The great regatta which was held on the Thames in June, 1775, must have been a very fine sight. A newspaper account of it says that the river from London Bridge to the "Ship" at Millbank was covered with pleasure boats and barges.
Scaffolds were erected on the banks and on barges, and as much as half-a-guinea was asked for a seat. Twelve boats, each with two men, were to row from Westminster Bridge against the tide to London Bridge and back, and the first boat which passed through the centre arch of Westminster Bridge westward was the winner. The boats were divided into three squadrons-red, white, and blue.
The first prize was a new boat with furniture complete, and an ensign with the word "Regatta" in gilt, and coats and badges. The second prize was eight guineas; and the third, three; and every other candidate, half-a-guinea.
The red division won it. The Lord Mayor's barge and all the city barges were crowded with well dressed company, who mostly adopted the colours of the divisions.
After the race, which was over about 8.30 p.m., a grand procession of boats was formed to Ranelagh, with band after band of music on board. At Ranelagh a grand fête took place, and a special octagon building called the Temple of Neptune was erected for dancing.
The Rotunda, which was splendidly illuminated both inside and out, had been converted into a gigantic supper-room; unfortunately the supper was bland and the wine scarce.
The notorious Mrs. Comely had the management of this. The music, performed by an orchestra of 240 performers led by Giardini, was under the general directorship of Mr. Simpson.
Afterwards, the company danced minuets and cotillions in the Temple. Such was the crowd when the assembly broke up in the early hours of the morning, that there were many accidents, and four people were drowned. It is said that never before had the Thames presented such an extraordinary sight, with 200,000 spectators.Next page: Chelsea