Rowing Round the Corner
Bumps Races at Ditton Corner
The four-day rowing races between the colleges of the University of Cambridge are known as Bumps and Carnage, and have been held twice a year since 1827. The May bumps, occur in June, naturally.
Boats try to catch and hit or bump, the boat ahead. Boats row in divisions - 17 boats in a line a few yards apart, started by a gun. The race begins at the Gun Sheds, down the First Post Reach, round the Gut, round Ditton Corner and finishes down the Long Reach to Chesterton.
The objective is to catch up with and bump the boat ahead before being bumped by the boat behind. The bumper then changes place with the bumped when the race is held again the next day. The Bumps are held four days running, beginning on Wednesday and the last day, Saturday, being a day of spectacle attended by large crowds of spectators along the river banks.
More than 30 colleges and university affiliated departments take part in the bumps. Each has its own colours and can be recognised by the blades on their oars. A guide to recognising the boats is given below.
It is possible for a good crew to advance four or more places up the division, in which case the crew wins its 'oar' - a prized possession. A crew that has won its oar will carry its college flag down the river - to the applause of the crowds. A crew that makes a bump traditionally signals this by decorating the boat and rowers with foliage for their row back down the river to the boat houses.
About a third of the way down the course is the bend of Ditton Corner where the well-coxed crew can catch their quarry by cutting inside.
The house is named after the bend in the river. Ditton Corner is a good vantage point to watch the races. Photographs and sketches of the event from the turn of the century show that the present garden of the house at Ditton Corner was a popular perch. Jesus College may have carried out the terracing of the garden to provide viewing platforms. There were timber grandstands built, bands that played and an industry of on-course bookmakers.
Early painting of rowing around Ditton Corner
Time for Tea; The Bumps of 1906, Ditton Corner
Painting by Percy Robert Craft; 6ft by 4ft; Cambridge Guildhall
This painting was discovered last year in the Cambridge Guildhall and has now been restored. It shows the gardens of Ditton Corner crowded with spectators for the 1906 Bumps.
Ditton Corner (house in the background) with crowds watching the bumps in 1910
Here's the same view in June 2000
Here's the group photo -same view - in June 2001
and whaddyaknow, we did it again - in June 2002
Getting pretty good at it by 2003
Bunch of hat-tossers in 2004
Another bunch of reprobates in 2005
Looks familiar? The gang from 2006
Brollies on the bank in 2007...
With a tandem bicycle in 2008...
Getting reflective in 2009
The Hundred Year Salute in 2010
2011 saw us doing the group photo in a new location
Spectators at Ditton Corner 1910
Spectators at Ditton Corner 2000 - (architects class of 1976 reunion)
The social style may not be quite as splendid, but todays races are still exciting. In 1994 the Bumps racing occasion was marked by a visit from H.R.H. the Duke of Edinburgh to the gardens of Ditton Corner, hosted by the previous owners of our house, Gordon and Agatha Woods. The flagpole at Ditton Corner was built specifically for the occasion in order to fly the Royal Standard.
Royal visitor to Mr. and Mrs. Wood - the previous owners of Ditton Corner.
For the latest rowing news and race order for the bumps check out www.cam.ac.uk/societies/boatclub
Boats are identifiable by their college colours on the blades of their oars.
[Page Repaired 2010]