Thomas Doggetts Coat and Badge Race | London Metropolitan Archives

RESEARCH GUIDE

Thomas Doggetts Coat and Badge Race

Research Guide 19 - Thomas Doggetts Coat and Badge Race

Introduction

Thomas Doggett, an Irish comedian and joint manager of the Drury Lane Theatre, provided in his will dated 10th September 1721, for a prize of a coat and silver badge to be rowed for annually by six watermen within a year of completing their apprenticeships.

"... Five Pounds for a Badge of Silver weighing about Twelve Ounces and representing Liberty to be given to be rowed for by Six Young Watermen according to my Custom, Eighteen Shillings for Cloath for a Livery whereon the said Badge is to be put, One Pound One Shilling for making up the said Livery and Buttons and Appurtenances to it......all which I would have to be continued yearly forever in Commemoration of His Majesty King Georges happy Accession to the Brittish Throne..."

Doggett was no innovator in founding a race, as it was common custom for rowing wagers to take place on the river. Being a Whig, he was passionately devoted to the House of Hanover and laid down that the race was to be held each "1st day of August forever" to commemorate the accession of George I, and he even adopted upon his silver badge the White Horse of Hanover with "Liberty" for the motto.

Doggett organised the race himself from 1715 until his death in 1721, when he left instructions for the event to be managed by Mr Edward Burt of the Admiralty Office. However, as this proved too much of a burden, it was arranged that the executors of his will paid over to the Fishmongers' Company £300 and that the Company, who also added £50 to the fund, should carry out Doggett's instructions.

The course was originally four and half miles long from "The Swan" at London Bridge to "The Swan" at Chelsea. The Barge Master of the Fishmongers' Company would start the race and the Clerk of Watermen and Lightermen’s Hall would receive a fee of thirty shillings from each competitor (indicating that at one time the whole event was arranged by that Company). As a real test of stay and endurance, the race used to be rowed in heavy old wherries which had to be pulled up against the ebb tide - sometimes it took contestants nearly two hours to row the distance!

The race soon became open to abuses as contestants realised the advantages of using lighter undersized vessels. In some instances riotous behaviour was reported between competitors. In 1723, one of the leaders of the race had his “scull knocked away and a big boat rowed across his bows". As a result, in 1769, the Fishmongers' Company decided to draw up some regulations to prevent such abuses. All vessels had to be "common Scullers Boats" and examined by the company. Originally, the six watermen were drawn by lots which meant that not all contestants had a fair chance of winning. Later in the 19th century a trial heat system at Putney was introduced to select the final best six men for the race.

The winner was paraded every year at a banquet at Fishmongers' Hall wearing a bright crimson coat with the silver badge on his right arm. At first the Coat and Badge formed the only prize, although later it was decided that the Fishmongers' Company should add ten pounds for the first prize and smaller sums of money for the runners up. A famous winner in 1730 was John Broughton, a champion pugilist. Another famous name was William Giles East, who won the race in 1887, the Sculling Championship of England in 1891, became a Queen's Watermen in 1898 and Barge Master to the King in 1906.

Doggett's Coat & Badge race is the oldest annually-contested event in the British sporting calendar. However, over the years there have been changes to Doggett's original instructions for the race. For example, from the 1950's amateur rowers were allowed to compete on the condition that they could not accept any prize money if they won. Today the race is held at the end of July, instead of the 1st of August, and in place of heavy wherries light sculling boats are rowed against the ebb tide. The average time taken is about 30 minutes.

Sources available

A great deal of information can be found in the archives of the Fishmongers' Company (CLC/L/FE). The papers about Thomas Doggett's Coat and Badge, 1721-1832 (CLC/L/FE/G/055/MS07269) include: a copy of the will of Thomas Doggett, 1721; some lists of competitors and winners, 1815-32; a selection of posters for the race; and the Fishmongers' Company articles for starting the race, 1769. Access to the archives of the Fishmongers' Company is provided at Guildhall Library.

A complete list of winners of Doggett's Coat and Badge race for the years 1716-1907 may be found in T. A. Cook & G. Nickalls, Thomas Doggett Deceased, 1908 (44.09 DOG). Further incomplete lists for the years 1780-1880 are included in the Autumn 1991 issue of Cockney Ancestor, and for 1902-1963 in the Fishmongers' Company programme of Livery Receptions, 1964 (Guildhall Library Pam 11200. Copy held at Guildhall Library). A list of winners of Doggett's Coat and Badge race 1780-2004 is appended below. A complete list of winners is to be found on the CD-ROM version of R. J. Cottrell’s index to the apprentice bindings of the Waterman and Lightermen’s Company (see Research Guide 18, ‘Records of the Company of Watermen & Lightermen’).

Various prints, photographs and newspaper cuttings about the race can be found in the Noble Collection of ephemera, as well as caricatures of Watermen and Lightermen by the famous early 19th century artist Thomas Rowlandson, all held at LMA.

The following sources relating to the history of Thomas Doggett's prize may also be of interest: The coat: the origin and times of Thomas Doggett’s immortal wager: the story of the oldest annual sporting contest by R. G. Crouch, 2005; Thomas Doggett Pictured by Walter Leon, 1980 (44.09 DOG); "Notes on old Chelsea" by J. Jeffery, Home Counties Magazine, vol.8, 1906, p.279-82 and The Antiquary, vol.19, 1889, p.22-8.

Any enquiries concerning records of Thomas Doggett's Coat & Badge race not in the custody of LMA should be addressed to the Clerk, Fishmongers' Hall, London Bridge, London, EC4R 9EL. Further information about the race can be found at www.parishregister.com/winners, www.portcities.org.uk/london and www.watermenscompany.com.

Winners of Doggett’s Coat and Badge Race between 1780 and 2004:

  • 1780, Bradshaw, John J., Pickle Herring
  • 1781, Reeves, W., Not known
  • 1782, Trucke., Tower
  • 1783, Bowler, James., Not Known
  • 1784, Davis, John., Queenhithe
  • 1785, Not Known, Not Known
  • 1786, Nash, James., King Stairs, Horsleydown
  • 1787, Rawlinson, B., Bankside
  • 1788, Radbourne, Thomas., Wandsworth
  • 1789, Curtis, J., Not Known
  • 1790, Byers., Not Known
  • 1791, Easton, Thomas., Old Swan
  • 1792, Kettleby, James., Westminster
  • 1793, Haley, Abraham., Horseleydown
  • 1794, Franklin, James., Putney
  • 1795, Parry, William., Hungerford
  • 1796, Thompson, James., Wapping, Old Stairs
  • 1797, Hill, James., Bankside
  • 1798, Williams, Thomas., Ratcliffe Cross
  • 1799, Dixon, John., Paddington

  • 1800, Burgoyne, John., Blackfriars
  • 1801, Curtis, John Robert., Queenhithe
  • 1802, Burns, William., Limehouse
  • 1803, Flower, John., Hungerford
  • 1804, Gingle, Charles., Temple
  • 1805, Johnson, Thomas., Vauxhall
  • 1806, Goodwin, John., Ratcliffe Cross
  • 1807, Evans, John A., Mill Stairs
  • 1808, Newell, George., Battle Bridge
  • 1809, Jury, Francis., Hermitage
  • 1810, Smart, James., Strand
  • 1811, Thorton, William., Hungerford
  • 1812, May, Richard., Westminster
  • 1813, Farson, Richard., Bankside
  • 1814, Harris, Richard., Bankside
  • 1815, Scott, John., Bankside
  • 1816, Tenham, Thomas., Blackfriars
  • 1817, Robson, James., Wapping O Stairs
  • 1818, Nicholls, William., Greenwich
  • 1819, Emery, William., Hungerford
  • 1820, Hartley, Joseph., Strand
  • 1821, Cole Senr., Thomas., Chelsea
  • 1822, Noulton, William., Lambeth
  • 1823, Butcher, George., Hungerford
  • 1824, Fogo, George., Battle-Bridge
  • 1825, Staples, George., Battle-Bridge
  • 1826, Poett, John., Bankside
  • 1827, Voss, James., Fountain Stairs
  • 1828, Mallett, R., Lambeth
  • 1829, Stubbs, S., Old Barge House
  • 1830, Butler, William., Vauxhall
  • 1831, Oliver, R., Deptford
  • 1832, Waight, Robert., Bankside
  • 1833, Maynard, George., Lambeth
  • 1834, Tomlinson, William., Whitehall
  • 1835, Dryson, William., Kidney Stairs
  • 1836, Morris, James., Horselydown
  • 1837, Harrison, Thomas., Bankside
  • 1838, Bridge, Samuel W., Kidney Stairs
  • 1839, Goodrum, Thomas., Vauxhall Stairs
  • 1840, Hawkins, William., Kidney Stairs
  • 1841, Moore, Richard., Surrey Canal
  • 1842, Liddey, James., Wandsworth
  • 1843, Fry, James., Kidney Stairs
  • 1844, Lett, Frederick., Lambeth
  • 1845, Cobb, F., Greenwich
  • 1846, Wing, John F., Pimlico
  • 1847, Ellis, William H., Westminster
  • 1848, Ash, John., Rotherhithe
  • 1849, Cole, Thomas., Chelsea
  • 1850, Campbell, William., Westminster
  • 1851, Wigget, George D., Somers Quay
  • 1852, Constable, Charles., Lambeth
  • 1853, Finnis, James R., Tower
  • 1854, Hemmings, David J., Bankside
  • 1855, White, Henry J., Mill Stairs
  • 1856, Everson, George W., Greenwich
  • 1857, White, Thomas C., Mill Stairs
  • 1858, Turner, Charles J., Rotherhithe
  • 1859, Farrow, Charles S., Mill Stairs
  • 1860, Phelps, Henry J.M., Fulham
  • 1861, Short, Samuel., Bermondsey
  • 1862, Messenger,John, Cherry Garden Stairs
  • 1863, Young, Thomas., Rotherhithe
  • 1864, Coombes, David., Horseleydown
  • 1865, Wood, John W., Mill Stairs
  • 1866, Iles, Arthur., Kew
  • 1867, Maxwell, Henry M., Custom House
  • 1868, Egalton, Alfred., Blackwall
  • 1869, Wright, George., Bermondsey
  • 1870, Harding, Richard., Blackwall
  • 1871, MacKinney, Thomas J., Richmond
  • 1872, Green, Thomas G., Hammersmith
  • 1873, Messum, Henry., Richmond
  • 1874, Burwood, Robert W., Wapping
  • 1875, Phelps, William., Putney
  • 1876, Bulman, Charles T., Shadwell
  • 1877, Tarryer, John., Rotherhithe
  • 1878, Taylor, Thomas E., Hermitage Stairs
  • 1879, Cordery, Henry., Putney
  • 1880, Cobb, William J., Putney
  • 1881, Claridge,G. Richmond, Richmond
  • 1882, Audsley,H.A. , Lambeth
  • 1883, Lloyd, J., Wandsworth
  • 1884, Phelps, C., Putney
  • 1885, Mackinney, J., Twickenham
  • 1886, Cole,H. , Deptford
  • 1887, East, W.G. , Richmond
  • 1888, Harding, C.R., Chelsea
  • 1889, Green, G.M., Lambeth
  • 1890, Sanson, J.T.G. , Chiswick
  • 1891, Barry, W.A. , Victoria Docks
  • 1892, Webb, G., Gravesend
  • 1893, Harding, J. Jnr., Chelsea
  • 1894, Pearce, F., Hammersmith
  • 1895, Gibson, J.H., Putney
  • 1896, Carter, R.J., Greenwich
  • 1897, Bullman, T., Wapping
  • 1898, Carter, A.J. , Greenwich
  • 1899, See, J. , Fulham

  • 1900, Turffrey, J.J. , Bankside
  • 1901, Brewer, A.H. , Putney
  • 1902, Odell, R.G., Lambeth
  • 1903, Barry,E., Wandsworth
  • 1904, Pizzey, W.A., Lambeth
  • 1905, Silvester, H., Hammersmith
  • 1906, Brewer, E.L., Putney
  • 1907, Cook, A.T., Hammersmith
  • 1908, Graham, J., Erith
  • 1909, Luck, G.R., Erith
  • 1910, Pocock, R.J., Elton
  • 1911, Woodward Fisher, W.J., Millwall
  • 1912, Francis, L.E., Kingston
  • 1913, Gobbett, G.H.J., Greenwich
  • 1914, Mason, S.G., Charlton
  • 1915, West, L.P.J., Wapping
  • 1916, Pearce, F.W., Hammersmith
  • 1917, Blackman, J.H., Gravesend
  • 1918, Gibbs, A., Richmond
  • 1919, Phelps, H.T., Putney
  • 1920, Hayes, H., Deptford
  • 1921, Briggs, A.E., Ratcliff Cross
  • 1922, Phelps, T.J., Putney
  • 1923, Phelps, R.W., Putney
  • 1924, Green, H.C., Poplar
  • 1925, Barry, H.A., Barnes Bridge
  • 1926, Green, T.G.M., Mortlake
  • 1927, Barry, L.B., Herne Hill
  • 1928, Phelps, J.L., Henley
  • 1929, Taylor, C.F., Blackwall
  • 1930, Phelps, E.L., Henley
  • 1931, Harding, T.J., Putney
  • 1932, Silvester, H.T., Hammersmith
  • 1933, Phelps, E.L., Putney
  • 1934, Smith, H.J., Gravesend
  • 1935, Gobbett, A.E., Blackwall
  • 1936, Taylor, J.A., Gravesend
  • 1937, Silvester, W.F., Hammersmith
  • 1938, Phelps, E.H., Putney
  • 1939, Thomas, D.E., Dagenham
  • 1940, Lupton, E.G., Northfleet
  • 1941, Bowles, G.D., Isleworth
  • 1942, Dott, F. Erith, Erith
  • 1943, McGuiness, E.F., Greenwich
  • 1944, Ambler, F. E., Twickenham
  • 1945, Thomas, S., Dagenham
  • 1946, Amson, J. D., Northfleet
  • 1947, Palmer, J. V., Gravesend
  • 1948, Clark, H. F., llford
  • 1949, Dymott, A. H., Gravesend
  • 1950, Palmer, G. J., Gravesend
  • 1951, Martin, M. J. A., Upminster
  • 1952, Green, G. E., Putney
  • 1953, Bowles, R. E, Brentford
  • 1954, Everest, K. C., Hornchurch
  • 1955, Goulding, J. T., New Cross
  • 1956, Williams, C., Deptford
  • 1957, Collins, K. C., Downham
  • 1958, Crouch, R. G., East Greenwich
  • 1959, Saunders, G. L., Erith
  • 1960, Easterling, R. W., Lee
  • 1961, Usher, K. R., Limehouse
  • 1962, Dearsley, C. A., North Woolwich
  • 1963, Alien, D., Erith
  • 1964, Walker, F. F., Eltham
  • 1965, Collins, A. G., Bromley
  • 1966, Stent, D., Eltham
  • 1967, Briggs, C. M., East Ham
  • 1968, Lupton, J. E., Gravesend
  • 1969, Grieves, L. E., , Mile End
  • 1970, Spencer, M. S., Greenwich
  • 1971, Dwan, K. V., Gravesend
  • 1972, Wilson, P., Catford
  • 1973, Prentice, R. A., Wapping
  • 1974, Lupton, R. E., Gravesend
  • 1975, Drury, C. M., Battersea
  • 1976, Prentice, P., Wapping
  • 1977, Dwan, J., Dartford
  • 1978, Macpherson, A. L., Poplar
  • 1979, Burwood, F. J., Plaistow
  • 1980, Woodward-Fisher, W.R., Battersea
  • 1981, Hickman, W. D., Greenwich
  • 1982, Anness, G. B., West Ham
  • 1983, Hickman, P. J., Charlton
  • 1984, McCarthy, S. J., Blackheath
  • 1985, Spencer, R. B., Rainham
  • 1986, Woodward-Fisher, C.J., Westminster
  • 1987, Spencer, C., Dagenham
  • 1988, Hayes, G. A., Mottingham
  • 1989, Humphrey, R.A., Blackheath
  • 1990, Collins, S. C., Rotherhithe
  • 1991, Neicho, L. C., Sevenoaks
  • 1992, McCarthy, J. J., Blackheath
  • 1993, Clifford, J. D., Gravesend
  • 1994, Bullas, C., Higham
  • 1995, Neicho, S., Isle of Dogs
  • 1996, Coleman, R. G., Ladywell
  • 1997, Russell, M. J., Gravesend
  • 1998, Bushnell, D. J., Wargrave
  • 1999, Woods, T.W., Wapping

  • 2000, Rickner B., Greenwich
  • 2001, Beasley, N., Barking
  • 2002, Dwan, N. R., Swanley
  • 2003, Cairns, Liam M. G, Greenwich
  • 2004, Dwan, R. E., Swanley

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