“Titan of the Thames: The Life of Lord Desborough”

Recommended reading is this brand-new biography of William Grenfell, Lord Desborough, whose many athletic and public service accomplishments included some intriguing associations with Bartitsu.

Grenfell was the Master of Ceremonies at Edward Barton-Wright’s famous Bartitsu exhibition at the London Bath Club on the evening of March 9th, 1899. Lord Desborough not only presided over the event, but also took to the stage himself at one point to take part in a historical fencing display that preceded Barton-Wright’s demonstration.

He then became one of the earliest “promoters” of Bartitsu as a concept, describing the still-nascent art for journalists and eventually serving as the president of the Bartitsu Club, though it isn’t clear how much of a practical day-to-day role he played in the Club’s operations.

His involvement with Bartitsu was, however, just one small facet of a long and fascinating life, which included serving as a principal organiser of the first Olympic Games ever held in London as well as many pioneering sporting and cultural achievements.

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