CROCKFORD, WILLIAM (1775-1844), proprietor of Crockford's Club, was born in London in 1775, the son of a fishmonger, and for some time himself carried on that business. After winning a large sum of money - according to one story £100,000 - either at cards or by running a gambling establishment, he built, in 1827, a luxurious gambling house at 50 St James's Street, which, to ensure exclusiveness, he organized as a club. Crockford's quickly became the rage; every English social celebrity and every distinguished foreigner visiting London hastened to become a member. Even the duke of Wellington joined, though, it is averred, only in order to be able to blackball his son, Lord Douro, should he seek election. Hazard was the favourite game, and very large sums changed hands. Crockford retired in 1840, when, in the expressive language of Captain R. H. Gronow, he had "won the whole of the ready money of the then existing generation." He took, indeed, about £1,200,000 out of the club, but subsequently lost most of it in unlucky speculations. Crockford died on the 24th of May 1844.
See John Timbs, Club Life of London (London, 1866); Gronow, Celebrities of London and Paris, 3rd series (London, 1865).
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)