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DOGGETT'S COAT & BADGE RACE


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 the 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.  The papers about Thomas Doggett's Coat and Badge, 1721-1832 (Guildhall Library Ms 7269) 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. The records of the Fishmongers' Company and the Watermen and Lightermen's Company are available in the Manuscripts Section of the Library. A handlist summarising the records is available at the enquiry desk or may be purchased from the Library's bookshop.

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 (Guildhall Library B/D654). However, 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). All these are available in the Printed Books Section of the Library. A list of winners of Doggett's Coat and Badge race 1780-2003 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.

The Printed Books Section also holds the following sources relating to the history of Thomas Doggett's prize: 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 (Guildhall Library SL 51:2), Thomas Doggett Pictured by Leon Walter, 1980 (Guildhall Library, B/D654); "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.

The Prints & Maps Section of the Library holds various prints, photographs and newspaper cuttings about the race in their Noble Collection (Guildhall Library C26.15), as well as caricatures of Watermen and Lightermen by the famous early 19th century artist Thomas Rowlandson.

Any enquiries concerning records of Thomas Doggett's Coat & Badge race not held by the Library should be addressed to the Clerk, Fishmongers' Hall, London Bridge, London, EC4R 9EL.

Further information about the race can be found at http://www.parishregister.com/, http://www.portcities.org.uk/ and on the Company's own website http://www.watermenshall.org/.


 Winners of Doggetts Coat and Badge Race between 1780 and 2003:

 

YEAR
WON

NAME

DISTRICT

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.

Vimlico

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

Last updated September 2006

Leaflet Guides to Records

Guildhall Library Manuscripts Section