(1828-1894)

Lieutenant-Colonel Sir John Dugdale Astley, 3rd Baronet (19 February 1828 – 10 October 1894) was an English soldier and sportsman, son of the 2nd Baronet (created 1821) Sir Francis Dugdale Astley and wife Emma Dorothea Lethbridge and a descendant of Lord Astley.

From 1848 to 1859 he was in the Scots Fusilier Guards, serving in the Crimean War and retiring as a Lieutenant-Colonel. On 22 May 1858 he married an heiress, Eleanor Blanche Mary Corbett, of Elsham Hall, who died on 7 June 1897, daughter of Thomas George Corbett, of Elsham Hall (– 5 July 1868) and wife (m. 15 December 1837) Lady Mary Noel Beauclerk (28 December 1810 – 29 November 1850), daughter of the 8th Duke of St Albans, and thereafter devoted himself to sports including horse racing and boxing. He was a popular figure on the turf, known familiarly as "the Mate" and for winning and losing large sums of money.

He succeeded to the baronetcy in 1873. From 1874 to 1880 was the Conservative Member of Parliament for North Lincolnshire. Just before his death in October 1894, he published some entertaining reminiscences under the title of Fifty Years of My Life. This contains the first recorded appearance of the phrase "like a duck to water" - I always took to shooting like a duck to water.


His descendants include Samantha Cameron, wife of Conservative Leader David Cameron.

Following is a brief biography of Sir John Astley taken from Wikipedia.

This is a caricature of him drawn about the time of his death.

Sir John Astley was a contemporary of Jem. He followed and was involved in all the sports that Jem participated in. He was involved with events at Madison square gardens, New York, as Jem was. They both had a keen interest in horse racing and gambling.

In 1903 Jem sold a walking stick which was engraved as being presented to him by Sir John Astley. (see 1897-1903 Birmingham page for details)

The term “Fancy” was Victorian slang for the aristocratic followers of sport. In the 20th century the name was shortened to “fans” and became used universally for all sports followers.

Because of their wealth and influence the Fancy had a considerable effect on the way sport developed. Following are some of the aristocrats who followed prize fighting. They would all have been on chatting terms with Jem and involved in his life.

(1840-1866)

Lord Windham owned Felbrigg Hall and its surrounding huge estate hence he was Jem’s family’s landlord. He was widely known as “Mad Windham” on account of his countless excesses and weird behaviour. He demonstrated one of his excesses when, in 1863 he presented Jem with a gold trophy valued at 500 guineas which Jem subsequently displayed at his circus. Following is a portrait of him aged about 10 (he died age 26) and a picture of Felbrigg Hall To read his life history click here. (You will need a program for reading PDF files installed, e.g. Adobe Reader)

The “Fancy” Sir John Dugdale Astley Lord William Frederick Windham


He was a naval officer, rising in rank to Admiral. Jem sparred both with him and with his sons. To read his life history click here.

(1846-1919)

Known from 1859 to 1916 as “Lord Charles Beresford”

Charles William de la Poer Beresford


(1844-1900)

John Douglas was a follower of prize fighting and one of the founders of the Amateur Athletic Association in 1866 but is mostly remembered for his promotion of the “Queensberry Rules” and his feud with Oscar Wilde. To read his life history click here.

This is a photograph of him taken in 1898.

John Sholto Douglas 9th Marquess of Queensbury