Saturday, January 28, 2023



You, the discerning and gentle reader, will be pleased to know that I'm not a gambling man. Far be it from me to wager fast and loose on the vagaries of Dog Coin, the Peoples' Currency, and other speculation. That said, others have gambled and played deep, not least at Crockford's on St. James in the 1820s.

William Crockford was a fishmonger, born and raised at Temple Bar in London but, with a quick mathematical mind and attention to odds raised himself to a professional gambler, winning a massive fortune at cards, 100,000 pounds, millions now, at a game with various nobility in a tavern off St. James.

The Fishmonger gambler sensibly invested this money in a club, No. 50 St. James, over and against White's. This aristocratic gambling hell became all the rage, as did its play. For example:

The great majority of the club’s members were serious, indeed inveterate, gamblers. The equivalent of about $40 million is believed to have changed hands over Crockford’s first two seasons; Lord Rivers once lost £23,000 ($3 million) in a single evening, and the Earl of Sefton, a wastrel of whom the diarist Charles Greville observed that “his natural parts were excessively lively, but his education had been wholly neglected,” lost about £250,000 (almost $33 million today) over a period of years. He died owing Crockford more than $5 million more, a debt that his son felt obliged to discharge.


Crockford retired a multi-millionaire (not a socialist) in the 1840s and lost most of his fortune, apparently, on ill-advised bets on the Derby. Captain Gronow reckons, on reflection, "One may safely say, without exaggeration, that Crockford won the whole of the ready money of the then existing generation.” Quite a thing, we're talking millions and millions of pounds by 1820s/30s reckoning.

The Clubhouse still exists today and you can see it on your left as you stroll towards White's famous bay window. It was bought by a Russian oligarch around a decade ago and then squatted. Rumours that the DLC are purchasing this fine Regency building are precisely that, rumours.

Arduus Ad Solem,



Old NFO said...

Interesting... I thought I remembered it being the St. James Club in the 80s. I 'think' we had dinner there once.

LSP said...

It's a fascinating story, NFO, but I don't think it ever became the St. James Club, though Crockford did use that designation as the club's official designation. Perhaps you went to the St. James Club/Hotel in Park Place?