Pall Mall, South Side, Existing Buildings: The Travellers' Club

Survey of London: Volumes 29 and 30, St James Westminster, Part 1. Originally published by London County Council, London, 1960.

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'Pall Mall, South Side, Existing Buildings: The Travellers' Club', in Survey of London: Volumes 29 and 30, St James Westminster, Part 1, (London, 1960) pp. 399-408. British History Online [accessed 20 April 2024]

In this section

The Travellers' Club

The Travellers' Club was founded in 1819. Its object was 'to form a point of re-union for gentlemen who had travelled abroad; and to afford them the opportunity of inviting, as Honorary Visitors, the principal members of all the foreign missions and travellers of distinction'. (fn. 4) Several writers have attributed the first suggestion for such a club to Lord Castlereagh, who was then Foreign Secretary and who may very possibly have been the originator of the idea. (fn. 1) No first-hand evidence on this point has, however, been found. Castlereagh was a member of the club from its foundation in 1819 until his death in 1822. During this period he did not attend any of the meetings of the committee of management, and appears to have taken no part in the formation and administration of the club. (fn. 5)

The first entry in the club minutes records that at a meeting held on 5 May 1819 a committee of twenty-four peers and gentlemen was established 'to make the necessary Arrangements for the proposed Club'. (fn. 6) This bald record, which mentions neither those present nor the place of meeting, suggests that there may have been previous (and unrecorded) discussions at which the foundation of the club had already been determined. The members of the first committee included the Earl of Aberdeen (1784–1860), Prime Minister 1852–5; Lord Auckland (1784–1849), subsequently Governor-General of India; Viscount Palmerston (1784–1865), Foreign Secretary 1830–41, 1846– 1851 and Prime Minister 1855–8, 1859–65; J. B. S. Morritt (? 1772–1843), traveller and classical scholar; Sir Gore Ouseley (1770–1844), diplomatist and oriental scholar; W. R. Hamilton (1777–1859), antiquary and diplomatist, who as secretary to Lord Elgin had superintended the removal to England of the Elgin marbles in 1802; Lieutenant-Colonel W. M. Leake (1777–1860), classical topographer and numismatist, who had accompanied Hamilton on his journey to England with the Elgin marbles; Robert Hay, who may perhaps be identified with the Egyptian traveller and archaeologist (1799–1863) of that name; and C. R. Cockerell (1788–1863), architect, who had studied architectural remains in Greece, Asia Minor and Italy and had in 1812 discovered the frieze of the temple of Apollo at Phigaleia. (fn. 7)

The first meeting of the committee was held on 12 May 1819, when it was' Resolved Unanimously That the Club be called The Travellers' Club'. During the next few weeks the committee was busy framing rules and electing members, and in June an agreement for the lease of No. 12 Waterloo Place was signed. The first secretary was Charles Beloe, who for a salary of 120 guineas agreed 'to attend an hour or two at least every day and during the greater part of any one day every week'; (fn. 2) the day-to-day catering and domestic management of the club was done by a steward and his wife. The club-house was opened for members' use on 18 August 1819, and eight days later the first letters inviting distinguished foreigners to use the club as visitors were sent to Count Woronzow, the former Russian ambassador, and to his son Count Michael Woronzow. (fn. 5)

In August 1820 the committee refused a building site in Regent Street which John Nash had offered for the erection of a club-house, but the search for a permanent home continued and in November the secretary wrote to the landlord of No. 12 Waterloo Place that the 'Club are not at all likely to retain their present House, should any other more eligible present itself'. (fn. 8) In June 1821 two architects, Joseph Kay and Henry Harrison, reported that owing to failures on the south and east fronts, the house was unsafe, and shortly afterwards the committee purchased the lease of No. 49 Pall Mall, on the north side, opposite to the present Oxford and Cambridge University Club. This house had formerly been occupied by William Almack as a tavern, and subsequently by Brooks's Club until its removal to St. James's Street in 1778 (see page 327). The alterations made to this house were carried out by Mr. Robertson, architect, and Mr. Rickman was the contractor. In October the secretary was 'directed to accompany Mr. Robertson to Brighton for the purpose of examining Mahomeds Baths', and presumably as a result of this perambulation baths were installed at a cost of £88. Casts of two Greek friezes are mentioned as part of the ornamentation of the new house and the Travellers' was thus probably the first London club to use a decorative motif which was later employed at the Athenaeum, the Reform and elsewhere. (fn. 9)

The club appears to have moved to No. 49 Pall Mall in the spring of 1822, (fn. 10) and it remained there until the completion of its permanent home in 1832. A member has described the building as 'a shabby, low-roomed house. . . . But what we lost in good accommodation, we gained in good company. We never enjoyed each other's society so much after we shifted our quarters to the big house on the other side of the way.' (fn. 11)

In 1826 the decision to demolish Carlton House provided the club with an opportunity to obtain a suitably spacious building site, and at a general meeting held on 22 May the club authorized its committee to negotiate for a lease of part of Carlton House grounds. (fn. 12) In July John Nash, the architect to the Commissioners of Woods and Forests, proposed a site, probably on the south side of Pall Mall, which the Club provisionally accepted. (fn. 13) There matters remained for about a year, during which the positions of the houses of the United Service Club and the Athenaeum were decided and the erection of the former was begun.

In June 1827 the secretary of the Commissioners of Woods and Forests enquired whether the Travellers' Club would be prepared to enter into an agreement for the erection of a house on the south side of Pall Mall; in a second letter a few days later he promised possession of the site within one year of the conclusion of terms. The committee decided to postpone making a final answer until the following spring, and the Commissioners agreed not to dispose of the site until after Lady Day 1828. (fn. 14) The cause of this prevarication was probably the committee's hope of purchasing Buckingham House, on the south side of Pall Mall, for which the club offered £25,000. (fn. 15) Abortive negotiations with the Duke of Buckingham's agent continued until the end of 1827 but on 26 March 1828 the secretary wrote to the Commissioners accepting the proposed plot on the south side of Pall Mall. (fn. 16)

This ground occupied the sites of three houses numbered 105–107, and had a frontage of some eighty-five feet to Pall Mall; (fn. 17) its eastern side was some twenty feet west of the western wall of the Athenaeum club-house.

At a general meeting of the club on 5 May 1828 the committee was authorized to 'procure Plans from not less than five eminent architects for the New House', such plans to be submitted to the final choice of another general meeting. (fn. 18) The originator of this, the first architectural competition (albeit in a very limited form) to be held by a London club, may have been Lieutenant-Colonel (later General Sir) Edward Cust (1794–1878), who was a member of the club and later chairman of its building committee. During his membership of the House of Commons from 1818 to 1832, Cust took an active interest in the public architectural works of the time and 'succeeded in securing a system for the competition of public buildings, under which he was named a commissioner for rebuilding the Houses of Parliament'. (fn. 19)

On 7 May the committee requested the chairman, Lord Granville Somerset, to write to a number of architects 'to ascertain whether you will feel any objection to furnish, in competition with a few other eminent Architects, Plans for the erection of a new Club House on the South Side of Pall Mall, such plans to be prepared and submitted to the Committee on or before the 1st of July next'. The architects were Robert Smirke, William Wilkins, John Peter Deering, William Atkinson, Decimus Burton and Benjamin Wyatt. (fn. 20) Smirke, Burton and Lewis Wyatt (who also must have received an invitation) all declined, and a week later similar invitations were sent to Jeffry Wyatville (who also declined), Henry Harrison, Thomas Hopper and Charles Barry. A request from Edward Blore to be allowed to compete was granted by the committee, but no decision was taken on a similar request from Ambrose Poynter. (fn. 21)

On 1 July plans were received from seven architects—Barry, Blore, Deering, Harrison, Hopper, Wilkins and Benjamin Wyatt; an eighth and anonymous plan was probably by Poynter. The committee referred the plans to J. H. Good, surveyor to the Commissioners for Building New Churches, for his opinion of their likely expense, and on 17 July the plans were submitted to a general meeting of the club. The attendance, however, was so small that it was decided to leave the choice of design and architect to the committee, which was to report to another general meeting 'previous to the Signing of the Contract with the Builder'. (fn. 22) At the end of July the eight competing architects were each interviewed by the committee, and the decision in favour of Barry was made at a meeting on 20 August. (fn. 23)

A large volume of Barry's drawings, collected by his pupil Edward Barrett and very recently acquired by the Royal Institute of British Architects, contains two highly finished sections belonging to a design for the Travellers' Club. As the east—west section shows a building some eightyfive feet wide, it is clear that these drawings relate to Barry's first design for a club-house on the site of Nos. 105–107 Pall Mall. No plans have as yet come to light, but the deep north-south section offers ample evidence of the interior arrangement. This section is taken through the vestibule, presumably at the east end of the Pall Mall front, with the morning-room occupying the rest of the frontage. The vestibule, consisting of two saucerdomed square compartments, leads south to an ante with a three-bay Ionic screen opening west to the great staircase, rising round three sides of an oblong well. South of the staircase-ante is another saucer-domed compartment, forming an ante to the coffee-room, which the east-west section shows as a large oblong room divided into three compartments by double screens of Ionic columns, each compartment having a Venetian window in the south side. The great staircase rises to the principal (second) storey, into an ante with a Corinthian screen. This ante leads north to the library, on the Pall Mall front, and south through a small lobby to the lofty drawing-room, similar to the coffee-room but dressed with a rich Corinthian order. A secondary stair, south of the great staircase, rises to a mezzanine and to the third storey, the front rooms of which are not assigned on the drawing, but the east-west section shows a central ante-room, serving a billiard-room on the east and a smoking-room on the west. The billiardroom is treated in a manner recalling Soane, but the smoking-room is exotic and Moorish, with cusped windows and slender columns supporting a cove, out of which rises an onion-shaped lantern-light.

In December 1828 the Commissioners of Woods and Forests informed the club that as one of the houses on the site was used 'for accommodating a part of his Majesty's domestic Establishment, and may be required for that purpose for some time to come', the Commissioners could not recommend the Treasury to grant a lease of the site to the club. At an interview between Lord Lowther, First Commissioner of Woods and Forests, and Colonel Cust, the former offered the club the site of the three houses numbered 106–108 immediately to the west of the Athenaeum, instead of the site of Nos. 105–107, one house further west. The club naturally objected to this proposal, which reduced their frontage to Pall Mall from eighty-five to seventy-three feet, and placed their new building immediately against that of the Athenaeum. But there was no alternative to acceptance, and at a general meeting on 11 February 1829 at which Barry exhibited a sketch of a new plan for the smaller site, it was decided to agree to the Commissioners' proposal. On 6 May a building committee was established. (fn. 24)

In the library of the Royal Institute of British Architects there are two elevations signed by Barry and dated 4 March 1829 which may represent his original design as modified to fit the smaller frontage (Plate 84). These drawings appear to have been seen by the committee of the Athenaeum, for on 7 March the secretary of that club wrote to the Commissioners of Woods and Forests protesting that the height and protruding cornice of the proposed building would overlay its neighbour, and reminding them that as the height of the Athenaeum club-house had been prescribed by the Commissioners as part of a general plan for the whole street, it would be a great hardship if an adjoining building were allowed a greater height. (fn. 25)

This protest appears to have met with the Commissioners' sympathy, and may have been made known to the Travellers' Club, for on 4 May a design for a building somewhat lower than that provided in the drawings of 4 March was signed by Lord Granville Somerset, Colonel Cust and another member of the committee. (fn. 3) On 6 May a set of plans and elevations which presumably embodied this important modification was sent to the Commissioners for their approval. (fn. 25) But the Commissioners objected—'the difference in the Level of the Stories, range of the windows and projecting Cornices of the two Houses, apparent upon the said Drawings, would be objectionable and especially to the appearance of the Athenaeum Club House'—and suggested that Barry should confer with Decimus Burton 'with a view to the adoption of some measure likely to obviate those objections'. (fn. 26)

On 25 May Barry reported to the committee that 'having considered the Effect of the dissimilarity in the external appearance of the two Club Houses . . . I am clearly of opinion that as a matter of taste such dissimilarity is desirable. An intervening space of blank wall between the Houses would undoubtedly improve their effect, and although the character and proportions of the Travellers' Elevation would to a certain degree suffer by any diminution of their frontage, I consider that of less consequence than allowing the two Buildings immediately to adjoin each other, and I would therefore recommend the giving up of four feet of the frontage of the Travellers' House as to external appearance in order to obtain a recess of that width, and eighteen inches in depth. . . . And I would further recommend that the back wall of such recess should not be carried to the full height of the adjoining buildings in order that their cornices may be returned upon the flank walls.' (fn. 25)

This report was forwarded to the Commissioners, who on 2 June replied that as the Athenaeum had been compelled to make the height of their building correspond with that of the United Service Club, 'it would not be fair towards the Athenaeum Club to allow a Building of the height shown in the Elevation proposed for the Travellers' Club House to be erected so near to the Athenaeum Club House as would be the Case, even with the recess proposed by Mr. Barry to be made between them'. The Athenaeum had asked to be allowed to inspect Barry's designs, and the Commissioners proposed to grant this request. (fn. 27)

During the next three weeks feeling seems to have run high. At an interview between Colonel Cust, chairman of the building committee, and Lord Lowther, First Commissioner of Woods and Forests, the latter suggested that the Travellers should confer with the Athenaeum, to which Colonel Cust retorted that 'they are not aware of any advantage that can result to either party from such a step', (fn. 28) and protested at the submission of their plans to the other club. (fn. 25) In a letter of 9 June to the Commissioners the secretary of the Athenaeum pointed out that the excessive height of the Travellers' façade was occasioned by the mezzanine floor being between the basement and the ground storey, and that as this mezzanine was only required for the accommodation of men servants who could just as well be put in the attics, it would be an easy matter to lower the overall height by omitting the mezzanine. This neighbourly piece of advice was probably not passed on to the Travellers, whose secretary wrote to the Commissioners on 13 June refusing 'to yield to another club a point which cannot in reality affect either its interests or convenience'. (fn. 25)

This defiance produced a sharp reminder from the Commissioners that 'one of the conditions upon which the ground has been agreed to be let . . . is, that the Buildings shall be erected according to plans and elevations to be previously approved by this Board'. At a general meeting of the club held on 25 June, Barry produced an amended elevation which was approved by the members and transmitted to the Commissioners; a covering letter stated that by reducing the level of each floor the cornice had been brought below that of the Athenaeum. To this design the Commissioners offered no objection, 'provided the Balconies to the Windows of the Principal Stories be made to range with those of the Athenaeum Club House'. The Travellers protested that this proviso would mean 'the total sacrifice of the principal advantages the Club expected to obtain in the proposed new House', and ultimately the proviso was withdrawn. (fn. 29)

In the Public Record Office there are two elevations of the club-house signed by Colonel Cust, the chairman of the building committee, and dated 17 July 1829; they evidently represent the design finally approved by the Commissioners. (fn. 30)

The lowest tender for the erection of the building was from H. Lee and Sons of Chiswell Street, for £19,688. At a general meeting of the club held on 2 December 1829 it was decided that the tender must be brought within the limit of £19,000, and one of the economies decided upon was the omission of the smoking-tower, which had appeared in Barry's drawings of 4 March 1829 and which was ultimately erected in 1842–3. In May 1830 the committee authorized unspecified alterations in the design of the principal entrance, and in June it decided to dispense with the enrichment of the ceilings throughout the building. (fn. 31) The building appears to have been ready for members' use in July 1832. (fn. 32) According to the secretary, writing in 1839, the cost of the building (exclusive of fittings and furniture) was £23,160, and including the latter, £29,557 16s. (fn. 33) These figures probably do not include the architect's fee of £1471 13s. (fn. 32)

The Travellers' club-house (Plates 84, 85, 86, 87, 88, 89, 90, 91, 92, 93) was described in 1851 by John Weale, the architectural publisher, as 'a structure that fairly makes an epoch in the architectural history of club-houses, as being almost the first, if not the very first, attempt to introduce into this country that species of rich astylar composition which has obtained the name of the Italian palazzo mode, by way of contradistinction from Palladianism and its orders. Grecianism, Nashism, and Smirkeism had been exhausted, when, in an auspicious hour, both for himself and for architectural design, Charles Barry seized upon a style that had all along been quite overlooked by English architects.' (fn. 34)

The smoking-room, which had been included in all Barry's designs but whose erection had been omitted on grounds of economy, was added to the south front in 1842–3 ; (fn. 35) Barry's Academy diploma design of 1841 (Plate 85b) shows the garden front of the club with this proposed addition.

The internal decoration of the house, which had been very economically done in 1832, was completed in 1843 under Barry's superintendence, some of the painting being executed by the German artist Frederick Sang. (fn. 35) These decorations were severely criticized in The Athenaeum, which inveighed against 'the employment of affectations and unrealities, which abound everywhere—sham granite walls, sham marbled columns and dados, sham bronze doors, sham bas-reliefs'. Even the ceiling of the hall was painted in imitation of granite, while the carpet of the drawing-room was said to be 'just the carpet you would chance to find adorning the drawing-room of a flourishing cheesemonger in Aldgate or the Minories'. The work as a whole gave the impression of being 'the work of a committee, where there had been a compromise to suit everyone's taste, and each member had undertaken the independent arrangement of different parts'. (fn. 36)

On 24 October 1850 a fire broke out in the billiard-room, and considerable damage was sustained. (fn. 37) The structure was restored under Charles Barry's direction; (fn. 38) some of his plans for this work are now in the library of the Royal Institute of British Architects.

In 1867 the committee decided that the ornamental stone balustrades to the three windows of the library obstructed the light, and replaced them with thin iron railings. E. M. Barry wrote in December to The Builder to protest at these 'common bulging iron railings, of a design which I can only describe as Baker-street vernacular'. (fn. 39) The club had not obtained the permission of the Commissioners of Woods and Forests for the removal of the balustrades, and after E. M. Barry had drawn their attention to the matter, James Pennethorne, the Commissioners' architect, was asked for a report. He stated that 'connoisseurs in Architecture must be offended, and that great injury would be done to the reputation of Sir Charles Barry if the iron railings were allowed to remain; also considering how little good Architecture there is in London, and how much care is bestowed in the first instance upon the selection of a design for these Club Houses . . . I think it is incumbent upon the Crown . . . to protect such Buildings from mutilation'. The Commissioners therefore requested the club to reinstate the balustrades, and after E. M. Barry had provided a copy of his father's original designs the work was performed by Messrs. Cubitt in the summer of 1868. (fn. 40)

The library itself (Plate 92c) appears to have assumed its present appearance in 1868. In April 1831, when the building was in course of erection, Barry altered his designs for the room (fn. 41) and in c. 1838 a partition (the position of which is not clear) was removed. (fn. 42) W. H. Leeds, writing in 1839, states that 'The columns and every other part of the Library are painted of a wainscot or pale oak colour.' (fn. 43) With the passage of time the colour of the woodwork darkened and in 1867–8 the whole room was apparently redecorated and the columns painted white, probably in the hope of obtaining more light. Members' reactions to this change varied considerably; one maintained that 'If, instead of dark oak columns, the interior was white with gilding, it would be perfectly light. The present "decoration" is simply a Mauvaise Plaisanterie', while another castigated the committee for 'spoiling one of the most charming libraries in the country by turning the oaken columns into white and gold ones and by putting Prints before the bookcases. . . . The Library looks more like a French Restaurant than a Library.' (fn. 40)

In 1903 a special general meeting of the club decided to enlarge the entrance hall by taking in the western bay of the central court. (fn. 44) This was not done till 1911, when other important alterations were made. The first-floor room overlooking Pall Mall was converted into a dining-room, and the partition was removed. (fn. 45) Improved sleeping accommodation for the servants was provided by throwing out three exceedingly unsightly dormer windows on the garden front. The designs for these alterations were by J. Macvicar Anderson.

In 1930–1 two new storeys were built over the existing billiard-rooms; H. L. Anderson was the architect. In October 1940 the club-house was severely damaged by enemy action, a number of bedrooms being gutted. The top floors were reinstated in 1952–3 to the designs of Fred Rowntree and Sons; the dormer windows on the south front were removed, the space which they occupied in the roof being ingeniously used to provide light for the bedrooms.

Architectural description

The Travellers' Club is the first of Sir Charles Barry's masterpieces, a remarkably mature and brilliant work for a man of only thirty-four years, and one which exhibits most of his virtues and few of his faults. It may be felt that his refusal to conform with the stringcourse and cornice lines of the Athenaeum, already established by Burton, was a blow to the rule of uniformity in street architecture, but Rome, Florence, Venice and Genoa offered good precedent for Barry's nonconformity. His was the initial step taken in transforming Pall Mall into a strada di palazzi, variously echoing, with increasingly Victorian overtones, the masterpieces of Renaissance Italy.

His plan, too, broke with established precedent (Plates 86, 87). He did not attempt to arrange the rooms in a symmetrical pattern round a great central staircase hall, as in the Waterloo Place club-houses. Instead, he disposed them in a most convenient sequence round three sides of a square court, with a corridor link along the fourth (west) side. This court, architecturally treated as a true Italian cortile, brought light and air to the inside rooms, particularly those in the deep basement and mezzanine.

The ground floor of the north (Pall Mall) range contains the entrance hall on the west, and the morning-room on the east. The wide corridor, on the west side of the court, leads from the entrance hall to the principal staircase, on the south side of the court, and to the smoking-room (originally the coffee-room), a long room of three compartments fronting south. Beyond the principal staircase is a lobby leading to the house dining-room, a square apartment on the east side of the court. The library is on the first floor, above the smoking-room, and over the morningroom and hall is the coffee-room, formed out of the original drawing-room and card-room. There are two storeys above the rooms on the south and east sides of the court, but these are of little interest.

It was probably W. H. Leeds, writing in 1839, who first compared the Pall Mall front of the Travellers' Club with Raphael's posthumously built Palazzo Pandolfini in Florence, but he did so only to draw attention to the superior merits of Barry's design. This flattering comparison has, however, become something of a boomerang, returning to Barry as a charge of plagiarism. There is some resemblance between the two buildings, but on examination it will be found to be a matter of similarity in composition, and the composition of the Travellers' front arises quite logically out of the plan. In detail, however, there is little resemblance, for Barry's design is quite eclectic in inspiration, and highly personal in realization. His surviving earlier designs, of March and May 1829, are quite unlike the Pandolfini for they show the four windows and doorway of the ground storey as round-arched openings recessed in a rusticated arcade with plain spandrels, and in the March design the balustrades of the first-floor tabernacle frames form balconies projecting on heavy flat brackets. The executed design is strongly foreshadowed in the drawing signed by the chairman of the building committee on 17 July 1829, except that here the doorway is emphasized with a doorcase of Doric columns supporting an entablature, its frieze ornamented with triglyphs. Barry's eclecticism is even more evident in the garden front, where the composition is quite Venetian, reminiscent of Pietro Lombardi's Palazzo Corner-Spinelli, yet the crowning entablature is of the bracketed form favoured by Vignola. The design approved on 17 July 1829 is much simpler than that executed, particularly in the ground storey, and it shows the smokingtower appearing above the roof as a small belvedere asymmetrically placed, more or less behind the pier between the two easternmost windows of the front.

Both fronts are faced with stucco, except for the quoins on the Pall Mall front. These, and possibly the crowning cornicione, are of stone, or 'stone concrete'. (fn. 46)

The Exterior

The Pall Mall front (Plates 88, 89a, 89b) is an astylar composition of two lofty storeys, both presenting a plain face with five strongly articulated and evenly spaced windows, the entrance doorway taking the place of the westernmost ground-storey window. Each storey is bounded by long-and-short chamfered quoins, and a plain pedestal-course links the window-aprons. A massive balustrade of stone, raised on a double plinth and composed of square-section balusters grouped between solid dies, encloses the front area and conceals the mezzanine storey which raises the ground floor well above the pavement level. The groundstorey windows are uniformly dressed, each with a moulded and slightly eared architrave, a narrow pulvinated frieze, and a plain cornice, the architrave rising from a moulded sill which rests on the consoles flanking the panelled apron. The doorcase is similar, but the architrave is wider, the frieze is omitted, and the bold dentilled cornice rests on scrolled consoles. A cornice-stringcourse, ornamented with a guilloche band, finishes the ground storey. Each second-storey window is recessed within a rich tabernacle frame (very like those of the Palazzo Regio in Venice) with fluted Corinthian pilasters supporting a triangular pedimented entablature, the frieze pulvinated and the cornice enriched with bracket-modillions. The pilasters, which have return faces on the window reveals, rest on panelled pedestals flanking an open balustrade of waisted balusters. The splendid cornicione, crowning the front, has a frieze-band of paterae within a guilloche, a course of dentils and one of bracket-modillions, and the cymatium is ornamented with lion-head stops. A link with the dying Georgian tradition is provided by the windows, which are sashes divided into elegantly proportioned panes by slender glazing-bars.

The garden front (Plates 85, 89c) is light and elegant, and the storeys are more sharply contrasted in treatment. Each contains five windows—three closely grouped in the middle and one isolated on either side. The ground storey is stuccoed to resemble smooth-faced rusticated masonry, with vermiculated long-and-short stones dressing the straight-headed windows and forming the quoins. Finishing this storey is a flattened entablature which breaks into a Vignolesque bracketed entablature to support the three balconies of the second-storey windows. Here the face is mock-jointed and bounded by long-andshort chamfered quoins. A pedestal-course links the balconies, their fronts being perforated with a pattern of interlacing circles, extending between narrow pedestals with raised panelled dies and finials in the Venetian manner. The casement windows have straight heads, but each is surmounted by a shell tympanum and set in a roundarched recess, framed by fluted pilasters with Corinthianesque capitals (perhaps derived from the sea-storey order of the Palazzo Vendramini) and an archivolt enriched with formalized leaves. These pilasters are also returned into the window reveals, and the arch soffit is adorned with a guilloche band. Instead of a cornicione, this front is finished with a Vignolesque entablature, consisting of a guilloche-ornamented architrave, and a frieze of raised square diamante panels set between the console-brackets that support the boldly projecting cornice. Above the cornice the roof slopes gently back to the balustraded flat in front of the smoking-room, a belvedere-like feature added by Barry in 1842–3 (Plate 85b). This has an arcaded front of seven bays, the middle five closely spaced and containing windows. Each end arch breaks slightly forward between wide piers, and frames a niche. The piers are plain, but the arches have moulded archivolts broken by plain keystones, and the whole is finished with a dentilled cornice. The hipped roof of Roman tiles is broken at each end by large chimney-stacks, each comprised of five separate shafts united by a simple entablature.

The Interior

The entrance hall, although quite small, is treated in a monumental manner. Each side is divided into three bays by a plain-shafted Doric order, pilasters on the west side and columns on the east which form a screen to the narrow aisle containing the porter's desk, etc. The walls are coursed with channelled joints, and the ceiling is a barrel-vault patterned with small square coffers. A few steps opposite the doorway ascend through an archway to a small ante, square in plan and ceiled with a saucer-dome on pendentives. This ante is open also on its east and south sides, the east archway leading through a square lobby to the morning-room. The south archway opens to the west corridor which is divided into three arcaded bays by pilasters, with panelled shafts and Doric caps, the last forming imposts for the panelled ribs dividing the barrel-vaulted ceiling into oblong compartments, each containing a large square panel besides the small spandrel panels flanking the groined intersections of the side arches. This corridor is now open on its east side to a waitingroom built over part of the court, and its south end wall, with a doorway to the staircase compartment, has been removed to improve the circulation and extend the vista.

The staircase (Plate 92a) is spacious enough, but appears modest when compared with those in the Waterloo Place clubs. It is contained in an oblong compartment, two storeys high, on the south side of the court, the stairs rising in a single broad flight to a half-landing broken by two steps, and continuing in a return flight to the first-floor landing, with a gallery over the first flight leading to the back stairs. The design of the staircase recalls the Italianate examples of the Jones-PrattWebb school, having a wide architrave string, square pedestal newels, and massive balusters supporting a broad moulded cornice-handrail, all of mahogany (the grip-handrail of oak was added to assist Talleyrand in ascending the stairs). At the side of the lower flight is a finely carved spandrel panel of rich acanthus scrollwork, and the landing gallery rests on scrolled consolecantilevers. The staircase compartment, however, is not strictly Caroline in style, although it accords well enough with the stairs. The walls of the ground-floor stage are of plaster, formed into large fielded panels in the style of woodwork, but the first-floor stage is arcaded, with three roundheaded arches on each side wall, those on the north side framing windows. There is an elliptical arch modelled on each end wall, and an open arch of the same form between the stair and landing compartments. A modillioned cornice surrounds each ceiling, that over the stair-well having a shallow coffered saucer-dome between two oblong panels, each containing three square coffers. Recent cleaning of the dome has revealed arabesque paintings in the coffers, presumably part of the elaborate decorations carried out in 1843 by Frederick Sang, under Barry's directions. The oblong ceiling over the landing is formed as an oval saucer-dome on pendentives. The wall facing the foot of the stairs is decorated with an arch, framing a large glass reflecting the staircase, and in the wall of the landing above is a niche containing a statue apparently based on the Medici Venus, but with the position of the arms reversed. The first-floor west corridor is generally similar to that on the ground floor, but it retains unaltered its three round-headed windows overlooking the court (Plate 92b). These, and the similar windows lighting the staircase compartment, are divided by slender glazing-bars and have marginal surrounds formed of small circles glazed with patterned frosted glass.

The three rooms on the ground floor vary in size and shape but all are decorated in a simple Grecian style. The walls, generally, are divided by raised mouldings into large panels, with a low pedestal dado below, and an architrave and modillioned cornice above. The ceilings are treated with large slightly recessed oblong panels containing square coffers. The oblong morningroom is 24 feet 6 inches wide and 43 feet 6 inches long, including the east end recess. The three evenly spaced windows in the Pall Mall side wall are balanced by the large flush panels on the opposite wall and both have narrow sunk panels between them. At the east end is a wide, shallow bay, framed by antae and containing a fireplace. This has a figured black marble chimneypiece of simple design, with Doric pilaster jambs, a plain lintel and a cornice-shelf, over which is a tall oblong glass in a moulded frame. A similar chimneypiece and glass is centred in the opposite end wall. The arrangement of the ceiling panels echoes that of the walls, with three large squares flanked by oblongs and separated by narrow oblongs (Plate 90a).

Sliding double doors (a modern alteration) open from the morning-room to the house dining-room, an almost square apartment measuring 29 feet by 27 feet, with three round-arched windows in the west wall overlooking the court. The fireplace, central in the east wall, has a chimneypiece similar to those in the morning-room, and the walls generally are divided into large panels, now filled with a damask-patterned paper. The ceiling is divided by plain intersecting ribs into nine almost square panels (Plate 90b).

The smoking-room (originally the coffee-room) is 67 feet 6 inches long and 24 feet 6 inches wide. True to tradition, it is divided into three compartments—short, long, and short, the east compartment prolonged by a shallow bay—linked by wide openings between engaged piers which have panelled shafts and simple Doric caps. There is one window in each end compartment, and a group of three in the middle. The three fireplaces, one in each end wall and one opposite the middle window, are all furnished with black marble chimneypieces like those in the morning-room. Full-length portraits, one by Gainsborough and four by Angelica Kauffmann, adorn the wall panels; a small landscape hangs over each end chimneypiece; and over the middle one is a fine looking-glass in a rich gilt frame of Chineserococo design (Plate 91).

On the first floor, and fronting to Pall Mall, is the present coffee-room (Plate 93), comprising two rooms originally linked by sliding doors in the dividing wall, which has been removed save for a narrow margin now dressed on either side with a moulded architrave. The east compartment was the card-room, 24 feet 6 inches wide and 27 feet long, including the recess at the east end. The west compartment was the drawing-room, of the same width but 40 feet 6 inches long. Both are consistent in their decoration, which shows a strong reflection of Henry Holland's 'Directoire' manner. The walls above the low pedestal-dado are divided by raised mouldings into tall panels with marginal frames, and are finished with a shallow plain frieze, originally with painted ornament, and an enriched cornice with dentils and bracket-modillions. A shallow cove, modelled with square coffers, surrounds the ceiling of each compartment, which consists of a single plain panel within a wide moulded border of which the chief feature is a double guilloche band. In each end wall is a fireplace with a white marble chimneypiece, its narrow architrave frame flanked by wide jambs composed of a guilloche panel between narrow pilaster-strips with consoles supporting a cornice-shelf above a guilloche-band frieze. Over each chimneypiece is a tall round-headed glass, in a plain white margin and a straight-headed gilt frame. There is a similar chimneypiece, without a glass, opposite the middle window of the west compartment.

According to W. H. Leeds the drawing- and card-rooms were originally 'fitted up and furnished in a style of quiet elegance . . . at once sober and cheerful in character. The doors and styles of the panels on the walls are tastefully painted and highly varnished in imitation of bird's-eye maple, and the panels themselves painted to resemble gilt leather of a flowered pattern on a white ground, and relieved by a plain gilt moulding.' (fn. 43)

The library (Plate 92c) is more or less identical in size with the smoking-room below, and is divided into three compartments by double screens, three bays wide, between narrow return walls faced with bookshelves. A Corinthian order is used, the fluted columns and square engaged pillars standing on high pedestals with panelled dies, the fronts opening to reveal cupboards. The pedestals are returned and continued across the narrow side bays of each screen, leaving only the middle bay open for access between the compartments. Bookshelves line the walls, even the narrow piers between the three windows of the middle compartment, and they are united with the screens by their architectural treatment. Elegant scrollconsoles form the divisions of the pedestal stage of the bookshelves, and the upper stage is finished with a simple entablature having a dentilled cornice, continuing that of the screens. Above is a deep frieze, plain in each end compartment, but in the middle adorned with casts of the frieze from the cella of the temple of Apollo at Bassae (Phigaleia), presumably those used to decorate the club's earlier rooms at No. 49 Pall Mall. In each end wall is a fireplace, its wooden chimneypiece having an eared architrave, laurel-banded frieze, and a cornice-shelf, above which is a large panel with a marginal frame. The chimneypiece in the middle compartment is larger and more elaborate, with fluted Corinthian columns supporting a cornice-shelf above a rich entablature, broken by a scrolled keyblock. The panel above, which contains a scallop-shell recess below a drapery swag, is modern and replaces the original bookshelves. The ceilings are twice coffered, with three squares within each large oblong. The present colouring of the room is largely white, with a terra-cotta ground to the Bassae frieze, but Leeds records the fact that the woodwork generally was grained 'of a wainscot or pale oak colour' (fn. 43) except for the central chimneypiece which was grained a dark oak.

Barry designed or selected much of the furniture, which is transitional Regency-Victorian in style and generally made of mahogany with horsehair upholstery. He also designed the lighting fittings of gilded metal, which were made for colza-oil lamps and have been most skilfully adapted for electric light. The finest, perhaps, is the great cluster of seven lamps on curving branches radiating from a vase-shaped reservoir, which is suspended by chains from the dome above the staircase. Noteworthy, too, is the cluster of lamps on a candelabrum base, rising from the pedestal newel at the foot of the stairs. The coffeeroom is illuminated by three splendid crystal chandeliers, or lustres, of late eighteenth-century design.

The cortile has suffered the most from change—the excessive heightening of the east and south sides, and the obscuration by outbuildings of part of the ground storey. Originally it was nearly square, some 26 feet each way, and two storeys high above the basement. Both storeys were arcaded, with three arches in each face framing windows or blank recesses, and each storey was finished with a full entablature, the upper one surmounted by a balustraded pedestal-parapet.


  • 1. It is, however, interesting to note that Lord Castlereagh is not mentioned in the short account of the club written by the secretary, S. W. Singer, for inclusion in John Weale's book on the Travellers' club-house, published in 1839.
  • 2. Charles Beloe remained secretary until 1828, when he was succeeded by Samuel Weller Singer (1783–1858), who held the office until at least 1837. Singer was the son of a feather and artificial-flower maker, and was self-educated. In c. 1808 he set himself up in his father's trade in Duke Street, St. James's, and subsequently as a bookseller in St. James's Street, but his literary interests did not fit him for commerce and in 1815 he retired to the country to devote himself to more congenial work. He edited a number of rare English sixteenth-century works, and published an edition of Shakespeare. From 1827 to 1835 he was librarian of the Royal Institution in Albemarle Street. In 1834 he was left half the residuary estate of his friend Francis Douce, which enabled him to retire shortly afterwards to Mickleham, near Dorking, where he devoted the rest of his life to literary pursuits. He died on 20 December 1858 at Manor Place, Wandsworth Road and his extensive library was sold in 1860 in over six thousand lots.
  • 3. This drawing is in the possession of the Club.
  • 4. Studies and Examples of the Modern School of English Architecture, The Travellers' Club House, published by John Weale, with an essay by W. H. Leeds, 1839, p. 29.
  • 5. Travellers' Club committee minutes, passim.
  • 6. Ibid., 5 May 1819.
  • 7. Ibid., loc. cit.; D.N.B.
  • 8. Travellers' Club committee minutes, 24 Aug., 30 Nov. 1820.
  • 9. Ibid., 21 June, 13 Sept., 5, 10, 31 Oct. 1821.
  • 10. Ibid., 13 May 1822.
  • 11. George Thomas, Earl of Albemarle, Fifty Years of My Life, 1876, vol. ii, p. 243.
  • 12. Travellers' Club committee minutes, 25 April, 8, 22 May 1826. For another account of the building history of the club-house, see the article by Marcus Whiffen in The Journal of the Royal Institute of British Architects, Sept. 1952.
  • 13. Travellers' Club committee minutes, 13 July 1826.
  • 14. Ibid., 28 June, 5, 6, 25 July 1827.
  • 15. Soane Museum, private correspondence, cupboard 2, division XIII, portfolio C2.
  • 16. Travellers' Club committee minutes, 20 Dec. 1827, 26 March 1828.
  • 17. Ibid., I March, 24 Dec. 1828.
  • 18. Ibid., 5 May 1828.
  • 19. D.N.B.
  • 20. Ibid., 7 May 1828.
  • 21. Ibid., 14, 21 May 1828.
  • 22. Ibid., 7, 14, 17 July 1828.
  • 23. Ibid., 23 July, 20 Aug. 1828.
  • 24. Ibid., 24, 31 Dec. 1828, 11 Feb., 6 May 1829.
  • 25. P.R.O., LRRO60/712.
  • 26. Travellers' Club building committee minutes, 19 May 1829.
  • 27. Ibid., 2 June 1829.
  • 28. Ibid., 12 June 1829.
  • 29. Ibid., 15, 25, 30 June, 2, 6 July 1829.
  • 30. P.R.O., LRRO1/913.
  • 31. Travellers' Club building committee minutes, 25 Nov., 2 Dec. 1829, 1 May, 3 June 1830.
  • 32. Sir Almeric FitzRoy, History of the Travellers' Club, 1927, p. 31.
  • 33. The Travellers' Club House, etc., published by John Weale, 1839, p. 29.
  • 34. London Exhibited in 1851, ed. John Weale, N.D., pp. 295–6.
  • 35. The Builder, 9 Sept. 1843, p. 372.
  • 36. The Athenaeum, 12 Aug. 1843, pp. 737–8.
  • 37. London Exhibited in 1851, ed. John Weale, N.D., p. 297 n.
  • 38. FitzRoy, op. cit., p. 51.
  • 39. The Builder, 28 Dec. 1867, p. 946; C.E.O., file 10623.
  • 40. C.E.O., file 10623.
  • 41. Travellers' Club building committee minutes, 15 April 1831.
  • 42. FitzRoy, op. cit., p. 38.
  • 43. The Travellers' Club House, etc., published by John Weale, 1839, p. 28.
  • 44. FitzRoy, op. cit., p. 112.
  • 45. Ibid., pp. 118–19; The Architectural Review, July-Dec. 1913, pp. 29–32.
  • 46. The Builder, 10 Dec. 1870, p. 980.
  • 47. P.C.C., 202 Teignmouth.
  • 48. Ibid., 1859/118.
  • 49. Copy of sale catalogue in London Library (pamphlet 722).