Appendix XXI: Political clubs

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1690-1715, ed. D. Hayton, E. Cruickshanks, S. Handley, 2002
Available from Boydell and Brewer

Political clubs

Clubs of all kinds flourished in late 17th- and early 18th-century Britain, in London and in the provinces.1 Some were no more than ‘suck-bottle assemblies’, as the contemporary writer Ned Ward called them, providing a venue and a pretext for a convivial evening: gatherings such as the Beefsteak, or the ‘Knights of the Toast’.2 Others drew together men with a common interest, in literary matters, trade, and so on (the ‘Turkey club’, for example, provided a meeting-place for Levant merchants), or a common regional ancestry: Hon. James Brydges* recorded in his diary dinners in London with ‘the Herefordshire club’ (his own) and ‘the Cornish club’.3 A number had a clear political purpose, to bring together members of the same party, for consultation and information, to settle tactics and any necessary practical arrangements. In the constituencies, the county gentry sometimes created clubs for electoral purposes, the ‘loyal society’ in Bristol, for example, the Swarkeston Club in Derbyshire, the Royston Club in Hertfordshire, and the St. Nicholas Club in Glamorgan.4

It is with the London clubs, however, that this appendix is concerned. They vary considerably in size and function: at one end of the spectrum the Rose Club, in effect an ad hoc assembly of the entire Whig parliamentary party; at the other such exclusive dining societies as the 2nd Duke of Beaufort’s ‘Board of Brothers’, or Henry St. John II’s ‘Society of Brothers’.

The list of clubs given here does not claim to be exhaustive. There is no detailed evidence of the membership of the ‘independent club’ of Country Whigs in the 1695 Parliament, nor of the Tory equivalent of the Rose Club, which by 1701 was meeting at the Vine. Although the published ‘black list’ of 1701 purported to be A List of One Unanimous Club of Members of the Late Parliament, Nov. 11 1701, that met at the Vine Tavern in Long Acre (1701), its reliability cannot be assumed, since it was blatantly election propaganda.


The Rose Club (c.1694-1701)

The principal organizational device of the Whig Junto in the period of their first ministry (1693/4-1699) and beyond, this ‘club’ met at the Rose Tavern in Russell Street, where parliamentary tactics were discussed and co-ordinated. It possessed enough institutional structure to elect chairmen or convenors, but may not have had a fixed membership. In February 1701 as many as 75 and 125 Whig MPs met at the Rose to determine their approach to the election of a Speaker.5 The following members have been identified from a contemporary verse satire, ‘The Club Men of the House of Commons’ (1694), printed in Poems on Affairs of State, ed. Cameron, v. 430,6 supplemented by various other sources.

Sir Edward Abney (Horwitz, Parls. and Pols. Wm. III, 191; CJ, xi. 703)

John Arnold

Sir Henry Ashurst, 1st Bt.

Sir Richard Atkins, 2nd Bt. (Bodl., Carte 103, f. 256)

Robert Austen I

Hon. Peregrine Bertie II

Sir Francis Blake

Sir Thomas Pope Blount, 1st Bt. (Horwitz, Parls. and Pols. Wm. III, 191; CJ, xi. 703)

James Chadwick

Edward Clarke I

Sir Robert Clayton

Sir Richard Cocks, 2nd Bt. (Cocks Diary, 61-62)

John Cutts, 1st Baron Cutts [I]

Thomas Felton

Sir John Guise, 2nd Bt.

Henry Guy

Sir Henry Hobart, 4th Bt. (Horwitz, Parls. and Pols. Wm. III, 191; CJ, xi. 703)7

Sir Robert Howard

Sir Scrope Howe

Sir Thomas Littleton, 3rd Bt.

Charles Mason (Northants. RO, Montagu (Boughton) mss 46/67, James

Vernon I to Shrewsbury, 11 Feb. 1697)8

Thomas Molyneux (Northants. RO, Montagu (Boughton) mss 46/67, James

Vernon I to Shrewsbury, 11 Feb. 1697)21

Charles Montagu

Thomas Neale (Northants. RO, Montagu (Boughton) mss 46/63, James

Vernon I to Shrewsbury, 4 Feb. 1697)

William Norris (Horwitz, Parls. and Pols. Wm. III, 191; CJ, xi. 703)

Samuel Ogle (Horwitz, Parls. and Pols. Wm. III, 191; CJ, xi. 703)9

Foot Onslow

William Palmes

Thomas Pelham I (Horwitz, Parls. and Pols. Wm. III, 191; CJ, xi. 703)

Charles Powlett, Mq. of Winchester I

Sir Robert Rich, 2nd Bt.

Hon. Edward Russell

Edward Russell

Hon. James Russell

Hon. Robert Russell

William St. Quintin (Horwitz, Parls. and Pols. Wm. III, 191; CJ, xi. 703)

Sir Charles Sedley, 5th Bt.

John Smith I

Sir John Trenchard (A.B., A Letter to Mr Secretary Trenchard ... (1694), quoted in Horwitz, Parls. and Pols. Wm. III, 209)

Hon. Goodwin Wharton

Hon. Thomas Wharton

Sir Walter Yonge, 3rd Bt.


The Kit-Cat Club (1700-)

The most famous Whig dining- and drinking-club, the ‘Kit-Cat’, named after the innkeeper Christopher Cat, met first at the Fountain Tavern in the Strand, and after 1703 at the publisher Jacob Tonson’s house at Barn Elms, Surrey. Names of the members have been taken from J. Caulfield, Mems. Kit-Cat Club (1821), supplemented by a list of the club in c.1711, printed in J. Oldmixon, Hist. Eng. (1735).

Joseph Addison

James Berkeley, Visct. Dursley

Richard Boyle, 2nd Visct. Shannon [I]

William Cavendish, Mq. of Hartington

Hon. Spencer Compton

Hon. Charles Cornwallis

Edmund Dunch

Hon. Francis Godolphin

Edward Hopkins

Thomas Hopkins

Charles Howard, Visct. Morpeth

Hon. Richard Lumley

Arthur Maynwaring

Charles Montagu

Evelyn Pierrepont

William Pulteney

Sir John Somers

James Stanhope

Richard Steele

Sir Richard Temple, 4th Bt.

Robert Walpole II

William Walsh

Hon. Thomas Wharton


The Board of Brothers 1709-14

Principally a dining- and drinking-club, founded by the Tory peers Beaufort, Denbigh and Scarsdale, the original title of this club was ‘the Uncaptious Brothers’.10 Beaufort was its first president, and the social constituency from which the members were drawn very much reflects his influence, in terms of kinship, friendship, and locality. Other than a connexion with Beaufort, and the fact that all were Tories, the ‘brothers’ shared no identifiable common features. Certainly the evidence of the minute-book (Add. 49360) would not enable the historian to impute to this club any particular political motivation (for example, Jacobitism). The identity of the members has been established from the minute-book, and a list written in pencil on the verso of a parliamentary case dating from 1714 (Glos. RO, Beaufort, 100.5.2). Those mentioned in the minutes are marked with the symbol ‡, and dates of membership of the club given in brackets.

Sir Edmund Bacon, 6th Bt (1709-10)

James Barry, 4th Earl of Barrymore [I]‡ (1710-11)

Hon. Henry Bertie II‡ (1709-)

Richard Bulkeley, 4th Visct. Bulkeley of Cashell [I]‡ (1709-)

James Buller‡ (1709-)

John Hynde Cotton (1714-)

George Dashwood‡ (1712-)

Sir Cholmley Dering, 4th Bt‡ (1710-)

William Griffith‡ (1709-)

Richard Jones‡ (1709-)

Sir Charles Kemys, 4th Bt. (1714-)

Thomas Legh II‡ (1712-)

Clayton Milborne‡ (1709-10)

Thomas Millington‡ (1713-)

Sir George Parker, 2nd Bt.‡ (1709-)

Alexander Pendarves‡ (1710-)

William Pole‡ (1709-)

Thomas Strangways II‡ (1710-)

Sir John Walter, 3rd Bt.‡ (1709-)


The October Club (1710-)

This club was in effect a back-bench pressure group, formed in the winter of 1710-11, in order to push the administration into thoroughly Tory measures, and a distinctively ‘Country’ legislative programme. Scottish as well as English Members were included. The club first emerged in December 1710, when it was known as the ‘Loyal Club’.11. By the following February, the members had settled on the name October, a reference to the strong ale brewed at October, and also perhaps the Tory electoral triumph of October 1710. The club continued its existence throughout this and the succeeding sessions, though attenuated after 1712 by defections to the March Club (see below). Self-consciously ‘Hanoverian’ Tories also steered clear, and in April 1714 there is a reference to a club meeting attended by 50-60 Members,12 whereas earlier estimates of size had varied from 75 to 150. The following list has been taken from H.T. Dickinson, ‘The October Club’, Huntington Lib. Q. xxxiii170-3, which combines two contemporary lists, one published by the Whig journalist Abel Boyer (in Pol. State, iii. 117-22); another in a broadsheet held at the Huntington Library (A True and Exact List of ... Worthy Patriots ... (1711)). These lists have been supplemented by information in the biographies. Leading or ‘principal Members’ of the club, marked below with the symbol ‡, were noted by Boyer, and by John Oldmixon (Hist. Eng. (1735), 483), who also adds three more members of the club (William Bromley, Lockhart and Shippen).

Whitmore Acton

John Aislabie‡

Charles Aldworth

Francis Annesley‡

Sir Copleston Warwick Bampfylde, 3rd Bt.

Sir William Barker, 5th Bt.

Allen Bathurst

Peter Bathurst

Sir George Beaumont, 4th Bt.

John Symes Berkeley

Maurice Berkeley

William Berners

Hon. Henry Bertie II

Hon. James Bertie

Peregrine Bertie, Ld. Willoughby d’Eresby

Leonard Bilson

Abraham Blackmore

John Boteler

Clobery Bromley

John Bromley II

William Bromley II‡

Richard Bulkeley, 4th Visct. Bulkeley of Cashell [I]

James Bulteel

Sir Henry Bunbury, 3rd Bt.

John Burgh

Robert Byerley‡

Charles Caesar‡

William Cage

Henry Campion‡

Thomas Cartwright

John Cass

Thomas Chafin II

Thomas Chapman

Sir Richard Child, 3rd Bt.

Robert Child

Charles Cholmondeley

Thomas Chowne

Sir John Clerke, 4th Bt.

John Codrington

Bryan Cooke

Clement Corrance

Sir William Coryton, 3rd Bt.

John Hynde Cotton

George Courtenay

Charles Cox

Edward Cressett

Richard Cresswell

Thomas Crosse

John Curzon

John Dalby

George Dashwood II

Sir Robert Davers, 2nd Bt.‡

Hon. Henry Dawnay

Sir Cholmeley Dering, 4th Bt.

Paul Docminique

George Downing

John Drake

Francis Duncombe

Lewis Dymoke

Joseph Earle

Sir Robert Eden, 1st Bt.

Jonathan Elford

Sir James Etheridge

Charles Eversfield‡

Hon. Heneage Finch II

Richard Fleming

Edward Foley

Thomas Foley III

Charles Fox

Ralph Freman II‡

John Gape

Benjamin Gifford

William Gore

Richard Goulston

Hon. Dodington Greville

William Griffith

Richard Halford

Thomas Halsey

Thomas Hanmer II‡

John Hardres

Percival Hart

Edward Harvey

William Harvey II

George Hay, Visct. Dupplin

William Hedges

Willoughby Hickman

John Houstoun

Sir Scrope Howe

John Hungerford‡

Robert Hyde

Sir Justinian Isham, 4th Bt.‡

Edward Jeffreys

Sir Robert Jenkinson, 3rd Bt.

John Jenyns

James Johnston

Sir Arthur Kaye, 3rd Bt.

Edmund Lambert

Gilfrid Lawson

Henry Lee

Richard Levinge

Thomas Lewis I

Thomas Lister I

William Livingston

George Lockhart‡

Sir James Long, 5th Bt.

Thomas Lutwyche

George Mackenzie

Sir John Malcolm, 1st Bt.

Thomas Medlycott

John Middleton

Clayton Milborne

Sir John Mordaunt, 5th Bt.

Sir Nicholas Morice, 2nd Bt.

George Morley

Sir Roger Mostyn, 3rd Bt.‡

Richard Mytton

George Newland

Edward Nicholas

Theophilus Oglethorpe

Sir John Pakington, 4th Bt.‡

Sir George Parker, 2nd Bt.

Thomas Paske

William Paul

Alexander Pendarves

George Pitt

Robert Pitt

Thomas Pitt I

William Pole

Henry Seymour Portman

Samuel Pytts

Morgan Randyll

Thomas Renda

Samuel Robinson

John Rolle

Samuel Rolle I

Robert Sacheverell

Francis Scobell‡

Peter Shakerley

John Sharp

Samuel Shepheard II

James Sheppard

William Shippen‡

Richard Shuttleworth

Hugh Smithson

Sir Brian Stapylton, 2nd Bt.

William Stephens

Simeon Stewart

Thomas Strangways I

Thomas Strangways II

Sir John Thorold, 4th Bt.‡

John Trevanion‡

Sir John Trevelyan, 2nd Bt.

Frederick Tylney

John Verney, 1st Visct. Fermanagh [I]

Thomas Vernon

Sir Francis Vincent, 5th Bt.

Sir George Warburton, 3rd Bt.

Sir Francis Warre, 1st Bt.

Thomas Webb

Henry Whitaker

Sir William Whitelocke‡

Sir Edward Williams

Hon. Dixey Windsor

Edward Winnington (aft. Jefferies)

Salwey Winnington

James Winstanley

Henry Worsley

James Worsley

William Wrightson

Sir Thomas Wroth, 3rd Bt.

Sir William Wyndham, 3rd Bt.‡


The Society of Brothers (1711-)

Henry St. John II founded the ‘Society of Brothers’ in June 1711, as an exclusive Tory dining-club, and with the intention that ‘a number of valuable people will be kept in the same mind, and others will be made converts to their opinions’.13 However, it rapidly declined into a gathering of ministerial cronies, and lost much of its political significance. Members identified from references given in Swift Stella, i. 294, 333, 335; ii. 423, 494-5, 505-6.

Allen Bathurst

Robert Benson

Hon. Charles Boyle II

George Granville

Simon Harcourt III

Edward Harley, Ld. Harley

Thomas Harley

George Hay, Visct. Dupplin

John Hill

Samuel Masham

Matthew Prior

Sir Robert Raymond

Henry St. John II

Sir William Wyndham, 3rd Bt.


The March Club (1712-13)

Dissident members of the October Club, ‘primitive October men’, formed their own club in March 1712 in order to organize High Tory opinion in the Commons more effectively in pursuit of a Country agenda. It was known at first as the ‘Old England Club’.14 Originally there were about 35 members, and this number eventually increased to about 50.15 The membership has been identified from various sources: directly, from ascriptions in contemporary correspondence, mainly the despatches of the Hanoverian resident Kreienberg; and indirectly by inference from significant Commons tellerships.

Sir Edmund Bacon, 6th Bt. (NSA, Kreienberg’s despatch, 16 May 1712; CJ, xvii. 222)

Walter Chetwynd II (Szechi thesis, 155)

Charles Cholmondeley (Kreienberg, 16 May 1712; CJ, xvii. 222-3)

John Hynde Cotton (Kreienberg, 16 May 1712; CJ, xvii. 222)

Hon. Henry Dawnay (Kreienberg, 16 May 1712; CJ, xvii. 222-3)

Gilfrid Lawson (Kreienberg, 11 Apr. 1712)

William Levinz (Kreienberg, 16 May 1712; CJ, xvii. 222)

George Pitt (Kreienberg, 1 Apr. 1712; CJ, xvii. 170; G. Holmes, Pols. in Age of Anne, 342)

Robert Pitt (Kreienberg, 1 Apr. 1712)

Thomas Pitt I (Kreienberg, 1 Apr. 1712)

William Pole (Kreienberg, 9 May, 29 July 1712)

Richard Shuttleworth (CJ, xvii. 212, 315)

In addition, the following Members may possibly have belonged to the club:

Richard Belasyse (Harl. 7190, f. 316)

John Curzon (CJ, xvii. 310)

Paul Docminique (CJ, xvii. 385)

Joseph Earle (CJ, xvii. 314)

John Hungerford (CJ, xvii. 426)

Sir Arthur Kaye, 3rd Bt. (CJ, xvii. 430)

Robert Lloyd II (CJ, xvii. 310)

Sir Thomas Powell, 1st Bt. (CJ, xvii. 314)

John Prise (CJ, xvii.152, 173)

Richard Reynell (CJ, xvii. 385)


The Hanover Club (1712-)

This club was founded in 1712,16 ostensibly for the purpose of maintaining support for the Hanoverian Succession, but in reality to co-ordinate Whig efforts in Parliament and the constituencies, as an adjunct to the Kit-Cat. It met weekly ‘at Charing Cross’, and its members pledged to give Tories and Jacobites ‘all the opposition they could in their several stations’.17 The identity of the members has been established from the lists to be found in J.Oldmixon, Hist. Eng. (1735), 509, and Yale Univ. Beinecke Lib. Osborn coll.

Joseph Addison

Edward Ashe

Robert Bristow II

William Cadogan

Hugh Cholmley

Charles Churchill

William Coventry

James Craggs I

James Craggs II

Richard Edgcumbe

Thomas Frankland II

Robert Furnese

John Knight II

Henry Lumley, Visct. Lumley

Hon. Richard Lumley

Sir Robert Marsham, 5th Bt.

Paul Methuen

George Montagu

Thomas Pelham I

William Pulteney

Sir John Rushout, 4th Bt.

Leonard Smelt

Richard Steele

William Strickland

Richard Topham

Horatio Walpole II

Christopher Wandesford, 2nd Visct. Castlecomer [I]

Ref Volumes: 1690-1715

Author: D. W. Hayton

End Notes

  • 1. See in general Ned Ward, The History of Clubs (1709).
  • 2. For the latter, see Suff. RO (Bury St. Edmunds), Cullum mss, E2/18, f. 123, Sir Dudley Cullum, Bt., to his bro., 28 Jan. 1695.
  • 3. Huntington Lib. Stowe mss 26 (1-2 ), Brydges’s diary, 14 , 28 Feb. 1699, 18 Mar. 1702.
  • 4. Bodl., Ballard 31, f. 119; G. Holmes, Pols. in Age of Anne, 315.
  • 5. Liverpool RO, Norris mss 920 NOR 1/71, William Clayton to Richard Norris, 8 Feb. 1700/1; Cocks Diary, 61-62.
  • 6. H. Horwitz, Parl. and Pols. Wm. III, 209.
  • 7. Chairman in February 1697 (Northants. RO, Montagu (Boughton) mss 46/67).
  • 8. Mason and Molyneux ‘concern themselves to give notice of meetings of the Rose’: Northants. RO, Montagu (Boughton) mss 46/67.
  • 9. Described in January 1699 as a former chairman of the club (Magdalene Coll. Camb. Pepys Lib. PL 2179, pp. 71-74).
  • 10. Add. 49360 f. 2.
  • 11. D. Szechi, Jacobitism and Tory Pols. 75.
  • 12. DZA, Bonet’s despatch 7 May 1714.
  • 13. Bolingbroke Corresp. i. 247.
  • 14. Christ Church, wake mss 17, ff. 318-19.
  • 15. Holmes, 340-1.
  • 16. But cf. Bodl., Ballard 18, f. 51, which seems to indicate at least a relaunch in October 1713.
  • 17. Wharton Mems. 38-39.