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Sportsmen Clubs

A look into the popular sporting clubs of the Georgian era

Sportsmen were called Corinthians, but not all Corinthians were into the same types of sports. Some enjoyed sports such as big game hunting, cock fighting, gaming, and shooting, while others preferred the more athletic sports, such as boxing, fencing, racing, even cricket. To be considered a true Corinthian, one must excel at several sports, while also being well dressed and of good manners, not all of which could be said for every sporting gentleman.

There were any number of London-based clubs a Corinthian could enjoy. Some clubs were physical locations wherein a gentleman could enjoy a specific sport, while others were the club name with no brick and mortar base.

For socialising, Corinthians might visit the Cocoa-tree Club, which originated as a Tory chocolate-house but was converted into a gentlemen’s club in the mid-18th century. Gentlemen often breakfasted and supped at the club, as well as gamed and passed their time with fellow Corinthians, perhaps making plans for a boxing bout later.

As for specific sport types, the pugilists had the most options. The only training ground was Gentleman Jackson’s, but there were ample locations and clubs in which boxers could meet and talk boxing, share tips, and compete for matches: Cribb’s Parlour, the Daffy Club, the Pugilistic Club, Limmer’s Hotel, and Fives Court. Gentlemen who enjoyed boxing were referred to as “The Fancy,” so someone might say, “That gentleman with the rumpled cravat is one of the Fancy.”

For fencing, there was Angelo’s School of Arms.

The Marylebone Cricket Club could be found at Lord’s. Cricket clubs usually were private, such as Gray’s Inn of the Inns of Court having a fine cricket club for the barristers interested in that sort of thing.

There were several racing clubs, be they for horse or carriage, the three elites being the Jockey Club, Bensington Driving Club, and the Four Horse Club. The latter went by several names: Four-in-Hand Club, the Whip Club, and the Barouche Club.

While some clubs were open to any interested gentleman, most were exclusive, members-only, and to be considered for membership, one must be an aristocrat, a gentleman of notable worth, or a recommended friend of either. Every club had a reputation, some more reputable than others.

Check out these sources to learn more:

Shannon Donnelly's "Regency Corinthians, Dandies, Rakes, and Young Blades"

Ralph Neville's London Clubs, Their History and Treasures

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