The first Downing College Boathouse
Downing College Boat Club was formed in 1863, when the College had just fourteen undergraduates. With no boathouse of their own, they rowed from Charles Waite’s boathouse.
In 1893, the owner of the Cutter Ferry Estate, on which Waite’s boathouse stood, died. Reverend J. C. Saunders, Downing alumnus (1869) and Fellow, who had also recently become President of the Boat Club, unexpectedly bought the plot of land including the boatyard for £240. After purchasing the land, Saunders and others launched an appeal in 1894 for a further £650 to build a boathouse.
The new boathouse, converted from the existing building, was opened in May Week 1895. Although Downing’s Boat Club did not find success on the river so quickly, they finally had a permanent home. Saunders was President of the Boat Club until his death in 1931. He had conveyed the land to the College on 31 December 1895, subject to a rent of £9 per year for the lives of himself and his wife. It is thanks to him that the College owns the land on which its boathouse stands.
A new Boathouse
The Boat House Centenary Trust was established in 1995, 100 years after the opening of the original College boathouse, to "educate and assist young persons attending Downing College in the skills and practice of the sport of rowing". After more than five years of planning, fundraising and construction, the current building was opened in 2001, thanks to the generous support of more than 240 Downing men and women at all levels.
Today, Downing College Boat Club are consistently one of the most successful clubs on the Cam, with both men’s and women’s 1st VIIIs in the top five of the Lents and Mays since 2011. Several other VIIIs are fielded every year, allowing for a variety of levels of ability and commitment, and a thriving social scene. The club is hugely indebted to its alumni, who continue to provide financial support and return to coach year upon year. They epitomise the DCBC spirit – a perfect example of just how important the club is to its members, both old and new.
Further information on the history of Downing College Boat Club and recent successes can be found on the DCBC website.
Cambridge Rowing Tank
The Cambridge Rowing Tank opened in January 2018, and is situated in the Boathouse at Downing College Boat Club. The tank is the first in East Anglia and one of only a handful in the UK.
The project has taken two years from initial concept to opening and the cost has been met entirely by philanthropic giving. The Tank can accommodate eight athletes rowing, one behind the other, as in a rowing eight. It can be used either for rowing or sculling. It comprises two 50 feet pools, each holding around ten tonnes of water. Eight video cameras and two 65" high definition TV screens allow the athletes to watch themselves while they row.
The tank is open to all rowing clubs and schools in Cambridge and beyond. For more information and for details of how to book a session, see the Cambridge Rowing Tank website.