Rowing Book Talk Dives into Westminster School’s Rich Rowing History

The inaugural session of the second series of Rowing Book Talks, hosted by Leander Librarian Irene Hewlett, took place last Thursday,  March. The focus of the evening was a deep dive into the history of rowing at Westminster School, as detailed in the heavily researched book ‘In the Pink: A History of the Water at Westminster School’ by Chris Seward. Despite recently breaking his wrist, Seward was present at Leander Club, ready to share insights into his seven-year-long journey of researching and writing this comprehensive book.

While ‘In the Pink’ primarily delves into the history of the Westminster School Boat Club (WSBC), it also documents the broader history of rowing. WSBC is the oldest recorded amateur rowing club in history, with records dating back to 1813. These records, maintained in the Water Ledger by the Head of Water, provide a fascinating glimpse into the evolution of rowing practices and competitions over the centuries.

The book recounts early races, both intra-school and against rival crews from other institutions such as Leander Club. It traces the evolution of rowing equipment, from traditional fixed-seat wooden boats to the introduction of innovations like leather seat padding and sliding seats. The latter half of ‘In the Pink’ shifts focus to more recent races and follows the rowing achievements of Westminster alumni beyond their school years. Seward’s narrative style immerses readers in the excitement of rowing events, making them feel like they’re standing on the riverbank witnessing the action firsthand.

As well as being an opportunity to explore Seward’s comprehensive work, Thursday’s event also served as a platform for personal stories intertwined with rowing history, demonstrating the impact of the sport on individuals’ lives. Attendees shared anecdotes, including one attendee who recounted how a Henley Royal Regatta race detailed in the book marked a significant moment in her life – the day she met her husband.

The Rowing Book Talk series is part of Leander Club’s commitment to promoting the sport’s heritage and fostering community engagement. The next installment, featuring John Beresford, author of ‘An Olympian at War’, is scheduled for Thursday 16 May, at 7:00 p.m. Tickets are available for purchase online and include access to a buffet in Leander Club’s dining room overlooking the river. All proceeds go towards run the Leander Trust.


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