London, The Beefstake Club, in Drury Lane. AR member’s pass, hallmarked Birmingham 1876, in the form of a gridiron. Essayed, 31 x 42 mm. Suspension loop. Unworn and toned.
The first beefsteak club was founded about 1705 in London by the actor Richard Estcourt and others in the arts and politics. This club flourished for less than a decade. The Sublime Society of Beef Steaks was established in 1735 by another performer, John Rich, at the Theatre Royal, Covent Garden, where he was then manager, and George Lambert, his scenic artist, with two dozen members of the theatre and arts community (Samuel Johnson joined in 1780). The society became much celebrated, and new members included royalty, statesmen and great soldiers: in 1785, the Prince of Wales joined.
At the weekly meetings, the members wore a blue coat and buff waistcoat with brass buttons bearing a gridiron motif and the words “Beef and liberty”. The steaks and baked potatoes were accompanied by port or porter. After dinner, the evening was given up to noisy revelry. The club met almost continuously until 1867. Sir Henry Irving continued its tradition in the late nineteenth century. The Sublime Society was revived in 1966 and holds many of the original Society’s relics in safe keeping. Its membership includes lineal descendants from the nineteenth century membership, and it adheres to the Society’s early rules and customs.