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IN THE NEWS
TOUR OF THE MONTH
ON THIS DAY IN LONDON
Doggett's Coat and Badge
This is the pub that commemorates the oldest boat race in London
Location: 1 Blackfriars Bridge, Southwark, SE1 9UD
Description: This pleasant South Bank waterside pub commemorates London's oldest boat race. No not that one.
Irish actor Thomas Doggett was joint manager of Drury Lane Theatre, and like many he relied heavily upon the Watermen of the Thames, the equivalent of the modern taxi driver, to convey him between his various workplaces in the City and his Chelsea home.
Legend has it that in 1715, Doggett was rescued by a Waterman after falling overboard during a Thames crossing near Embankment. In gratitude for his rescue, he offered a rowing wager to the fastest of six young Waterman in their first year of freedom, over the course between The Swan pub at London Bridge and The Swan pub at Chelsea.
Rowing wagers were fairly common then, but this one was specific: Doggett set the wager to be a traditional red Watermens' coat, but, being a great Whig in Politics, Doggett arranged the race for 1 August each year, and had the coat furnished with a silver badge representing Liberty, to commemorate the 1 August 1714 accession of George I of the House of Hanover to the throne.
The current badge prominently features both the word Liberty and an image of the horse of the House of Hanover. The race was organised and financed by Doggett each year from 1715 until his death in 1721. In his will, Doggett left specific instructions for the continuation of the race, which is now undertaken by the Fishmongers' Company, a Livery Company of the City of London.
Originally, the race was run against the tide, but since 1873 it has been run with the incoming tide.
It was intended to be held each 1st day of August forever, but now occurs on a Friday during July, with the precise date and time depending on the tides.