‘Cygnets’, the bungalow at Shepperton, is a unique club asset and one that is dear to all our hearts and so it has been – the site, not the current structure – for more than a century. The Victorians’ love affair with the Thames manifested itself in frequent jaunts at weekends to Richmond, Twickenham, Hampton Court and Windsor. Cygnet was no exception and such trips were well established in the club fixture card by the early 1900s.
Warming to popular sentiment, the committee voted to rent an up–river plot on Hamhaugh Island at Shepperton in 1909, furnishing it with a tent, camping equipment and a punt. Annual rental of the current site with its extensive river frontage cost £2.10/- until 1915 when it was raised to £5.00. Unshackled from the trials and deprivations of the First World War, ‘The Camp’ enjoyed its most popular year ever in 1919 and in March 1920 a meeting of Club members unanimously agreed to purchase the site for £114.00. Rental charges were fixed at 3/- for a weekend and 2/- a day from Monday to Friday.
The Camp’s popularity increased by leaps and bounds throughout the 1920s, attracting a band of stalwarts who came to be known as the `Camp Boys’. In the early days before a walk way was built over the weir the island was reached by a boat kept on the Weybridge shore. All camp members quickly learned how to hail the boat from the Weybridge shore with the rousing cry of `Lugger! Lugger!’. The time honoured reply from those on the island, intending to return to the mainland, was `All Aboard’.
The forerunner of the Cygnet bungalow as we know it today was constructed in 1930 from the remains of two First World War Nissen Huts. Corrugated metal sheeting, dismantled from further upriver, was floated down to the Cygnet site where it was reassembled. ‘The Old Bungalow’ is faithfully depicted in a painting by John Noble in the 1950s, which still adorns the lounge wall of the current bungalow. This make shift arrangement did valiant service until the early 1960s when Derek Bush, who still sits on the bungalow sub-committee, masterminded the erection of the building we now know as the Bungalow.
The improved facilities greatly enhanced the bungalow’s popularity during the 1960s and 70s and it thrived under the long stewardship of Nina and Norman (`Paddy’) Padwick. Thus, many members of this era will have pleasant memories of quiet Sunday afternoons spent on the lawn and messing around in boats on the river, or the nearby Wey Navigation canal. Others will have more poignant memories of training outings from Chiswick to Shepperton or the riotous parties that took place in the late 1970s courtesy of the Rawkins brothers. Every generation has a tale to tell about the bungalow.
Today, the bungalow boasts running water and bathroom facilities thanks to Ronnie Lambe and his cohorts, while Derek Bush is back in the driving seat maintaining the structure. The bungalow hosts the Cygnet Sculling Camps twice a year and is available to members and their friends to rent on a weekly basis during the summer months. As always, self–help remains the name of the game and members are encouraged to join ‘working parties’ as and when the need arises. So, if you’ve got time on your hands and/or are drawn to a tranquil week on the Upper Thames, the bungalow could be the place for you.