The Club, from its commencement, appears to have enrolled the most respectable and opulent inhabitants of the Ward among its members. We have already noticed the Rev. William Webster and following his name, which heads the list of first members, is that of Deputy Moore and all the Common Councilmen of the Ward. In 1780 the Rev. John Frith, M.A., was elected a member and up to 1793 attended with great regularity.
Several Aldermen of other Wards, but resident in Candlewick Ward, have been enrolled, viz.: Alderman Wright, Alderman Gill and Alderman Hankey.
The fee or fine paid by a Member upon his marriage has already been noticed as one of the Rules; it was also the custom from the commencement to note in the Minute Book the birth, name and frequently the date of baptism of any addition occurring in the families of members, for which a fee was levied. It is not unusual to find three or four generations in succession so entered. In 1781 Mr Ely, a member, paid his fine for a great-grand-daughter. In the absence of more specific evidence, these entries would perhaps be available in a court of law.
The meetings of the Club were originally held at the “Salutation” Tavern, in Nicholas Lane. In 1774 the Club removed to the “Red Lion” in Clement’s Lane and in 1779 to the “George” Great Eastcheap. For two years, in 1782-1784 the members met at the celebrated tavern commemorated by Shakespeare, the “Boar’s Head, Eastcheap. Of course, this was not the identical building associated with Dame Quickly and the witty Falstaff, as Goldsmith in his pleasant poem, “The Reverie”, assumes⁹, but one built upon the same spot two years after the Great Fire in 1666 and which in the year 1831 was taken down to make way for King William Street, the statue of William IV being now on its site. The “Boar’s Head” being shut up in 1784, they returned to the “George”, but left again in 1792, when, by a majority of three, the “White Hart”, Abchurch Lane, was chosen. At this period there were fifty members. In 1825 the Club returned to the “Red Lion”, but in 1833 it resumed its meetings at the “White Hart”, where it remained until 1837, when it was removed to the “Shades” in Martin’s Lane. In 1852 the “White Hart” for the third time received its members, where they continued until 1867, when, the Club having greatly increased its numbers, it removed to the City Terminus Hotel, Cannon Street, where special rooms are devoted to its use.
In the earlier days of the Club, as already recorded, its members met once a week and enjoyed their pipes over a bottle of wine, and all the fines and wagers went towards the expense of a quarterly supper. The menu for the Club Supper in 1758 is noted as 1 Tongue, 2 Geese roasted, Sausages, 2 Hunting Puddings, with Walnuts, Pears and Apples. Another was 6 Maids and Soles in 3 Dishes, 3 Fowls, 3 Ducks and an Apple Pie. The hour was 7 p.m. and the bill for the latter feast was £1 13s. 11½d.
In 1774 the Monthly superseded the Weekly Meetings and then the Members had a grand Dinner in the country twice a year, viz.: on the Wednesday before Lady-day and Michaelmas. The “Mermaid” at Hackney was the favourite resort on these occasions, although the “Golden Lion” at Camberwell and the “Horns, Kensington, came in for their share of patronage. The monthly Meetings were held regularly up to 1813; in that year it was decided to adjourn during the summer months of July, August and September. In 1852 Mr Marratt proposed, and Mr Joseph Blades seconded, that the Club should in future meet on the second Thursday in the months of February, April, June October and December, and that the members should dine together on each of those occasions – Dinner to be on table at five o’clock – now 5.30. The most radical change, since the reorganisation of the Club in 1739, occurred in 1856, when the conditions of membership were entirely changed. The increased facilities of locomotion and the progressive advance of rents had caused a majority of the Citizens to reside out of London, so that the motion “that the occupation of offices in the Ward should in future be a sufficient qualification for membership”, was carried almost without opposition. On the death of Mr Marratt, he was succeeded as Hon. Secretary and Treasurer by his partner, Mr G.E. Ellis, C.C., who able carried out the position with advantage to the Club. On his death in 1913, Mr George Rowland Blades, who had just previously taken his place as Common Councilman for the Candlewick Ward, became Hon. Secretary and Treasurer¹⁰.
During the great war, 1914-1918, the Club decided to give up the usual dinners, which were replaced by teas, and the subscription was modified to meet the new conditions.
In the past annals of the Club one of the noticeable features is the practice of “betting” – all differences of opinion being settled by betting a bottle or bottles of wine, “for the good of the Club”. All these bets are entered in the Minute Book and it is curious to trace how the prevailing topics of the day, social and political, are shadowed forth by the character of the bets and occasionally much amusement arose from their settlement¹¹. This custom has, however, been entirely abandoned of late years. The first wager booked was on February 3rd, 1741 when Mr Constable laid a bottle of wine that Mr. Pellatt was over forty years of age; Mr Blakesly to the contrary. Among the subjects discussed and betted upon were: The conduct of the Duke of Cumberland in 1747; the selling price of the City Gates, which were pulled down in 1760; the effect on the Funds of Mr Pitt’s measures in 1765; Sir Francis Burdett’s conduct in 1802; the Siege of Antwerp in 1809; the Corn Laws in 1815; whether “Bonaparte would be Ruler of France this day next year”, just previous to the battle of Waterloo; the building of Southward Bridge; and the taking down the houses on London Bridge; whether Rowland Hill of Surrey Chapel, was an ordained minister of the Church of England; and whether George IV and us Queen would settle their differences without resort to Parliament. The spread of disloyalty under “the last of the Georges” is shown by the wager that a majority of the members present would not rise to the King’s health. The career, too, of Hudson, the Railway King, was the cause of many bets.