Derwent Water Regatta - est. 1781

Costumed re-enactor bends away from firing cannon

Derwent Water Regatta is an event with historic roots, but it's never been a quiet affair. The first regatta in 1781 included a sweepstake for swimming horses and an attack on Derwent Island in a mock battle.

The first regatta on Derwent Water was held in 1781 by Joseph Pocklington, the wealthy and eccentric man who'd already caused a stir by building a mansion on Derwent Island.

His advertisement in The Cumberland Pacquet promised a rowing race round all four islands, with a prize of seven guineas (over £1,000 today) a sweepstake for swimming horses, and running races with a prize of new clothes for the winner.

An armed invasion of Derwent Island

The highlight was an armed fleet, commanded by 'Admiral' Peter Crosthwaite and complete with swivel guns and gunpowder but no shot, attacking 'King Pocky' Pocklington’s island where 'a stout resistance is expected to be made’.

Once the smoke had cleared, the invasion was followed by a ‘genteel cold collation’ for a lucky few guests invited to the island, fireworks and a grand ball at the assembly room at the Lodore hotel.

Reviving the event

Pocklington's regattas lasted until 1790 when disgreements between him and 'Admiral' Peter Crosthwaite put an end to the event.  It was revived in the early 20th century by National Trust founder Canon Hardwicke Rawnsley and again ran for a few years.  We held our first Derwent Water Regatta in 2014.

Pocklington's regattas were all about people pitching in to create a dramatic, and slightly chaotic, spectacle - it's that spirit of mayhem and madness that's inspired our re-incarnation of the event, so do come along and join in the fun.