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A rowing club on Coate Water first appeared in 1922 with the majority of its members being made up of workers from the Great Western Railway Works. The club appears to have been active up until 1928 when it closed suddenly. Little is known about the club from that time, but its last surviving member (Cyril Grey) wrote a letter regarding the club to the Swindon Advertiser in 2002:

I note with great interest the forming of a rowing club at Coate Reservoir.

As the last surviving member of the original Coate Rowing Club 1922-1928 I should like to wish them every success. We had a thriving club in those days. We competed at regattas all over the south, from Swansea, where we rowed in the sea, right up to Nottingham, and up to Staines on the Thames. It was in coxed fours, pair oars and sculling events

Our crew was the first to win on ‘foreign’ waters, when we won the Freeman Challenge Vase at Saltford Regatta near Bath.

We ran very successful regattas at Coate and helped organise the inter shop competitions for the Great Western Works by lending the boats and all equipment.

Unfortunately, in later years, for some reason we ran in to trouble with the town council and finally had to close down. We contributed quite a lot to the popularity of the reservoir and I could never understand why it happened.

I hope that the present club never had to face the same difficulties.

Good luck to them.

Cyril L Gray

Coate Water remained without a rowing club for some 70 years, until two friends by the names of Bryan Hanlon and Paul Dobson began to kindle the idea of a new rowing club whilst sat in their local pub less than two miles from the park. The idea of starting a rowing club from scratch was a fanciful one, which is why the club’s emblem features a flying-pig to tie it in with the town’s old English name of Swinedown (Pig-hill) and the mad-cap idea of two men in a pub.

Wills' Cup 1924.png

Coate Rowing Club 1924

Swindon Rowing Club’s Flying-pig


Inside the clubhouse

In 1997 a plot of land within Coate Water was granted to Bryan and Paul where a fence was erected to create a secure compound to store the club’s boats. Bryan’s links with Southampton Rowing Club allowed the club to collect a modest number of second-hand boats and blades.

The National Lottery awarded the club a grant in 2001 with which it purchased and installed boat racks, additional fencing, the pontoon and the club-house, all of which remain in regular use.

In 2012 the club was fortunate in receiving two grants from local businesses npower and Thames Water, both of which were used in the construction of a new pontoon. Further to these grants, Sport England provided a substantial contribution towards the club’s new racing double and three sets of blades.

Now  in 2016, the club has just completed an ambitious project of installing a palisade fence extension to double the boat storage area. It took just 2 days thanks to the support of 234 volunteered hours from our members. Swindon RC has also benefited from another Sport England grant this year, enabling us to purchase another double scull as well as the club’s first boat trailer. We are now well equipped for sculling and starting to find new routes of funding to better equip ourselves for sweep rowing.

Looking to the future, the club will be able to enter multiple crews into racing events and begin to join the competitive circuit. We are entering a new era at Swindon RC and hope the successes will continue from our humble beginnings.