By Harry Mottram: They fell out over tin openers, clashed with steam powered cruisers and together with their dog, Montmorency, George, Harris and ‘J’ embarked on a rowing expedition up the River Thames to Oxford that encapsulates to this day the joys and sogginess of rowing for pleasure on a river.

Published in 1889 Jerome K. Jerome’s Three Men in a Boat still reads well today with its jokes and misadventures and continues to be dramatised on stage, screen and audio.
One of the reasons it was a best seller from the first print run was that it captured a new found enthusiasm for boating amongst the public in a Victorian age that was seeing greater leisure time.

In Terry Hardick’s excellent book the Illustrated History of the Bath Boating Station we see photographs of Victorian and Edwardian gents in waistcoats and straw hats posing by the Bath Boating Station looking like bit characters in Three Men in a Boat.

The Bath Boating Station pictured on the cover of Terry Hardick’s book on the station

The Bath Boating Station continues to hire out punts, skiffs and rowing boats as well as offering accommodation in the riverside amenity.

From the boathouse there’s roughly two or more miles of the River Avon from Cleveland Bridge to Bathampton to navigate.

The boat house came about following the construction of the Bathwick Bridge in 1827 (later the Cleveland Bridge) which ended the ferry service across the river.
The boating station was established soon after and by 1841 was known as Aust’s Tea and pleasure Gardens run by the Austs but by later in the century the Maynards and Fisher families who were in control of the now growing boat house in size.

By the late 19th century the Bath Amateurs’ rowing club had been formed in 1861 with the Avon County Rowing Club formed later and the Bath Ladies Rowing Club established in 1911.

By 1888 the boating house had expanded to include all mod cons including lockers, showers and a bar and with regular regattas on the river it was the hey day of the station.
The First World War of 1914-18 was to see large numbers of troops arrive in the area with not too much to do – so hiring a boat from the boathouse became very popular.
The same was to happen in World war 2 with many Americans enjoying the same recreation including swimming in the River Avon. And the station is still there so pop along and mess about on the river.

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