Victoria Model Steamboat Club

2021, April 13

Author: Agnė Bekeraitytė

For over a century, park walkers like myself pause by the lakeside to watch as boats are put through their paces on the water; fascinated with the detail of vessels laid upon the shore. 
Well where did it start? In October 1844 a paragraph in the Times was reporting that there was a great need for the erection of baths in the east end of the metropolis. Sir James Pennethorne set about building a lake for people to bathe in Victoria Park. A lake which is still about today. Bathers at the time, however, were only permitted between 4 am to 8 am every day.  The rest of the time the lake was free and so children could sail their crude homemade crafts and the old seamen from the docklands would come and show off their beautiful, exact replicas of their old ships. And soon a flourishing Victoria Park Model Yacht Club was being formed. 
It was Sunday afternoon when I noticed a group of people gathering around a lake in Victoria Park. I was intrigued as I watched them carefully place the model boats onto the lake. I couldn’t resist but approach one of their members. Keith Reynolds,  who, as I found out later, is a Secretary of the Victoria Model Steam Boat Club. Many years ago, just like myself that afternoon, Keith’s father was so fascinated that he too stopped by the lake to speak with the father of the current chairman, Norman Lara. That was how it began for the Reynolds family, which has now been involved for four generations. 
The story of the oldest model boat club in the world, founded in 1904, is the story of a social group with a shared purpose and passion, both mutually supportive and mutually competitive. Members share a love of the magic of launching their boats upon the lake.  They gather every other Sunday to socialise and continue traditions that go back a century. They design, build, fix or restore them themselves. Some of them are actual miniature versions of real-life vessels. The club holds approximately 14 regattas a year on the lake as well as a social get-together at the end of the year to keep the friendly spirit of the club away from competition only culture. It doesn’t come as a surprise how proud they were to be photographed. Something simple, pure and beautiful in the heart of one of the biggest metropolis in the world. 
Victoria Park, London, 2018

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