Well where did we start? Most probably the first day that Sir James Pennethorne was forced to build a lake for people to bathe in Victoria Park. The people’s park – known locally as – “Vicky Park”. Our address used to be The Bathing Lake Victoria Park.
The first plan of the Park in 1840 had no lakes. It was not until 1846 that reports were written that the park was missing a feature – An ornamental lake.
Before this in October 1844 a paragraph in the Times was reporting that there was a great need for the erection of baths at the east end of the metropolis. After a long hot summers day’s work men and boys were bathing illicitly in the dangerous and polluted waters of the Regent’s Canal.
While the park was under construction many letters, requests and petitions were received from the public pressing for the need of a bathing lake.
The dilemma of men bathing in the canal alongside the park or in the ornamental lake which was visible to the entrances were the deciding factors and the first bathing lake agreed in the centre of the open eastern section where it would not be overlooked.
The times for the bathers was only permitted from 4am to 8am daily – there were no swimming garments in those days. So for the rest of the time the lakes were free and here the children could sail their crude homemade craft and the old seamen from dockland would come and sail and show of their beautiful and exact replicas of their old ships. A flourishing Victoria Park Model Yacht Club was soon in being.
It was Tyrell Biddle with his two brothers and W.O Hastings who founded the Victoria Yacht Club in Hackney in 1862 before moving to Kensington to start the MYSA. Sailing in Hackney was abandoned when the pond was opened for rowing boats & bathing; the Club there being wound up in 1892 say the MYSA. But actually it did not:
We have on record a formal dinner speech made in 1906
The first annual dinner of the Alexandra Model Yacht Club took place recently at the Plough Hotel, Mile End Road, when some eighty members and friends of both sexes were present.
In proposing the toast of “The London County Council” The Hon Secretary (Mr. W.G. Brittain) said that the club had a record of over fifty years. In its earlier days, the club existed under another name.
In 1904 they entered the new premises kindly given them by the London County Council. They were very proud of their new club house and he thought they now had the finest club house, in London (Hear,hear.).They entered into possession of it about Easter in 1904,
Another letter also dated 1904 from The Hon Sec C.T Webster to The Chairman J.T. Spinks thanks the London County Council for a place to keep the Victoria Model Steamboat Club’s steamers dated 15th July 1904 it was in actual fact half of the gardeners hut.
On the 7th November 1907 in response to a query for London Model Boat clubs the model Engineer and Electrician responded “The Victoria Model .Steamboat Club and the Alexandra Model Yacht Club, The Bathing Lake, Victoria Park, East London . The above are two well-known clubs in the London district,
In 1907 the VMSC was one of the two societies exhibiting at the first Model Engineering Exhibition that was held at the Royal Horticultural Hall in London.
Readers at the Model Engineering exhibition at that time were informed
“By 1907 the VMSC were performing on a Saturday afternoon before an enormous public of small boys “WHATS IT GO BY MISTER” was constantly asked and on a Sunday morning before a wall of charming young ladies – It always took longer to raise steam on a Sunday morning.
Ted Vanner recalled that he, along with other VMSC members, took part in the first ever Model Engineer Regatta at Wembley Park in 1908. They all met at the boat house in Victoria Park at 5.30 they set out for Wembley in a horse drawn van carrying both boats and owners
In 1924 the club was one of the six founder members of the Model Power Boat Association of Great Britain. This has now become the governing body for Model Boating in this country.
The eastern lake is situated to the south of Central Drive and was known as the New (or Men’s) Bathing Lake (1860s). In 1937 the lake was altered to form three lakes: a paddling pool, model yachting pool and juvenile boating lake. Between 1983 and 1985 the central and western of these three lakes were filled in and re-landscaped as an extensive playground (Pools Playground) and the remaining lake became a model boating lake. On the north edge of the boating lake is an associated boathouse.
We hold approximately 14 regattas a year on the pond with an average of 5 open competitions to other clubs within the MPBA, the remaining regattas for VMSC members only. Our Hydroplane team have successfully attended many NAVIGA Championships. We have a social get-together at the end of the year to keep the friendly spirit of the club away from a competition only culture
Two traditions of the club continue today. One is the large number of family groups who are all members is common. The other notable tradition is the long service of many members of the club and also its officers.
We are proud to have had great model boaters who belonged to our club and happily some of our members are custodians of a few of their boats and hydroplanes namely: Bill Blaney, Jim Crebbin, Stan Clifford, The Innocent Brothers, Ernie Clarke, Ted Vanner, Jack Skingley, Arthur Cockman Bill Morse, Tom Hayday, Arthur Evans, Norman Phelps and those from other clubs that sailed with us: Gems Suzor, Westbury, Noble, Lines, Williams, Alan Rayman, Jim King, Ralph Abbott.
The one thing that has changed since the beginning are the number of lady members who have joined their male counterparts in the water with models of their own and not satisfied with that they are frequently to be found in the list of prize winners at the end of the day. Some special ladies flying the Victoria flag were Daisy Vanner, Olive Cockman (nee Goodman then Skingley) and Iris Phelps.
The one thing that never changes at Victoria of the last 100 plus years, regular as clockwork every Sunday you will hear a small voice.
“WHATS IT GO BY MISTER”.
We now find our times in social media and have made friends with many overseas model boaters around the world on our Facebook page.
If you are interested in model boating whether for competition, or just the pleasure of building and operating a model or happily chatting about boats and would like to join a club you will be made very welcome at Victoria.
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