Stratford Place, WC1
|Clubhouse occupied since||1962|
|Club established for||East India Company civil and military officers who served in the East|
The Oriental Club in London is a Gentlemen's club established in 1824 that now admits ladies (since 2010). Charles Graves describes it as fine in quality as White's but with the space of infinitely larger clubs. It is located in Stratford Place, near Oxford Street and Bond Street, London W1.
The Asiatic Journal and Monthly Miscellany reported in its April, 1824, issue –
|“||An Oriental Club has just been established in London, of which the Duke of Wellington is President, and upwards of forty individuals of rank and talent connected with our Eastern empire are appointed a Committee. The following is the Prospectus... The Oriental club will be established at a house in a convenient situation. The utmost economy shall be observed in the whole establishment, and the subscription for its foundation and support shall not exceed fifteen pounds entrance, and six pounds per annum. There will be a commodious reading room... A library will be gradually formed, chiefly of works on oriental subjects. The coffee room of the club will be established on the most economical principles, similar to those of the United Service and Union. There will be occasional house dinners. The qualifications for members of this club are, having been resident or employed in the public service of His Majesty, or the East-India Company, in any part of the East – belonging to the Royal Asiatic Society – being officially connected with our Eastern Governments at home or abroad... The British Empire in the East is now so extensive, and the persons connected with it so numerous, that the establishment of an institution where they may meet on a footing of social intercourse, seems particularly desirable. It is the chief object of the Oriental club to promote that intercourse...||”|
The founders included the Duke of Wellington and General Sir John Malcolm, and in 1824 all the Presidencies and Provinces of British India were still controlled by the Honourable East India Company.
History and membership
The early years of the club, from 1824 to 1858, are detailed in a book by Stephen Wheeler published in 1925, which contains a paragraph on each member of the club of that period.
James Grant said of the club in The Great Metropolis (1837) –
|“||The Oriental Club, corner of Hanover Square, consists of gentlemen who have resided some time in the East. A great majority of its members are persons who are living at home on fortunes they have amassed in India. India and Indian matters form the everlasting topics of their conversation. I have often thought it would be worth the while of some curious person to count the number of times the words Calcutta, Bombay and Madras are pronounced by the members in the course of a day. The admission money to the Oriental Club is twenty pounds, the annual subscription is eight pounds. The number of members is 550. The finances of the Oriental are in a flourishing state, the receipts last year amounted to 5,609l, while the expenditure was only 4,923l, thus leaving a balance in favour of the club of 685l... at this rate they will get more rapidly out of debt than clubs usually do... Nabobs are usually remarkable for the quantity of snuff they take; the account against the club for this article is so small that they must be sparing in the use of it; it only averages 17l. 10s. per annum. Possibly, however, most of the members are in the habit of carrying boxes of their own...||”|
To this day the old Smoking Room is adorned with an elaborate ram's head snuff box complete with snuff rake and spoons, though most members have forgotten its original function.
On 29 July 1844, two heroes of the First Anglo-Afghan War, Sir William Nott and Sir Robert Sale, were elected as members of the club by the Committee as an "extraordinary tribute of respect and anticipating the unanimous sentiment of the Club".
On 12 January 1846, a special meeting at the club in Hanover Square presided over by George Eden, 1st Earl of Auckland, a former Governor-General of India, paid a public tribute to the dying Charles Metcalfe, 1st Baron Metcalfe, which Sir James Weir Hogg described as "a wreath upon his bier".
In 1850, Peter Cunningham wrote in his Hand-Book of London –
|“||ORIENTAL CLUB, 18, HANOVER SQUARE, founded 1824, by Sir John Malcolm, and is composed of noblemen and gentlemen who have travelled or resided in Asia, at St Helena, in Egypt, at the Cape of Good Hope, the Mauritius, or at Constantinople; or whose official situations connect them with the administration of our Eastern government abroad or at home. Entrance money, 20l.; annual subscription 8l. The Club possesses some good portraits of Clive, Stringer Lawrence, Sir Eyre Coote, Sir David Ochterloney, Sir G. Pollock, Sir W. Nott, Mountstuart Elphinstone, Henry Pottinger, Duke of Wellington, &c.||”|
In 1861, the club's Chef de cuisine, Richard Terry, published his book Indian Cookery, stating that his recipes were "gathered, not only from my own knowledge of cookery, but from Native Cooks".
|“||Oriental Club is "composed of noblemen, M.P.'s, and gentlemen of the first distinction and character." The Committee elect by ballot, twelve are a quorum, and three black balls exclude. Entrance fee, £31; subscription, £8 8s||”|
Dickens appears to have been quoting the club's own Rules and Regulations; that phrase appears there in 1889, when the total number of members was limited to eight hundred.
|“||Do you know that I have joined the Oriental Club? One becomes 65, with an income of 5,000 a year, directly one enters it... Just the place for me, you see, in my present condition. I pass almost unnoticed with my glazed eyes and white hair, as I sink into a leather chair heavily, with a copy of The Field in hand. Excellent claret, too – one of the best cellars in London, by Jove!||”|
Stephen Wheeler's 1925 book Annals of the Oriental Club, 1824–1858 also contains a list of the members of the club in the year 1924, with their years of election and their places of residence.
In 1927, R. A. Rye could write of the club's library – "The library of the Oriental Club... contains about 4,700 volumes, mostly on oriental subjects", while in 1928 Louis Napoleon Parker mentioned in his autobiography "...the bald and venerable heads of the members of the Oriental Club, perpetually reading The Morning Post.
|“||...the colonial administrator's renunciation of the pomp of official dignities for the obscurity of a chair beside the fireplace in the Oriental Club.||”|
Another writer recalling the club in the 1970s says –
|“||Inside were a motley collection of ageing colonials, ex-Bankers, ex-directors of Commonwealth corporations, retired Tea estate owners from Coorg and Shillong and Darjeeling, the odd Maharajah in a Savile Row suit, and certainly a number of Asiatics entitled to be addressed as Your Excellencies."||”|
In its monthly issue for June 1824, The Asiatic Journal reported that "The Oriental Club expect to open their house, No. 16, Lower Grosvenor Street, early in June. The Members, in the mean time, are requested to send their names to the Secretary as above, and to pay their admission fee and first year's subscription to the bankers, Messrs Martin, Call and Co., Bond Street."
The club's first purpose-built club house, in Hanover Square, was constructed in 1827–1828 and designed by Philip Wyatt and his brother Benjamin Dean Wyatt. Edward Walford, in his Old and New London (Volume 4, 1878) wrote of this building
|“||At the north-west angle of the square, facing Tenterden Street, is the Oriental Club, founded about the year 1825... The building is constructed after the manner of club-houses in general, having only one tier of windows above the ground-floor. The interior received some fresh embellishment about the year 1850, some of the rooms and ceilings having been decorated in a superior style by Collman, and it contains some fine portraits of Indian and other celebrities, such as Lord Clive, Nott, Pottinger, Sir Eyre Coote, &c. This club is jocosely called by one of the critics of 'Michael Angelo Titmarsh' the "horizontal jungle" off Hanover Square.||”|
The club remained in Hanover Square until 1961. The club house there was in use for the last time on 30 November 1961. Early in 1962, the club moved into its present club house, Stratford House in Stratford Place, just off Oxford Street, London W1C, having bought the property for conversion in 1960.
The central range of Stratford House was designed by Robert Adam and was built between 1770 and 1776 for Edward Stratford, 2nd Earl of Aldborough, who paid £4,000 for the site. It had previously been the location of the Lord Mayor of London's Banqueting House, built in 1565. The house remained in the Stratford family until 1832. It belonged briefly to Grand Duke Nicholas Nikolaevich, a son of Tsar Nicholas I of Russia. The house was little altered until 1894, when its then owner, Murray Guthrie, added a second storey to the east and west wings and a colonnade in front. In 1903, a new owner, the Liberal politician Sir Edward Colebrook, later Lord Colebrooke, reconstructed the Library to an Adam design. In 1908, Lord Derby bought a lease and began more alterations, removing the colonnade and adding a third storey to both wings. He took out the original bifurcated staircase (replacing it with a less elegant single one), demolished the stables and built a Banqueting Hall with a grand ballroom above.
In 1960, the Club began to convert its new property. The ballroom was turned into two floors of new bedrooms, further lifts were added, and the banqueting hall was divided into a dining room and other rooms. The club now has a main drawing room, as well as others, a members' bar, a library and an ante-room, a billiards room, an internet suite and business room, and two (non)smoking rooms, as well as a dining room and 32 bedrooms.
The club possesses a fine collection of paintings, including many early portraits of Britons in India such as Warren Hastings. The Bar is overlooked by a painting of Tippu Sultan, the Tiger of Mysore (1750–1799). There are portraits of the club's principal founders, the first Duke of Wellington (by H. W. Pickersgill) and Sir John Malcolm (by Samuel Lane). Other portraits include Lord Cornwallis (1738–1805), also by Samuel Lane, Sir Jamsetjee Jeejebhoy, 1st Baronet (1783–1859), by John Smart, Clive of India (1725–1774) by Nathaniel Dance-Holland, Major-General Stringer Lawrence by Sir Joshua Reynolds, Major General Sir Thomas Munro, 1st Baronet (1761–1827), by Ramsay Richard Reinagle, Edward Stratford, second Earl of Aldborough (died 1801) by Mather Brown, Mehemet Ali, Pasha of Egypt (c. 1769–1849) and General Sir William Nott, both by Thomas Brigstocke, Henry Petty-Fitzmaurice, 5th Marquess of Lansdowne (1845–1927) by Sydney P. Kenrick after John Singer Sargent, Lieutenant-General Sir Richard Strachey (1817–1908) by Lowes Dickinson (the bequest of his widow, Jane Maria Strachey), Charles Metcalfe, 1st Baron Metcalfe by F. R. Say, Thomas Snodgrass by an unknown artist, and a bust of the first Lord Lake.
President of the Club
After Wellington's death in 1852, no further Presidents were appointed.
Chairmen of the Committee
- 1837: Sir Pulteney Malcolm GCB RN (brother of the founder, Sir John Malcolm)
- 1843: Major-General Sir J. L. Lushington
- 1918: C. A. MacDonald
- 1932–1933: Sir Reginald Mant
- 1951: Sir Charles Innes (Governor of Burma, 1927–1932)
- 1954 and 1958–1962: Sir Arthur Bruce
The first club Committee of 1824 included:
- Lord William Bentinck GCB (1774–1839)
- Right Hon. Charles Williams-Wynn MP (1775–1850)
- General Sir Alured Clarke GCB (1744–1832)
- General Sir George Nugent, Bt GCB (1757–1849)
- Vice-Admiral Sir Richard King, Bt (1774–1834)
- Vice-Admiral Sir Pulteney Malcolm KCB (1768–1838)
- Major General Sir John Malcolm GCB KLS (1769–1833)
- Sir George Staunton, Bt. MP (1781–1859)
- Sir Charles Forbes, 1st Baronet MP
- Lt General Sir Thomas Hislop Bart GCB
- Lt General Sir Miles Nightingall, KCB
- Major General Sir Patrick Rose
- Sir Robert Farquhar, Bt.
- Sir Christopher Cole KCB MP
- Major General Malcolm Grant
- Major General Haldane, CB
- Rear Admiral Lamber
- Major General Rumley
- Colonel Baron Tuyll
- Colonel Alston
- Colonel Baillie MP
- Alexander Boswell, Esq.
- William Beresford, 1st Viscount Beresford (1768–1854)
- Sir Hudson Lowe GCMG (1769–1844)
- Vice-Admiral Sir Henry Blackwood, 1st Baronet (1770–1832)
- Mountstuart Elphinstone (1779–1859), Governor of Bombay and author
- Sir William Nott (1782–1845), hero of the First Anglo-Afghan War, by special election
- Sir Robert Sale (1782–1845), another hero of the First Anglo-Afghan War, by special election
- George Eden, 1st Earl of Auckland (1784–1849), Governor-General of India 1835–1842
- Pownoll Pellew, 2nd Viscount Exmouth (1786–1833)
- George FitzClarence, 1st Earl of Munster (1794–1842), son of King William IV
- Mansur Ali Khan, Nawab of Bengal (1830–1884)
- 1st Earl of Inchcape (1852–1932)
- Sir Archibald Birkmyre, 1st Baronet (1875–1935)
- Sir Narayana Raghavan Pillai of Elenkath, KCIE, CBE, ICS Former Governor of the Bank of India & Secretary of State Grandson of Dewan Nanoo Pillai of elenkath
- Sir John Jardine Paterson (1920–2000), Calcutta business man.
- Austen Kark (1926–2002), managing director of the BBC World Service
- The Earl of Cromer (born 1946) of the Barings Banking Family
- 8th Earl of Wilton of the Grosvenor family (See Duke of Westminster
- 3rd Lord Wrenbury
- 3rd Lord Shepherd
- The Earl of Derby (born 1962)
- 4th Earl of Inchcape (born 1943)
- Simon Mackay, Baron Tanlaw (born 1934)
- His Excellency Keichi Hayashi, Representative of the Emperor of Japan
- Ravi Kumar, Pillai of Kandamath. Indian Aristocrat
- Maharaja Jai Singh
- Sir David Tang, KBE, Hong Kong Businessman
- William Charles Langdon Brown, CBE, Banker and Former Member of the Hong Kong Legislative Council
- Sir Mark Tully (born 1936) former Chief of Bureau, BBC, New Delhi
- Sir George Martin (born 1926), fifth Beatle
- Christopher Beazley MEP (born 1952)
- Alan Duncan MP
- David Davies MP
- Richard Harrington MP
- James Innes (born 1975), British author
- Swapan Dasgupta MP & Indian Journalist
Members in fiction
- Early in William Makepeace Thackeray's novel Vanity Fair (1848), Thackeray says of Joseph Sedley that "...he dined at fashionable taverns (for the Oriental Club was not as yet invented)." By the time of Sedley's return from India in 1827, "His very first point, of course, was to become a member of the Oriental Club, where he spent his mornings in the company of his brother Indians, where he dined, or whence he brought home men to dine."
- In Thackeray's The Newcomes (1855), Colonel Thomas Newcome and Binnie are members of the Oriental Club. Writing of Thackeray, Francis Evans Baily says "...the Anglo-Indian types in his novels, including Colonel Newcome, were drawn from members of the Oriental Club in Hanover Square".
Club Conventions and idiosyncrasies
The waiting staff are called Ducks. This is not specific to the Oriental. The staff at Pratt's Club are always called George. 
- Baillie, Alexander F., The Oriental Club and Hanover Square (London, Longman, Green, 1901, 290 pp, illustrated)
- Wheeler, Stephen (ed.), Annals of the Oriental Club, 1824–1858 (London, The Arden Press, 1925, xvi + 201 pp)
- Forrest, Denys Mostyn, The Oriental: Life Story of a West End Club (London, Batsford, 1968, 240 pp)
- Riches, Hugh A History of the Oriental Club (London, Oriental Club, 1998)
- Leather Armchairs:The Chivas Regal Book of London Clubs, Charles Graves, 1963, Cassell London
- The Asiatic Journal and Monthly Miscellany for April 1824, p. 473 online at books.google.com (accessed 28 January 2008)
- _A Quiet Oasis in the Centre of London – main page of the Oriental Club's official web site (accessed 27 January 2008)
- Wheeler, Stephen (ed.), Annals of the Oriental Club, 1824–1858 (London, The Arden Press, 1925, xvi + 201pp)
- Grant, James, The Great Metropolis (1837), pp. 136–137, online at The Great Metropolis By James Grant at books.google.com (accessed 28 January 2008)
- Forrest, op. cit. p. 66
- Metcalfe, Charles Theophilus Metcalfe, The Life and Correspondence of Charles, Lord Metcalfe (1858) pp 429–431
- Graves, Charles, Leather Armchairs: The Chivas Regal Book of London Clubs (London, Cassell & Co., 1963, with foreword by P. G. Wodehouse)
- Cunningham, Peter, Hand-Book of London, 1850, online at Victorian London – Entertainment and Recreation – Clubs – Oriental Club (accessed 28 January 2008)
- Terry, Richard, Indian Cookery, by Richard Terry, Chef-de-Cuisine at the Oriental Club (London, 1861, new edition ed. by Janet Clarke, Reprint Southover Press, 1998
- Collingham, Elizabeth & Lizzie, Curry: A Tale of Cooks and Conquerors (2006) p. 139
- Charles Dickens, Jr., Dickens's Dictionary of London (1879) quoted at Victorian London – Directories – Dickens's Dictionary of London, by Charles Dickens, Jr., 1879 – "Oriental Club" (accessed 27 January 2008)
- Rules and Regulations for the Government of the Oriental Club (1889)
- Taddeo, Julie Anne, Lytton Strachey and the Search for Modern Sexual Identity: The Last Eminent Victorian (New York: Harrington Park Press, 2002) p. 58
- Forrest, op. cit., p. 32
- Rye, Reginald Arthur, The Students' Guide to the Libraries of London (London, University of London Press, 1927) p. 48
- Parker, Louis Napoleon, Several of my Lives (London, Chapman and Hall, 1928) p. 71
- Waugh, Alec, The Balliols (New York, Farrar & Rinehart, 1934) p. 474
- AN OASIS IN LONDON'S WEST END at asia-major.com (accessed 27 January 2008)
- The Asiatic Journal and Monthly Register for British India and Its Dependencies dated June 1824, p. 682, online at The Asiatic Journal and Monthly Register for British India and Its Dependencies (accessed 28 January 2008)
- Collage Record 20748 at cityoflondon.gov.uk (accessed 28 January 2008)
- Walford, Edward, 'Hanover Square and neighbourhood' in Old and New London: Volume 4 (1878), pp. 314–326, online at british-history.ac.uk Report 45200 (accessed 28 January 2008)
- Forrest, Denys Mostyn, The Oriental: Life Story of a West End Club (London, Batsford, 1968, 240 pp)
- About and History at Oriental Club web site (accessed 28 January 2008)
- Stratford, Gerald H. The Stratfords, (Chapter 13, Belan, Aldborough, and Stratford House) online at Chapter 13, Belan, Aldborough, and Stratford House (accessed 27 January 2008)
- Drawing Rooms at Oriental Club web site (accessed 26 February 2011)
- Facilities at Oriental Club web site (accessed 27 January 2008)
- *Listed Buildings in Stratford Place, Westminster – map at westminster.gov.uk (accessed 29 January 2008)
- Tully, Mark, Why Queen Victoria’s art reflects her true feelings about India, online at dawn.com (accessed 28 January 2008)
- Forrest, op. cit., p. 8, pp 228–232
- Forrest, op. cit., pp 80 & 109
- Metcalfe, op. cit. p. 320
- Forrest, op. cit., p. 134
- Forrest, op. cit., p. 150
- Forrest, op. cit., p. 16
- Who's Who and Club Book 2016
- Forrest, op. cit. p. 30
- Forrest, op. cit. p. 28
- Thompson, Jason, Egyptian Encounters (Cairo, American University in Cairo Press, 2002) p. 127 [footnote 94]
- Forrest, op. cit. p. 84
- INCHCAPE, James Lyle Mackay, 1st Earl of in Who Was Who 1929–1940 (London, A. & C. Black, 1967 reprint: ISBN 0-7136-0171-X)
- BIRKMYRE, Sir Archibald, 1st Bt of Dalmunzie in Who Was Who 1897–2006 online (accessed 28 January 2008)
- 'Jardine Paterson, Sir John (Valentine)', in Who Was Who (A. & C. Black, 1920–2008), online edition by Oxford University Press, December 2007, accessed 5 January 2011
- KARK, Austen Steven in Who's Who 2002 (London, A. & C. Black, 2002)
- INCHCAPE, Kenneth Peter Lyle Mackay, 4th Earl of in Who's Who 2007 (London, A. & C. Black, 2007)
- TANLAW, Simon Brooke Mackay, Baron cr 1971 (Life Peer) in Who's Who 2007 (London, A. & C. Black, 2007)
- MARTIN, George Henry in Who's Who 2007 (London, A. & C. Black, 2007)
- BEAZLEY, Christopher John Pridham in Who's Who 2007 (London, A. & C. Black, 2007)
- William Makepeace Thackeray, Vanity Fair, Chapter III
- Thackeray, Vanity Fair, Chapter LX
- Brantlinger, Rule of Darkness: British Literature and Imperialism, 1830–1914 (1988), p. 94
- McMaster, Rowland, Thackeray's Cultural Frame of Reference: Allusion in the Newcomes (1991) p.144
- Baily, Francis Evans, Six Great Victorian Novelists (London, Macdonald, 1947), p. 15
- Charles Graves, op cit.
- The Oriental Club – official web site
- The Association of London Clubs – official web site
- Listed Buildings in Stratford Place, Westminster – at westminster.gov.uk (official web site of the City of Westminster)