Now, we will begin this article with a ‘rider’ (excuse the pun); we freely admit to knowing about as much as you could write on the back of a postage stamp on the subject of horse racing, however, we felt this was something we had to write about. Our previous post was about Dennis O’Kelly and his connection with horse racing which has led us off down yet another rabbit hole, to an earlier period.
According to the Jockey Club itself, it was established in 1753 at Newmarket, however, purely by chance we came across this newspaper article in the Daily Advertiser of Wednesday, March 10, 1731, which gives a much earlier reference to the club, the implication in the article being that by this date the club was already established.
The picture of the Lord James Cavendish’s horse, which his Lordship rode on some time since, for a very considerable wager to Windsor being near finish’d, we hear the same will be plac’d in the Jockey Club Room at William’s Coffee House, St. James’s.
Having read this of course we needed to know more. We knew that ‘clubs’ were increasing in popularity in the early 1700s with many being established in coffee houses, but we came across this image in ‘The History of the London Clubs 1709′ by Edward Ward.
There is no further information about the club, simply this image, so could it be that it was established earlier than originally assumed and if so, who was a member? We know that racing has always been regarded as the ‘Sport of Kings’ therefore you needed to be affluent to own your own race horse, so in all likelihood, the ‘club’ would have consisted of nobility who had a penchant for gambling. A few names came to mind including the likes of the 3rd Duke of Bolton (1685- 1754), who we knew enjoyed a flutter and was wealthy, obviously, Lord James Cavendish (bef. 1707-1751), as he is mentioned above and the 2nd Earl of Godolphin, who was renowned as being the owner of the stallion ‘The Godolphin Arabian’ who was one of three stallions who founded the modern thoroughbred racehorse stock.
The newspaper report above mentioned that the Jockey Club meeting was held at William’s Coffee House, so off we went to look for such a place and sure enough, there was a William’s Coffee House at 86, St James’s Street, owned by one, Roger Williams who died at the end of 1745. This led us off on a will hunting expedition.
According to his will, which was proven 15th January 1746, he left his family well provided for as you would expect or at least hope for, but also amongst other things, he left to a Mr Francis Pitt of Newmarket, his gold stop watch and to:
‘his great benefactor, the Earl of Godolphin all his pictures painted by Mr. Wootton’.
Mr Wootton would appear to be the artist, John Wootton (c. 1682-1764) who was renowned for his paintings of horses, unfortunately for us, Roger Williams remained vague as to which of his paintings he owned, which is such a shame, however it does rather seem to confirm that Williams had a strong connection with the horse racing fraternity.
As Williams also named a Francis Pitt of Newmarket, we set off to see if there was anything of interest in his will, he died in 1759. There was – he too made a bequest to the Earl of Godolphin.
Looking at the paintings by Wootton we spotted this one above, of the ‘Father of the Turf’, Tregonwell Frampton, who died at Newmarket in 1727, so decided that his will might be interesting and once again, sure enough the Earl of Godolphin’s name was there in black and white – he inherited all of Frampton’s estate, he inherited all Frampton’s horses, that were stabled at Gog Magog, Newmarket, plus two that he stated were originally to be left to the Marquis of Blandford, plus land he owned in Dorset and Wiltshire. *
This, in turn, led us to look at the will of Edward Coke, owner of Longford Hall, Derbyshire and former owner of the horse Godolphin, he died 1733 his bingo, yet again, look whose names appeared:
I give to the Right Honourable, the Earl of Godolphin all my running horses and mares and stud; to Mr Roger Williams all my stallions.
So, yet again there was a connection between the 2nd Earl of Godolphin and Roger Williams. This is nicely confirmed for us in this extract from The Turf Register, dated 1803.
We also noticed another newspaper report in the Newcastle Courant dated 27 January 1733 which once again confirmed the Duke of Bolton’s connection to the Jockey Club.
The Duke of Bolton who has been dangerously ill, is pretty well recover’d and on Monday next is to dine with the Jockey Club, at William’s Coffee House, St. James’s.
This find, in turn, led us back to an even earlier entry for the Jockey Club itself, dated August 2nd, 1729 in the Daily Post which stated that:
The Jockey Club, consisting of several noblemen and gentlemen, are to meet one day next week at Hackwood, the Duke of Bolton’s seat in Hampshire, to consider methods for the better keeping of their respective strings of horses at Newmarket.
Then, we found that Williams Coffee House had strong connections with sport and Newmarket even earlier, as recorded in Mist’s Weekly Journal, Saturday, March 16, 1728.
We hear from William’s Coffee House, hat several matches re made already to be run at Newmarket, in next April and October; particularly, that Sir Edward O’Brien has laid a considerable wager that his little Sett of cropp’d Duns draw him, in his chariot, to Newmarket in 12 hours.
In conclusion, we are left with several questions –
Did the Jockey Club originate in 1753 or was it, as we suggest significantly earlier?
Why did the 2nd Earl of Godolphin benefit from so many people’s wills, was he a really nice person or was this gambling debts being paid off?
Could the 2nd Earl of Godolphin have been one of the founder members of the Jockey Club?
We will probably never know the answer to these for sure unless you have any information that may solve these!
*We had come across the name Tregonwell Frampton in an earlier post ‘William Parsons: 18th Century highwayman, swindler and rogue, we’re sure that there must be a connection to Mary Tregonwell Frampton of Kensington, the daughter of John Frampton, but so far this is the only piece of evidence that appears to link them, but we cannot confirm this.
Horse Race at Newmarket (The Duke of Bolton’s ‘Bay Bolton’ defeating the Duke of Somerset’s Grey ‘Windham’ at Newmarket on either 12th November 1712 or 4th April 1713) John Wootton (c.1682–1764) National Trust, Petworth House