Cache-Control: public, max-age=1024000 The Royal Naval Club


About the year 1674, according to a document in the possession of Mr. Fitch of Norwich, a Naval Club was started "for the improvement of a mutuall Society, and an encrease of Love and Kindness amongst them;" and that consummate seaman, Admiral Sir John Kempthorne, was declared Steward of the institution. This was the precursor of the Royal Naval Club of 1765, which, whether considered for its amenities or its extensive charities, may be justly cited as a model establishment. (Admiral Smyth's Rise and Progress of the Royal Society Club, p. 9.) The members of this Club annually distribute a considerable sum among the distressed widows and orphans of those who have spent their days in the naval service of their country. The Club was accustomed to dine together at the Thatched House Tavern, on the anniversary of the Battle of the Nile.

"Founded on the model of the old tavern or convivial Clubs, but confined exclusively to members of the Naval Service, the Royal Naval Club numbered among its members men from the days of Boscawen, Rodney, and 'the first of June' downwards. It was a favourite retreat for William IV. when Duke of Clarence; and his comrade, Sir Philip Durham, the survivor of Nelson, and almost the last of the 'old school,' frequented it. Sir Philip, however, was by no means one of the Trunnion class. Coarseness and profane language, on the contrary, he especially avoided; but in 'spinning a yarn' there has been none like him since the days of Smollett. The loss of the Royal George, from which he was one of the few, if, indeed, not only officer, who escaped, was a favourite theme; and the Admiral, not content with having made his escape, was wont to maintain that he swam ashore with his midshipman's dirk in his teeth. Yet Sir Philip would allow no one to trench on his manor. One day, when a celebrated naval captain, with the view of quizzing him, was relating the loss of a merchantman on the coast of South America, laden with Spitalfields products, and asserting that silk was so plentiful, and the cargo so scattered, that the porpoises were for some hours enmeshed in its folds: 'Ay, ay,' replied Sir Philip, 'I believe you; for I was once cruising on that coast myself, in search of a privateer, and having lost our fore-topsail one morning in a gale of wind, we next day found it tied round a whale's neck by way of a cravat.' Sir Philip was considered to have the best of it, and the novelist was mute."[21]

[21] London Clubs, 1853.

John Timbs
Club Life of London Vol. I
London, 1866