Durham Regatta dates from 1834, making it the second oldest event of its kind in the country, pre-dating the more illustrious Henley Royal Regatta by 5 years. Its founder members were Durham Amateur Rowing Club, Durham University and Durham School.
The Regatta has an impressive collection of 57 trophies which are presented each year to winners at a prizegiving in Durham’s Gala Theatre. The full list can be found at https://durham-regatta.org.uk/races/trophies/
The most prestigious of these is the Grand Challenge Cup, founded in 1854 and awarded to the winners of the Senior coxed fours, which is raced over the long course on Sunday.
Another trophy with an interesting history is the Wharton Challenge Cup, now known as the Durham Challenge Cup, which is awarded to the winners of the senior coxless fours. It dates from 1877 and was originally contested by coxed fours. A gold medal was also presented to winners. A gold medal engraved ‘Wharton Challenge Cup’ on the obverse and ‘Durham Regatta’ on the reverse is displayed at the visitor centre in Wharton Park. John Lloyd Wharton (1837-1912) was the first President of Durham Amateur Rowing Club following its formation in 1860, a position he held until 1894. A framed and glazed portrait of him was kindly donated by Durham ARC to Wharton Park and following restoration by Durham County Record Office is displayed alongside the medal.
John Lloyd Wharton was the nephew of the remarkable William Lloyd Wharton (1789-1867), whose carved statue is pictured above, and it is he who was responsible for the inauguration of Durham Regatta in 1834. At the time he owned the land on which Wharton Park now stands. He served as High Sheriff of Durham between 1833 and 1836, owned a colliery and was a Director of the North Eastern Railway, and among other achievements he established the Durham Markets Company. In 1857 the land he owned was transformed by the arrival of the new viaduct and the railway that intersected the city. Shortly afterwards the area overlooking the railway was transformed into the public park which is named after him. On William’s death in 1867, John Lloyd Wharton assumed ownership of the park, and in 1871 Wharton Park became the venue for the first Miners’ Gala. After John Lloyd Wharton’s death in 1912 control of the park was leased to the Council and it was given to the people of Durham to enjoy.
A more detailed history of Wharton Park can be found here.
A summary of Durham ARC winners of the Grand Challenge Cup and the Wharton Challenge Cup can be found here.
Newcastle University Boat Club is the current holder of both trophies.