First Regatta on the Thames

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First Regatta on the Thames

Chelsea, London The 23rd of June 1775 AD

Ranelagh Gardens by the banks of the Thames in Chelsea were the most fashionable and it seems innovative pleasure park in the London of the second half of the 18th century – though at that time it would have been regarded as being in the country rather than belonging to the capital. These gardens staged concerts in the Rotunda – Mozart among the most notable performers – they staged balls; they staged theatrical events – one member of the syndicate which owned the place after 1741 also ran the Theatre Royal Drury Lane . And on June 23 1775 they provided the venue for the first regatta on the Thames, copying the Venetian model.
It appears that the regatta included rowing races by professional boatmen, along with more sedate social boating, and was preceded by a grand ball.
This gathering was held just weeks before the first race by what became the Royal Thames Yacht Club that July, when gentlemen competed for a silver cup donated by the Duke of Cumberland, himself a regular visitor to Ranelagh Gardens. That event – The Cumberland Cup - still runs every year; while Ranelagh Gardens are long gone – though where they stood forms part of the grounds for the Chelsea Flower Show .

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