The first record of King’s rowing is in 1838, with the LMBC captains’ book noting that for the Lents, ‘several new boats came on including King’s, which is the prettiest of them all’. There will be a special toast to King’s as the ‘prettiest of them all’ this evening. By 1840 King’s reached 7th position, before losing places and being taken off in 1842. They make a brief return in the ‘Sloggers’ races (qualifying bumps races) in 1845-6, before disappearing. In 1853, King’s returns, quickly becomes head of the ‘Sloggers’ and rises 6 places in 6 days in the First Division. When CUBC creates two smaller divisions in 1854, King’s climbs back into the first division for the second successive year. However, they are taken off in 1855, possibly due to new CUBC rules regarding the eligibility of certain rowers.
In 1858, on 4th December, the current club is founded, and in January 1859 a new boat is bought for £50 (equivalent to £3,500-£4,800 today). Getting a full crew is not easy still, and in 1862 King’s rows with just six rowers, but goes down just two places thanks to rebumping Clare II on the third day. In 1867, F.E. Cunningham becomes the first Blue from King’s, whilst the uniform is agreed in 1868 including a white coat bounded by King’s colours, caps for the Lents and straw hats in the Mays. 1874 marks TFC Huddleston’s tenth successive year racing for King’s. In the last six years of this streak he stroked the boat from 23rd to 9th place. In 1875, King’s produce a second boat for the first time, but they fail to get on.
The 20th Anniversary of the present club is not particularly glorious, with King’s going down a division and 6 places overall in 1878, thanks to being overbumped by Jesus II. Then, being sandwich boat was tough, as it meant rowing on sliding seats in the First Division, but fixed seats in the Second. A year later, KCBC holds a meeting specifically for Freshmen (being the first evidence of what is now the Boat Club squash). In 1880 and 1883, Oscar Browning donates trophies for sculling and pairs races espectively. The first evidence of races between Freshmen crews is in 1886, with challenges sent to other colleges. In 1887 J.R. Orford wins his Blue and there is the first documented presentation of oars to a King’s crew (a IV). The greatest achievement in the club’s early history comes in 1897, when King’s complete a hat-trick of blades in the Lents (a separate competition by this stage) to climb to 4th, the highest position a King’s crew has ever been on the river.
The new century dawns with the club expanding; King’s have two senior trial VIIIs and four junior trial VIIIs in 1901 and in 1903, J.S. Carter wins his Blue. In 1910, King’s row over as sandwich boat every day in the Mays, for the second year in succession. In 1913, according to the Captains’ Book, ‘the suffragettes have announced their intention of burning the boathouses and police are now guarding them every night. Ours is in a rather perilous position’.
After the Great War, King’s enjoy a run of success, with T.M. Nussey and R.S. Nettleton winning the Magdalene Pairs for King’s for the first time in 1920, all three boats getting four bumps in the Lents in 1922 and King’s winning the inaugural Michell Cup in 1923. This victory was thanks to King’s winning the Clinker IVs races for the first time, the First Boat reaching 5th on the river (KCBC’s highest position in the Mays) and King’s II going up 4 for the third successive year. In 1925, J.S. Herbert as CUBC President wins his second Blue, rowing with A. Wansbrough. However, King’s decide they are getting beaten by LMBC in the Light (coxless) IVs race, and so pull in at the Pike and Eel pub instead of finishing. In the next five years KCBC gets caught in political issues. KCBC opposes a CUBC proposal to support the Government in the General Strike of 1926 believing it would stop all except the Tories from rowing. Internal conflict occurred within KCBC from 1928-30 over whether to adopt the Fairbairn coaching methods. They are adopted in 1930 and all of the Etonian members resign.
King’s make the headlines in the local paper in 1936 after both King’s I and II make overbumps on Day 1 of the Lents. King’s II end up going up 7 and King’s I up 5, with KCBC burning a boat to celebrate. However, there is tragedy when M.G. Falk (7 in M2) dies just two days after the end of Bumps. Further success occurs before WW2, with King’s winning the Clinker IVs again in 1938 and the Michell Cup in 1939. However, in that year, the President, Secretary and boatman (Claude Lester) all go off to war. Queen Mary College, London, as guests of the college make use of the boathouse and enter crews in some races. By 1942, combined KCBC/QMC boats enter Bumps.
In the absence of Claude Lester during WW2, his father and then Charlie Hodgkinson both act as temporary boatmen until their deaths in 1942 and 1946 respectively. In 1947, M.A. Nicholson is resident of CUBC, but drops himself just before the official crew announcement. In the Mays, King’s II get blades and King’s I return to the First Division, leading to another burnt boat and the invasion of a Chetwynd Society meeting in celebration. King’s win the Clinker IVs again in 1947 and 1949 and in what is to become an annual fixture, beat Queen Mary College by ¾ length in a race from Kew Bridge to Mortlake in 1947. This ushered in a period of success and expansion for the club, with five King’s boats entering Fairbairns in 1949-51. In 1950, King’s enter seven crews in the May Bumps (although two do not get on). The First Boat had hoped to go up into the First Division, but lose their Stroke (Alastair “George” Eddie) at the last minute. Adrian Cadbury replaces him, but is unable to prevent the crew going down two places. This appears to be a temporary blip for Adrian, as in 1952 he makes the Blue Boat with G.T. Marshall (who becomes President of CUBC for 1952-3) and comes fourth in the GB IV at the Helsinki Olympics. The Mays in 1952 are probably KCBC’s most successful ever, with King’s I-V up 4, 1, 4, 9 and 4 places respectively (King’s VI stay level).
The boat club celebrates its Centenary in 1958 with a dinner on 13th December, with John Saltmarsh’s giving the main speech. The Centenary Appeal, in raising £1300, provides enough money to buy an VIII and a scull. In 1960, a King’s IV reaches the final of the Visitors Cup at Henley, losing to First and Third by just ¾ length. However, King’s drop out of the First Lents Division in 1961 and the First Mays Division in 1962, when they also lose to Queen Mary College for the first time.
In 1973, women row at King’s for the first time, and Queen Margaret of Anjou Boat Club is founded. Sally Millership coxes the Men’s 2nd VIII, being prevented from coxing M1 as the ARA decide mixed crews are not part of their policy (and M1 wanted to row in ARA events). The following year she becomes the first female member of a King’s M1 boat. In 1976, Leo Sharpston and Rachel Scarth become the first King’s representatives in CUWBC boats, both rowing for Blondie. Rachel is CUWBC President for 1977-8, having won a Blue in 1977. Like KCBC, QMABC has problems in its early years, being unable to put a crew out in the 1979 Lents and therefore dropping from 5th to 17th. King’s M1 visit the Third Mays Division in 1985 and an all time low of 36th in 1987. The following year M1 briefly go into the Third Lents Division, but in 1989 return to the Second Lents and Mays Divisions.
Alexander Bird becomes the first Kingsman to obtain a Half-Blue for rowing in the (victorious) Lightweight Blue Boat in 1990. In 1993, King’s is represented at university level by Helene Magrath (winning her second Blue) and Wendy Gibbons (earning Lightweight Colours for the second time). This is followed by Kirsty Gill being CUWBC President in 1994, who makes it three successive years a Kingswoman has rowed in a victorious Blue Boat. However, W1 reach 31st in the Lents, their lowest ever position on the river. In 1996, Lindsay Burns wins silver at the Atlanta Olympics (in the US LW2x) and it is around this time that QMABC becomes part of KCBC. The 1999 low of 30th for W1 in the Mays is followed by Ceri Jones rowing in the Lightweight Blue Boat and winning her Half-Blue in 2000, Natasha Lane winning her Blue in 2001 and Rob Ennals winning his Half-Blue in 2002. In 2005, M1 and W1 return to the First Division in the Lents and Mays respectively and later that year, W1 win Fairbairns. The Men’s IV also triumphs, and goes on to win the University Coxed IVs races in 2006. This year, M1 reached 9th in the Lents, a record high for over 100 years. Chiara Ferrara wins her Blue and W1 go up 7, returning to the First Lents Division for the first time since 1979.