‘The earliest definite allusion to Balliol rowing is in 1823, when there was a “boat match between the Rowers of Balliol and Christ Church, which was won by the former, after a well-contested race.” Balliol was certainly one of the four colleges competing in an eight in the summer races of 1825. Two Balliol men rowed for Oxford in the first University Boat Race at Henley in 1829, in a boat lent by Balliol for the occasion.’
[Jones, JH. Balliol College: A History 2nd ed. rev. Oxford: OUP, 2005 p.189, quoting The Oxford University and City Herald, 14 June 1823.]
The College Archives are rich in material concerning the Boat Club from about 1840 onwards. The Buttery has an extensive collection of sports photographs and trophies including many to do with the Boat Club. The College has been Head of the River in the Summer Eights many times, notably a longish run in the nineteen-fifties and also regaining the Headship in 2008. Balliol’s previous last reign at the Head of the River was in 1971 when they were head of Torpids.
The base of the Boat Club for the latter part of the nineteenth century and much of the twentieth was a grand barge which was moored on the Thames. The present Boathouse (semi-detached; New College has the other half) was opened in May 1959. The Barge was last seen in 1996 at Henley, when it was up for auction.
Famous Balliol oarsmen have included Lord Justice Chitty, Edmond Warre (Head Master of Eton), FS Kelly (composer, killed in France 1916: one of the greatest scullers of all time), Cardinal Heard, Dan Snow, HM King Olav of Norway and HM King Harald of Norway.