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Gentleman walking into Boodles Club, 1820. Reference: Collage 34862.

​Exploring the Heritage of Clubland: The Archives of Boodle's

Louise Harrison, Catalogue Editor, takes a brief look at the history of the club and highlights key aspects of the collection, one of a growing number of archives of gentleman’s clubs held by London Metropolitan Archives (LMA).

Boodle’s private membership club

Boodle’s is a private membership club founded in 1762. The origins of the club can be explored in the first club book (LMA/4572/A/01/001) which details the rules and regulations, and lists both membership and managers.

On the opening page, it states that ‘William Almack has taken the large house west of his now dwelling house in Pall Mall for sole use of a society established upon the following rules’. Almack was a coffee house proprietor and the large house was a tavern at 49-51 Pall Mall. The founder members of the society were mainly friends and associates of future Prime Minister Lord Shelburne and opponents of William Pitt the Elder’s foreign policies relating to the Seven Years War.

Boodle’s began as a place where like-minded men could meet to discuss political issues and exchange ideas. It was a proprietary club meaning that it was run for the profit of the owner under the direction of a board of managers. You may be wondering why the club was not named Almack’s after the original owner? A note written in pencil in the original club book reveals that Almack’s former principal waiter Edward Boodle took over the tavern shortly after it opened and subsequently gave his name to the club formed at that establishment.

In 1793, the club moved from Pall Mall to its present clubhouse at 28 St. James’s Street, which was designed by John Crunden in 1775 and originally used by the Savoir Vivre Club. Unfortunately, there are no records of the Pall Mall clubhouse in the collection, but there are a number relating to the property in St. James Street (LMA/4572/H) including sale particulars, papers and correspondence, inventories and valuations, and photographs.

A key moment in the history of Boodle’s came in the 19th century with the death of proprietor W. Gayner. The proprietorship was inherited by two sisters who came to the decision to close the club at the end of 1896. Fortunately, the membership came together and eventually raised enough money to purchase the name, lease and assets, therefore creating a membership club. A general committee and management committee were set up to oversee the running of the club. The minutes of these committees (LMA/4572/B/01-02) should prove valuable for anyone researching the administration of Boodle’s since 1896.

Since its foundation, the membership has been elected by ballot and are required to pay an annual subscription. Over the years, there have been a number of notable people within the membership including Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington, and William Wilberforce. In 1944, Ian Lancaster Fleming, creator of James Bond, was elected. It is believed that he based the fictional ‘Blades Club’ on Boodle’s. The candidates books (LMA/4572/D/02), registers of subscriptions (LMA/4572/D/04) and membership list (LMA/4572/D/05) are among the significant records for those investigating the membership.

There are also many records relating to the activities of the membership. In the early days, Boodle’s was not only a political club, but also a place for wining and dining, gaming and betting. A particular highlight of the collection is the betting book (LMA/4572/D/07/001), which lists bets made by members including many made by the infamous dandy Beau Brummell. In the 19th century, the club became less political and is now a place where the membership can meet, dine and engage in social activities.

Discover more

You may be interested to read more about the work being carried out on the Boodles Archive in these articles

Further information

The full collection can be viewed on our online catalogue under reference code LMA/4572.

Please note that access to this collection requires written permission from the club. Please contact ask.lma@cityoflondon.gov.uk for more details.

The records of Boodle’s are part of a growing body of records of London gentleman’s clubs held by LMA including

If you enjoyed this article, you may be interested in another article about the Travellers’ Club records at LMA.

You can find out more about LMA's social history records on our collections page.​​

Published:
17 May 2012
Last Modified:
30 August 2018

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