Survey of London: Volumes 29 and 30, St James Westminster, Part 1. Originally published by London County Council, London, 1960.
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Nos. 66–68 (consec.) Pall Mall: the Junior Naval and Military Club
In 1871 the leases of the three small old houses, Nos. 66–68 (consec.), No. 67 being a back house, at the western extremity of Pall Mall, were about to expire. The Commissioners of Woods and Forests decided to invite prospective lessees to tender for the rent they would pay for a building lease of the site. After extensive advertising in the newspapers only four tenders were received. They were opened on 12 December 1871, that of H. Tod Heatly of 11 John Street, Adelphi, who offered to pay a rent of £550, being the highest. Shortly afterwards he signed a building agreement with the Commissioners. (fn. 1)
The peculiarities of the site probably dictated this unusual method of disposing of it. Until they were set back to their present position in 1928, the gates of Marlborough House stood in line with the fronts of the houses on the south side of Pall Mall, and the site to be leased therefore overlooked the private ground of Marlborough House for the full length of both its south and west sides. Marlborough House stood on Crown land, but it had only relatively recently come under the personal control of the reigning sovereign. An Act of 1831 enabled William IV to grant the house to Queen Adelaide for the term of her life, (fn. 2) and after Queen Adelaide's death in 1849, an Act of 1850 enabled Queen Victoria to grant it to the Prince of Wales for the term of his and the Queen's joint lives. (fn. 3) Marlborough House became the home of the Prince of Wales in 1863, (fn. 4) and in framing the conditions for rebuilding on the site of Nos. 66–68 Pall Mall the Commissioners had therefore to consider the maintenance of the royal privacy. Although the long western side overlooked only the wide entrance passage from Pall Mall to the house the Commissioners decided that no openings should be permitted on either the south or west walls, and their insistence on this architecturally crippling condition was probably the reason for their seeking tenders for the rental. (fn. 1)
In August 1870 the Junior Naval and Military Club was founded in temporary premises at 19 Dover Street. (fn. 5) By June 1871 there were some 270 members, and its patrons and honorary members included the Prince of Wales, the Duke of Edinburgh, Napoleon III and the Prince Imperial. The club was already sufficiently well established for it to consider competing for the lease of Nos. 66–68 Pall Mall, but for some reason it did not submit a tender. Instead it reached an agreement with Tod Heatly in the summer of 1872 for the erection of a club-house on the site, and in December Thomas Dudley submitted plans for the Commissioners' approval. The unfortunate architect was already struggling with the difficulties imposed by the Commissioners, for in a covering letter he admitted that his plans were 'not quite in accordance with the conditions set forth in the particulars of Tender' and that they had been drawn up 'with a view to the Club being allowed to have Windows to their Building in the rear and sides, such windows being above the line of sight and the floor level, to be fixed windows with opaque Glass'. Through the committee of the club it had been explained to the Prince of Wales that the proposed windows would not diminish the privacy of Marlborough House, and His Royal Highness had consented. (fn. 1)
The Commissioners nevertheless insisted on the conditions contained in the agreement with Tod Heatly. Dudley then submitted fresh plans which Arthur Cates, the Commissioners' architect, considered 'to be in so many particulars objectionable, that I handed them back to him for complete revision'. An offer to pay £100 a year extra rent for leave to use the proposed windows was also rejected, and in March 1873 Dudley submitted another design which was finally approved in the following October. On the ground floor there was no light except from the Pall Mall front; on the first, second and third floors there was to be an enclosed area on the west side, which would provide light for the staircase; and on the second and third floor there was to be an area on the south side which would provide indirect lighting. Otherwise there was to be no light, except from the Pall Mall front, until the fourth floor, which had four windows on the south front; these were set back so far that they probably did not overlook Marlborough House. (fn. 6)
This extraordinary building (Plate 124c, 124d) was erected at great cost and with much difficulty in 1874–5, the contractors being Messrs. Bywaters. There were delays through 'the non-delivery of Granite from Aberdeen, and latterly the difficulty of getting Men to work overtime', but whether the work was completed or not the scaffolding had to be removed by 12 May 1874 to meet with the Prince of Wales's requirements. In December Dudley asked whether the arcaded openings on the west wall might be allowed to remain open; they had been 'designed so as not in any way to overlook Marlborough House Yard, but solely to afford light to the Staircase and the Dining Room as the only means of getting the Sun's rays which are of the utmost importance to the interior of the Building, and I beg that you will grant the indulgence of their remaining until they become objectionable'. The request was refused. (fn. 7)
The club-house appears to have been opened for members' use in the latter part of 1875, the lease being granted to the proprietor, Captain John Elliott, of Chesterford Park, Essex, to whom Tod Heatly had assigned his interest. (fn. 7) The Builder thought that the club would flourish (fn. 5) but its members evidently disliked the quasi-troglodytic existence to which their building condemned them, and the short life of the Junior Naval and Military Club proved a striking exception to the almost universal prosperity of Victorian service clubs. In July 1878 proceedings in bankruptcy were pending against Captain Elliott, (fn. 8) and by the following year the club had ceased to exist. (fn. 9)
From 1880 to 1887 the building was occupied by the Beaconsfield Club and from 1888 to 1892 by the Unionist Club which was then wound up owing to the loss of goodwill. A single year (1893) was apparently enough for the Arlington Club, but the New Oxford and Cambridge Club remained from 1894 to 1920, when it removed to Stratton Street. In the early 1920's the building was shared between the Old Colony Club and a firm of merchant bankers. (fn. 10) Negotiations for rebuilding and for the renewal of the lease began some thirty years before the expiry of the existing lease. King George V intimated to the Commissioners of Crown Lands that windows need not be forbidden on the south and west sides of the new building, and in 1928 the gates of Marlborough House were set back to their present position. The old building was demolished in 1930 and the new one completed in 1931 (see page 425).
Thomas Dudley's club-house (Plate 124c, 124d) was ingeniously planned to take the fullest advantage of the site and yet overcome, as far as possible, the crippling effect of the restriction forbidding windows in the west and south elevations. The sub-basement and basement contained the cellars, staff-room, members' lavatories, and, in the back wing, the spacious and lofty kitchen, lit and ventilated by a narrow roof-light at its southern end. On the ground floor, the main part of the building was divided into halves by a wall running parallel with the side walls. The east half contained the entrance hall (lit by two windows in the Pall Mall front), a small waiting-room (lit from a small spandrel-shaped well), and an inner hall out of which rose the D-shaped staircase. In the back wing was the members' dining-room (lit by a lantern-light). The west half of the main block contained the smoking-room (lit by three windows in front) and at the back was the strangers' diningroom (lit from a narrow area lying behind the arcaded centre of the west wall). The front part of the first floor was occupied by the reading-room (with four windows to Pall Mall) and the west side area served to light the private dining-room in the south-west angle, and the staircase landing. In the back wing was a top-lit billiard-room. The second floor contained card- and billiard-rooms in front, and bedrooms at the back. The third, fourth and fifth floors (the last two limited in extent to the front part of the building) contained members' bedrooms.
The Pall Mall front was a fantastic design in a florid French Renaissance manner, a tower-like structure of three lofty stages, each two storeys high and dressed with an order dividing the fourwindows-wide front into three bays, the middle being two windows wide. In the first stage the middle bay was flanked by paired columns of an elaborated Doric order raised on high pedestals, and it contained a large round-arched opening framing a semi-domed exedra. This provided an imposing entrance, and served to admit more light to the front rooms, being divided by slender pillars into four bays—two of them windows lighting the smoking-room, one containing the entrance doors, and the other a window to the hall. The second stage was dressed with pilasters and quarter-columns of a curious composite order, and the windows of both storeys had round arches. The pilasters of the third stage had foliage capitals and the windows of the two storeys were framed in tall round-arched openings. Above the boldly projecting cornice was a cresting of elaborately framed dormers, the middle one a two-light arch surmounted by two carved mermen, against the background of a tall pavilion roof. The west side elevation was an asymmetrical composition, stepping down in height from north to south, but its first two stages were a simplified version of those in the Pall Mall front. The paired arches in the middle bay were glazed to admit some light to the area recessed in this side, but although the arches in the flanking bays were glazed for effect, they were in fact blind.