Bette Hill (née Shubrook)

Years 1952 (8o, 1st)
1954 (4+, 3rd)
Club Stuart Ladies RC
Racing weight 11 stone or 70kg
Born 1926
Died 2017 aged 91

Bette is fourth from the left in the photo at the top of this page which shows the successful 1952 crew with their coach.

Elizabeth Shubrook, known to all of her friends as Bette, was a member of Stuart Ladies RC on the River Lea during the early 1950s when it was generally the most successful club on the British women’s rowing scene.

She first represented Great Britain in the eights at the 1952 Women’s International Regatta run by FISA to test the practicality of the concept, where the Stuart Ladies crew won a three-boat event against the Netherlands and France.

She then went on to win a bronze medal in the coxed fours at the first Women’s European Rowing Championships in 1954, again in a Stuart Ladies crew.

Full accounts of these events can be read here:

1952 | 1954

More photos of Bette

GB women having tea at the Bosbaan in 1952

The GB women’s eight at the Bosbaan in 1952. Bette is on the far left. (Photo: Barbara Kaye’s personal collection.)

Stuart Ladies RC winning the Women's Head 1953

Stuart Ladies RC winning the Women’s Head in April 1953 (I think). Bette is at 6. (Photo: Barbara Kaye’s personal collection.)

1953 Stuart Ladies RC eight

The Stuart Ladies eight (Bette is at 5), probably at the ‘News of the World’ Coronation Regatta on the Serpentine in August 1953. (Photo: Barbara Kaye’s personal collection.)

Bette Shubrook in Stuart Ladies RC club blazer

Bette (centre) with Stuart Ladies RC clubmates. (Photo: Barbara Kaye’s personal collection.)

1954 GB women's coxed four

The 1954 GB women’s coxed four at the Bosbaan. Bette Shubrook is at 3. (Photo: Barbara Kaye’s personal collection.)

1954 GB and Russian women's rowing crews

GB women’s crews with Russian counterparts at the 1954 Women’s European Rowing Championships. Bette is the tall woman with dark hair in a white top seventh from the right (13th from the left). (Photo: Barbara Kaye’s personal collection.)

After rowing

Bette moved away from rowing after her success at the 1954 Women’s European Rowing Championships, largely because she married the racing driver Graham Hill the following year, having met him at a fun regatta on Boxing Day 1950 at Auriol RC (which merged with Kensington RC in 1981 to form Auriol Kensington RC).

Although best-known for his success in motor sport, Graham Hill’s first sporting love was rowing, which he learned at Southsea RC, and continued at Auriol RC and then later at London RC whose distinctive blue and white cap design famously adorned both his and their son Damon’s racing helmets.

Bette soon became a well-known and respected figure on the F1 circuit, doing skilled timekeeping work for her husband’s team, as well as forming The Doghouse Club for drivers’ wives.

Her life was turned upside down in 1975 when Graham died after the plane he was piloting crashed in bad weather conditions, killing not only him but his five passengers who were members of his racing team. As the plane’s paperwork was not in order, its insurance was invalid, which led to the other men’s families making direct claims on Hill’s estate.

In 1978 she published The Other Side of the Hill: Life with Graham Hill, an autobiography of her life with him.

More of Bette’s story can be read in her obituary in The Independent and also here.

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