Memories of Bath’s boat race

A silver goblet bearing – in relief – a little bit of Bath’s water-born history has just sold at auction for £1550 – double the estimated price.

It would be nice to think that this 7 in Victorian chased silver goblet – with marks for Exeter and RW, JW & JW for a Bristol family of silversmiths – was actually bought by someone local.

It’s worked to the stem in relief with creeping vines and the bowl carries a tranquil rowing scene and a shield reading Bath Regatta 1849 City Cup.

My thanks to friend Stephen for spotting this auction sale – reported in the Antique Trade Gazette this month.

The Saltford Environment Group website –

“In July 1849 the Bath Regatta was first held at Saltford on the “Saltford Straight”; Saltford subsequently became the home of the Bath Regatta. As far as we can tell rowing races had been held on the river in Bath in previous years but Saltford was the first home for the “Bath Regatta”.

The committee set up to organise the regatta held their first meeting in May 1849; this and the reasons why Saltford was chosen was recorded in the Bath Chronicle.”

The Bath Chronicle, 17th May 1849:-

We understand that the committee held their first meeting on Monday last… …it was decided that the regatta should this year be held at Saltford, in consequences of the superiority of the water near that place for aquatic amusement, and the facility of access afforded by the Great Western Railway station, at Saltford, being immediately contiguous to the starting place for the boats.

Mr. Jones, of Kelston, who rents land adjoining the river, has kindly placed it at the disposal of the committee. We hope that our fellow-citizens will come forward with their subscriptions to further this healthy and manly amusement.

The oldest photo the Group has on the regatta is dated 1898 – by which time it had been renamed the Saltford Regatta.

Saltford offered a mile long stretch of the river which would allow for a straight run with room on the bank for spectators and Saltford Railway Station nearby! The event was followed by a celebratory dinner at the Castle and Ball Hotel. Who knows where that was?

In his letter to me Stephen says: ” I wonder if , when this pandemic is out of the way, there might be a re-enactment of the event?”

Well, with Bath taking more interest now in its watery asset maybe we can bring back this boat race.