Liverpool Ugly Face Club

Liverpool Mercury Sept 29th 1887

The Liverpool Ugly Club

A curious old folio volume has come into the hands of Mr E. HOWELL, dealer in second hand books of Church Street, Liverpool. It carries evidence that it is the minute book of a club in Liverpool that existed in Liverpool close upon a century and a half ago, under the name of “The Most Honourable and Facetious Society of Ugly Faces” At one end, for whichever way the book is opened it appears to be right side up, it has the rules of the Society, a list of members and their qualifications and annual statement of account, covering 11 years from January 15th, 1743 to January 24th, 1754. At the other end is a carefully kept register of the attendance of the members and a record of the proceedings at the meetings. The motto of the club was Tetrum ante omnia vultum “Before all things, an ugly face”

The following are some rules :-

That no person whatsoever shall be admitted a member of the Society that is not a Batchelor, a Man of Honour and a facetious disposition.

That has not something odd, remarkable, droll, or out of the way in his Phiz, as in length, breadth, or narrowness thereof, or in his complexion, the cast of his eyes or make of his mouth, lips, chin etc, of which the Majority of the Society are to judge and the President to have a casting vote.

That a large mouth, thin jaws, blubber lips, little goggling or squinting eyes shall be esteemed considerable qualifications in a candidate.

That a particular regard shall be had to the prominence of a candidates nose, and the length of his chin, especially if they should happen to meet together like a pair of nutcrackers.

That a large carbuncle, potato nose, shall have preference of a Roman or King William nose, and be esteemed the most honourable of any.

That every person being initiated into the society shall drink a bumper to the success thereof.

That when a member marries he shall forfeit 10s-6d, for the use of the society

That any Widower being qualified in an Extraordinary manner, may be admitted to the Society, if approved by the Majority of Members.

The members of the Society appear to be drawn chiefly from the merchant class, there is one doctor of divinity, three or four M. D’s, several ship’s captains, and a few leading tradesmen. Inasmuch as members were to resign on marriage, for the commission of such an event a fine of 10s-6d was inflicted, there were frequent changes for the personnel of the club.

Roll of members for 1745, the bachelorship provided for by the rules and enforced by a fine did not prevent the survival of some of the oldest and best known Liverpool families :- And ALLAIR, Wm ARMITAGE, Jno BRANCKER, Thos ANYON, Robt FILLINGHAM, Jos FARMER, Robt FLEETWOOD, James FOLEY, Thomas FOULKES, Franc GILDART, Jno HENDERSON, Jno HULTON, Richd HUGHES, Benj HEYWOOD, Robt HESKETH, John KENYON, M.D, John MARSDEN, Robt MURRAY, Thomas HEYES, John PARR Sen, John PARR, Jun, Wm PENKETH, Augus WOODWARD, Roger PARR, Wm PICKERING, Wm SHARP, Mathw STRONG, Henry SPENDILOW, Law SPENCER, Richd SAVAGE, John TARLETON, Thos TOPPING, Wm WILLOCK, John WILLIAMSON, Waltr GREEN and James ASHTON

Examples of some of the Qualifications of the members :-

Jos FARMER, Merchant, little eyes, one bigger than ye other, long nose, thin lanthorn jaws, large upper lip, mouth from ear to ear resembling the mouth of a shark. A rotten set of irregular teeth, which are set off to great advantage by frequent laughing. His visage long and narrow. His looks upon the whole, extraordinary haggard, odd, comic, and out of ye way. In short, possessed of every extraordinary qualification to render him ye Phoenix of ye Society, as the like will not appear again this 1000 years.

Francis GILDART Esq, large pancake face, little, hollow grey eyes, short turnup, nose, large thick under lip, which almost meets his nose, odd droll, sancho, pancho, phiz, which gives life humour to everything he says. Therefore sets off a joke to ye utmost advantage.

Jno BRANCKER, Jewish sallow phiz, a very prominent uneven nose, little, hollow pig eyes, rotten irregular teeth, resembling an old broken saw. On the whole very much like the picture of King Peppin, inexpressibly odd and ugly.

Jno PARR, Senr, Draper, Broad, Punch like face, flat nose, wide nostrils, large mouth, thick lips, stern looks, sallow complexion, hideous grin.

Robt FILLINGHAM, Merchant, little eyes, wide mouth, thin jaws, narrow face. His countenance hard, stern and crabbed. In every respect extremely well qualified.

Wm WILLOCKS, Merchant, Longish visage, very uncommon squinting eyes.

Mathew STRONG, Merchant, A tawny complexion, sharp nose, flook mouth, irregular bad set of teeth like those of an old worn out comb, thoroughly begrimed. A ghastly queer grin and countenance greatly set off by a long carroty beard.

James ASHTON, D.D, chaplain to ye Society, a fine carved face, eyelashes like two beesoms, nose like a shuffle nosed shark, triangular mouth, blubber lips, meagre cheeks, eyes of a sea green, excellently well qualified member.

Mr John WOODS, July 22nd, 1751, of Liverpool, Architect, a stone coloured complexion, a dimple in his attick story, the pilasters of his face fluted, tortoise eyed, a prominent nose, wild grin, and face altogether resembling a badger, and finer, though smaller than those of Sr Chryst WREN or Inego JONES

Lewis Augs YOUNGE, of Liverpool, M.D, a large carbuncle potato nose, fine and bushy eyebrows, an agreeable facetious grin, wide mouth. When he laughs comes the shape of the moon at a quarter old, and on the whole, a face fitting a member of the Society.

Jno WILLIAMSON Jnr, Merchant, ruff face, bleared eyes, flowing like two fountains, monstrous long nose, hooked like the beak of an eagle, pretty large mouth, upon the whole a charming member.

Wm LONG, London, rugged face, very prominent large nose, extraordinary wide mouth, no upper teeth, a large under lip, a prodigious long chin, meeting his nose like a pair of nutcrackers, an extraordinary member.

The records of the proceeding of the Society is scanty, the place of meeting appears to be the Exchange Coffee House. Whether the members assembled fortnightly, according to the rules there are no entries to show, but they dined together every three months from the accounts. There were meetings for the election of officers whose names are given, together with the number of votes cast for each. In two instances the speech of the president is ordered to be recorded in full. In one case Mr Joseph FARMER, returns thanks for his appointment, in another case in his capacity as President he makes a speech on the Declaration of War against France.

The income of the Society seems to have been derived from forfeits and occasional collections. Its expenditure was chiefly in eating and drinking. There are a few odd items which invite speculation. Why such a club should have required the services of a barber is by no means clear, yet we find, “By paid the barber a years attendance, 6s” Then there is recurring item of “Ringers 10s” Did the club have the church bells whilst its members sat at dinner?”

A mysterious entry “Miss Bett WRIGLEY a tickett 2s” Who was Miss Betty WRIGLEY and what was the nature of the ticklett paid for her behalf out of the funds of the “Ugly Club?”

Another curious item is “ Paid for 5 pictures of Ugly Faces 17s-6d” Whether these were portraits of members or pictures of exceptionally hideous people purchased for the general comfort, there is no evidence to show.

The Society would appeared to have dined out at times, entries show “Dinners at Derby Chapel”, “Expenses at Childwell” and so on. It would appear also the members occasionally catered for themselves, entries show, “Cash paid to the servant for dressing a pigg” There was nothing extravagant in the disbursements of the club, the expenditure averaged about £15 a year and there was always a good balance in hand.

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