Forget White’s, the Atheneum, Annabel’s and Hertford Street. The really exclusive clubs in this world have no waiting list or entry form: those arcane and secretive institutions open by invitation only, or by an act of courage, great skill or monumental idiocy.
But how might you gain entry to their hallowed hallways? And what are the perks once inside? Gentleman’s Journal is proud to present the first ever field guide to these secret societies — the six members’ clubs every gentleman should try to join before he signs out for good.
The Silkie Club
A quick Google for The Silkie Club will take you straight to a website promoting the breeding and exhibition of a particularly quirky-looking breed of hen. Whilst we at GJ wholeheartedly champion their noble cause, there is another club by the same name that’s rather harder to gain access to — and it is certainly no place for chickens.
Founded by Professor Caroline Tisdall, in order to become a member, you must catch a bonefish on the fly, dive 30 metres and kiss a silky shark — all in a 24-hour period. Tisdall’s philosophy can be summed up in her own words, “joining a club is more fun and companionable than taking part in a competition.”
“Forming extreme sporting clubs is an aspect of our deeply eccentric nature and part of our battle against conventionality. Our island spirit has propelled many an intrepid explorer or adventurer to discover and do great things.”
I Zingari Club
Instantly recognisable by their, ahem, memorable striped blazers, members of the I Zingari cricket club may have no clubhouse or ground of their own — but what they lack in tangible equipment, they more than make up for in rich history. Formed in 1845 by a group of Old Harrovians at a dinner party, I Zingari is one of the oldest cricket clubs still in existence, and the English team still plays around 20 matches each year.
Today, there are about 250 full-play members, 200 half-play members and 800 non-playing. This might sound rather large, but it is important to note that membership is by invitation only, by letter from ‘The Governor’. Notable members who made the cut over the years include Christopher Martin-Jenkins, the Duke of Norfolk, and the Duke of Westminster.
The Shuttlecock Club
Founded in 1933, the Shuttlecock Club has a particularly dangerous initiation ritual. In order to gain membership, riders must take on the Cresta Run racing toboggan track. Riders spat out at the infamous Shuttlecock corner gain membership of the Shuttlecock Club, whose name derives from Victorian lady riders’ skirts opening like shuttlecock feathers as they shot out the side door.
Riding too fast into Shuttlecock or not taking the correct line ensures entry to the club, a tie and tickets to the annual bash in St Moritz.
The Houghton Fishing Club
Another exclusive club with a heavywieght heritage, the Houghton Fishing Club (HFC) was founded in 1822 and membership remains the dream of every serious fly-fisherman, but is obtainable by only the very fortunate few.
Unlike some of the other clubs on our shortlist, membership brings with it some very tangible benefits — since the club owns, and has exclusive fishing rights on, 13 miles of the River Test, near Stockbridge in Hampshire.
The HRC is famously very private and selective — with a restricted, elected membership of a mere 25.
The Cordon Rouge Club
The youngest of the clubs listed here, The Cordon Rouge Club was founded in 2008, in recognition of Champagne G.H. Mumm’s rich longstanding heritage in the support of exploration and adventure. Its purpose is to reward exceptional people for their extraordinary achievements within the realms of exploration, sailing, adventure and discovery.
And, should you gain entry, you will be amongst illustrious company. Current members include Ben Fogle, Leo Houlding and Tom Avery.
The Woodcock Club
What do the Rt. Hon Nicholas Soames MP, Vinnie Jones, Gareth Edwards and Rob Wainwright have in common? They’ve all, in one fell swoop, knocked two woodcocks out of the sky in two shots – and two shots only, from the barrels of a shotgun which has not been lowered, in front of – you guessed it – two witnesses to their feathered feat of brilliance.
Since it was founded in 1949, every serious shooter has had the Woodcock Club in their sights, and today its 1,410 members have the prestige of being administered by the Shooting Times – as well as an invitation to the annual dinner.
Looking to join another illustrious club? Here’s everything you need to know about the Gentleman’s Journal Clubhouse…