Parkgate Regattas

Regattas were held at Parkgate from the early nineteenth century  into the first quarter of the twentieth century. They started initially under the auspices of the Dee Yacht Club, some of whose members and officials were  actively involved in the Chester Regattas and recognised that Parkgate also would be a good place to hold a regatta.  A regatta was organised in Chester in 1814 to celebrate the Peace of Paris and they were also held in the years following to celebrate the King’s birthday (George III and later George IV). They were paid for by local subscription and organised by a committee of local gentlemen and included races for ‘gentlemen amateurs’, fishermen and races for the wives and daughters of fisherman. Two of the men involved in organising the regattas were John Lloyd and his son Edward Watson Lloyd.

John Lloyd was Prothontotary or Clerk to the Assize Court of Chester and North Wales, and, although he lived at the Mount in Chester, he and his family were regular visitors to Parkgate. They were recorded amongst the list of visitors in 1825 and in 1841 Edward Watson Lloyd was living in Leighton while his father was also boarding at Parkgate. Both men were members of the Dee Yacht Club and Edward Watson Lloyd was also a founder member of the Chester Victoria Rowing Club which began in 1838.

The first report of a Regatta at Parkgate was in 1827. Parkgate at that time, although it was no longer the departure point for the Dublin Ferry, still attracted summer visitors for the bathing season and accommodation was provided in hotels and lodging houses. The regattas were an amusement and attraction for these visitors.

According the local newspaper Parkgate was a more attractive venue than the Mersey for a regatta because of the ‘wider expanse of its waters’ (Chester Chronicle – Friday 11 September 1829) although it was not suitable for crafts of the larger classes. In fact the regatta that was held on the Mersey in 1829 at Secombe was the first for many years according to Gore’s Liverpool General Advertiser – (Thursday, 10 July 1828), though this was because of a disastrous accident at an earlier event rather than the Mersey being unsuitable.

‘the last time that a public boat race, on a considerable scale, took place in the Mersey was on the 23rd June 1783 when a serious accident occurred, by the giving way of a scaffold at the stern of vessel, building in Breckell’s yard, at the south end of the Parade: fifty or sixty individuals were dangerously hurt, and one life was lost. IDSCF5923nconsequence of this occurrence, the annual boat races were suspended, and they have not since been renewed.’

Like Chester, there were at Parkgate men who earned their living by fishing and had the necessary skills to compete in a regatta and many of them had also served in the Navy at one time or another.  Also resident in Neston and involved in organising the regattas  were Charles and John Monk, both sons of Parkgate customs officer, William Monk. Lieutenant John Monk RN saw active service and was wounded in action during the bombardment of Algiers in 1816 and Charles Monk was, in 1823, Commander of the guardship Redbreast and Superintendent of Quarantine at Bromborough Pool.

1827 – 1844

In 1827 a race between seven yachts was held which was watched by ‘genteel company from Chester, Liverpool and the surrounding countryside’. The first prize was a cup worth 6 sovereigns, a second prize of 2 sovereigns and a third of one sovereign. Edward Watson Lloyd, then aged twenty five was placed fourth with his boat, Horatio. The winner was Joseph Crowther’s Maria with Charles Brown’s Ariel coming in second. Prizes were distributed at the Red Lion and a select company had dinner at the Mostyn Arms in the evening.

In the following year members of the Yacht Club sailed from Chester to Parkgate where they anchored opposite Mr Bloor’s Ferry House Hotel. They stayed overnight ready to take part in the race the next morning which was for a silver cup worth £10. The race was from a boat anchored opposite the Ferry House to a boat anchored opposite Moorside and back, twice over, which was a distance of six miles, crewed by the captain and his helmsman. The race was due to start at 12 noon but was delayed for an hour and a half for lack of any wind. The winner of the race was the Psyche, with Captain Clowes. Spectators were numerous as Parkgate was quite full at the time although the steam boat, Dairy Maid, from Chester arrived ‘just in time to be too late for the race’  (Chester Courant – Tuesday 08 July 1828)

The summer of 1829 had not been good so the attraction of a regatta, as well as a music festival at Chester, would, it was hoped, increase the number of fashionable

Chester Courant - Tuesday 25 August 1829 Image © THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

Chester Courant – Tuesday 25 August 1829
Image © THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

visitors. The weather had been particularly bad in the months before and many local fisherman had had boats destroyed or damaged by storms. Amongst them was Joseph Crowder whose boat was badly damaged and Lemuel Evans who lost his boat despite his and Ned Gill’s efforts to save it. (Chester Chronicle – Friday 10 July 1829) It was therefore announced that only men from Parkgate would be allowed to enter the fishermen’s races, the prizes offering them the means of making good some of their losses.

On the day a barge belonging to Lieutenant John Monk of Neston was anchored opposite the hotel as the starting point for the races and a small orchestra played on the front for the assembled crowd.

Four boats took part in the first sailing match

The Good Intent               John Bedson.

The Mary                            Edward Gill.

The Rover                           William Bedson.

The Long Tom                   William Caterall.

The winner was Edward Gill in his boat the Mary, followed by John Bedson’s Good Intent in second place. Bad weather made it impossible to continue with races and the Regatta was resumed the following day by which time the men had disagreed about the result of the sailing match so the committee agreed to it being raced again. The final result was Good Intent, first, the Long Tom second, the Rover third, and the Mary last.

The race between the first class sailing boats had three entrants

The Siren             Edward Gill          owner.

The Ariel              Charles Brown    ditto.

The Maria            Joseph Crowder ditto.

An error by Captain Gill lost him the lead and the Ariel came in first, followed by the Maria.

The regatta in 1835 on the 29th and 30th July was followed by a dramatic rescue.

Chester Chronicle - Friday 17 July 1835 Image © THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

Chester Chronicle – Friday 17 July 1835
Image © THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

When the musicians from the band which had been attending the regatta at Parkgate were returning to Chester by boat the spray caused the boat to fill up with water. Neston fishermen William Brierly, who was taking a party to Flint, saw their distress single and took some of the passengers aboard and towed the boat to Parkgate.

Queen Victoria’s coronation in June 1838 was accompanied by celebrations around the country and in Chester the regatta was organised as part of the Chester celebrations. There was also a regatta a few months later at Parkgate in September attended by three thousand people from Liverpool, Chester, Flint, Holywell and Wirral. The Chester boats were well represented amongst the prize winners and Commodore of the day was Edward Watson Lloyd. The races for Parkgate boats again included John Bedson and Edward Gill in the sailing race for 1st Class boats. The race started from Mrs. Briscoe’s stage in front of the Mostyn Arms, up the river round a boat moored off Moorside Lane, outside one moored out in the Colliery Channel, and round one moored below Mr. Bloor’s stage at the Ferry House and home to the committee boat opposite the Ship Inn.

The results were :

Fox                        J. Bedson             1st …    £3

Harlequin             Edw. Gill              2nd …     £1

Vixen                    Wm. Dennis…    3rd          10 shillings

Ariel                      Charles Brown  4th           7s 6d

In a second race for 2nd class boats the winner was James Bushell in the Good Intent who won £2. There was a race for women in two boats, the Withington belonging to Samuel Evans and Sarah, belonging to George Brierley. The women were dressed in white and wore ribbons and rosettes of blue or pink to distinguish between them.

Withington…      Samuel Evans… 1 pink £2: 10s

Sarah                    Geo. Brierley    2 blue £1 : 5s

The regatta dinner was provided by Mrs Williams at the Ship Inn and  John Lloyd  was chairman of the day.

When the 1842 Regatta took place there had been some improvements to the promenade undertaken by Edward Mostyn after he inherited the estate in 1840. Three hundred and fifty yards of the front had been reflagged and repaved. John Rigby’s steamer Lapwing anchored in front of the Inn and hospitality was provided on board for the Regatta committee and other guests. Edward Mostyn was Patron of the day, John Lloyd was Chairman and the umpire was John Monk.

The newspaper described the scene;

The scene at this time was most animating,—the clear view of Flintshire’s loftiest mountains—the Parkgate shore lined with spectators and equipages—the lingering sound of soft music from Stubbs’ Royal Harmonic Band—and the numerous yachts boats dashing through the ‘wizard stream,’ surpassed any description we can give.

Liverpool Mail – Saturday 24 September 1842),

The races were now for the Mostyn Cup, value £10 for schooner rigged boats, the Dee Cup, value, £5 for jigger rigged boats, the Neston Cup, value £3, for jigger rigged boats, Congreve Stakes, value £2 for smaller boats and the Leighton Stakes, value £3 for four oared boats. The winner of the Dee cup was Richard Matthews in Queen Mab and James Bushell won the Neston Cup in Harkaway.

There was again a dinner at the Ship and another at the Mostyn Arms for the committee with John Rigby of Hawarden in the chair.

In 1843 the same names featured amongst the winner: James Bushell (Neston Cup for boats not exceeding 17 feet keel length)and Richard Matthews (Dee cup for sailing boats not exceeding 10ft keel)both  won prizes. Mr Bushell was less successful in the Leighton Stakes for four oared boats when Samuel Evans took the prize in his boat the Withington. John Mealor came second to Richard Matthews in the Dee Cup. The Chester Rowing Club boats took first and second prize in the race for four oared gigs rowed by gentlemen and members of the Dee Yacht Club, John Lloyd Jones and W.M. Wilkinson, competed for the Mostyn Cup for Schooners not exceeding 10 tons. This was a drawn race because othe lack of wind and strong ebb prevented them rounding the finishing flag boat. At the dinner at the Mostyn Arms provided by Mrs Briscoe, E. Watson Lloyd was in the chair with George Challoner, Vice Chair.

Water colour by Henry Melling, a keen local yachtsman.

Water colour by Henry Melling, a keen local yachtsman.

Royal Dee Yacht Club

When John Lloyd died in 1844 his son, Edward Watson Lloyd,  succeeded to his position as Prothonotary of Chester and he was also elected Commodore of the Yacht Club. Edward Watson Lloyd had continued to be an active member of both the Dee Yacht Club and the Chester Victoria Rowing Club despite having had to have a leg amputated in 1828. In 1847 The Dee Yacht Club became the Royal Dee Yacht, thanks to his efforts and those of Edward Mostyn, M.P.

We understand that the Hon. E. M. Lloyd Mostyn. M.P. at the request of the worthy Commodore Mr. E. W. Lloyd, exerted his influence to obtain Royal patronage for the club ; and that Mr. W. Ayrton’s interest with his friends at the Admiralty has contributed the successful issue of the application for carrying the distinguishing flag or her Majesty’s Fleet. This advancement of the Royal Dee Yacht Club will tend to make Parkgate a popular and fashionable bathing place next season..

(Chester Chronicle – Friday 03 December 1847)

Another member, William Ayrton, successfully requested permission from the Admiralty to display the Blue Ensign of the Queen’s fleet.

By 1848 the club members numbered 40 (17 of whom owned yachts) with William Ayrton as Secretary and Edward Watson Lloyd, then living at Fort Heswall near Parkgate, as Commodore.

They held their annual dinner in October of that year at the Mostyn Arms and James Scott Walker was a guest. His exhibition of models of vessels built with a double keel of his own design at the dinner was widely reported throughout the country. The design does appear to have been patented.

Bell’s Life in London and Sporting Chronicle – Sunday 15 October 1848

ROYAL DEE YACHT CLUB. A numerous meeting of the members of this club was held at Tuesday last, at their club room, Park-gate, Cheshire, to audit the accounts, receive the reports of the treasurer and secretary, and make arrangements for the next season. W. Bulkeley Hughes, Esq, M.P., and Joshua Fletcher Lace, Esq, were ballotted for and elected members. Some very interesting models were exhibited by Mr Scott Walker of vessels constructed on new principle, and well adapted to the waters of the Dee, which is net navigable above Hoylake, except at certain hours before and after high water. The new feature in these vessels, is, that (being very flat bottomed) they have a double keel, and the cbief objects aimed at are, a very shallow draft of water, combined with great safety and speed, and a peculiar adaptation for the screw as a propelling power. … A very numerous party of the members and their friends, among whom we noticed the officers of the 46tb, now garrisoned at Chester, sat down to dinner at seven o’clock ; Commodore Lloyd in the chair, supported by the honorary secretary, Mr Ayrton, vice-chairman An interesting speech was made by Sir Edward Walker in reply to hishealth being drunk in conjunction with the River Dee Commissioners, in which he gave a brief account of exertions they were making to recover the powers now vested in the River Dee company, and so lamentably abused, far protecting the interests of the port of Chester, and restoring the navigation of the river. The matter has been brought before both Houses of Parliament, and it is hoped that next session a bill will be passed empowering the commissioners either to compel he River Dee Company to fulfil their obligations or surrender their trust…’