The first boathouse was jointly rented with Shrewsbury School on the site of the present school boathouse, but clearly designated "Pengwern Boat House" in a contemporary photograph. The name Pengwern was chosen as a Shrewsbury Rowing Club then existed, but was short-lived, being last recorded in 1876.
Although pleasure boating was then a substantial part of Pengwern activities, competitive rowing also featured and 15 wins were gained in 1876. This was largely due to the recent employment as “trainer” of Mr Tom Hoare, who was the youngest ever winner of the Thames National Coat and Badge in 186l. His crew were the first winners of the West of England Challenge Vase for coxed fours in 1877. The Club own his Coat and Badge, donated by his parents.
The present site of Pengwern's clubhouse was purchased in 1880. The following year a new 3-storey "half-timbered" clubhouse was completed, still the centre part of the existing building, generally accepted as being virtually unrivalled architecturally, and having a superb position opposite the Quarry Park (the site of the famous Shrewsbury Flower Show).
In those days, rowing was a summer activity only, but in 1881 a Football Club was formed, which eventually became the Shrewsbury Amateur Football Club, now Shrewsbury Town FC. For many ears thereafter, there was a close bond between the clubs, with members in both camps.
By 1892, there were 293 registered members - all male, as it was a male-only sport then. Pengwern first competed at Henley Royal Regatta soon after the First World War, and events entered in some subsequent years have included the Diamond Sculls (for single scullers), Wyfolds (for club-level coxless-fours), and Thames Cup (club Eights).
Junior members (under 21) were admitted for the first time in 1929, and in the 1936 regatta there was the first event for eights.
The same year also witnessed the institution of the “Head of the Severn” - one of the earliest head of the river events. Due to frequent floods and other practicalities, this was discontinued in the l990's
There was little rowing in the First World War, but during the Second a “Services Regatta” was organised. At this time close contact was maintained with serving members, via Christmas cards enclosing gifts from the “Comfort Fund“ - as much as ten shillings in 1944 - no mean sum then! The Roll of Honour in the clubhouse records the names of 29 WWI and 9 WWII members killed in these conflicts.
The 1950's were successful years competitively, producing wins in the 1954 West of England Challenge Vase, and the National ARA Championships for the same IV. This should have qualified them for selection as the GB coxed IV in that year's Commonwealth Games, but a controversial trial was engineered, during which one of the Pengwern crews was ill. There were also highly placed crews in head of the river races during this period.
In the early 1970's, activity dwindled, but was revived when the constitution was changed to allow the admission of women members. Since then the Club has continued to flourish, with numbers of men and women being approximately equal, and in recent years junior membership has substantially increased. This in turn has led to the Club being approved to administer “Project Oarsome” with two local State schools, so we now possess a fleet of boats specifically for juniors, and there are over 50 junior members.
Recent honours achieved by club members include Matt Akers, who coxed Oxford Brookes University to victory in the Temple Cup at Henley, and subsequently has represented GB on the continent. Perhaps the most noteworthy is Stephanie Price, who was selected for the Junior GB Quad at the World Championships at Strathclyde in 1996 and this quad narrowly missed out on a medal in the final. The Club's 125th Anniversary was celebrated with a memorable Dinner in 1996 when Steve Redgrave and Matthew Pinsent were the chief guests.
The annual Shrewsbury Regatta is organised by Pengwern, and is held over two days on the second weekend in May, each day attracting more than 200 entries to 1000 metres and 600 metres courses on Saturday and Sunday respectively. The regatta is particularly spectator-friendly with unrestricted views of the last 600 metres from the clubhouse balcony.
Gerald Lindner is researching Pengwern's history with the aim of writing a comprehensive account. He would appreciate any information, anecdotes, photographs, cuttings Regatta programmes etc from ex-members, competitors, relatives and others. All documents and photographs will be returned upon request. Please contact him by email: firstname.lastname@example.org, or by snailmail: Powys House, Ruyton-XI-Towns, Shrewsbury SY4 1LA. Tel.no. 01939 260666.
Pengwern Boat Club,
Kingsland, Shrewsbury, Shropshire, SY3 7BD
Tel: 01743 362196 Email the Secretary