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Boathouse Project

The new Boathouse was made possible by a bequest left to the Club by Cyril Baker. In his memory and in recognition of

the assistance of his bequest and the many years of service he dedicated to the Club the new premises will be known as the Cyril Baker Boat house

Special mention has to be made with regard to our subcontractors, all who have been very good in helping the Club achieve its ambition. Thanks are due to Alan Herbert of RCM Associates who greatly assisted with technical advice and Building Control regulations. To Mike Butler of Allied Fabrications who joined the project at the last moment. Mike and his team were responsible for erecting the steel frame, the roof, fitting the windows and cladding the building.  Finally special thanks are due to Len Jeffery of Berryrange. His team were responsible for the groundwork, block and brick work, beam and block floors and continued assistance with the entrance ramps and balcony. Thanks are also due to Len for advice and his personal interest in helping bring the project to completion.

The boathouse was designed by a Club member who oversaw the construction phase. Brian Dees oversaw the fitting out exercise with help from members of the Club.  The Club is indebted to the effort made by Brian to complete the task and he has asked that special mention is made of the assistance given by brothers Ted and John Hills.

Finally, gratitude needs to be expressed to four members in particular who made large financial contributions towards the fitting out.

The Cyril Baker Boathouse

 The above picture shows how the Boathouse looked on Friday 20th July 2008

Bay 2 is complete and now houses the majority of the Club's boats.

View of Bay 3 from the social area.

Bay 1 is reserved for small boats.

Boathouse Project

How we went from what we had to what we have


What we had:

Prior to the current boathouse an old wooden army hut served as the centre for our activities for over half a century.  This hut was made up of the best of 3 huts provided by the Royal Engineers at Upnor.  The hut(s) were acquired in 1955 and at that time were probably 20 – 30 years old.  So when they were demolished to make way for our new building in 2007 they were some 70 to 80 years old.  The hut was constructed by members on our existing site.  It was fairly basic, consisting of one bay only, long enough for an 8+ (after a small, approx. 2 foot, cupboard extension was added) on one side and 4s on the other side, beyond an enclosed area which was used as a changing room.  At first we had no water or electricity and thus: no toilets, no light and certainly no winter evening training.


We subsequently purchased some camping Gaz lights and then one ergo.  That was our winter training gym - in our hut.  But still no tea or coffee at this stage!


In about 1985, we negotiated with Blaw Knox (they made road asphalt laying machines in their factory over the road, before the houses were built) to take a power cable and water pipe from their site, across the road, to our shed.  We agreed to pay for the power that we used.  But some of our long-standing members remember their factory manager coming over and checking our meter and declaring that we were not using enough to register on their system, and that they lose more on their cabling than we use: from that point we never received a bill!  So we still had just the one room but since we had tea & coffee facilities, this space multi-tasked as men’s/women’s changing, committee and club room.  Quite cosy!  A single toilet, with no hand basin, was also installed.


What we have: (and how we got it)

In 1990 Cyril Baker, a long standing member and President of the Club, died and left the proceeds of the sale of his house to the Club to be used as the basis for building a new clubhouse. This amounted to £70,000 (how things change, a house for £70,000).


We then embarked upon:

1) finding a site on which to build a clubhouse; and

2) getting plans to build it.

All to be done within a ten year timetable set by Cyril in his will.


14 sites were investigated from Wouldham (just above the church) to opposite Blue Boar Pier in Chatham.  One of the sites which Cyril thought a possibility was Jane’s Creek.  “Where’s that?” you ask.  It’s the creek on the Strood side of the river, just upstream of Rochester Bridge, that leads up to what is now Morrison’s.


Midway through this, Persimmon Homes purchased the factory site over the road from Blaw Knox, and we negotiated with them for the continuation of a power supply.  As a result we were connected to the mains water and electricity supplies, for which we had to start paying!


Having looked at various options, it was considered that the current site continued to be the best location for the new clubhouse.  However, we were on the site without any written agreement with anyone, it seemed to be just accepted that we were there!  Negotiations regarding a more orthodox agreement for the use of the site began with Persimmon Homes who had inherited the licence to the slip from Blaw Knox and were using it as a car park for their construction vehicles.  The original licence had been granted to Shorts Brothers in around 1936 to construct a slipway and, by implication, its subsequent use to launch their flying boats.


At the same time, the club progressed with the development of plans for erecting a new boathouse.  By September 2000, we had architects’ drawings, planning permission, builders’ specifications and a site analysis and were in a position to request financial help from the members (to help fill the gap between Cyril’s legacy, club reserves and the estimated cost of erection of the basic structure of £100,000).  The response was magnificent and the first work on the new clubhouse (at that time to be sited where the concrete area and piles are at the shutters end of the boathouse) was enabled, which was to dig a trench near to the main road.  This, in line with Cyril’s timetable, began in October 2000. Unfortunately this initial work coincided with a particularly heavy downpour and the road by the club collapsed, with street lights falling at crazy angles. Fortunately, however, the contractors’ insurances picked up that problem (over £100,000, at 2008 prices) to put it right.


The delay was a blessing in disguise as it enabled a review of the project, including a simplified, but more practical, design (the current three bay structure) and completion of transfer of the licence for use of the slip for£10,000 from Ideal Homes Limited (part of the Persimmon Group) in September 2001.


The Medway Ports Authority, having originally offered no objection to the planning application, became interested in our development and suggested that we had no right to the proposed development.  After lengthy negotiations a 75 year lease was agreed between the Port of Sheerness Limited (now Peel Ports) and ourselves, enabling our continued existence on the site we had occupied since 1958.  This lease was agreed on 2nd July 2007.


Planning permission was obtained for the revised three bay design for the boathouse and, after much to-ing and fro-ing, we settled on two local contractors, one to do the foundations and one to do the steelwork and cladding.  Work began in earnest in 2007 and the temporary clubhouse was a 2 berth towing caravan brought onto the site by one of the members. 


The steel columns which support the roof were made 60cm too short, so 36 plinths had to be installed. If you look at all the columns under the boathouse you will see they are all on 60cm plinths to bring the building back up to its correct height.


You will also note that accessibility ramps and parking area – these were an essential part of the final structure, but required some amendments to the original design and were implemented with the help of a Lottery grant, supported by British Rowing.


Members’ work

We are so grateful to our many members who helped sort out planning permission, licence and lease agreements, donated funds and undertook the internal works of flooring / wall insulation / plaster boarding /painting and much of the stud portioning and plumbing.


In addition we benefited from a number of items supplied at a discount / for free:


  1. Windows in the gym – these were made incorrectly for another contract (they should have been brown and not white) as such the contractor would not accept them and gave them to us. So the building was built around the windows, which is an interesting concept.   

True cost Est. £1,000


  1. main entrance doors to the gym area supplied for £10 each as an over order from another contract.                                                                                                        True cost Est. £800


  1. wooden beam, which in fact is two beams, in the coffee bar were supplied free of charge by a member.                                                                                                                True cost Est. £1,000


  1. boat racking, the scaffolding for our boats was the subject of a fire at a builder’s yard and was condemned by building Health and Safety.                                                    True cost Est. £3,000


  1. chairs in the coffee bar were supplied by another rowing club following a refurbishment of their bar. They apparently came originally from a hotel at Blackheath.                   True cost Est. £1,000


  1. Sliding doors to gym made and fitted by a member, actual cost £2,841(cheapest quote we rec’d £6,500).                                                                                                                  Saving approx £3,000


                                                                                                                                TOTAL                                           £9,800


The total cost of the project to the Club was £230,000.  This eventual cost (including the £10k for the Licence) wasn’t realised at the time of commencement.  We did it, from a base of Cyril Baker’s £70k legacy!


This was funded by:

Bequest                                                                                   £70,000

Donations                                                                                £25,000

Fees estimate from University for student training           £30,000

Members’ interest free loans                                               £20,000

Lottery grant                                                                           £45,000

Club reserves                                                                         £40,000

                                                                       Total                 £230,000                              £230,000


Additional Items/ Materials/ Labour, supplied free of charge:

Estimate of materials donated                                                   £9,800

Estimate of work completed by members                            £20,000 (or more)

                                                                                                                £29,800                 £29,800



Total costs (prices etc. as at 2008)                                                                                     £259,800



and was officially opened by Dame Diana Ellis, Chairman of British Rowing, on 15th September 2013







                                                                                                                                                                Boat house history  Revised April 2020

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