Following the enormous success of “The Pickwick Papers”, a considerable number of Dickens related clubs sprang up, but with time they all folded.
The Club was founded by Sir James Roll on 16th March 1909, by incorporating the other club he had founded with 12 friends, The Pickwick Coaching Club, and renaming it as The City Pickwick Club, with a membership increased, but limited to just 30. Over the years, the limit was increased until it was raised for its Centenary in 2009 to the current level of 100.
The inaugural dinner was held at The George & Vulture, the hostelry described by Charles Dickens in The Pickwick Papers as the usual meeting place of Mr Pickwick and his friends (a place in the City of London where Dickens himself had spent many happy times and where the club continues to meet four times a year). Throughout the history of the Club, each new member has received a personal soubriquet – the name of a character taken from the book.
The Founder, Sir James Roll, became the first President and Mr Pickwick (he was Lord Mayor of the City of London in 1920-21). A tradition that continues to today is that whenever possible, the Club President, Mr Pickwick, is a former Lord Mayor. The Club continues to maintain a strong relationship with the Dickens’ Family after Sir Henry Fielding Dickens, the Common Serjeant, was a frequent visitor while his son, Philip Charles Dickens, was a member.
The four meetings a year continue to be held in The George & Vulture and follow a set pattern of welcoming guests with “wanities” (drinks), before being called to dinner by Whiffin’s Bell and the call of “Wittles”. Following dinner, the principal guest gives a talk on a Dickens related subject and then proposes the toast to “the Immortal Memory of Charles Dickens”.