Columns
Business in Southbank Image

Business in Southbank

Cutting edge living
Read more >>

St Johns Southgate Image

St Johns Southgate

That’s awesome!
Read more >>

Owners Corporation Law Image

Owners Corporation Law

Electric vehicle charging and the rise of the machines
Read more >>

Montague Community Alliance Image

Montague Community Alliance

At last, a Fishermans Bend Framework!
Read more >>

Metro Tunnel

Building Anzac Station
Read more >>

Federal Politics Image

Federal Politics

Liberals and Nationals ship sheep
Read more >>

We Live Here Image

We Live Here

Cladding – remove now, pay later?
Read more >>

Southbanker Image

Southbanker

Walking for a purpose
Read more >>

Housing Image

Housing

We are leaving an intergenerational time bomb for our children
Read more >>

History Image

History

From corporate office to high-end living
Read more >>

Safety and Security

Stifle the opportunity
Read more >>

Southbank Sustainability Group Image

Southbank Sustainability Group

Sustainability talks and Boyd Park
Read more >>

Health and Wellbeing Image

Health and Wellbeing

Positive psychology for increased wellbeing
Read more >>

Skypad Living Image

Skypad Living

Luv thy NABERS (for apartments)
Read more >>

Pets Corner Image

Pets Corner

Enter the “Shiba Zone”
Read more >>

Southbank Fashion Image

Southbank Fashion

Spring racing in Southbank
Read more >>

Street Smarts Image

Street Smarts

Power Street – Southbank
Read more >>

Letters Image

Letters

The cost of cladding
Read more >>

History

11 Apr 2018

History Image

Henley-on-Yarra

The people of Melbourne love hosting and participating in large-scale sporting events – racing, football, cricket and the grand prix.

For the first half of the 20th century, we could add in rowing, with the Henley-on-Yarra regatta, a race that concluded on the edge of what is now Southbank.

In 1903 some influential Melbourne residents met with the amateur rowing clubs and proposed the idea of a regatta. The major race would be an eight-oar race called the Grand Challenge Cup, with crews racing from the Botanic Gardens to the Henley stage, near Princes Bridge.

The picturesque river carnival kicked off in March 1904. Crews were invited from rowing clubs across Australia. The event soon moved to November and, by 1907, it attracted 45,000 onlookers and was being compared favourably with London’s famous Henley-on-Thames. Crowds kept growing until the WWI forced a break between 1914-18. The crowds flocked back in when the regatta resumed in 1919.

But this was more than just a series of races. It was THE outdoor social event of the year, drawing numerous prominent people who dressed in their finery and attended parties on four gaily-decorated houseboats moored at the Henley stage.

Hundreds of other boats and canoes crowded the river, hired for the day. During the 1930s it became an exhibition for the latest fashions of the day, with fashion contests. It was also popular with ordinary citizens who took their picnic lunches into the gardens and enjoyed the events (and frequented the many beer booths!).

In 1946, after an eight-year hiatus caused by WWII, the event attracted a record crowd of more than 100,000. But problems emerged in 1948 when planned construction of the new Swan St Bridge over the regatta course meant that the race was to be run higher up the river where there was not enough room to park boats for the usual carnival.

There would be no fireworks or fashion parades that year. Henley was now to be a purely sporting event for rowers. Reported as drab without its pre-war glamour, the event attracted a poor crowd and made a financial loss. Whilst it was expected that completion of the bridge would permit a return to the original course, this did not happen and the crowds continued to dwindle.

In 1955 the regatta moved from its traditional date in November to become the opening ceremony of the Moomba Festival. It was a sad end to one of the great events on Melbourne’s sporting calendar.

Robin Grow

President - Australian Art Deco and Modernism Society

Stay in touch with Southbank. Subscribe to FREE monthly e-Newspaper.

You must be registered with Southbank Local News to be able to post comments.
To register, please click here.