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Gentlemen's Clubs in London

A glance at the rise of the gentlemen's clubs

Any gentleman of quality was a member of at least one gentlemen’s club in London. There were a considerable number, some formally established and others ad hoc with members meeting at coaching inns or coffeehouses. Most clubs were favoured based on commonalities, such as academics meeting at a club wherein only Latin was spoken, Dandies meeting to compare fashion, squires who ride to hounds meeting at a club known for its sportsmen connections, and so forth.

The three most popular clubs we read about in historical romances are White’s, Brooks’s, and Boodle’s. These three were the top choices of the elites, be they aristocracy or gentry. All three only accepted membership by anonymous election. Interestingly, both Brooks’s and Boodle’s clubs first opened during the Georgian era, while White’s opened only a few years before the Georgian era.

The clubs were known best for high stakes card games, billiards, coffee, fine libraries and reading rooms, and dining. It was not uncommon for gentlemen to dine at their club exclusively during their stay in London. Each club offered a little something different, not only in terms of company but amenities, such as one boasting better wagers and games while another boasted a finer billiard table.

If the novel’s hero chose White’s as his preferred club, he was likely politically conservative, in other words, a Tory. This was not always the case, but the club was known for its mostly Tory membership.

On the other side of the political landscape is Brooks’s with its notable Whig membership.

Boodle’s was most liked by gentry and sportsmen (ie Corinthians) rather than being known for political ties.

If you’ve not dug into each before, it’s a fun rabbit hole to explore the floor plans and interior illustrations!


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