RSC Club History
The Royal Skating Club is the oldest skating club in England and since the demise of the Edinburgh Skating club, the oldest in the world.
Formed in 1830 by a group of gentlemen under the simple title The Skating Club its first president was the Earl of Clanricarde, a former ambassador to the Court of St Petersburg, and the usual chairman was Sir William Newton. Sir William was the Miniature Portrait Painter to the Court of King William IV and later to Queen Victoria.
The Club skated in Regent’s Park on the Serpentine as and when ice was available, which in some years was not at all. We do not know much detail of the skating at that time but the members would have known about foursomes called “Quadrilles” which had been in fashion since the 1780s at least.
From the beginning the Club attracted many famous people. Prince Albert became a Patron and was succeeded in due course by the Prince and Princess of Wales who later continued as King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra. Later still came King George V and Queen Mary. All the royal Patrons skated with the Club from time to time.
The second generation of club members, including the famous Vandervell and Witham, carried on improving the technique and developed the “English Style” as it is known today. They also had the advantage of a long run of cold winters.
Eventually the public lakes became too crowded and so in 1879 the Club obtained from the Royal Toxophilite (Archery) Club the winter use of the area of Regent’s Park which is now hard tennis courts. This was flooded to make an ice surface that froze easily and was also very safe. During this period details of “calls” were finalised and transmitted to 15 other clubs, 10 in England, 2 in Scotland and 3 in Switzerland.
Women had been admitted to the Club in the 1870s, firstly only wives, sisters and daughters, then up to one third of the membership and finally as equals and having to pass the same skating tests for admission. Children were not admitted until the bleak war days of 1917.
Ever since the turn of the century the winters had been getting warmer and in 1922 the Club lost its rink to the tennis courts. The Club moved to Moor Park but had little success and in 1929 it decided to amalgamate with the Wimbledon Skating Club which had the monopoly of Wimbledon Lake. The name became The Skating Club, Wimbledon.
The Wimbledon Skating Club had been formed in 1871 and for years had produced some of the finest English Style skaters making it the Skating Club’s principal rival. In 1932 the combined club received the title of “The Royal Skating Club” by command of its patron King George V.
It soon had to look for more ice however and hired sessions at the Westminster Ice Rink in Millbank with Wimbledon Lake being still occasionally used. During the 2nd World War the Millbank premises were requisitioned and never restored so the club moved to the Richmond Ice Rink where it continued to meet until this ice rink closed in 1992. Following a number of temporary “homes” in and around the south east the club currently meets at Guildford Spectrum.
For several years the Club competed with similar clubs in Manchester and Birmingham and later Southampton but at the time of writing the Royal Skating Club is the only one practising English Style.
NSA Centenary Gala 1979 Club members in 19C costume