Historic headquarters of rowing wins lottery boost

Olympic medalist Polly Swan with team mate Caitie Gorton-Phillips in front of the West Boathouse. Picture: Peter Devlin
Olympic medalist Polly Swan with team mate Caitie Gorton-Phillips in front of the West Boathouse. Picture: Peter Devlin
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A campaign to restore a century-old boathouse where Olympic gold medalist Katherine Grainger first tried out rowing has won a £1.2 million lottery boost.

The pledge from the Heritage Lottery Fund will meet half the £2.4 million costs of overhauling the West Boathouse on the banks of the River Clyde, where 2016 Olympic silver medallists Polly Swan and Karen Bennett previously trained.

The project is aimed at getting more people rowing, walking and cycling along the river, encouraging the staging of regular flotilla and regatta events, and also celebrating the rowing heritage of the Glasgow Green site, which dates back to the 19th century.

The founding members of Rangers Football Club in 1872 were originally rowers on Glasgow Green. The four Penny brothers – Tom, Laurie, Sandy and Bill – dominated Scottish rowing in the 1950s.

Other Scottish rowing stars to have trained there include Peter Haining, a three-times world champion in the 1990s and Gillian Lindsay, a silver medalist at the Sydney Olympics in 2000.

Grainger was famously taken to the boathouse and the river to try out rowing, along with her sister Sarah, by Gordon Simpson, the next-door neighbour of her parents, as a teenager, well before she took up the sport properly at Edinburgh University.

The timber-framed structure is rated one of the most significant boathouses in Britain. It is home to the Clydesdale Amateur Rowing Club and Clyde Amateur Rowing club, whose headquarters are based on either side of the semi-detached building.

Built by the Glasgow Corporation to designs by the city architect AB MacDonald. The boathouse has been home to both clubs since it was completed in 1905.

The planned overhaul would adapt the building into a single boathouse for the two clubs, who have joined forces with the Glasgow Building Preservation Trust to mount a campaign to secure the future of the B-listed building.

Work is due to start in 2018 and be completed the following year also includes replacing the rotten timber piles and substructure with concrete foundations, renewing and repairing the roof, windows and doors, installing lifts and creating new facilities which will be available to other groups.

Nearly 200 donations from around the world have been made via a crowdfunding appeal, while support has also been secured from Historic Environment Scotland, the Architectural Heritage Fund and Glasgow City Council.

Lucy Casot, head of the Heritage Lottery Fund in Scotland (HLF), said: “The West Boathouse has been a feature of Glasgow Green for over 100 years so we’re excited to see plans to reanimate this part of the Clyde, sharing and celebrating its fascinating history with the local community.”

Murray Shaw, chair of the Glasgow Building Preservation Trust: “We’re thrilled the HLF has given its support to this unique project.

“Once completed, we expect the West Boathouse will serve the users of Glasgow Green and wider community groups in the future, as well as it has served the rowing clubs in the past. We look forward to working with the volunteers at the two clubs and local groups to ensure this project is a success.”