The London Circle (London O or Elsie Horde, later the Tun), now First Thursday, was the first prominent post-World War Two fan group in Britain.
It came into existence in 1947, meeting Thursday nights at a fabled meeting spot, the White Horse tavern. For most of its existence, was a very casual, unorganized group, with its meetings always being at a pub.
Frequent attendees included Arthur C. Clarke, who immortalized the White Horse as the "White Hart" in a series of stories. Less complimentarily, Irish fen Walt Willis and Bob Shaw characterized the club as the Circle of Lassitude in The Enchanted Duplicator.
In 1953, meetings had moved to another famous meeting site, The Globe, which was a larger meeting spot than the White Horse, but turned out to be less of a favorite for fans. By the late 1950s, waning interest was evident, which continued to end of decade. In early 1960, controversy and personality clashes erupted when some members of the group, most notably Ted Tubb, wanted to organize for more stability. For a short while, the London Circle actually decreed itself to be, according to Ron Ellik in FANAC, "a proper-type club, with membership cards and dues and an elected committee and everything", but this was not to last very long.
Eventually, those who wanted no organization won out, but by then the seeds had been sewn for the club's eventual dissolution as the camaraderie that held the club together started to disappear. An additional factor in the club's demise was the loss of its meeting spot at The Globe when the whole place was remodeled, and the saloon where they had met became a dining room. The London Circle per se passed from existence in 1959 with the resignation of Chairman Ted Tubb. It was replaced in part by the Science Fiction Club of London, but first Thursday social meetings at The Globe pub continued.
Because of the Circle’s 20-year stay at the One Tun pub, the meetings ultimately became known as the Tun, helped because the next pub was The Wellington (and at a pinch the Hamilton Hall and the Melton Mowbray) hence the Ton.
The pub meetings still exist today and are still quite informal. They meet the first Thursday of the month in a London pub, currently the Bishop's Finger in Smithfield. There is an extra meeting at Christmas, usually a fortnight after the regular December meeting.
The meeting went virtual in April 2020 due to the Covid-19 epidemic.
Ansible has full details of all the pubs used.
|1947–53||White Horse, Fetter Lane||Arthur C. Clarke immortalized it as the White Hart in a number of famous short stories.|
|December 1953–June 1974||The Globe, Hatton Garden||Demolition of the pub forced move to the One Tun.|
|June 1974–January 1987||One Tun, Saffron Hill, near Farringdon tube station||Increased crowding and homophobia from the landlord caused a move.|
|January 1987–Fall 1992, Spring 1993–1997||The Wellington, next to Waterloo East station|
|Winter 92/93||Hamilton Hall, near Liverpool Street Station||The Circle met here while The Wellington was being renovated.|
|2006–16||The Melton Mowbray, Holborn||It was a relief to find a permanent home after 8 years hopping round pubs. It was a Fullers pub with very expensive food, and after refurbishment and renaming to The Inn of Court the landlord refused exclusive access to the basement bar, and the day the A/C failed was the last straw.|
|2016–April 2020, September 2021–present||The Bishop's Finger, near Smithfield Market|
|April 2020–September 2021||“Café Moose” (virtual)||Online meetings due to Covid-19, a replacement through September 2021, now continues on the third Thursdays.|
|From Fancyclopedia 2, ca. 1959|
|(aka London O or Elsie Horde). An informal club, originally, with no dues, no rules, and no actual membership aside from the regular attendees at the "White Horse" pub in Fetter Lane on Thursday nights. (More informal than this it is hard to be.) Renowned for its wit, intelligence, and lethargy. Most famous member is Arthur C. Clarke (whose Tales of the White Hart are a reference to the Circle's old assembly-point), who never misses a Thursday unless he's off somewhere annoying the fish. Other members are such eminentissimi as Ted Tubb, Ted Carnell, Vin¢ Clarke, Bill Temple, Ken Bulmer, and every London-dwelling pro-author plus most area fans. Vin¢ is the leader of the trufan set among them, and has had at least a hand in almost all their fanzines. The Circle is famed also for its conventioneering; despite slanders from the North-English fen, they are fine organizers and seldom get the credit they deserve.
When the licensee moved to another pub, The Globe in Hatton Gardens, the Circle moved with him, but the new place proved inadequate and Vin¢ Clarke began agitation for separate quarters for the club; repercussions have not clarified themselves as of this writing. Declining attendance in mid-1958 led to the establishment of a more formal organization, with "official" meetings once a month.
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