Tom Dogget will still be the theme of their song

Thomas Doggett Pictur'd, 1980, and Thomas Doggett Deceased, 1908; Roscius Anglicanus, 1708, and the History of the Company of Watermen and Lightermen, 1859, perpetuate the memory of Dogget(t). With luck, the prophecy will come true: Thomas the Droll may outlive Great Lewis and Old Noll.

From Thomas Doggett Pictur'd, on stage, by Thomas Murray

Murray's portrait, above, shows Doggett as Deputy Nincompoop, in Love for Money, by Thomas D'Urfey, 1691. Deputy Nincompoop is described as "a softly sneaking, uxorious Citizen, Husband to Lady Addleplot, and ridiculously fond of her and the Romp his Daughter." Lady A was a "lusty flaunting imperious Lady, a Stickler against the Government, and always railing at it and talking of Politicks." We know the type.

In 1708 John Downes wrote of "Mr Dogget. On the Stage, he's very Aspectabund, wearing a Farce in his Face; his Thoughts deliberately framing his Utterance Congruous to his Looks: He is the only Comick Original now Extant." Walter Leon records Colley Cibber as saying of him that he was "a golden Actor", despite some business differences between them, along with much more in the same eulogistic strain. "He was very acceptable to several Persons of high Rank and Taste: Tho' he seldom car'd to be the Comedian but among his more intimate Acquaintance." In 1740 another comedian, Tony Aston, wrote "Mr Doggett was a little lively, spract Man"; and in 1750 Chetwood, in The British Theatre (or W.R.Chetwood, A General History of the Stage, 1749?), remarked "He was a Whig up to the Head and Ears, as Sir Richard Steele called him."

Finish of the Race for Doggett's Coat & Badge, by Thomas Rowlandson, 1756-1827.

Guy Nickalls, in Thomas Doggett Deceased, 1908, comments: "The boats used for Doggett's race have changed from heavy lumbering craft to perfect models of lightness and elegance, weighing some 25 lb. The course, although the same in distance (four and a half miles), and starting and finishing at the same old places, or rather the spots where those old taverns the "Old Swan" and the "White Swan" used to be, differs in that now the race is rowed up with the strongest of the tide, instead of at the time when the tide was worst against them; it consequently is now rowed in quicker time by about an hour."

In The Times, August (?) 1982, Alan Hamilton reported that, in the past, "a waterman's skiff (?) weighed at least a ton, and the race was held against the tide; five hours was considered a good winning time." A race report from 1814 recounts the contest started "a little before six ---- the wind and tide were then strong against them. They arrived a quarter before seven at the Old Swan at Chelsea." This time, of less than hour, can hardly be correct, although, as evident from Rowlandson's drawing, the boats were already very significantly lighter than Monamy's waterman's wherry. The race was still against the tide in 1823, when it took from three o'clock to "about half after four". By 1864 the race report comments "The original conditions were that the race should be rowed all the way against the tide, but during the last few years the rule has been so much infringed that the competitors have been enabled to save the tide nearly all the way up". This deplorable decision to go with the flow obviously marks the start of the subsequent sustained decline in the British national character.

Mark Harden Artchive

Fifty years after Doggett founded his memorable race, William Hogarth found something aspectabund in the face of John Wilkes, and recorded it even more memorably in his caricature, left. Liberty, invented in Stuart England in 1689, was beginning to head for the guillotine, and another revolution, somewhat less glorious and more gory. Wilkes "spent much of his early career twitting John Stuart, the Earl of Bute, and learning how to use his talent for ridicule to gain international fame", reports Jack Lynch, but he remained a great hero, nevertheless, in colonial America. See here and/or here.

Hail! Independence, hail! Heav'n's next best Gift,
To that of Life and an immortal Soul!

Thomson 1735

A fig for those by law protected!
Liberty's a glorious feast!
Courts for cowards were erected,
Churches built to please the priest.

Burns 1785

Yet, Freedom! yet thy banner, torn, but flying
Streams like the thunder-storm against the wind

Byron 1818

And so we beat on, boats against the current .... F.Scott Fitzgerald, 1925   



With many thanks to Mr Adrian Barry
whose generous interest has provided this picture
taken at St John's Church, in Eltham. 18 Sept 2007.


The much stronger likelihood is that Doggett's race was not formally founded until 1722.
The idea that Doggett "died a pauper" seems to have no foundation in fact.
1 June 2017
Mr Barry has very commendably corrected the statement that Doggett "died a pauper",
and comments that his will shows him to have been "comfortably well off when he died".
The plaque has now been replaced, as shown.



watermen's hall one       watermen's hall two
broughton and doggett's coat & badge
article 1981       article 1983
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