedly raised over half of the £1m plus needed to complete the building. His attention to detail and persistence attracted grants from South Oxfordshire District Council and Sport England, without which the building would not have gone ahead.
Talking about the challenge Steve said, “This is without a doubt a major undertaking and a very steep learning curve for any club. Early on we realised we would have to raise substantial sums from external sources so I am extremely grateful for all the help that the ARA have provided, especially Alan Meegan, Simon Dickie and Sarah Birch who have helped us through the often complicated processes needed for the various grant applications.”
The club President and founder Peter Sutherland also played his part attracting significant private donations to the project while club members donated generous sums and held a variety of fund raising events.
Sitting approximately 600m from the Regatta finish the new building comprises a weights room and sculling bays downstairs with new women’s changing facilities, bar, kitchen and club room upstairs. The club intends to use the club room for mixed use, its size can accommodate 120 for a sit down dinner and is ideal for day time conference or seminar use. The club will also let out the facility for community use while the club room will also be used as a gym and ergo space.
With the club now putting out up to 200 oarsmen and women most weekends, including over 50 juniors, Upper Thames is proud to have created a building that will allow oarsmen and women at all levels to thrive well into the future.
To find out more about Upper Thames please visit their website