Tuesday, 25 July 2017

William Crockford's St James's Club

Crockford was born 13 January 1776 in Temple Bar, London, the son of a fishmonger, and for some time himself carried on that business. He married firstly (1801) Mary Lockwood and secondly (20 May 1812 St George's Hanover Square) Sarah Frances Douglass. After winning a large sum of money (according to one story, £100,000) either at cards or by running a gambling establishment, he built a luxurious gambling house designed by Benjamin and Philip Wyatt at 50-53 St James's Street in 1827. In order to ensure exclusiveness, he organized the house as a members' club under the name "The St James's Club" though popularly known as "Crockford's Club" and it quickly became the rage – every English social celebrity and every distinguished foreigner visiting London hastened to become a member. Even the Duke of Wellington joined, though it is alleged this was in order merely to blackball his son, Lord Douro, should he seek election. Hazard was the favourite game, and very large sums changed hands.

Crockford retired in 1840, when, in the expressive language of Captain Rees Howell Gronow, he had "won the whole of the ready money of the then existing generation." He took approximately £1,200,000 out of the club, but subsequently invested some of it unwisely, particularly with two of his sons and one daughter (Henry, Charles and Fanny Crockford) in mining and zinc manufacturing in Greenfield, Flintshire, Wales. Crockford died at his home 11 Carlton House Terrace (later Prime Minister Gladstone's home) on 24 May 1844. and lies buried in a family vault underneath Kensal Green Cemetery Chapel London

Crockford's, the popular name for William Crockford's St James's Club was a London gentlemen's club, now dissolved. It was established in 1823, closed in 1845, re-founded in 1928 and closed in 1970. One of London's older clubs, it was centred on gambling and maintained a somewhat raffish and raucous reputation. It was founded by William Crockford who employed Benjamin Wyatt and Philip Wyatt to construct the city's most opulent palace of gentlemanly pleasure, which opened in November 1827 and he employed two of London's finest chefs of the time, Louis Eustache Ude and then Charles Elmé Francatelli to feed its members, food and drink being supplied free after midnight.

From 1823, the club leased 50 St. James's Street, and then nos. 51–53, which enabled Crockford to pull down all four houses and build his palatial club on the site. After the club's closure, this continued to be used as a clubhouse, at first briefly by the short-lived Military, Naval and County Service Club, and then between 1874 and 1976 it was home to the Devonshire Club.

“The Georgian Art of Gambling takes readers on a wild tour through high and low society in Georgian England to reveal all aspects of the widespread love of gambling. From detailed accounts of the fashionable card and dice games of the day, as played in fine homes and gambling houses alike, to wagering on blood sports like cockfighting and bull baiting, and such less gruesome affairs as boxing and cricket, Claire Cock-Starkey brings to life the world of Jane Austen; Beau Brummel; Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire; and more. We see aristocrats ruined by the turn of a card; activists mounting antigambling campaigns through pamphlets, broadsides, and legislation; and the devious machinations of card sharps and dice loaders. Cock-Starkey also offers rules and descriptions for a number of games that have fallen out of favor, along with copious anecdotes and facts about the culture of chance in Regency England.”

No comments: