Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Crockford's Club in St. James's Street

Wednesday, May 27, 2015
Hazard Room at Crockford's
Loretta reports:

Crockford’s Club, No. 50 St. James’s Street, was a famous gaming house.* It’s played a role in my Dressmakers series—being practically next door to the fictional shop—as well as others of my books. It appears in many accounts of gaming and 19th century London history.  You can read a history of Crockford and the club here, and an architectural account here. The following explains its popularity.
There is one thing, and one only, to be said in favour of Mr. Crockford's enterprise, which is, that this establishment did away with the practice of gentlemen playing against each other for large sums. At Crockford's the game was one of Gentlemen versus Players, the players being always Mr. Crockford's officials at the French hazard table, and the sole object of his business was to win the money of his patrons. He had no other sources of profit; his establishment was an exclusive club with a very low subscription, and was open to such gentlemen only as could convince the committee of their eligibility. For their subscription, which was so small that members who did not gamble were accustomed to make a sort of offering of conscience money, by flinging a ten pound note on the play table at the end of the season, the best cookery and the finest wines in London were supplied to them gratis, and they had the companionship of the most fashionable male society of the day. Crockford was wise enough to leave all the social arrangements to a committee of gentlemen who conducted the ballots, elected and rejected whom they chose, and made entry to Crockford's as difficult as to White's or
Crockford's Club
Brooks's. The new club, in fact, at once took a tone similar to that of those aristocratic bodies, whose members were made eligible for election to Crockford's by one of its first rules. In exchange for the princely accommodation of his house, and such fare as was unobtainable at any other club in London for love or money, Crockford asked for nothing in return but that gentlemen should condescend to take a cast at his table at French hazard.
—William Biggs Boulton, The Amusements of Old London (1901)

*The building still stands.

Images: T. J. Rawlins, The Hazard Room at Crockford's, 1837, courtesy Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection. T. H. Shepherd, Crockford’s Club, Metropolitan Improvements; or London in the 19th Century 1827, via Internet Archive.

Clicking on the image will enlarge it.  Clicking on the caption will allow you to read at the source, where you can learn more and enlarge images as needed.


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