Durham Regatta

By Amy Brown,
durham regatta

The Regatta History

The Durham Regatta, with origins dating back to 1815, is steeped in history and tradition. Initially established as an annual boat procession to commemorate the Duke of Wellington’s victory at the Battle of Waterloo, the event was organized by the Sheriff of the County of Durham and the Squire of Dryburn, Rt. Hon. William Lloyd Wharton. The first procession, held shortly after the battle, involved local veterans marching through Durham to the River Wear, accompanied by pealing bells, raised flags, and cannon salutes.

In 1827, the regatta gained additional prestige when the Duke of Wellington himself visited Durham. During this visit, the local MP, Sir Henry Hardinge, presented the veterans, known as Waterloo-men, with a banner adorned with Wellington’s portrait, solidifying the regatta’s connection to the historic military victory.

The formal establishment of Durham University in 1833 significantly influenced the evolution of the regatta into a competitive racing event. The inaugural regatta in 1834 saw university oarsmen, as well as competitors from the Tyne, Wear, and Tees rivers, racing over three days. The original course began at Prebends Bridge, proceeding upstream to a buoy at Ash Tree in Pelaw Woods. Early races were chaotic, with up to nine boats racing abreast and frequent collisions as they navigated the twisting course and the narrow arches of Elvet Bridge.

A notable tradition during these early regattas included a fireworks display and a ball in the city’s assembly rooms on the second evening. Additionally, veterans were honoured with a substantial supper and drinks, hosted by Captain Chipchase, another Peninsular Campaign veteran.

The Regatta Today

Today, the Durham Regatta features races over two distinct courses. The primary events occur on a 700-meter course starting at Pelaw Wood and finishing just past Bath’s Bridge. There is also a more challenging 1800-meter course, which starts at Pelaw Wood, passes through the arches of Elvet Bridge, and finishes near Prebends Bridge. These courses maintain the historic essence of the regatta while offering competitive rowing opportunities for modern participants.

The Durham Regatta, renowned for its long-standing history and tradition, presents around 60 trophies, each with its own unique story. The most prestigious of these is the Grand Challenge Cup, introduced in 1854 by the distinguished boat builder and waterman Charles Eddy. This coveted trophy is awarded to the elite coxed fours who triumph over the demanding long course. The Grand Challenge Cup is highly esteemed and considered the premier prize in the North East of England’s regatta circuit.

The regatta attracts nearly two thousand competitors, including frequent entries from the Netherlands and Scandinavia, highlighting its international appeal. Spectators, numbering around ten thousand, flock to the event not only for the thrilling rowing competitions but also for the diverse array of activities available along the riverbank. These include a classic car rally, a climbing wall, live music performed in the historic bandstand, gymnastics displays, and a variety of local food and drink offerings.

Although the Durham Regatta is now operated as a limited company, its Articles of Association continue to reflect the historic constitution. The directors of the regatta are still selected from the founding organisations, ensuring that the event remains deeply rooted in its rich heritage.

durham regatta

Photo by: This is Durham

191st Durham Regatta 2024

Come and enjoy the day at the Durham Regatta with plenty of entertainment for everyone! In addition to the thrilling rowing races, you can explore a variety of food and craft stalls, admire the classic car display, and enjoy live music and performances from talented entertainers. Whether you’re a rowing enthusiast or just looking for a fun day out, there’s something for everyone at this historic event. Join us for a day filled with excitement and festivities along the beautiful riverbank!

The Regatta enclosure is open to the public from 8 am to 8 pm on both Saturday 8th and Sunday 9th June. Competitors will have access from 7 am on their respective race days. Come early to catch all the action and enjoy a day filled with exciting races, entertainment, and activities for the whole family!

Admission for adults is £5, £3 over 65’s and children aged 5-16 with free entry for children under 5.

durham regatta

Photo by: This is Durham

Make the most out of the weekend by staying in one of our Durham short stay rentals. Enjoy convenient access to all the Regatta activities and explore the beautiful city of Durham at your leisure. With comfortable accommodations close to the event, you can fully immerse yourself in the excitement and festivities of the Durham Regatta. Book your stay today and experience a memorable weekend!