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Just before 3am on 12 May 1824, a crew of Guards officers, wearing red and white broad striped jackets, straw hats and loose trousers, took to the water at Oxford’s Folly Bridge in a six-oared wherry. Among them was Edward Douglas, later Baron Penrhyn (left).

They had come together to decide a bet between Captain Charles Short of the Coldstream Guards and Viscount Newry. Lord Newry had been rowed from Oxford to Westminster Bridge by six of his servants the year before in 18 hours. Short had wagered the eye-watering amount of 600 guineas – the equivalent of ten years’ wages for a carpenter or schoolmaster – that he and his crew could cover the 118 miles to London in two hours less.

Although professional watermen had been plying their trade between Oxford and London for centuries, this may have been the first such row by gentlemen amateurs. In addition to Short, the other members of the crew were Captains George Standen, George Hudson and Hugh Blane, as well as Lieutenants Edward Douglas and John Westenra.

Daunting as it is to row from Oxford to London, the challenge was unlikely to have deterred Short, Standen and Blane. All three were veterans of the Battle of Waterloo.

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