During the war when rowing club activities were temporarily suspended, a few ardent Southampton oarsmen got together, and in the face of great difficulties, managed with the use of outworn equipment, to re-start competitive rowing. Calling themselves the Amalgamated Southampton Rowing Clubs, and with the assistance of servicemen on leave, racing from an old shipyard at Cobden Bridge was made possible. Their efforts proved most successful and culminated in the promotion of the regattas, which were organised with the co-operation of the Southampton Borough Council and in conjunction with what was known as “Holidays at Home” programme.
After the war it was soon obvious that many of the members wished to return to their own clubs. This resulted in a decision by the remaining “unattached” members to stay together and found a new club. A Christmas Draw was organised and the princely sum of £30 was raised, which enabled them to purchase an old boat from a Bournemouth club, and in 1945 the Southampton Amateur Rowing Club was formed.
Difficulties were immediately experienced in obtaining accommodation, but with the kind help of Southampton Borough Council, permission was granted to use the Royal Pier until its reopening. Later a fisherman’s hut at Willbrook Point was used as Head Quarters and finally a piece of land for rent at Itchen Ferry, Woolston, where the club converted two old huts into a boathouse. This was subject to a temporary licence under the Town & Count Planning Act.
Almost immediately the club became affiliated with the Hants & Dorset Rowing Association and the Amateur Rowing Association (ARA) and in 1948 they won their first race and also their first championship. By 1952 two second-hand boats had been purchased as a result of jumble sales, draws and the help of friends. In fact by this time the club was a force in rowing circles having won three championships and nearly fifty first prizes. Appreciation of this was immediately shown by the rowing association, who invited the club in 1953 to represent Hampshire & Dorset in the Desborough Eight, an event open to all amateur clubs in the country for the ‘Championship of England’. The club confirmed this confidence by winning the championship in a borrowed boat by one and a half lengths. News of this success eventually brought reward in the form of an invitation to send a crew to Henley for the Olympic Games Elimination events and also a present of a shell eight from the Winchester College Boat club.
During these years it became apparent that the adapted boat house was unsatisfactory from every point of view, being too small for the increased membership and as a temporary structure, falling short of all town planning requirements. With these factors in mind it was decided, at the expense of going without necessary equipment, too steer all financial resources into building a permanent head quarters that would do honour to Southampton and the club in particular.
It was in 1954, therefore, that a piece of ground at the corner of Sea Road and Hazel Road was purchased. By the next year members of the club, ranging from small boys to adults could be seen clearing a one time bomb site for preparation for the building operation. By the very nature of the project, however, progress was slow and spasmodic, being governed mostly by the uncertainties of voluntary labour and funding. This only can to hand by special efforts and the help of friends. Nevertheless at the beginning of 1959 the new building could be found almost complete, consisting of a social hall, committee room, kitchen, showers, ladies and gents toilets, dressing rooms and boathouse. These were mostly built by the members of the club.
As a result of the wonderful spirit which radiates throughout the club and the careful guidance of its officers, membership has risen from year to year and now stands at well over one hundred. This figure represents a cross section of every class and ethnicity of Southampton youths including the humble schoolboy, dock labourers, artisans, Oxford university students, Southampton University boat club members and many others, rowers and non rowers who are interested in the advancement of sportsmanship and who take pride in physical wellbeing and fitness.
Arthur Chatfield (Tickle)