The art of fencing has ancient roots and evolved from the need for men to defend themselves in combat. Temple carvings in Egypt dating back to 1190 BC show fencers at practice but many other civilizations from China to Persia to Greece trained their menfolk in swordplay. When guns became the method of waging war, the traditional skills of archery and fencing developed into competitive sports. In Europe fencing as a sport began around the 15th century and quickly emerged as a pastime for gentlemen.
In Georgian England, learning to fence was an indispensable part of a gentleman’s education. Before the mid-18th century an English aristocrat would most often go to Paris to learn the art but in 1755 an Italian fencing and riding instructor, Dominico Angelo Malevolti Tremamondo (1716-1802), known as Angelo, came to London. Angelo won for himself a reputation as a brilliant fencer by besting well known English and Irish fencers. He opened his own salle, Angelo's School of Arms, at Carlisle House, overlooking Soho Square; then moved to Opera House Buildings in Haymarket and next to Old Bond Street.
He founded a dynasty of fencing masters who over the years became a fixture in the training of generations of wealthy, young Englishmen in fencing and horsemanship. Angelo's establishment became one of the fashionable gathering places for gentlemen where they could socialise as well as learn the skills of swordsmanship and benefit from fencing exhibitions given by visiting foreign champions. Angelo’s son, Henry, became head of his father's fencing academy around 1785. Henry helped to establish his friend the boxer, Gentleman Jackson, in his famous boxing club next door to the Fencing Academy on Bond Street. In 1817 he turned the running of the business over to his own son, also called Henry..