Charles Elmé Francatelli, Crockford’s, and the Royal Connection

 Colin Smythe

This is a conflation of two articles, the first with this title and the second called ‘Charles Elmé Francatelli, Additions and Supplementations’,  both of which appeared in Petits Propos Culinaires (edited by Tom Jaine, London: Prospect Books) issues 101, October 2014, pp. 17-42 and 102, March 2015, pp. 100-118, with later additions, the most recent in July 2017, September and November 2018, and May 2020, including information about Francatelli playing cricket at Sandringham and in Scotland for the Prince of Wales’s team, the attendees at the first hippophagous dinner, and about the pony itself. At the end of this page I have added some notes about the Francatelli family. Genealogical matters are complicated by the fact that three members of the family were called Charles Elmé Francatelli, 1805-1876, 1851-1901 (a great nephew, who may not have been Christened Elmé, but later used it, and whose daughter survived the sinking of the Titanic), and 1875-??, a son by his second wife, who I think emigrated to the US.

Footnotes: if you click on the footnote numbers, you will be taken to the relevant footnote, and while there, by clicking on the number at the beginning of said footnote, you will return to where you were in the text.

Charles Elmé Francatelli stands, with Louis Eustache Ude and Alexis Benoit Soyer, as one of the three most eminent chefs of mid-nineteenth century England, but very little has been written about him. Soyer’s years at London’s Reform Club (1837-50) and his time in the Crimea were justly famed, and yet Francatelli’s time at the Reform from 1854 to 1861, is almost entirely ignored, and that Club’s archives are almost empty regarding him. 

Soyer was five years younger than Francatelli and died in 1858, aged forty-eight; Ude was about seventy-six when he died on 10 April 1846, and Francatelli seventy-one when he died thirty years later, but less has been written about him and, it seems, more often inaccurately than of his confrères in the great art of cookery. Soyer’s considerably greater fame must have been largely influenced by the fact that he wrote a great deal about himself, while Francatelli wrote virtually nothing about his life – no memoirs, or autobiographical introductions to his cook books – to aid potential biographers: it seems he didn’t have time, so almost all details about his life must be obtained from other sources.

This article has grown out of my attempts to find accurate information on the internet and elsewhere about Francatelli’s life for a forty or so word entry for a biographical index that I am preparing for another book,[1] and I was frustrated by the lack of agreement about the facts – or more often, lack of facts. For example, the question as to when and for how long he worked for Queen Victoria elicits varying answers; also, the opening date and early years of the St James’s Club (better known as ‘Crockford’s’ after its founder/owner), for which Francatelli worked before and after his time at Buckingham Palace are also cause for disagreement. I have cleared up some of the ambiguities and misinformation about Francatelli’s life, his time at, and the history of ‘Crockford’s’, and of his later activities, at the Coventry House Club, his time at the Reform Club, as manager of the St James’s Hotel, as chef de cuisine for the Prince of Wales, when he was at the height of his fame, and finally manager of the Freemasons’ Tavern in Great Queen Street, London (next to the Freemason’s Hall, home of the United Grand Lodge of England). The details here have been taken from contemporary printed reports, and where possible, I have cross-checked them against other sources, including advertisements and law reports. This would not have been possible without the facilities of the ever-growing British Newspaper Archive.[2]

After separating from previous partners and ventures, details of which are not relevant to the present article (although he was a wealthy man as a result of them), William Crockford (1775-1844)[3] determined to set up a separate enterprise entirely on his own. He was already at 51 St James’s Street by February 1823, using it as a gambling ‘hell’, as evidenced by the Orme vs. Crockford legal case heard in December 1824, and where it was already described as ‘one of the most splendid gambling houses in London’.[4] William Crockford always kept absolute control of the Club, financially and otherwise, until his retirement in 1840, although it was technically run by a Management Committee, and he was famous for knowing exactly how much each of its members was worth.

In the April 1823 edition of Boyle’s New Fashionable Court and Country Guide, Crockford is shown to be at 51 St James’s Street, and in the January 1824 edition he appears as also having no. 50, and he then acquired nos. 52 and 53. By April 1824, both 50/51 St James’s Street and 106 Pall Mall are listed as the St James’s Club House. Plans to build a purpose-built structure on the St James’s Street site were under way, so another property had been needed to house the Club during  construction, hence the use of the Pall Mall buildings. A relatively early member was William Henry Fox Talbot, the pioneering photographer, who applied to join the following year, and the Secretary’s acceptance letter of 28 July 1825 from the St James’s Club House exists, showing this address. For a time its name became the United St James and Chess Club. A Mrs Bell was still advertising her Fancy Ball Dresses from 52 St James’s Street, ‘the Centre of Fashion’, in August 1825, so evidently Crockford had not yet acquired that lease.[5]

It appears that in 1826 Crockford’s moved out of 106 to another building in Pall Mall as, following the collapse of its Club-house at 49 St James’s Street on 9 November, the Guards Club was able to move into it less than three weeks after that catastrophe.[6]

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John Timbs, in his 1866 Club Life of London, mentions that the St James’s Street leases had 22 years to run when they were sold after Crockford’s death (bringing it to a term in 1868), and that the annual rental was £1,400.[7] Crockford’s new building was opened in late 1827, although the grand opening appears not to have taken place until 2 February 1828.[8] Apart from its sumptuous rooms, its 285 foot (87 metre) long cellar was built across the road partly under St James’s Street at the corner of King Street and St James’s Street, to hold well over 300,000 bottles, valued at over £70,000 (well over £5m in today’s money). Above it was the short-lived Crockford’s Bazaar. From mid 1827, he had employed the famous chef Louis Eustache Ude,[9] who worked for the Club until in September 1838 when he was sacked, or quit, over a salary dispute.[10] His replacement was Francatelli, who had been educated in France as a pupil of the legendary Antonin (or Marie Antoine) Carême (1783-1833), and prior to his being hired by Crockford had been successively chef de cuisine to a number of titled employers, including the Earls of Chesterfield and Dudley, Lord Kinnaird and Mr Rowland Errington. [11] By Disraeli’s account he was not a success – ‘The new man is quite a failure’ – but it appears he stayed on and early in 1840 agreed to take up the position of ‘Chief Cook’ (as the position is referred to in the account books) at Buckingham Palace at the instigation of the Lord Steward of the Queen’s Household, the 18th Earl of Erroll (a member of Crockford’s who thought more of his cooking than Dizzie did). So Francatelli started in the Palace kitchens on 9 March (the day after his predecessor left), at a salary of £250.0.0 a year, paid quarterly (an eighth of what the Prince Regent had paid the legendary Carême),[12] and he was part of the Royal Household through 1841, when at the end of November his actions came to the notice of the Press. There was, according to the Morning Post of 2 December 1841, a ‘Fracas at Buckingham Palace’.

On Tuesday last [30 November] a long investigation took place at the Board of Green Cloth, before the Lord Steward of her Majesty’s Household,[13] when nearly twenty persons of the Royal establishment were examined touching an affray between Mr Norton, the Deputy Comptroller of her Majesty’s Household, and Mr. Francatelli, chief cook of the Royal kitchen.

It is well known that broils, jealousies, and ill feeling, to a great extent, have been existing in the Royal establishment ever since the appointment (at the instance of his Royal Highness the Duke of Sussex) of the Hon. Charles Augustus Murray to the office of Comptroller of her Majesty’s Household. That gentleman, immediately on entering office, caused many old and valuable servants of the Royal Household to be pensioned, or sent to the rightabout,[14] in order to make way for a large number of French servants, who now fill some of the principal offices in the Royal establishment.

‘Mr Norton, by his judicious management, has done much towards allaying the ill-feeling among the servants, which this injudicious change naturally created, and, by his straightforward, manly conduct, has gained the respect of those over whom he has had control. Francatelli, on the contrary, has kept his department in continual broils, which have been the cause of many dismissals and numerous complaints to the Lord Steward. On Monday last Mr Francatelli took an opportunity of insulting Mr Norton in the presence of all the Pages and about forty others, when high words ensued, which ended in a policeman being sent to take Francatelli into custody, but he managed to make his escape before the officer arrived. The result of the investigation was the suspension of Francatelli until the matter shall be laid before her Majesty and Prince Albert, when there is no doubt that measures will be adopted to prevent a recurrence of such disgraceful proceedings.’[15]

A decision was, it would appear, slow to be made, as at the end of December 1841 he must have been given – or he gave – a quarter year’s notice, for his title remained Chief Cook, and his salary continued to be paid until 31 March 1842. His position was taken on 1st April by the former 1st Master Cook, P. N. Morel, at a slightly lower salary (£60 13s 7d a quarter as opposed to his predecessor’s £62 10s), and Francatelli returned to Crockford’s (Dublin Evening Mail, 27 April 1842, p. 4). By then, having destroyed the finances of many great families, William Crockford had retired at the age of sixty-five, and sold out (while retaining the lease – a fact not generally known), extracting from the Club on his departure £1,200,000 (well over £50 million in today’s terms), leaving it to the Management Committee to run.[16] Whatever Francatelli’s new salary was, it would have been considerably higher than the £250 he had been paid by the Lord Steward.

It must have been a couple of months after the 29 January 1842 by-election that got him into Parliament as a Member for Dublin that the young Mr William Henry Gregory,[17] was elected to Crockford’s. From what he wrote in his Autobiography, Francatelli was already back at work there:

‘The most fashionable club before the establishment of the Coventry was Crockford’s, and I was elected to it immediately after being returned for Parliament. It was admirably kept. Francatelli, the cook, was unequalled; there was a first-rate supper, gratis, with the best champagne for those who hungered and thirsted after midnight; and in a little room off the supper-room was the gambling table, at which too many an ardent admirer of hazard had lost all his fortune.’

Francatelli’s length of time in royal service is mentioned in passing in a statement that the chef made when called as a witness in a libel action between James Bellenger, house-steward of the Marquis of Clanricarde and James Burrows, a coal merchant, in November 1843.[18] In court, he stated that

he was managing steward of the St James’s Club House, under a committee of noblemen and gentlemen, and that he had formerly been in the service of her Majesty for two years…. The St James’s Club was not managed now the same as when Crockford kept it. The club was frequented by gentlemen for the purpose of dining and taking refreshments, and for reading the various newspapers and periodicals. That was all he had seen. He did not go into the rooms on the first floor on business. His duties were confined to the reading and coffee-room. He had never seen hazard or roulette played there. He was a total stranger to what was going on up stairs.’

The reporter described him as ‘dressed in the most exuberant style of showiness, and spoke with much affectation’.

The reason for the care with which he spoke about the activities of the Club was because Sir James Graham, the Home Secretary who had taken office in 1841, had started a blitz on gaming clubs, and according to Gregory,

set to work with no half-measures; the police were ordered to break into every hell and bring the keepers and the gamblers also before the magistrates, by whom they were severely punished
. But that was not all. In spite of the remon­strances of that class who, while honestly disapproving of evil things, cannot bring themselves to attempt their removal, in spite of prophecies that the youth of England would betake themselves to private play if they had not the vent of public play, Sir James Graham sent word to Page, the manager of the club who had succeeded ‘Old Crocky,’ that the police had orders to enter it with as little ceremony, and to arrest its inmates, as if it were a coffee hell frequented by costermongers. The consequence was that in a month or two it was closed.

Gregory’s memory was at fault, however, as Crockford’s was the one Club in the area of St James’s Street, Piccadilly, and the environs, that seemed not to get raided – and it repeatedly avoided such problems. Indeed, it became notorious for the fact. Four years after his ‘retirement’, Crockford was in ill-health when he was called in 1844 to give evidence to a House of Commons Select Committee set up to inquire into the existing statutes against gaming of every kind, during which he evaded or refused to answer almost every question put to him. H.T. Waddy’s The Devonshire Club– and ‘Crockford’s’ reprints some of Crockford’s evasions,[19] and also notes that on 7 May 1844, almost at the end of the enquiry, the police raided seventeen of the eighteen gaming houses in the locality. The exception was Crockford’s, of course, but the fines inflicted  on the seventeen were nominal, the most flagrant offenders getting away with £3 0s 0d.  As Waddy relates,

The Commissioner of Police, who had already been in the witness chair, was recalled, and he was asked for mere decency’s sake why Crockford’s had not been raided. He explained that Crockford’s was a ‘general club’ (whatever that might mean), that ‘many persons belong to Crockford’s who never play’, and that in his view it was therefore not a common gaming house.[20] Of the common clubs raided, or of some of them at any rate, precisely the same might have been said. These are subtleties beyond the comprehension of a lawyer, but they availed, and everyone seems to have been satisfied.[21]

It was certainly not a ‘common’ gaming house: apart from a mass of the nobility, Lord Palmerston, and a bishop, even the Duke of Wellington, were members. The Duke often visited but played safe: it was said he never gambled, and had only joined so that if his son the Marquis of Douro applied, he could blackball him. [22]

Crockford died at his home at 11 Carlton House Terrace on the evening of Friday 24 May 1844, two days after the defeat of his horse Ratan, one of the two favourites, in the Derby (held on the Epsom Downs racecourse), when it had finished seventh, which it was feared would cause not a few problems among the betting fraternity.[23] Crockford’s was closed on 1 January 1846.[24] The Club-house was auctioned on 23 June 1846, netting his executors £2,900 for the remaining twenty-two years of the lease, which was subject to a yearly rent of £1,400. The decorations alone were estimated to have cost £94,000. [25] The buyer was not mentioned in the press, but later that year a three-year sub-lease was acquired at a rent of £3,000 a year by M. Victor Guigne, a Frenchman who did not know he had to have a licence for music and dancing, but prior to his unsuccessful application to the magistrates in March 1847, he made full use of the premises, with balls often taking place two or three times a week.[26] The interior was redecorated in 1849, and opened for the Military, Naval, and County Service Club, but that closed in 1851.’ [27]

According to an 1856 article in the Morning Chronicle,

In 1843 Count D’Orsay, Baron Brunow, Lords Chesterfield and Cantilupe, dissatisfied with some of the regulations of ‘White’s’ started the ‘Coventry Club’. During its short but brilliant life this club eclipsed White’s. The situation was beautiful, commanding the Green-park, and the cuisine was under the direction of that celebrated chef, Francatelli. But on the death of Lord Cantilupe  [George West, Viscount Cantelupe (1814-50), eldest son of 5th Earl De La Warr] and the flight of D’Orsay to France [he went bankrupt in 1849], after a lingering consumption, it expired.[28]

This was certainly  inaccurate as far as the Club’s opening date was concerned.

Francatelli  probably stayed at Crockford’s until it closed. He was therefore  definitely ‘available’ when he was approached about working at the Coventry House Club, which was to be opened on 1 June 1846 (the day before the original date set for the auction of the lease of the Crockford’s club-house and contents).[29] He dedicated the Modern Cook (published in mid April 1846)[30] to the Earl of Erroll who had got him the job at Buckingham Palace, that position being made much use of in publicising the book, and Erroll must have suffered some embarrassment over his protegé’s ‘fracas’, even though he was no longer Lord Steward when it occurred.

On 8 July 1846, the thirty-year-old William Gregory wrote in his diary, ‘Elected member of the new club, the Coventry’, noting that it was worth belonging to because of its ‘incomparable cuisine’, but he was scathing about its membership.[31] The Club House at 106 Piccadilly[32] had been the town house of the Earls of Coventry, and after the death on 15 May 1843 of the 8th Earl (of the 2nd creation), the title devolved to his five-year-old grandson, his eldest son, Viscount Deerhurst, having died of tuberculosis on 5 November 1838. The house and contents were sold by the trustees to his next-door neighbour, Baron Mayer Amschel de Rothschild for £23,000, but it remained empty[33] until a lease was taken by the founders of the Coventry House Club, which opened on 1 June 1846, and remained there until it closed on 25 March 1854.[34] It would appear that Francatelli remained working there, occasionally tempestuously,[35] till the end.[36]

Just over three months later, on 11 July, the Morning Post announced that the Reform Club, ‘having lost their cook, who is now at the head of the refreshment department of the Crystal Palace,[37] have engaged the services of the celebrated Francatelli’, but he must have already been working there in June as on 4 July he advertised for an apprentice, applicants having to present themselves in person at the Reform Club.[38]

A few months after his arrival at the Reform, it seems Francatelli was in an inventive mood – this from the 7 November 1854 issue of the Cheltenham Chronicle (p. 4):

A trial has been made of a new stimulating cordial prepared by the successor of M. Soyer at the Reform Club. It is supposed to have peculiar efficacy in cases of sea-sickness, and Sir James Graham [by now First Lord of the Admiralty] has given orders that a supply should be immediately sent to Admirals [Sir Charles] Napier [in command in the Baltic] and [James Whitley Deans] Dundas [in command in the Black Sea]. To prevent the escape of its effervescing qualities it will be hermetically sealed and packed in chaff, the packing to be superintended by Mr Bernal Osborne [First Secretary of the Admiralty]. The bottles will be labelled separately with the motto ‘Bravo Charlie!’

Apocryphal? If not, and if it worked, surely a pleasant relief for both admirals, but evidently none was sent for those of lower rank, and the recipe has not, unfortunately, survived.

The only other press reports in the British Newspaper Archive that I have found relating to him during his period at the Reform is his advertising for an apprentice in the 20 October 1855 issue of the Morning Post, an article taken from the New York Tribune on page 2  of the 31 March 1856 issue of the Morning Advertiser about the Reform: ‘[Soyer’s] total contempt for the ordinary every-day cookery of life necessitated a change, and Soyer is now replaced by Francatelli from the Coventry, incomparably his superior, and the most superior chèf de cuisine now extant.’, and  the report of a banquet in honour of the hero of the siege of Kars in the Crimea, General Sir William Williams 1st Bart MP, in July 1856,[39] and the audit of the Club’s 1856 accounts, which were not in a good state as a result of the death of the Club’s Secretary, Mr Hayter, who was evidently thought  by the author of the Tribune article to be much richer than he was, and there was a deficit of about £2,500. In addition, the auditors regretted

that Mr Francatelli has not produced any vouchers for the sums he has received for the purchase of Cook’s sundries (amounting to £78 2s. 7d. for 42 weeks, commencing Feb. 24, previous to which date these entries do not occur), and he alleges that he is not bound to do so. They cannot, therefore, certify to the correctness of these payments.’[40]

There were frictions with the Committee:

A good story is told of Francatelli when he was cook at the Reform Club. The committee cut down his expenses and the chairman made himself particularly disagreeable to the professor who determined to pay him out in his own coin. One day the president dined at the club and ordered a rump-steak. When he put his knife and fork into it, he found it tough and intolerable. Calling the waiter, he ordered the cook to be sent for. ‘This steak, sir,’ said the angry diner, ‘is uneatable.’ ‘Sir,’ said Francatelli, ‘you are perhaps aware that there is only one really good steak in an ox; and, since the committee have cut down my expenses, I cannot afford to buy an ox for every member of the club!’[41]

The celebrated Fleet Street journalist George Augustus Sala (1828-95) (who liked to eat well, and whose motto through life had evidently been ‘serve hot!’), wrote that he met him in 1862:

it was my fortune to make the acquaintance of another cook almost as celebrated as Soyer. This was Charles Elmé Francatelli, who had been chef to her Majesty the Queen, and whose cookery-book I consider to be quite as practical and quite as refined as Soyer’s Regenerator, while it is devoid of those bizarre and fantastic episodes with which Soyer occasionally spiced his pages. Francatelli was a very intelligent, courteous person, whose only artistic fault was that he had an exceeding weakness for the use of truffles, with which, often without rhyme or reason, he pertinaciously stuffed his dishes. As a rule, three-fourths of these costly tubers have lost their scent and savour by the time that they have reached an English kitchen, and are practically worthless; but Francatelli could not be dissuaded from concocting plats truffes. My relations with him were amicable, but not of the nature of close friendship, in that I owned in a sense about one-twelve-hundred-and-fiftieth part of him, since he was chef at a club in Pall Mall of which I was elected a member two-and-thirty years ago.[42]

The title page of the 1867 edition of the  Cook’s Guide states that Francatelli stayed at the Reform for seven years, i.e. till 1861, and in spite of Sala’s recollections, he could not have met him there as he was only elected to the Reform on 13 March 1862. The Reform Club had advertised in the Morning Post for a new Steward and Chief Cook – ‘Wanted immediately’ – on 21 January 1861, so Francatelli must have already left by then. The Committee was seeking ‘Written applications for each situation, stating the salary required, and enclosing testimonials, to be addressed to the Committee of the Reform Club … on or before Monday, Feb. 4.’[43]

Charles Mackay wrote in his 1887 memoir, Through the Long Day,

Signor Francatelli . . . remained in the service of the Reform Club until 1861 or 1862, during which time he gave great satisfaction to the members. Unfortunately for the Club, he was dismissed by the Committee on a point of temper and not of efficiency, and because he attempted to act as the master and not as the servant of his employers.[44]

Having outstared, as it were, the committee of the Coventry House Club, perhaps he felt he could also get the Reform’s committee to back down too. If so, Francatelli had miscalculated, as the committee of the Reform was obviously made of sterner stuff.

    Exactly two years later, on 21 January 1863, the Reform was again advertising in the Morning Post: ‘WANTED immediately, for the Reform Club, a CHIEF COOK’.[45]

Coincidentally, less than three weeks later, on 7 February 1863, a number of papers[46] carried an announcement that The St James’s Hotel Company was being formed:

The proposal is to lease some premises lately erected on the site of the old Glo’ster [Gloucester] Hotel, at the corner of Berkeley street, Piccadilly, and M. Francatelli is to be the company’s manager. Operations, it is stated, can be commenced by the end of next month. The direction is very respectable.

            The St James’s Hotel was opened on 2 May,[47] but well before its opening the management had made use of the unfinished building by letting out the windows, balconies, private rooms and seats to people wishing to view the royal procession that passed by the hotel as part of the wedding celebrations of the Prince and Princess of Wales on 10 March.[48]

Unfortunately on 19 May, money and jewellery to the value of £600 (£26,000 now) was stolen from the Dowager Lady Blantyre’s apartment in the hotel, and the Hotel had to pay compensation.[49]

 By 11 May 1863, Francatelli would appear to have been chef de cuisine in the Prince of Wales’s household at Marlborough House for some time, possibly since its establishment prior to the Prince’s marriage in March.[50]

He does not appear in the list of the Prince of Wales’s household staff,[51] but given that in February 1863 it had been announced that Francatelli was to manage the St James’s Hotel, which opened on 2 May 1863 and was more or less at the top of St James’s Street, it would seem likely that he had also arranged to cook at Marlborough House, down the hill, when the Prince and Princess of Wales took up residence there after their wedding (though he must have found it easier to walk through St James’s Park to get between the two). As he was both the manager of the Hotel and chef de cuisine at Marlborough House, he could not have appeared in a list of the Prince of Wales’s regular full-time staff. His work in Marlborough House would explain why, later in May, the Dowager Lady Blantyre had to report the theft of her jewels to Mrs Francatelli, who was effectively co-manager. This arrangement with the Prince must have been eminently satisfactory to the directors of the Hotel as it would have greatly added to its reputation.

From the press references to him at the time of Louis Kay’s rail accident in June 1864, and later, and Mrs Greswell’s account of her years at Sandringham,[52] he must have been continuously thought of as a regular member of the household. For example, the London City Press of 29 October 1864 reports a dinner of the United Cooks’ Pension Society, which was attended by, amongst a host of other guests, ‘Mr J.H. Aberlin, chef to Her Majesty’, and ‘Mr Francatelli, chef to His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales’. He had catered for the Prince and Princess of Wales’ birthday parties at Sandringham on a number of occasions in the mid 1860s.[53]  The cake he prepared for the Princess’s 21st birthday in 1865 was ‘one of the finest of Mr. Francatelli’s productions. It was in white sugar, with the Princess’s monogram on shields round the sides, the top being ornamented with jasmine, orange blossoms and convolvuluses’.[54] 

The 21 July 1866 issue of the Sporting Life (p.4) reports a two-day cricket match at Sandringham earlier in the week  between I Zingari, perhaps the oldest and most illustrious of all private cricket clubs (still flourishing today) and the Gentlemen of Norfolk, which was hosted by the Prince and Princess of Wales and their son Prince Albert Victor, with the Prince of Wales opening for I Zingari, and ‘was got out without a run by one of the very best-delivered balls of the innings’. Following that match, as the previous one had finished early, I Zingari played the Sandringham Household, in which Francatelli was bowled out for nil by the Hon. Thomas de Grey (later 6th Baron Walsingham), but in this match, H.R.H. hit three runs before being bowled out. The report also noted that ‘The luncheon arrangements on the ground enabled E. Francatelli to display the perfection of the art of cooking.’  Later that summer, when the Prince of Wales was at his Scottish home Abergeldie Castle a team of the visitors and servants played a team from Mar Lodge, the Highland seat of the Earl of Fife. Francatelli played for the Abergeldie team and hit one run in the first innings and was nil not out in the second (Evening Mail, 12-14 September 1866, p.6). During this time Mrs Francatelli must have been managing the hotel and its clientele had to be satisfied with the creations of lesser cooks. This is the last press mention I have seen of his working for the royal couple. 

At the St James’s Hotel his fame grew further, unrestricted by the borders of clubland. As the 1868 edition of The Epicure’s Yearbook  & Table Companion noted, after surveying the various eating places in London ‘Yet nobody would for one moment think of comparing the most carefully prepared dinner for sixty, with such a menu as Francatelli prepares for  half-a-dozen, in Piccadilly . . . . Francatelli is, beyond all question, the greatest artist who is catering, at this present writing, for the gourmets of London.’[55]  

The Fellows of the Royal Society sensibly dined there three Thursdays of every month. While he would cater for the regimental and other dinners,[56] which were not very large, his greatest dinners were for small numbers, and the menus of a few have been recorded, for example, the ‘Epicure’ Dinner on 12 November 1867, at which the menu was

Les huîtres.
Potages.––  La purée de gibier à la chasseur; à la Lulienne.
Poisson.–– Les épigrammes de rougets à la Bordelaise; le saumon à la Tartare.
Entrées.–– Les mauviettes  la Troienza; les côtelettes à la Duchesse; les médaillons de perdreaux à la St. James; le selle de mouton rôtie.
                                              Legumes.                                             Salade.
Second Service.–– Le faisan truffé à la Périgueux; la mayonnaise de crevettes; les chouxfleurs aux parmesan; la charlotte de pommes; le gateau à la Cérito. [57]

The  following month, on 19 December, Francatelli produced a Horseflesh Dinner at which twenty-two sat down, but it was not without prior difficulties, to say the least:[58] as the London Daily News reported:–

The first serious attempt at horse-eating in England took place on Thursday, when 22 gentlemen sat down to an elaborate banquet at a leading West-end hotel. This banquet has been in course of preparation for months, and considerable pains were taken to make it successful. The horse was the gift of one of the diners, who has personally superintended its diet and regimen ever since its fate was determined on, who rode it into town last Saturday, and had it killed ‘on approved principles’ two days later. The cook was the most celebrated artist of the day; the dinner was presided over by a well-known and accomplished man; and the church, the bar, the bench, physic, literature, science, the arts, the Royal and the other learned societies, were all represented among the people dining. We subjoin the bill of fare, which may possibly become historical, and from it will be seen that, although horse flesh was served in great variety, it was supplemented by the ordinary dishes of a well-served British dinner.

Menu1

‘We may say at once that the dinner was eminently successful, and that it was the unanimous opinion of all present that the horse-flesh portions of it were as unexceptionably excellent as the rest. Although hippophagists of twenty years’ standing were among the company, the majority had not tasted horse before, and every dish of it was subjected to searching and severe tests. The animal eaten last night was more than 18 years old, but the meat was tender and succulent, and when, after the soups, and made dishes had been discussed and approved, the braised joint came on, and the flavour of the meat, undisguised and unaided by sauces or condiments, was tasted, the verdict was even more enthusiastic than before. There is, in fact, little to distinguish horse from other forms of animal food. Its taste is something between beef and fawn, and a fillet or cutlet it will compare favourably with any other meat. Of course the party last night were disposed to be critical, and from the appearance of the soup to the departure of the joint every mouthful was discussed in a grave and judicial spirit as became men who were trying an experiment from which important results were expected. At first there was a little suspicious politeness in pressing the dishes upon neighbours as if to gain opinions without personal knowledge. The soup was smelt and sipped half-timorously, close questions were put as to ‘which made-dish – horse or no horse – was being served now’; but the cheerful and steady example of the experienced was contagious, and in the end all present ate heartily and enjoyed much. The conversation ran on horse-eating, the speeches bore strictly upon the same subject, and the practical effect of introducing horse as an article of English food would be, it was maintained, to place a nourishing animal diet within the reach of thousands to whom meat is an unattainable luxury now. In Paris horseflesh is sold at two-pence a pound, and as the age of a horse does not affect its fitness for the table, the advocates of the new food maintain that the animals past work have but to be properly cared for to make first-rate butcher’s meat when killed. The horses now devoted to the nourishment of dogs and cats are in an enlightened future to feed men and women; and a horse patty, or sirloin, or ‘saddle’ is to become as common and acknowledged as a horse sausage is common and unacknowledged now. The experimentalists of last night invite their friends to follow their example, and by putting horse upon their own tables to make it a familiar article of food, and so to abolish the strong repugnance entertained by those unacquainted with its juicy merits. So long as this exists it will be in vain to advocate its use, and, as these gastronomic philosophers insist upon the moral and material advantages to be gained from the introduction of horse as an extra article of food, it is probable that the private dinner of yesterday will be followed by a public entertainment on a larger scale. The first step has been taken, and the principal obstacles overcome. And no one can appreciate the difficulties besetting such a meeting as last night who has not tried to run counter to a well-established British prejudice. When the horse – a sturdy grey. 13 hands high – was given, and had been properly fed up, butcher after butcher refused to slaughter it, on the ground that ‘if hide or hoofs were seen coming out of the slaughter-house it would be their ruin’. When a butcher had been found chivalrous enough to agree to run this risk, the hotel-keepers of London refused to have the dinner at their house. The mere mention of the word ‘horse’ converted civility into contempt, and all the arguments as to the harmlessness of the proposed banquet, and the admirable qualities of the meat to be used, were met by point-blank refusals and a significant motion to the door. It was only through the superior enlightenment of the celebrated artist under whose auspices the dinner of yesterday was served that the experiment could be tried at all, and even now it is not considered desirable to publish the name of the hotel, lest the fears of its proprietors should be realised, and its custom flag, because a handful of scientific men were permitted to try an interesting gastronomic experiment, and to dine as they pleased. Other proofs are not wanting of the deep-rooted prejudice against horse prevailing among those who eat as well as those who serve dinners, among the tradesmen who sell and the customers who buy food. The streets surrounding the butcher who killed the horse are already liberally placarded with notices in which that fact is stated, as a warning to the neighbourhood; and a hostile knacker threatens legal proceedings under the act prohibiting horse-killing in London save at authorised places. The passage in Deuteronomy, and its condemnation of animals which do not divide the hoof; the travellers’ tales of starvation culminating in horse-eating; the sentimental objection that devouring ‘the friend of man’ has about it something cannibalic; the jests on finding eggs in mare’s nests, and on putting the ‘bits’ of horses into human mouths, are among the forms of opposition of which the advocates of horse-eating complain. It is unnecessary to hazard any prophecy concerning the result of their efforts, or to weigh the objections against the advantages of horse-flesh as an article of food; the matter has been practically and successfully launched, and will now stand or fall upon its merits. The one fact about which there can be no sort of doubt is that the horse can be made both palatable and appetising, and that in a little society, which number at least one eminent gourmand in its ranks, opinion was unanimous as to its succulence, delicacy, and flavour.

A correspondent of the Times also attended and reported on his ‘first and unprejudiced hippophagic experience’, and he had no compunction about mentioning the name of the chef. Although that particular secret was short-lived, I have only come across the names of three of those who attended, and possibly a fourth.[59] At the outset he wrote:

‘The task of cooking the flesh was entrusted to the able hands of Charles Elmé Francatelli.
‘He placed on the dinner table in orderly succession the following artistic preparations:– ‘Consommé de cheval aux quenelles. Saucisses de cheval aux pistaches. Escaloppes de cheval aux fines herbes. Emincée de cheval à la Polonaise. Culotte de cheval braisée aux choux. Filet de cheval piqué, sauce poivrade. Mayonnaise d’homard a l’huile de cheval.’
‘The consomme presented a clear amber colour to the eye; to the nose it offered a peculiar odour, recalling a faint far-away echo of game. The palate confirmed the nasal diagnosis, detecting at once a false gaminess of flavour. In other respects there was nothing to distinguish it from an ordinary meat consomme of the best quality.
‘The sausage so entirely resembled the common run of Continental sausages as to leave a strong mental conviction behind its taste that horseflesh is the normal component of these edible cylinders.
‘Of the escalopes and emincee it need merely be said that they gratified the palate and bore testimony to the metamorphous skill which a chef can display in his entrées.
‘The crucial test was at hand, and the clotte de cheval and filet piqué exhibiting horse flesh under the simplest culinary conditions, were tasted with the conscientious and analytical care which the first trial of a gastronomic problem so momentous demanded. The meat was extremely tender, somewhat loose in texture, wanting fineness in the grain, and it was a shade darker in colour than beef similarly dressed. It had the same odour which characterised the soup and the same special flavour. In endeavouring to describe this distinctive feature I would ask the reader to take the flavours of butcher’s meat and of game as his two extreme points of comparison – the flavour of horseflesh will occupy the mean between them. It is an intervening step, it is the missing link between the odours and flavours of butchers’ meat and game.
‘A great French gastronomic philosopher, when asked if he had dined well replied, ‘Demain je te dirai si j’ai diné aujourdhui.’ Let me therefore add that I slept well, without nightmare, that I rose with a clean tongue, and ate a hearty breakfast. The sum of my experience is that the flesh of an old horse properly cooked is a palatable and nutritious diet, and is entitled to take a recognised rank among the meats of our dinner table.
‘I am, Sir, your faithful friend,
‘Dec. 20                                                            SAVARINI DISCIPULUS’[60]

It would appear that the hotel’s owners were looking for more permanent residents, who would make the hotel their home, as on 15 August 1868 The Pall Mall Gazette and on the following days, other papers, carried the following advertisement: ‘THE ST JAMES’S HOTEL, reconstructed on a large scale, will be distributed into sets of Chambers, to be LET unfurnished, and will be ready for occupation in JANUARY, 1869. Applications for Chambers to be made to the Secretary of the London and Provincial Turkish Bath Company (Limited), 76, Jermyn-street, SW. Until the Offices of the Company, at 76, Jermyn-street, are reconstructed, the Temporary Offices will be at 13, Duke-street, St James’s, S.W.’ 

On 10 April 1869, four years after Liebig’s Extract of Meat was launched in continental Europe, Francatelli arranged a test dinner using it –

‘On Saturday evening a number of gentlemen interested in this new article of diet, and several men of science who were capable of expounding the advantages to be derived from its general use, met together at the St. James’s Hotel, where Mr Francatelli had prepared a dinner in which the extract figured conspicuously, as it formed the basis of all the soups and made dishes, in lieu of the ordinary stock. The proportions in which it was used were exceedingly small, one ounce being equivalent to the stock produced from two pounds of lean beef, but it was quite clear that nothing was wanting in the way of flavour or nutritive qualities.’

At the end of the speeches given by its supporters, of whom the principal exponent was Dr J. L. W. Thudicum,[61]

‘Mr. Francatelli, on being called upon, unhesitatingly confirmed all that had been said in its favour as an article of food. He considered it would be especially useful amongst the stores of the army and navy, looking to the difficult circumstances in which they were placed at times.[62]

Another that garnered a considerable amount of press coverage was a parliamentary dinner given at the St James’s Hotel by the leader of the Conservative opposition in the House of Lords, Lord Cairns, on 7 February 1870, the same night as one hosted by Earl Granville at his home in Bruton Street, as well as those given by leading parliamentary figures of ‘the other place’ (the House of Commons):

‘”Dukes,” said the late Edward Whitty, “are the court cards of the political pack.” If so, genius is evidently the ace of trumps. The Prime Ministers, in esse and in posse, gave their Parliamentary dinners on Monday, as did also their colleagues, Earl Granville and Lord Cairns; it is curious to notice how the various ranks of the peerage were divided between the two latter. The Liberals had five Dukes, the Conservatives eight; but then one of the former was a royal Duke, which makes the difference. Only two Marquises on the Conservative side, while no less than half-a-dozen sat round Earl Granville’s table. Lord Cairns beat his rival in Earls – twenty against seventeen; but there was not a single Viscount at the St James’s Hotel, while there were five in Bruton Street. The Liberals were strongest in Barons – ten against six. At each entertainment there was a poet, Lord Houghton and Lord Lytton being the bards in question.’[63]

*   *   *

It might be logical to surmise that Francatelli’s departure from the St. James’s Hotel was brought about by the death on 2 March 1869 of his wife,  Elizabeth,[64] who had been running the hotel with him, but following her death he continued as Manager of the Hotel (which in popular parlance appears to have been known as ‘Francatellis’),[65] – the Liebig dinner took place little more than a month after his bereavement – and he seems to have been there until he resigned a year later. From the tone of his advertisement on page 1 of the Morning Post on 22 March 1870, and a similar text in later issues of that paper, it would appear to have been a sudden event, probably not unlike his departure from the Reform Club.

Mr Charles Elmé Francatelli desires to inform his friends and the public that, from this date, having resigned the managership of the St James’s Hotel Company (Limited), 77 Piccadilly, London, he is OPEN to a SIMILAR ENGAGEMENT. March 21 1870.’

On 26th March, his Morning Post advertisement included his contact address – 97 Ladbroke-grove, Kensington Park, Notting-hill. The last date it appeared on was 11 April, so it is possible that he had been approached by the Freemason’s Tavern, or that a romantic attachment was taking priority.

(The St James’s Hotel continued of course, but lost its popularity. After announcing the fact of New Management in the Pall Mall Gazette on 4 April 1870, it ceased advertising in the press until on 30 September 1873 when it announced in the Morning Post that ‘The COFFEE ROOM of this hotel, after thorough redecoration, is again OPEN’, but then again, silence. After the summer of 1870 it lost the custom of the various regiments which had held their annual dinners there, and which now moved elsewhere, for example to Willis’s Rooms in King Street, or the Pall Mall Restaurant in Regent Street. It was only in 1888 that a concerted attempt was made to revive its fortunes.[66]

On 2 August 1870 Francatelli married again, to the appropriately named Elizabeth Cooke, and in October it was announced that he had been engaged as sole manager of the Freemason’s Tavern in Great Queen Street,[67] where he continued to cater for special banquets, which often got reported in the press, but none appear to have reached the social heights of those at the St James’s Hotel.[68]

It would appear that the last of the great dinners that he oversaw was that for the 31st Annual Festival of the Royal General Theatrical Fund on 7th June 1876, a report of which filled five columns of The Era the following Sunday.[69] He retired, and died two months later, at 1 Cavendish Place, Eastbourne, on 10 August 1876, leaving his widow with two young children (see below).

The London correspondent of the Glasgow Herald, also printed by the Edinburgh Evening News (with acknowledgement to the Herald), noted that by the time he had moved to the Tavern,

his genius was dimmed, and the voracious appetites of the ‘craftsmen’ and their demands for food, whilst they displayed another inability to appreciate the art of dining, damped his zeal, and he soon became tired of such unsympathetic patrons, and retired from the place in sorrow, to end his days in peaceful retirement.[70]

The Daily Telegraph’s obituary article commented:

‘With regard to the status enjoyed, by M. FRANCATELLI in the magyric heirarchy, it is surely sufficient to remark that he was the pupil of CARÊME, the most inventive, the most scientific, and the least empirical of modern chefs. At the feet of that illustrious man CHARLES ELMÉ took his first lesson in the mysteries of liaisons and consommés; from him he learned the secrets of the accurately based béchamel, the exactly concocted financière, the unimpeachable ravigotte, the true tartare – there are as many spurious varieties of this grand sauce as there are false creeds – and the perfect poivrade. At one period of his career M. FRANCATELLI seems to have manifested a greater predilection for the vocation of a chef d’office than of an officier de bouche —to have sought rather the fame of the confiseur than that of the cook. It was said by a sorrowing colleague of a deceased Equity lawyer of great eminence that ‘in the department of Specific Performance he displayed inimitable sweetness’; thus there may be those who hold that it was as a confectioner that FRANCATELLI exhibited the widest fertility of resource and the airiest delicacy of hand. Such qualities, it is said, he manifested long since in the Royal kitchen; but he was subsequently maitre d’hotel and chief cook to her Majesty; he was afterwards, for seven years , as SOYER had been for a longer period, chef to the Reform Club; then he undertook the culinary superintendence of the St. James’s Hotel, Piccadilly, where many of his most recherché banquets were given; and finally he assumed the management of the Freemasons’ Tavern. None of us are devoid of faults, and, without violating the spirit of the precept De mortuis, it may be gently hinted that a few shortcomings flecked the sun of FRANCATELLI’s genius. He could teach plain and cheap cookery to the middle and humble classes; but, left to himself, with an indulgent and admiring employer, he was, like Henry VIII, ‘an expensive Herr’. He would have dissolved pearls in the vinegar of his marinades if he could. Finally he was just a little too much addicted to the use of truffles. Epicurean tears may flow at the remembrances of his truffes à la piémontaise and à la serviette; yet the stern exigencies of truth compel the admission that he truffled his dishes not wisely but too well….

            Its [Cookery’s] foremost professors have always been naturally restricted in number – the great masters in every art must be sparse – and, looking at the present position of the cuisine, the death of FRANCATELLI  seems to open a gap which – we are mournfully constrained to say – does not present much likelihood of being speedily or easily filled. It is but cold comfort to remember that there were great men before AGEMEMNON; it is with those who should come after Agememnon that we are concerned; and it is hard to avoid the melancholy conclusion that paucity in number and inferiority in capacity mark the descendants of Kings of Men and Kings of Cooks alike.[71]

***

With regard to family information, Charles Elmé Francatelli was almost certainly the second son of Nicholas Francatelli, steward, who appears to have been the first Francatelli to arrive in England and who died 26th August 1833, aged 76. In the 1841 Census CEF is listed as living with his mother Sarah (buried on 7 December 1845, aged 75), his wife Elizabeth, and son Ernest, at St James’s Palace. His eldest child, Emily, not at home on the night of the 1841 census, was born about a year before Ernest (c.1835-88), who was listed as an apprentice cook at Harewood House in the 1851 Census, had problems with the law later that year (see note 32),  married Elizabeth Ellen Reid in 1859, and had one daughter, Elizabeth Mary (Eliza May in the 1871 Census) born 1867. Emily married Robert Baily, a stock broker, at St George’s, Hanover Square, on 24 September 1854, and had three children; she and they lived with her parents, according to the 1861 and 1871 Censuses, no mention being made of Robert.

As mentioned, CEF’s wife Elizabeth died on 2 March 1869, aged 61, and on 2 August 1870 at St John’s Parish Church, Notting Hill, he married the twenty-five year old Elizabeth Cooke, and their son, named after his father, was born on 29 February 1875, according to the rather careless baptismal registrar, who recorded the event on 28 October 1877. It is probable that there were two earlier children, Violet (1872-3), and Bessie (1874-80). A six-year-old Charles Elmé Francatelli is listed in the 1881 Census as living as a boarder with a family in Deal, Kent. Elizabeth died on 5 January 1882, leaving a personal estate valued at £20, administered by her brother William Cooke, who is listed as Charles Elmé’s guardian.

In the half-yearly elections to the London Orphan Asylum, Watford, held at the Cannon Street Hotel on 22 June 1885, he was one of twenty-three boys to be elected to attend the school, with 703 votes. I have not found him in the 1891 Census. Given the publishers’ contracts of the time, it is doubtful that Bentley & Sons had been paying any royalties for the still-popular Modern Cook (then in its 27th edition) or for The Cook’s Guide (in its 49th thousand).

The great-grand-daughter of CEF’s elder brother Nicholas (c.1793-1872), was Laura Mabel Francatelli (1878-1967) who survived the sinking of the Titanic in 1912.  (CEF’s great nephew, also called Charles Elmé (1851-1901), was a cook, who got married in 1875, the same year as Charles Elmé, CEF’s son by his second wife, was born.)

Apart from The Modern Cook (1846), Francatelli wrote A Plain Cookery Book for the Working Classes (1852), and while he was at the Reform, The Cook’s Guide and Housekeeper’s & Butler’s Assistant (1861)[72] and The Royal English and Foreign Confectionary Book (1862). In 1863 he also published anonymously – ‘By an Englishman’ – a little book compiled for Thomas Bayley Potter (1817-98) for free distribution among the Lancashire operatives at the time of the Cotton Famine. It was then called Cookery for the Lancashire operatives, and it was reprinted in 1871 as Popular Cookery.[73]

It is rather difficult to estimate the value of the sums mentioned in terms of today’s money. Effectively, it appears there are three different levels of value increase since the 1830s, on the price of goods, such as bottles of wine, on wages/wealth, and on construction costs, so that £100 spent on wine would be the equivalent of £8,000, while gambling and building would represent much greater worth. To work on the lowest multiples, the £3.5s.6d ticket for the Reform Club dinner in 1856 given in honour of General Sir William Williams was equivalent to £250.  The £10,000 Crockford put out for the bank each night was worth about a million. The £1.2 million he took out of the Club in 1840 would have been worth about £95 million based on the historic standard of living, but in economic power about £1.5 billion, it would seem. Those interested in finding out more about relative values should look at http://www.measuringworth.com/ppoweruk/ as it is a most enlightening read.

 

NOTES

[1] The Autobiography of Sir William Gregory KCMG 1816-92, edited by Lady Gregory (1852-1932), the 19th volume of the Coole Edition of her writings, Gerrards Cross: Colin Smythe, 1970-
[2] https://www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk/
[3] The son of a fishmonger with his business off the Strand, Crockford had moved up in the world, with gaming houses in partnership with others, and a successful stud at Newmarket, he extracted himself from his partnerships in King Street, and Watiers Club, and set up by himself in St James’s Street.  A.L. Humphreys’ Crockford’s or The Goddess of Chance in St. James’s Street 1828-1844, London: Hutchinson, 1953 (hereafter Humphreys), is based on published sources, and he uses the diary of James Gallatin to date the opening as taking place on 2 January 1828, but Gallatin’s diary actually dates it as 2 January 1827 (The Diary of James Gallatin. Secretary to Albert Gallatin, A Great Peacemaker, 1813-1827, ed. Count Gallatin, 2nd printing, New York: Scribner, 1916, p. 265). Humphreys’ misreading (or, in light of his comment below, silent editing)  is not helpful to anyone working out the chronology of events. But four years after the publication of Humphrey’s work, Raymond Walters Jr, in The American Historical Review, vol. 63, no. 4, July 1957, pp. 878-85, squarely denounced the Diary as a post-1879 forgery by its ‘editor’, a black-sheep of the Gallatin family, and advised all libraries to transfer their copies of this ‘historical romance, partly derived from fact’ to the fiction shelves. One example he gives is that James claims to dine at Crockford’s in March 1827 and see the Prince de Talleyrand there, but the Prince was not in England at any time between 1794 and 1830. Referring to this error, Humphrey does note that Gallatin is not very accurate in his dates, but does not think to ask why or how diary entry dates, supposedly written contemporaneously with the events recorded,  could be so inaccurate. Had he done so, and checked further, he would have found that James was in America from August 1826 to October 1827. Henry Blyth’s Hell & Hazard, or William Crockford versus the Gentlemen of England (London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1969) relies on Humphreys, with the result that both volumes are incorrect as to dates of events around the 1826-27 period. The collapse of the Guards Club building is put in both works as occurring in November 1827, whereas it occurred exactly twelve months earlier. Connery Chappell’s novel Two Pleasures for your Choosing. The World of William Crockford  (London: Falcon Press, 1951) is a reconstruction of Crockford’s world, using published facts as a framework.

[4] The law cases heard in the Court of the King’s Bench on December, first The King v. Crockford and then Joseph Orme v. Crockford (Leeds Mercury, 18 December 1824, p. 3, and, fully, in the Lancaster Gazette, 1 January 1825, p. 4) read like a farce, but Crockford’s preparations to ensure it happened this way would surely have been more sinister. Crockford had the Attorney General Sir John Copley (later 1st Baron Lyndhurst, Lord Chancellor 1827-30, 1834-35, 1841-46) defending him, before the Lord Chief Justice, Sir Charles Abbott (later 1st Baron Tenterden). There is no doubt that Crockford was guilty, but the witnesses against him failed to appear: the event in question had taken place on 23 February 1823, twenty-two months before the case came to court so there had been plenty of time to arrange the desired outcome. As a columnist in the Devises & Wiltshire Gazette on 10 July 1828 noted, when no prosecutors appeared against Crockford on two later indictments, ‘The profits of these gambling dens must be pretty tolerable, to allow their proprietors to buy off the prosecutors in almost every case where indictments are preferred against them.’
[5] William Henry Fox Talbot (1800-77). The letter is in the Fox Talbot Collection, British Library, London, Collection no. 21551, Collection no. historic: LA25(MW)-41 (http://foxtalbot.dmu.ac.uk/letters/transcriptName.php?bcode=Read-R&pageNumber=0&pageTotal=1). The Club is also registered as being at this address in the April 1824 edition of Boyle’s Fashionable Court and Country Guide. An advertisement in the 10 March 1826 issue of the Morning Post (p.1, col. 2) announced ‘That an Extraordinary General Meeting of the United St James’s and Chess Club will be held, on Monday 20th instant, at Three o’Clock, to take into consideration a proposition for augmenting the Number of the Club, and on other Business. By Order of Committee, No. 106, Pall Mall’. The Leeds Intelligencer (18 August 1825, p. 1) and York newspapers carried Mrs Bell’s advertisements prior to the York Musical Festival.
[6] The Guards Club had in 1824/25 built itself a Club-house at 49 St James’s Street, beside the property that was to become the St James’s Club site but, as reported in the Morning Post of 10 November 1826 (p. 2) ‘Yesterday morning, as early as half-past eight o’clock, St. James’s-street was rendered almost im­passable, in consequence of the sudden full of that magnificent building, the Guards’ Club House. It appears that only a few mouths ago, the establish­ment underwent a complete repair, and, in order to make it more roomy, the party wall on the south side had been cut in half, and four inches raised against it, which had materially weakened it; in addition to this, the houses adjoining it had been pulled down, in order to be rebuilt; so that the wall lost all its support. Yesterday [the previous] afternoon, and indeed for two or three days, supporters had been raised against it, in hopes that its falling might be prevented, and every precaution was adopted by the Surveyors, and other Gentlemen connected with the works, to save the building. About one o’clock yesterday morning the establishment closed, and all the Members left, and the Steward, Mr. Stone, his family, and domestics, retired to rest.
Mr. and Mrs. Stone and their infant child, a little girl about three years old, slept in the back attic, upon which floor the housemaids also slept; and on the second floor, in the back rooms, slept the waiters, and other men engaged in the house. About half-past six o’clock yesterday morning the two housemaids and the kitchenmaid rose to do their morning’s work, leaving Mr. and Mrs. Stone, and the rest of the individuals, fast asleep in their beds; and about half-past seven a master builder (we believe a Mr. Todd) observed the party-wall above alluded to bulge out very much, and he immediately suspected that its fall would soon take place, and thereupon ran into the house and cried out,  “For God’s sake leave the premises, if you wish to save your lives, for the house will fall almost directly.” The servants that were up, instantly ran up stairs, and informed their master and mistress of the dan­ger that awaited them, and also aroused their fellow servants, and all lost no time in deserting the house, and leaving it and all the property therein to its fate. Not two minutes had elapsed after the inmates had escaped, before the whole of the party wall fell down with a tremendous crash from the roof to the basement, and then the roof, having no support, fell in with such force, that the materials carried the ponderous beams and rafters through the billiard-room, drawing-room, down to the coffee-room; but such is the extraordinary manner in which the ma­terials have fallen, that very little damage to what might be expected has been done to the furniture in the rooms through which they passed. The billiard table and the four gas burners surmounting it, re­main untouched. Not even a glass of the lamp is broken; and, in the drawing-room, the elegant chandeliers, which this establishment so much boasted, are scarcely injured, and can be seen from the street We really believe, from the curious manner in which the roof fell in that had not Mr. and Mrs. Stone and their little girl escaped, they would have remained unhurt, as a beam fell in that posi­tion, that entirely rescued the bedstead from being buried with the rubbish; immediately after the ac­cident, a party of the Foot Guards were stationed about the building, to protect the property, that is now buried under the rubbish, from peculation; and messengers were dispatched to the Noblemen, form­ing the Managing Committee, to acquaint them of the disastrous event, and in a short time after, Ma­jor Gunthorpe, Lord F. Poulett, and Sir A. Murray, arrived, and remained about the ruins for several hours. There can be no doubt but the weak state of the party-wall, and the circumstance of the workmen having dug six or seven feet below the foundation, in order to build the adjoining houses, was the cause of the accident. What is most fortunate is, that no lives were lost, as just before the wall fell, there were from 80 to 100 men at work underneath it, but at the moment they were luckily all gone to breakfast. To prevent any accident, men have been at work to pull down the tottering remains.’ The Public Ledger & Daily Advertiser of the same date (p.3) printed the same story, and in the next column noted that it understood Mr Crockford was expecting a membership of 700 for his new gaming house.
At some time in 1826 the St. James’s Club had vacated the 106 Pall Mall address, so the Guards Club was able to take possession following the ruin of its Club-house, and it stayed there until it moved back to its old home at the end of November 1827. ‘The Officers of the Guards have got into their new Club-house, next door to Crockford’s.’ (Morning Post, 27 November 1827, p. 3.) In 1850 it moved again, to 70 Pall Mall (Timbs, p. 278).  The costs of the repairs were expected to be paid by Crockford, and the Morning Chronicle (24 January 1827, p. 3) noted ‘Mr Crockford, it is said, has at length compromised the matter with the Officers of the Guards, by paying them a thousand pounds towards rebuilding their late club-house.’ My attempts at finding out when Crockford’s moved from 106 Pall Mall to the other address have so far been failures: not even the Parish rate books help as they only record who paid the rates, not who was using the premises. Crockford’s name does not appear at all in any Pall Mall address between 1825 and 1827 (Parish of St James’s, Piccadilly), though he does appear in the St James’s Street rate book in November 1826 and after (Parish of St George’s, Hanover Square, Dover Street ward).

[7] John Timbs FSA, Club Life of London, vol.1, London: Richard Bentley, 1866), p. 286, elsewhere referred to as Timbs).
[8] The Morning Post (26 February 1827) reported ‘The prodigious celerity exercised on this extensive pile of building astonished everybody. The fact is this:– A very considerable sum of money has been betted that the house will not be ready by a certain day. Energetic men are at the head of the establishment, and they boast that it will be ready even before the time named: to effect this there is no cessation in the labour: the men work from twelve to fifteen hours every day. Sunday excepted. It is a curious sight to see their operations by torchlight. The Guards Club will have the advantage of a new house, but unfortunately they have only a seven years lease of it.’ On 20 March the paper noted, rather optimistically, that Crockford’s new premises at 50 St James Street would open on 15 June 1827. On 8 February 1828 (p. 4), the Berkshire Chronicle carried the conclusion of its ‘Chronology of the Principal Events during the Year 1827’, and its entry for 12 November notes ‘About this time Crockford’s new Hell opens’.  This is as close as I have been able to come to a specific date for its opening, and it is possible that the building was being used before it was completely finished. The formal opening took place about ten weeks later: according to Bell’s Life in London and Sporting Chronicle of 3 February 1828, p. 2, ‘We understand that Mr Crockford last night opened his splendid club mansion, in St. James’s-street, to an assemblage of the Nobility and loungers (if they will be called such), who frequent such places.’ And the following week’s issue (10 February, p. 2) reported further : ‘Among the crowd of rank and fashion who thronged the St James’s Club on the night of the grand opening, Mr. Peel was observed. When the Secretary of State for the Home Department visits such a place, we have security enough for its honourable management. A great number of ladies of distinction were present, and expensive refreshments were provided for them.’ 

The building at 106 Pall Mall did not last much longer: the 5 October 1827 issue of The Morning Chronicle carried an advertisement for the letting of the premises ‘at present in the occupation of the Guards Club . . . .These premises have been occupied by the University, St James’s and Chess Clubs.’, and then the 31 December issue of The Times carried a notice for ‘A New Club – No Entrance Fee’ about to be formed at that address, but a year later The Morning Chronicle (6 December 1828) was again carrying an advertisement for leasing the premises. It is most unlikely it was leased again as on 3 June 1829, while it was being demolished to make way for the redevelopment of that part of Pall Mall following the demolition of Carlton House, the upper floor collapsed, killing two workmen (The Morning Chronicle, 4 June). The Travellers Club then acquired the lease of the site, built new premises designed by Charles Barry, and by early July 1832 had moved into its new Club-house, next to the Athenæum (at 107 Pall Mall, and completed by May 1830). The recently founded Reform Club moved into 104 Pall Mall in 1836 and started building its new Club-house, also designed by Barry, in 1838, completing it in 1841, its site now expanded to include nos. 105 and 103. The Travellers’ old home at 49 Pall Mall was auctioned ‘This Day’ ‘with immediate possession’ on 13 July 1832 (Morning Post, p. 4.).