London Clubs

At the turn of the twentieth century, London boasted approximately two hundred gentleman's clubs; half of these all-male enclaves had been founded in the last thirty years of the century, and at midcentury applicants could expect to endure waits of eighteen or twenty years. Gentlemen's clubs tended to cluster in London in the exclusive preserve known as “clubland,” located predominately on St. james's Street and Pall Mall, a suburban promenade in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries that began to assume the shape of a street at the end of the seventeenth and whose name was coined after a seventeenth-century French form of croquet, “pallemaille.” Premier among the Victorian clubs were the Athenaeum, founded in 1824 for men of science, literature, and art; the Reform (1836) associated originally with supporters of the Reform Bill; its twin club the Carlton, founded in 1832 for political conservatives . . . and the various clubs that could provide for needs of an Imperial city, such as the Travellers Club, founded in 1819 for men who had travelled a minimum of 500 miles outside the British Isles, the Royal Colonial Institute, for men associated with the colonies and British India, and the United Service Club (1815), founded after the Battle of Waterloo for senior level military officers. Other distinctive and important clubs included the Garrick (1831), which boasted one of clubland's best art collections, the Eccentric (1890) for music hall performers; the Saville (1868), for the younger generation of literary men; and the Savage (1857), for actors, musicians, and artists. — Barbara Black


Outside of London


Outside the United Kingdom

Related Material


Black, Barbara. A Room of His Own: A Literary-Cultural Study of Victorian Clubland. Athens, Ohio: Ohio University Press, 2013. [Review by George P. Landow].

Bradley, Simon, and Nikolaus Pevsner. London 6: Westminster. “The Buildings of England.” New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2003.

Brown, Pete. Clubland: How TheWorking Men's Clubs Shaped Britain. Manchester: Harper North, 2022.

Hatton, Joseph. Clubland London and Provincial. London: J. S. Vertie, 1890. Internet Archive version of a copy in the University of Toronto Library. Web. 29 February 2012.

Milne-Smith, Amy. London Clubland: A Cultural History of Gender and Class in Late-Victorian Britain. Palgrave Macmillan, New York: 2011. [Review]

Milne-Smith, Amy. "Club Talk: Gossip, Masculinity, and the Importance of Oral Communities in late Nineteenth-Century London," Gender and History 21:1 (2009): 86-106.

Milne-Smith, Amy. "A Flight to Domesticity?: Making a Home in the Gentlemen's Clubs of London, 1880- 1914," Journal of British Studies 45:4 (2006): 796-818.

Sheppard, F. H. W. "St James's Street, West Side, Existing Buildings." Survey of London, Vols. 29 and 30, St James Westminster, Part I (1960). Viewed 9 October 2008.

Tait, Hugh, and Richard Walker with contributions by Sarah Dodgson, Ian Jenkins, and Ralph Pinder-Wilson. The Athenaeum Collection. London: The Athenaeum, 2000. [This volume may be ordered from the Librarian, The Athenaeum, Pall Mall, London SW1Y 5 ER.]

Thévoz, Seth Alexander. Behind Closed Doors: The Secret Life of London’s Private Clubs. London?: Robinson, 2022.

Watkin, David. "Cultured Club." bd: The Architects' Website. Viewed 9 October 2008.

Weinreb, Ben and Christopher Hibbert, eds. The London Encyclopaedia. London: Macmillan, rev. ed. 1992.

Wurman, Richard Saul. London Access. 3rd edition. New York: Harper Collins, 1993.

Last modified 17 August 2018