The Tudor Pull is an annual rowing event by the Royal Watermen between two great HRP Palaces, Hampton Court and H.M Tower of London.
The Queen’s Row Barge ‘Gloriana’ rowed by the Royal Watermen is escorted by Thames Waterman’s Cutters, rigged with ceremonial canopies and flags, from Hampton Court to the Tower of London in order to deliver a ‘Stela’ to the Governor of the Tower.
The ‘Stela’ is a piece of ancient water pipe made from a hollowed tree trunk which stands on a base of timber from the old Richmond Lock and bears the coat of arms of the Watermen & Lightermen’s Company. The cutters are rowed by members of the Livery Companies of the City of London and, in keeping with tradition, each must carry a passenger.
The event is organised by the Thames Traditional Rowing Association who support and promote the sport of fixed seat rowing and sculling on the River Thames in Waterman’s cutters.
Each year Her Majesty’s Royal Watermen complete a marathon row from Hampton Court Palace to the Tower of London, a distance of some 25 miles.
They do this to support the apprentices system of the trade of Thames Watermen and Lightermen and to draw attention to London’s great underused asset ~ The River Thames. They also commemorate events of 1256 when Queen Eleanor’s royal barge sank under the old London Bridge with the loss of one of her courtiers, the Lady of the Bedchamber.
The Queen has a retinue of 22 appointed Watermen with her Royal Bargemaster to oversee and organise their duties~ these consist of accompanying Her Majesty when travelling on the river, at State visits and at the State Opening of Parliament.
Men are chosen for this honour for the dedication to their trade and for their prowess as oarsmen. Several of the men in the Queen’s retinue have competed in the Olympics and many in major events within the sport of rowing.
After the ceremony of accepting the ‘Stela’ at Hampton Court Palace HM Bargemaster carries the emblem, made from a slice of Medieval elm water-pipe, placing it aboard the Queen’s Row Barge ‘Gloriana’.
During the Tudor Pull the barge is accompanied by traditional oar powered Watermen’s Cutters belonging to the Livery Companies of the City of London dressed in their full company regalia, the Royal Shallop ‘The Jubilant’, the Watermen’s Shallop ‘LadyMayoress’ and by other craft from organisation and rowing clubs who preserve the sport of fixed seat rowing on the River Thames ~ this wonderful Royal high-way of the City of London.
Following a short stop at Richmond the crews row down to the pool of London arriving at HM The Tower of London where the pageant disembark and the ‘Stela’, escorted by Yeoman Warder of the Tower, is processed to be presented to the Governor of H.M. Towerof London.
At a short ceremony he accepts the ‘Stela’ under his protection until it is returned to Hampton Court Palace for the following years procession.
The Tudor Pull is organised under the governance of the ‘Thames Traditional Rowing Association’.
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I have been very lucky to participate as an observer in the Tudor Pull. The delightful craft I had the good fortune to travel on was the little ship ‘Verity’.
Many thanks to Malcolm K of Thames Alive and Peter who owns the ‘Verity’.