|Address||106 Pall Mall, London|
|Clubhouse occupied since||1832|
|Club established for||Diplomats and Travellers|
The Travellers Club is a gentlemen's club standing at 106 Pall Mall, London. It is the oldest of the surviving Pall Mall clubs, having been established in 1819, and was recently described by the Los Angeles Times as "the quintessential English gentleman's club."
The original concept of the club, by Lord Castlereagh and others, dates from the conclusion of the Napoleonic Wars. They envisaged a club where gentlemen who travelled abroad might meet and offer hospitality to distinguished foreign visitors. The original rules of 1819 excluded from membership anyone “who has not travelled out of the British islands to a distance of at least five hundred miles from London in a direct line”. Candidates for membership are still expected to list four of the foreign countries that they have visited before they are considered for election although under current rules any foreign travel is technically sufficient.
The members of the club's first Committee included the Earl of Aberdeen (later Prime Minister), Lord Auckland (after whom Auckland, New Zealand is named), the Marquess of Lansdowne (who had already served as Chancellor of the Exchequer and later refused office as Prime Minister) and Viscount Palmerston (later Foreign Secretary and Prime Minister).
Subsequent members included statesmen and travellers such as Prime Minister George Canning, the Duke of Wellington, Lord John Russell, Prime Minister Arthur Balfour, Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin, Prime Minister Alec Douglas-Home, Francis Beaufort (creator of the Beaufort scale), Robert FitzRoy of HMS Beagle, Sir William Edward Parry (explorer of the Northwest Passage), Sir Roderick Murchison (after whom the Murchison crater on the Moon is named) and Sir Wilfred Thesiger. Novelist Anthony Powell was a member and the club is featured in various guises in the work of Graham Greene, Jules Verne, William Makepeace Thackeray and John Le Carre.
The club's honorary members include members of the British and foreign royal families, the British Foreign Secretary whilst in office, and various ambassadors to London, but there is also a special category of membership for particularly distinguished travellers, explorers and travel writers, who presently include Rory Stewart MP, Alexander Maitland, Dr. Ian Jenkins and David Shukman.
The club's original premises were at 12 Waterloo Place.
It moved to 49 Pall Mall in 1821 (a building which had once been occupied by Brooks's). However, it quickly outgrew this building and in 1826 the members decided to spend £25,000 on the construction of a purpose built club house on the present site at 106 Pall Mall, backing onto Carlton gardens.
The architect was Sir Charles Barry who was later to be the architect for the Houses of Parliament, and the Travellers Club building proved to be one of his masterpieces. It takes the form of a Renaissance palace which is said to have been inspired by Raphael's Palazzo Pandolfini in Florence. It was completed in 1832, with the tower (which had been in Barry's original design) added in 1842.
The club building includes a smoking room (a large common room which looks over Carlton Gardens), the cocktail bar and adjacent Bramall room (which gives access to Carlton Gardens), the Outer Morning Room (a large drawing room overlooking Pall Mall, and connecting to an Inner Morning Room), and the dining room (known as the Coffee Room). The Times on 10 January 2004 noted "the wonderful dining, heavy on fish and game (partridges to potted shrimps) with echoes of school food (bread pudding) and a superb wine cellar".
The magnificent library is decorated with a cast of the Bassae Frieze from the 5th century BCE Greek temple of Apollo Epicurius at Bassae. The originals of this frieze were discovered by the architect Charles Robert Cockerell, who was on the first Committee of the Club in 1819, and they are now in the British Museum. The library has a large and important collection of books, from the antiquarian to the modern, mainly on travel.
There are a number of bedrooms at the club for out-of-town members.
The dress code is formal. Gentlemen are required to wear a jacket and tie; denim, sports shoes and other casual attire are not permitted.
Notes and references
- Touring the manly realm of London's Travellers Club Los Angeles Times, November 7 2004
- Peter Cunningham, Hand-Book of London, 1850
- "Club History and Building". The Travellers Club. Retrieved 2008-09-23.
- "So what should an English gentleman do?". The Daily Telegraph (London). 1999-07-31.
- Travellers Club website
- Photos of club interiors
- Survey of London - detailed, illustrated architectural history
- Photographs of the Pall Mall elevation of the Travellers Club
- Nineteenth century texts on the Travellers Club
- T.H.S. Escott, "Chapter VIII", Club Makers and Club Members, Sturgis & Walton Company, New York, 1914
- 2003 article on secret diplomatic negotiations with Libya at the Travellers Club