From the Archives: SPS Rowing

This year, we are celebrating the 150th anniversary of rowing at St. Paul’s School.  We hope you have a chance this term to swing by Ohrstrom Library to see our exhibit 150 Years of Rowing at St. Paul’s School.  If you are not local, however, here are some of the highlights:


Early Days

In its earliest days, cricket was the only organized competitive sport at St. Paul’s School. The boys who were interested in rowing were by necessity self-taught and self-coached. They rowed two-man boats and competed against each other on Lower School Pond. In 1859, some of the older boys convinced the Rector, Dr. Henry Augustus Coit, to provide a boat and boathouse for the school.  A six-oar boat was purchased from Valery of Boston and named Ariel.  The original crew of Sixth Formers called themselves the Shattucks, after the school’s founder.

In 1871, the upper forms proposed forming two rival boat clubs.  Again, the Rector agreed. He ordered two boats and had a new boathouse built on Long Pond. The school was divided into the Shattuck and Halcyon Boat Clubs. While awaiting their new boats, Shattuck challenged Halcyon to a race against time in Ariel.  The challenge was accepted and the first race between Halcyon and Shattuck took place on June 7, 1871. An account of the race, which Halcyon won by 21 seconds, can be found in the July 1871 issue of the Horae Scholasticae.  This race between Halcyon and Shattuck became an annual tradition that is still going strong 150 years later.

“Race Start”: Halcyon and Shattuck First Crews, 1896


Moving to Turkey Pond

In April 1952, the Concord City Council passed a bill prohibiting all boats on Long Pond due to pollution of the town’s water supply.  SPS crew was moved to Big Turkey Pond, where they utilized Quonset huts in place of their usual boathouses.

In 1956, the School planned a new rowing course around the I-89 freeway being built.  In exchange for land that was owned by the School, the ensuing bridge was constructed in a way that allowed for rowing between Big and Little Turkey Ponds.  A concrete dam followed and the new rowing course on Turkey Pond opened in 1958. The original boathouses (without their second floors) were “moved”– dismantled and rebuilt with as much of the original structure as possible – to Turkey Pond in 1960.

Moving to the new Boathouse, 1960


Girl’s Crew at SPS

In January 1971, the first nineteen girls were admitted to St. Paul’s School and the era of coeducation began.  The very next year, in the spring of 1972, seven girls began rowing, coached by Converse “Con” Prudden.  It was a slow start – they had only one unofficial race against Exeter that first season.  Spring 1973, with many of the same girls returning, was the first full season of girl’s crew at SPS. They rowed three races and won all three for an undefeated season.

First Girl’s Crew Team, Spring 1972


A Tradition of Excellence

In 1954, SPS sent its first crew to the Henley Royal Regatta.  There were two more trips to Henley in the 1960’s, with the team making it all the way to the finals in 1966 before being defeated by Emanuel School. The team returned to the Henley four times in the 1970’s, but it was the eighth trip, in 1980, that saw victory – SPS defeated St. Joseph’s Prep School to win the Princess Elizabeth Challenge Cup.  Since then, the boys have competed at Henley eleven times, with wins in 1994 and 2004.  They can also claim sixteen First Boat wins at NEIRA, twenty-nine National Team Rowers, and eleven Olympians, including 1956 gold medalist Tom Charlton ’52.

The SPS girl’s crew first competed at Henley in 1996.  They have won four Peabody Cups – in 1996 on their very first trip, where they also set a course record for the 1500m distance, and more recently in 2019, where they had the second fastest time ever recorded on the course in a youth women’s event.  They also boast fourteen First Boat wins at NEIRA, thirteen National Team Rowers, and five Olympians.

First trip to Henley, 1954


Winning at Henley, 2019


“From the beginning, rowing at St. Paul’s has been propelled by students’ curiosity and competitiveness and made possible by supportive – even visionary – School leaders”. (Alumni Horae, Issue II, 21/22). That heritage continues today, with SPS honoring both the old and the new. St. Paul’s School rowing is ready for its next 150 years.

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