An Oarsome Exhibition At The Shipley, Gateshead

By Jessica Hill | 23 September 2002

Left: crowds gather to cheer on oarsmen adjacent to the High Level Bridge over the Tyne.

Gateshead's Shipley Art Gallery hosts 'Oarsome' until January 19th, revealing the heroes behind nineteenth century rowing on the Tyne.

'Oarsome' opened on September 21 to a busy crowd of locals, who flocked to see exhibits showing the enormous popularity of rowing as a pastime for locals a century ago. Crowds of over 100,000 regularly lined the banks of the river Tyne to see their heroes in action.

"With the spectacular redevelopments currently taking place along GatesheadQuays, Oarsome! gives visitors to the Gallery the opportunity to take a historiclook at life on the Tyne over 100 years ago," said Ann Fletcher, curator of the Shipley Art Gallery.

"Still a sport with huge localinterest, we hope this exhibition will provide something for both enthusiastsand all the family to enjoy."

Right: James Renforth (1842-1871) beat the best in the world as an oarsman but died in mysterious circumstances during a race in the U.S.

Local celebrity James Renworth is remembered, a man so highly regarded that an estimated 100,000 attended his funeral in 1871.

The show also remembers other champions from the heydays of rowing such as Robert Chambers from Newcastle and Harry Clasper from Gateshead.

Harry Clasper (1812 - 1870)

Left: Harry Clasper (1812 - 1870) was still winning late into his 'forties.

Harry Clasper formed a four-oar crew with his brothers and they soon began to win races. Once they had beaten everybody on the Tyne, the Claspers began to race on the Thames. Harry stroked a four to victory at the Thames Regatta an amazing seven times.

"This exhibition gives visitors the opportunity to gain a unique insight into the fascinating world of rowing the Tyne," said Ian Whitehead, Keeper of Maritime History. "These men were heroes not just on Tyneside but all over the world."

The collection on display includes a vast array of photos, paintings, models, trophies and unique memorabilia such as the shirt worn by Renforth moments before his tragic death at a race in Canada.

Right: high tech sports equipment in the 1870's - Bob Bagnall's Sliding Seat.

The exhibition coincides with a revival of interest in rowing, nationally as we now have recent national rowing Olympic champions and locally, with the Tyne Rowing club celebrating its 150th anniversary in December.

Oarsome is open Monday to Saturday 10-5 and Sunday 2-5. Admission is free.

More on the venues and organisations we've mentioned:
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