Friday, 12 August 2022

Leander installs bigger entrance gates for bicentenary

Leander installs bigger entrance gates for bicentenary

A NEW entrance gate at Leander Club in Henley has been opened as part of its 200th anniversary celebrations.

Five-time Olympic rowing champion and club member Sir Steve Redgrave unveiled a plaque set into a wall next to the entrance.

He and club president Jeremy Randall then officially opened the new gates before inviting a crowd of more than 100 people through the archway to enjoy cake and sparkling wine.

The new entrance is about twice the width of the old one with a double gate bearing the club’s insignia and two metal plates inscribed with the years 1818 and 2018.

Sir Steve said: “It’s an honour to be here. Now that I don’t train as often, or at all, I’m really pleased the gate is bigger than it was — because so am I!”

He said the old entrance was too narrow, explaining: “It was quite difficult getting boats in and out of the club to the back of the car park. Jeremy talked about cracks and there were also quite big chunks taken out of the brickwork. Some of the brickwork damage was from my single scull.”

Work to demolish the old flat canopy, which was built before the Second World War, began in January when Sir Steve knocked out the first three bricks using a sledgehammer.

He said: “I thought the honour was getting the sledgehammer to knock it down in the first place. I’m from a building family and the bit I used to like was the knocking down of a building.”

Sir Steve, who is chairman of Henley Royal Regatta, paid tribute to the club in its bicentenary year, saying it was in a “fantastic” position both on and off the water.

“Two hundred wins at Henley Royal Regatta just speaks for itself,” he said.

“The club has still got very big ambitions within the sport. The whole rowing world knows Leander Club, what it stands for and what it’s trying to do for the sport.”

After the ceremony, Mr Randall cut a cake which was decorated with an edible image of the entrance.

He thanked the spectators, adding: “We could not have done this project without your generosity.

“It has been well worth it. You have to leave a legacy and the legacy of our bicentenary will be this entrance. The other one was inadequate, it was too narrow and it was badly cracked and now we have another one that will last another 200 years.”

Club captain Vicky Thornley who attended the ceremony, said: “It looks really, really smart and it sets the scene as you enter the club.

“It will be a bit easier to get boats in and out than it was before. It seems fitting that we have invested in a nice entrance in such a special year.”

Other events to mark the bicentenary have included the creation of 200 papier-mâché hippos — the club’s symbol — decorated by schools, businesses and community groups which were exhibited at the town’s River & Rowing Museum.

It has also produced a commemorative book called The First 200 Years.

The club will round off the celebrations with a bicentenary banquet in at the Guildhall in London on Wednesday.

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