A portrait of the oarsman Edward Hawks with Durham Cathedral in the background inscribed on stretcher 'EDWD HAWKS/Aged 46 years.' oil on canvas 76 x 62cm (29 15/16 x 24 7/16in).
Edward Hawks is depicted here as a proud member of the Newcastle rowing crew who won the Champion of the World prize at the Thames Regatta in 1845. Known as Ned, he was the uncle of Susannah Hawks, wife of the famous rowing champion Henry (Harry) Clasper. The latter captained the winning boat, leading Edward Hawks along with three more Clasper brothers, Richard, Robert and William, to victory. Edward Hawks was a new recruit to the crew for this race due to the untimely death of another Clasper brother, also named Edward, who tragically drowned at the age of twenty five.
Harry Clasper began his rowing career in Newcastle ferrying people to and from the ships moored in the deep channel of the Tyne. By the 19th century competitive rowing had grown significantly in popularity. The first Oxford-Cambridge Boat Race took place in 1829 and Henley on Thames started an annual regatta in 1839. Tyneside was considered to be one of the most notable rowing locations, as we can see in a report by the Newcastle Courant that, 'as skiff rowing was not only becoming a popular but a national sport, the Tyne both from its facilities and celebrity ought to take her true position with other places favourable to aquatic amusements'.
Henry Clasper used skills he had learnt when working as a ship's carpenter to revolutionise the design of rowing boats and to create the highly advantageous Newcastle Oar that had a curved blade and handles that overlapped at the draw. He and his crew became famous as undisputed champions of the Tyne in boats that he had designed and built.
After defeat on home waters by 'The Thames Men' Henry Clasper designed and built a yet more innovative craft a unique four oared skiff named The Five Brothers fitted with iron outriggers. Following the success of this boat on the Thames he built the further improved 'Lord Ravensworth'. The boat in the present lot is an example of one of these slimmer and sleeker models. Sir Lancelot Shadwell, Vice Chancellor of England wittily quipped that 'Although the winners were Tyne men, the London watermen had not found them 'tiny' competitors.'