Carlton Club

Coordinates: 51°30′21″N 0°8′20″W / 51.50583°N 0.13889°W / 51.50583; -0.13889
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Carlton Club
Formation1832 (1832)
FounderArthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington, and others
TypePrivate social club
PurposeClub established for the Conservative Party
Coordinates51°30′21″N 0°8′20″W / 51.50583°N 0.13889°W / 51.50583; -0.13889
OriginsCarlton House Terrace, London

The Carlton Club is a private members' club in St James's, London. It was the original home of the Conservative Party before the creation of Conservative Central Office.[1] Membership of the club is by nomination and election only.


Pall Mall with the Carlton Club, photographed by James Valentine
Carlton Club in Pall Mall, c. 1896

The club was founded in 1832, by Tory peers, MPs and gentlemen, as a place to coordinate party activity after the party's defeat over the First Reform Act. The 1st Duke of Wellington was a founding member; he opposed the 1832 Reform Act and its extension of the right to vote.[2] The club played a major role in the transformation of the Tory party into its modern form as the Conservative Party. It lost its role as a central party office with the widening of the franchise after the Reform Act 1867, but it remained the principal venue for key political discussions between Conservative ministers, MPs and party managers.[citation needed]

Formation location[edit]

The club was formed at the Thatched House Tavern in 1832 and its first premises were in Carlton House Terrace (provided by Lord Kensington), from which it drew its name. These premises were quickly found too small. The second clubhouse was situated near the Reform Club at 94 Pall Mall, London, and was purpose-built in 1835. It was replaced by a third clubhouse on the same site in 1856.[citation needed]

The Caen stone used on the façade of the third building proved unsuitable in the London atmosphere and had to be completely replaced in 1923–24.[3]

1922 Carlton Club meeting[edit]

The club is most famous for the Carlton Club meeting of 19 October 1922, in which backbench Conservative MPs decided to withdraw from the David Lloyd George–led coalition government. MPs voted in favour of discontinuing the coalition, after speeches from Bonar Law and Stanley Baldwin, with Baldwin saying that the fact Lloyd George was a 'dynamic force' was a danger to the stability of the Conservative party. Austen Chamberlain resigned as leader and Bonar Law formed a purely Conservative government.[4]

Bombing by the Luftwaffe and move to current building[edit]

The club suffered a direct hit during the Blitz on 14 October 1940,[5] Observers, including the diarist Harold Nicolson, noted Quintin Hogg (then a young Conservative MP, later the 2nd Viscount Hailsham) carrying his elderly, disabled father Lord Hailsham from the building; they had been dining together prior to the former's departure for active service in North Africa. The Chief Whip David Margesson, who was living at the Club since his recent divorce, was left homeless and had to sleep for a time on a makeshift bed in the underground Cabinet Annexe.[6][7]

No one was killed in the explosion, but the building was destroyed. The Carlton immediately moved to its current premises, at 69 St James's Street, formerly the premises of Arthur's Club – one of the premier gentlemen's clubs, which had closed the same year, after 150 years of operations.[8][9] The current Georgian clubhouse is architecturally important (Grade II* listed) and includes two elegant dining rooms, together with a collection of political portraits and paintings dating back to the 18th century, imported from ruins of the old clubhouse and the former Junior Carlton Club (see below). The current Carlton has not retained any of the furnishings belonging to the building when it was Arthur's club, apart from the war memorial plaque in the entrance. There is a marble Arthur's Club First World War Memorial to be found on the wall by the stairs in the main vestibule of St James's Church Piccadilly (designed by Wren). The walls of the Disraeli and Macmillan rooms and their windows at the back of the club were part of the fabric of the original White's Club building.[citation needed]

Junior Carlton Club[edit]

The Junior Carlton Club, which was entirely separate from the Carlton itself, was established in 1864 and occupied a large purpose-built clubhouse, completed in 1869, at 30 Pall Mall, almost opposite the Carlton. This was sold early in the 1960s and part of the proceeds used to buy the site of the former Carlton Club building at 94 Pall Mall. The erection of the new clubhouse on the site of 30 Pall Mall in a modern 1960s prototype 'club of the future' led to mass resignations from that club. In December 1977 it formally merged with the Carlton Club, with negotiations conducted by Harold Macmillan.[citation needed]

Bombing by IRA[edit]

At 8:39 p.m. on 25 June 1990, the Carlton Club was bombed by the Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA), injuring more than 20 people.[10] Lord Kaberry died the following year at age 83 from the injuries he had sustained.[11]

Chris Pincher scandal[edit]

It was at the Carlton that Chris Pincher, the deputy chief whip, was alleged to have committed sexual assault on two men on 29 June 2022. The revelations following this scandal led to the government crisis and the resignation of the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson. The standards committe found Pincher's conduct amounted to an abuse of power and recommended he be suspended for eight weeks. Pincher initially intended to appeal the suspension, however he ultimately resigned as an MP in September 2023, triggering a by-election in his Tamworth constituency which the Conservatives lost to Labour.


Historically and by tradition, only males could become full members after being proposed and seconded by two current members who have known the applicant and been members themselves for at least two years. From the 1970s onwards, women were allowed to become associate members, meaning they were unable to vote. On becoming Conservative leader in 1975, Margaret Thatcher was made an honorary member of the club and, as such, until 2008 was the only female member entitled to full membership. Thatcher was elected as the club's second president (the first was Harold Macmillan) in May 2009.[12]

A separate, unrelated Ladies' Carlton Club was established after the First World War as a social and political centre for Conservative women. It closed in 1958.[citation needed]

A full history of the club was published by historian Lord Lexden to mark its 175th anniversary in 2007.[12]

As of 2022 the club had around 1500 members and membership cost upwards of £1700 per year.[13]

Opposition to membership[edit]

The Prime Minister Arthur Balfour was a reluctant member, complaining about the club in the early 1900s.

The Carlton is a beastly club... but it must be suffered like long hours and constituents as a necessary though disagreeable accompaniment of a political career.

Former Conservative Party leader Iain Duncan Smith refused Carlton Club membership when it was offered to him in 2001 because women, at that time, were unable to become full members.[14]

Notable members[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Carlton Club: History". Retrieved 12 October 2018.
  2. ^ Reader's Digest Illustrated Encyclopedia of Britain. 1999. p. 79.
  3. ^ Survey of London: volumes 29 and 30: St James Westminster, Part 1 (1960), pp. 180–86, online at (accessed 18 January 2008)
  4. ^ Keith Middlemass and John Barnes, Baldwin (Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1969)
  5. ^ "The Carlton Club, 1832-2007 | Sir Charles Petrie and Alistair Cooke | Review by the Spectator". Archived from the original on 11 April 2009. Retrieved 13 August 2009.
  6. ^ the event is also discussed in Their Finest Hour, Volume II of Churchill's History of the Second World War, p.285
  7. ^ Stewart 2000, p.443
  8. ^ "St. James's Street, West Side, Past Buildings | Survey of London: volumes 29 and 30 (pp. 459–471)". Retrieved 28 November 2013.
  9. ^ "The Carlton Club". Traditional Gentlemen's Clubs of London. Retrieved 29 June 2017.
  10. ^ "BBC Review of the IRA bombing". Retrieved 19 January 2022.
  11. ^ "Sutton Index of Deaths". Retrieved 19 January 2022.
  12. ^ a b "Lord Lexden, historian of the Carlton Club, pays tribute to Margaret Thatcher on behalf of the Club". Lord Lexden OBE. Retrieved 25 October 2022.
  13. ^ Waterson, Mark (1 July 2022). "Cads' Corner and Mark Francois holding court: inside the Carlton Club". the Guardian. Retrieved 1 July 2022.
  14. ^ agencies, Staff and (27 December 2001). "Duncan Smith snubs Carlton Club over women". The Guardian. Retrieved 5 June 2021.
  15. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa ab ac ad ae af ag ah ai aj ak al am an ao ap aq ar as at au av aw ax ay az ba bb bc bd be bf bg bh Who Was Who, 1897–present (OUP, 2007)
  16. ^ Hope, Christopher (21 September 2016). "Theresa May rejoins the historic Carlton Club 15 years after quitting over its women members' policy". The Daily Telegraph.

Further reading[edit]

  • Escott, T.H.S. (1914). Club Makers and Club Members. London: T. Fisher Unwin.
  • Lejeune, Anthony (1979). The Gentlemen's Clubs of London. London: Wh Smith Pub. ISBN 0-8317-3800-6.
  • Lejeune, Anthony (2012). The Gentlemen's Clubs of London. London: Stacey International. ISBN 978-1-906768-20-1.
  • Escott, T.H.S. (1914). Club Makers and Club Members. London: T. Fisher Unwin.
  • Payne, Sebastian (2022). The Fall of Boris Johnson: The Full Story. London: Macmillan. ISBN 9781035016556.
  • Phelps, Barry (1982). Power and the Party: A History of the Carlton Club, 1832-1982. Reading: Wembley Press.
  • Petrie, Charles (1955). The Carlton Club. London: Eyre & Spottiswoode.
  • Petrie, Charles; Cooke, Alistair (2007). The Carlton Club, 1832-2007. London: Eyre & Spottiswoode.
  • Stewart, Graham (2000). Burying Caesar: Churchill, Chamberlain and the Battle for the Tory Party. London: Phoenix. ISBN 978-0-75381-060-6.
  • Thévoz, Seth Alexander (2018). Club Government: How the Early Victorian World was Ruled from London Clubs. London: I.B. Tauris/Bloomsbury. ISBN 978-1-78453-818-7.
  • Thévoz, Seth Alexander (2022). Behind Closed Doors: The Secret Life of London Private Members' Clubs. London: Robinson/Little, Brown. ISBN 978-1-47214-646-5.

External links[edit]