The Boat Race is a British sporting institution – and we’re lucky enough to get front row seats every year here at Winchester House! Our gardens boast fantastic views over the Thames, so guests at Winchester House can soak up the sun as they cheer on their favourite team.
The annual race between the university rowing teams of Oxford and Cambridge has been going since 1829; it only stopped for a brief time during the First and Second World Wars. In fact, the race has become so well-known in popular culture that it inspired the Cockney rhyming slang ‘boat race’ – for ‘face’.
The race came about because two friends from Harrow School, Charles Wordsworth (nephew of the poet William Wordsworth), of Christ Church College, Oxford, and Charles Merrivale of St. John’s, Cambridge, met during the holidays in Cambridge, where Wordsworth’s father was master of Trinity.
Wordsworth went rowing on the Cam, and the two school fellows decided to set up a challenge. On 10th February 1829, a meeting of CUBC requested Mr. Snow of St John’s to write immediately to Mr. Staniforth of Christ Church stating that, “the University of Cambridge hereby challenge the University of Oxford to row a match at or near London, each in an eight-oared boat during the ensuing Easter vacation.” Thus, the Boat Race we know and love was born!
The course covers a 4.2 mile stretch of the Thames in West London, running from Putney, where we’re located, to Mortlake. Every year, over 250,000 people watch the race from the banks of the river, with another 15 million glued to their TV screens as they watch the action unfold.