Pall Mall, South Side, Existing Buildings: The Reform 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 Reform Club', in Survey of London: Volumes 29 and 30, St James Westminster, Part 1, (London, 1960) pp. 408-415. British History Online [accessed 21 May 2024].

. "Pall Mall, South Side, Existing Buildings: The Reform Club", in Survey of London: Volumes 29 and 30, St James Westminster, Part 1, (London, 1960) 408-415. British History Online, accessed May 21, 2024,

. "Pall Mall, South Side, Existing Buildings: The Reform Club", Survey of London: Volumes 29 and 30, St James Westminster, Part 1, (London, 1960). 408-415. British History Online. Web. 21 May 2024,

In this section

The Reform Club

Previous history of this site is described on pages 349–51

The electoral defeat of 1831 had impelled the Tories to reconstruct their party organization, and the foundation of the Carlton Club had been one of the most important results of their efforts. Between 1831 and 1837 their political opponents enjoyed a large parliamentary majority, and they therefore had less sense of urgency for the tasks of reconstruction which the new political situation created by the Reform Act demanded. Moreover, the Whigs already had a party rendezvous at Brooks's. It is, therefore, no accident that the Reform Club was founded after the Carlton, and that it owed its existence largely to the efforts of the Radicals. (fn. 2)

In 1834 a Radical club called the Westminster Club was founded at the house of Alderman (Sir) Matthew Wood at No. 24 Great George Street. The original committee consisted chiefly of Radical members of Parliament, and the club was opened on 7 April. Joseph Hume, M.P. for Middlesex, became a member in February 1835, and it was at his suggestion that the name of the club was almost immediately afterwards changed to the Westminster Reform Club. (fn. 3) The year 1834 also saw the foundation by the Earl of Durham of the Reform Association, whose main object was to organize the registration of Radical electors, a task which the Reform Act had made vitally important. (fn. 2)

Neither of these bodies was likely to develop into the counterpart of the Carlton, for no Liberal club could establish itself unless the Whigs and the Radicals agreed to co-operate. In February 1835 the Radicals attempted unsuccessfully to obtain the support of the Whigs. In February of the following year a second attempt was made, in which Joseph Parkes, parliamentary solicitor and secretary to the commission for inquiring into the municipal corporations, Sir William Molesworth, Radical M.P. for East Cornwall, and Joseph Hume were the leaders. They obtained the support of Edward Ellice, M.P. for Coventry and an influential Whig who had been a whip in Lord Grey's government. At a meeting held at Parkes's house in Great George Street, at which Parkes, Molesworth, Ellice and the Whig whip E. J. Stanley were present, a committee list consisting of twenty Radicals and fifteen Whigs was drawn up. By the end of February most of the cabinet had joined the new club, which had a membership of a thousand, including 250 members of Parliament. (fn. 4)

On 24 March 1836 Joseph Hume and others wrote from the headquarters of the Reform Association at No. 3 Cleveland Row (fn. 5) to the Commissioners of Woods and Forests asking for terms for a three-year lease of No. 104 Pall Mall, (fn. 6) a double-fronted house which had been rebuilt in 1761–2 by John, Earl of Egmont, (fn. 7) and subsequently occupied for a number of years by the Countess of Dysart; from 1831 to 1836 the house had been used for the storage and exhibition of the King's pictures. (fn. 8) Terms for the lease of the house were quickly agreed, and Decimus Burton was employed by the club to draw up plans for the adaptation of the house to its new use. (fn. 6) The first formal committee meeting of the Reform Club was held at No. 104 Pall Mall on 5 May 1836, and the house was opened for members' use on 24 May. The Westminster Reform Club came to an end in 1838 (fn. 9) and the Reform Association shortly afterwards. (fn. 10)

The Reform Club proved a worthy counterpart of the Carlton, but its influence upon the political scene did not work out as the Radicals who were chiefly responsible for its foundation had hoped. In the words of a distinguished modern historian 'They had dreamed of capturing the whigs; it is at least arguable that they themselves were ensnared in the net they had woven. . . . The single-mindedness, the integrity, the characteristic acidity of the radicals that flourished in frigid isolation, could not easily survive transplantation to the convivial atmosphere of the Pall Mall clubrooms.' Within a few years of the foundation of the Reform Club the Radicals 'had virtually disappeared as an independent element in parliamentary life'. (fn. 10)

No. 104 Pall Mall was separated from the newly erected Travellers' club-house on its east side by one house, which from 1834 to 1838 was occupied by the National Gallery of Pictures. On its west side it was separated from the Carlton club-house (which was completed early in 1836) by four houses, the most westerly of which (No. 100) had been the first home of the National Gallery from 1824 to 1834.

Immediately after its establishment at No. 104 the committee of the Reform Club asked the Commissioners of Woods and Forests for an extension of their three-year lease. The Commissioners replied that they intended to take down the old houses between No. 104 and the Carlton and to let the ground on building lease; a narrow road from Pall Mall to Carlton Gardens was to be formed on the east side of the Carlton. Demolition work was in progress in January 1837, and in the following month the committee of the Reform Club decided to take the ground between the new road and the west side of No. 104 and to erect a club-house there which was to be internally connected to No. 104. (fn. 6) Edward Blore and George Basevi were instructed to prepare plans. (fn. 11) But in March Edward Ellice, who conducted most of the negotiations with the Commissioners, informed the latter that 'the Club have under their consideration a plan proposed by the Architect to pull down the present house [No. 104], and to erect an uniform building on the space on which it stands and on the adjoining ground', and asked for terms. In April the Commissioners received a further enquiry for terms for the lease of the site between the Travellers' club-house and No. 104, which would enable the club to 'build one uniform structure from the Travellers' Club to the end of the Street' (i.e., to the opening into Carlton Gardens). The Commissioners' architects, Thomas Chawner and Henry Rhodes, welcomed this proposal as 'further promoting the beauty of this Locality' and in May 1837 the terms for a long lease were agreed. (fn. 6) Thus the club became possessed of a magnificent site with a frontage of 142 feet to Pall Mall.

At a general meeting of the club held on 17 May 1837 the building committee was instructed 'to request seven architects of talent and experience to make Plans and Estimates for a new Club House, and that the said plans be exhibited publicly in one of the rooms of the Club for at least 14 days prior to any decision being come to'. The seven architects were Charles Barry, George Basevi, Edward Blore, Decimus Burton, Charles Cockerell, Philip Hardwick and Sydney Smirke. (fn. 12) Burton declined to compete and Hardwick informed the committee that he was too busy. The other five architects were instructed to submit plans comprising 'Basement, Mezzanine, ground and first floor for the use of the club, with two small waiting rooms, two Billiard rooms, a smoking room, and with as many dressing rooms and Baths on the mezzanine floor, as the necessary accommodation for the servants of the Establishment will permit, it being intended that all the servants shall be accommodated on the mezzanine floor; also of a second floor containing lodging apartments . . . and garret rooms over them for the use of Servants'. The architects' estimates were not to exceed £37,500 including fittings. (fn. 13) The Reform Club's building requirements were much more ambitious than those of any other of the West End clubs, and the provision of 'lodging apartments' for members was at this period probably unique.

At a meeting of the building committee held on 13 July a letter was received from the five competing architects, stating that they had met and 'having compared our several calculations founded upon rough drafts of our designs, we are of opinion that in order to satisfy the expectations of the Club, the cost would not be less than £44,000'. They were authorized to proceed on this basis. (fn. 14)

In November the designs of Barry, Blore, Cockerell and Smirke were received; Basevi had dropped out owing to his current commitments at the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge. At a meeting of the building committee held on 25 November Barry's design was selected (Plate 94), and the four plans were then placed on exhibition for members' inspection. On 13 December the building committee's choice was confirmed by a general meeting of the club. (fn. 15)

Two days later the building committee was reconstructed. Its members included (Sir) William Clay (1791–1869), Liberal member of Parliament 1832–57 and chairman of several London water companies; Edward Ellice, junior (1810–80), Liberal member of Parliament 1837–80; (Sir) Thomas Erskine Perry (1806– 1882), an unsuccessful Whig candidate in 1832, later a judge of the Supreme Court of Bombay and afterwards a Liberal member of Parliament 1854– 1859; Henry Warburton (? 1784–1858), Radical member of Parliament for most of the period 1826–47; and (Sir) Benjamin Hall (1802–67), later Chief Commissioner of Works; the latter frequently took the chair at meetings of the committee in 1838–9. (fn. 16)

The new committee immediately made 'various suggestions as to alterations in the internal arrangements of the New Club House', and in January 1838 Barry submitted a revised set of drawings (Plate 95). Much the most important alteration was the 'covering over the Italian court shown in the original design, and thereby forming the saloon as now shown in the Second set of plans'. Other changes included the enlargement of the house dinner-room and the provision on the second floor of nine sets of 'lodgings', each consisting of two rooms, and a number of single rooms. In May the tender of Messrs. Grissell and Peto for £38,400 (excluding fittings) was accepted from amongst twelve competitors; (fn. 17) a general meeting of the club confirmed the arrangements made by the building committee and authorized the expenditure of an extra £2000 (later increased to £3800) on facing the whole of the exterior of the proposed building with stone instead of cement. (fn. 18) Barry's plans were approved by the Commissioners of Woods and Forests in July 1838, and building work began shortly afterwards. (fn. 6) From June 1838 until December 1840 the club was accommodated at Gwydyr House in Whitehall; (fn. 19) early in 1841 other temporary quarters were taken at the Salopian Coffee House at No. 41 Charing Cross. (fn. 20)

Little is known about the erection of the clubhouse. In January 1839 the building committee accepted Barry's suggestion that the windows on the south front should 'be made to accord with those on the north and west fronts', instead of having rusticated columns and architraves (see Plate 98a). In April Barry reported that he expected the building to be covered in by November. The propriety of placing an inscription on the frieze was considered, but on Barry's advice the committee decided 'to substitute an architectural enrichment in lieu of any inscription'. (fn. 1) In June 1840 there were 220 men at work on the building. (fn. 21) In the same month Barry was authorized to provide bas-reliefs of the Panathenaic procession for installation over the bookcases in the library (now the smoking-room); 'Mr. Henning' (probably John Henning, senior or junior, who had executed the frieze for the Athenaeum) had submitted an estimate, which was presumably accepted. In the autumn of 1840 Barry submitted designs for the clocks, grates, gas fittings, chandeliers and candelabras. In November the committee approved (without consulting Barry) Messrs. Copeland and Garrett's designs for china plates to be affixed to the grates in the drawing-room (now the library). One of these plates was to contain representations of St. Paul's Cathedral, Westminster Abbey and the Houses of Parliament, together with the club's initial letters R.C. surrounded by the royal motto; two others were to contain views of Edinburgh and Dublin. At a later meeting of the committee Barry protested at this choice of 'representations (probably caricatures) of Public Buildings etc. I cannot refrain from deprecating such a choice, the offspring of a low Dutch taste, wholly at variance with the style of the new Building.' It is not known whether the plates were executed; if so, they have not survived. (fn. 22)

Other artists and contractors who worked on the building included Messrs. Wyatt, scagliola work; (fn. 23) Apsley Pellatt, skylight over the central hall; Alfred Singer of Vauxhall and Henry Pether of No. 1 Surrey Grove, Old Kent Road, the tessellated pavement in the hall, from designs by Barry based on the ornamentation of Etruscan vases; Taprell, Holland and Son of No. 19 Marylebone Street, furniture in the coffee-room; and Messrs. Rutledge and Keene of Belvedere Road, roof tiles. Alexis Soyer, the famous chef, who was employed by the Reform Club from 1837 to 1850, assisted Barry in the planning of the kitchens; he subsequently published an account of his work at the club in his book, The Gastronomic Regenerator. (fn. 24)

In February 1841 the Commissioners of Woods and Forests granted a 91-year lease to the trustees of the club (fn. 9) and the new club-house was opened for members' use on 1 March 1841 (Plates 94, 95, 96, 97,98, 99, 100, 101, 102, 103). (fn. 20)

The cost of the building may well have been a matter of concern to the club. Messrs. Grissell and Peto's tender had been for £38,400, to which £3800 was added for substituting stone for cement in the exterior facing. (fn. 25) In September 1840 Barry informed the Commissioners of Woods and Forests that the cost of the house (presumably exclusive of furniture and decoration) 'may be stated as £45,000 at the least', (fn. 6) but eight months later he reported to the building committee that the gross final cost (presumably inclusive of furniture and decoration, etc.) would not exceed £80,000. In May 1842 (over a year after the completion of the building) he stated that the total cost 'including fittings, furniture, fixtures and all miscellaneous charges, will not exceed the sum of £82,000'. (fn. 26) He subsequently based his claim for his professional fees upon the sum of £78,650, a figure which was probably not excessive, for in 1843 the entire property of the club was valued at £93,568. (fn. 27) Thus the club-house cost nearly twice as much as that of either the United Service Club or the Athenaeum, and the very large increase over the original estimates may be attributed largely to the elaborate fittings and decoration.

After the completion of the building Barry was involved in a dispute with the club over the payment of his professional fees. On 14 June 1837 the five architects who agreed to submit plans had written a joint letter to the committee stating that 'we have been induced to accept the proposition of a competition of designs for the proposed Club-House upon the understanding that the ordinary remuneration should be awarded for the labour of the successful competitor, and taking into consideration the skill required in designing and constructing the proposed building, and also the responsibility attendant upon the execution of the work, we see no reason to depart from the received principle of professional remuneration'. In response to the committee's request they had stated that they considered £1689 would be a fair remuneration for the successful competitor. (fn. 28) This sum represented slightly less than 4½ per cent of £37,500, the figure upon which their estimates were to be based, and was evidently a compromise between 3 per cent, which the committee had first offered, and 5 per cent, which was then the normal rate for the payment of architects. (fn. 29)

After the completion of the building at a cost of over double the amount originally stipulated, Barry claimed extra remuneration, basing his demand upon the figure of £78,650. After much correspondence with the club the matter was eventually referred to the arbitration of (Sir) William Erle, later Lord Chief Justice of the Common Pleas, who in August 1844 awarded Barry £2243 in addition to the original agreed fee of £1689. (fn. 30) Barry therefore received £3932, representing almost exactly 5 per cent of £78,650.

The Reform club-house has been less altered than that of any other great West End club. The exterior is virtually unchanged, the demand for bedrooms (which at several clubs was the occasion for the subsequent addition of attic storeys) having been provided for when the club-house was built. In 1853 a number of internal modifications were made under the superintendence of Sir Charles Barry. They included conversion of the littleused drawing-room on the south side of the first floor into a library, and the substitution of wooden columns for scagliola in the coffee-room. In 1856 the old library at the north-west corner of the first floor was converted into a smoking-room. In 1878 extensive redecorations were carried out, Sir Charles Barry's original designs being made use of; the work was superintended by E. M. Barry, Sir Charles's son. (fn. 31) The present internal decoration of the building probably retains much of the spirit of this work. The club-house was severely damaged by enemy action on 17 October 1940, the night of the destruction of the Carlton, and again in 1941.

Architectural description

The Reform Club was Barry's third major building in the Roman High Renaissance manner, and is his masterpiece in that style. With a much larger site—the Crown lease gives a length of 142 feet and a depth of 121 feet (fn. 8) —and a far more generous budget than the Travellers' could provide, he was able to fulfil the intentions of the building committee, who 'desired that the structure should surpass all others in size and magnificence' and 'should combine the various attractions of other institutions of the class'. (fn. 32) To sum up, he created a prototype for the great political club-house, often emulated but never equalled.

Barry's competition drawings (Plate 94) show clearly how the Reform Club plan stems from that of the Travellers'. The accommodation is again arranged round an open court, with a large entrance hall on its north side, fronting to Pall Mall, and a wide corridor on the three remaining sides giving access to a great room of three compartments on the south, and a room of two compartments on the west, with the staircase and less important rooms on the east; this arrangement being more or less repeated on the first floor.

In the executed design (Plate 96), the central court became a top-lit saloon with a central area some 34 feet wide and 28 feet deep, its colonnaded sides open to the surrounding corridors on the ground and first floors. The entrance hall was reduced to the size and status of a small vestibule, flanked by the porter's lobby and a waiting-room, with a short flight of steps rising into the 'north colonnade', or corridor, of the saloon. The main staircase rises, enclosed by walls in the Italian fashion, out of the middle bay of the 'east colonnade'. South of the saloon, on the ground floor, is the coffee-room, 117 feet long and 26 feet wide, its great length divided into three compartments. On the floor above is the drawing-room, of the same size and form. West of the saloon is the morning-room, 25 feet wide and 59 feet long, including the recess at the south end. The library above is a room of the same size and form. The rooms on the north front include the private dining-room, 40 feet long and 20 feet wide, immediately east of the vestibule and, on the first floor, the private drawing-room, committee-room, and reading-room, the last adjoining the library. East of the saloon there are, besides the main staircase, a card-room, cloak-rooms and lavatories, all lit from the large area adjoining the Travellers' Club. The main block of the Reform Club does not occupy the full length of the site, but is joined to the Travellers' by low two-storeyed links, the north containing the entrance and staircase to the private chambers in the upper storeys.


The suggestion that Barry based his design for the exterior on that of the Palazzo Farnese in Rome, by Sangallo and Michelangelo, was made by his son and biographer, Alfred Barry, but comparison of the two buildings will soon show that the resemblance is superficial. The design of the Reform elevations (Plates 97b, 98c, 99) evolves quite naturally from that of the Travellers' Club, and the first design for the Manchester Athenaeum. Again, the treatment is astylar, the three fronts—north, south and west—containing two lofty storeys and a low attic crowned by a splendid cornicione from which the roof slopes gently back. All three fronts are faced with Portland stone, each storey being of smooth-faced ashlar, bounded by long-and-short chamfered quoins, underlined by a pedestal-course, and finished with a simplified entablature. The north front to Pall Mall has nine windows widely and evenly spaced in each storey, with the doorway in place of the groundstorey middle window. There are eight windows in each storey of the west front—a middle group of four and a pair on either side—and the south front repeats the regular pattern of the north. It is worth noting that all the windows are furnished with casements, in the Italian manner. Inclusion of a semi-basement, or mezzanine, having a rusticated face, raises the ground storey so that its pedestal-course is seen above the outer balustrade, which stands on a rustic plinth and encloses the front area. The pedestal-die is simply modelled, with raised panels placed between the moulded consoles that support the window sills. All the ground-storey windows are uniformly dressed, each with a moulded and eared architrave, plain narrow jambs, and a modillioned cornice-hood resting on scrolled consoles. The doorcase is somewhat similar, but appropriately larger in scale and richer in detail, the design recalling the doorcase of Peruzzi's Palazzo Pietro Massimi in Rome. The moulded and eared architrave of the tall doorway is flanked by narrow jambs, with long panels carved with husk ornament, and rich double-consoles support the dentilled and modillioned cornice-hood. Above the architrave head is a pulvino-frieze carved with formalized oak leaves. The door has two leaves, each with three panels—square, oblong and square—and it is set below an oblong fanlight, with a scale-patterned grille, in a heavy frame ornamented with round bosses, large and small alternately. The ground-storey entablature has a key-fretted frieze, broken by the consoles supporting the shallow projecting balconies of the first-floor windows. Here, again, the pedestalcourse die is panelled, and the balconies have open balustrades of waisted balusters between narrow dies. The windows of this principal storey are dressed with rich tabernacle frames of an Ionic order, with fluted three-quarter columns, diagonally voluted capitals, and pedimented entablatures—triangular on the north front and segmental on the south. On the west elevation, however, the two windows at each end have triangular pediments and those in the middle are segmental. The stringcourse finishing the principal storey comprises a narrow frieze ornamented with guilloche-panels, and a simply moulded cornice, the last breaking slightly forward to form the sills of the attic windows. These are dressed with moulded and eared architraves, with husk pendants on each side. The great cornicione begins immediately above the heads of the attic window architraves, with a frieze-band in which the rose, the thistle, and the shamrock are carved in the large circles of a guilloche, against a background of leaves. The modillioned cornice is highly enriched, the cymareversa and ovolo of the bedmoulds with, respectively, leaf-and-tongue and egg-and-dart, and the crowning cymatium has palmettes between the lion-head stops. The tiled roof, with a secret gutter, slopes gently back from the front of the cornice, and is broken above each corner of the building, and between the three groups of windows in the west elevation, by tall chimneys with panelled shafts and bracketed cornices.

Before passing to the interior, it is worth remarking; on the changes made by Barry in perfecting his design for the exterior (Plates 97a, 98a, 98b). His first intention was to dress the firstfloor window balconies with fussy ball-finials; the attic windows were to be square, with a narrow margin of plain walling above them; and all the window surrounds on the south front were to be broken with rustic blocks. Every change made must be accounted an improvement.


The vestibule is small but lofty, ceiled with a saucer-dome and decorated pendentives, and open on three sides with arches rising from panelled piers. East and west are square flat-ceilinged bays, serving as porters' boxes, with walls that are channel-jointed in the manner of masonry. On the south, a short flight of steps ascends, under a barrel-vaulted ceiling, to the saloon, or hall, which is the core of the plan and the finest feature of the interior (Frontispiece; Plate 100). Almost a square in plan, it measures 57 feet east to west, and 51 feet north to south. This is divided by a peristyle of two orders, Ionic surmounted by Corinthian, into a central area, 34 feet by 28 feet and 54 feet high, surrounded by a wide ambulatory on the ground floor and an equally wide gallery on the first floor, these giving direct access to all the principal rooms. Each side of the central area has three bays, equal and wide on the north and south sides, but on the east and west only the middle bay is wide. In each angle the end columns of each side are paired with a square-shafted pillar, sharing a common pedestal. Rich marbles and scagliola combine with painted and gilded plasterwork to create a sumptuous decorative effect. The columns of the lower order have plain pedestals of Egyptian red granite, bases of white statuary marble, fluted shafts of scagliola resembling dark Siena marble, and diagonally voluted Ionic capitals richly gilded. They carry an unbroken entablature comprising an enriched architrave, a frieze adorned with stencilled panels, and an enriched dentilled cornice. Siena-marbled scagliola is again employed for the blocking-course and plinth of the pedestal to the upper order, and for the cornice-capping of the Carrara marble balustrades. The pedestals of the columns have dies of blue-veined white marble with Brocatello panels, and the column-bases are of white statuary, the fluted shafts of light Siena scagliola, and the Corinthian capitals are gilded. The upper entablature is similar to the lower, except that the frieze-panels are modelled with foliage-scrolls and flowers, and the enriched cornice has dentils and modillions. Above this entablature rises a high segmental cove, each face containing, within a guilloche frame, a large panel with a trellis-grille glazed with frosted-and-cut glass. This cove surrounds a flat ceiling, containing an oval saucerdome within a rich guilloche frame, with four spandrel panels of foliage-and-flower arabesque.

Pilasters, responding to the columns, divide the walls of the ground-floor ambulatory and firstfloor gallery into bays, five on each side. All the wide bays are arcaded, the moulded archivolts rising to scrolled keyblocks, and the moulded imposts being carried across the narrow bays, second and fourth, on the east and west sides. The end arches generally frame doorways; the middle arch on the ground-floor east side opens to the staircase, and a large single-plate mirror fills the arch opposite; the middle arch in the ground-floor north side is the entrance from the vestibule, and the arch opposite contains a single plate of clear glass, giving a glimpse into the coffee-room, an arrangement that is repeated on the floor above. It remains to be stated that the floors of the ambulatory and gallery are carpeted, but the central area has a tessellated pavement of elaborate design, with an octagonal centre and a wide fret border.

The principal staircase (Plate 240a) rises in three flights, each turning left at the landing-space, between walls with a dado and panelled face of marble and scagliola, and below a raking barrelvaulted ceiling adorned with ribs and moulded panels. Each square landing is ceiled with a fluted saucer-dome on arabesque-ornamented pendentives, and each flight is reflected in a mirrored arch, in front of which is placed a bust on a pedestal against an ornamental railing.

The coffee-room (Plate 101b) has two entrances, one at each end of the south ambulatory, the double doors opening to the narrow bays which divide the great room into three compartments, each end being square and the middle an oblong. There are nine tall casement windows in the long south wall, two in each end compartment, three in the middle, and one in each linking bay, set in a deep embrasure matching that of the doorway opposite. In addition, there are two windows flanking the fireplace in the west end wall, balanced by tall mirrors at the east end of the room. The decorations are of great elegance, the walls in each compartment having a low pedestaldado, large flush panels in moulded frames above, and a simple Ionic entablature which is carried across the ends of each compartment as a beam resting on the engaged three-quarter columns that flank the wide openings. These columns, and the half-pilaster responds in each angle, have plain pedestals, fluted shafts, and diagonally voluted capitals. Each compartment has a plain ceiling, surrounded by a modillioned cornice within a fretband and a simply panelled margin. In the centre of each ceiling is a large boss of formalized foliage, for an elaborate light-pendant of gilded metal, Regency-Victorian in design, with two tiers each of five branches. In contrast, the lower ceiling of each linking bay is modelled with small square coffers, each containing a flower-boss, and the soffit of each transverse entablature is adorned with an oak-leaf band. Each end fireplace has a dark marble chimneypiece of simple classical design, surmounted by a tall mirror. The fireplace serving the middle compartment is now concealed by a buffet. It is in the middle of the north wall, below the glazed arch to the saloon which is handsomely framed by half-columns projecting from flanking half-pilasters and supporting a rich entablature, the Ionic order being similar but slightly smaller than that generally employed in the room. When Barry completed this room, the column-shafts were of light Siena-marbled scagliola, the windows and mirrors were richly curtained and draped with crimson cloth, and the floors were covered with carpets of Persian design. (fn. 33)

The morning-room (Plate 102b) is an oblong in plan, with four windows in the west wall and two in the north. These windows, and the doorway centred in the east wall, are treated as units in a regular scheme of panelling, framed in oak, with recessed bookshelves in place of the panels and dado. Above the panelling runs a half-scale cast of part of the Panathenaic frieze from the Parthenon, which is stopped at the south end of the room by an Ionic screen of fluted columns and pilasters. The single wide intercolumniation opens to a shallow recess, where the frieze is continued above bookcases and a central fireplace surmounted by a round-headed mirror. The ceiling in the recess is flat and simply panelled, but the room itself is finished with a dentilled cornice and a quadrant cove, each face patterned with a gilded trellis in a moulded panel. The flat ceiling is divided by scroll-ornamented ribs into a geometrical pattern of compartments—a central octagon with four spandrels, and at each end an oblong surrounded by four L-shaped panels.

There is little to differentiate the design of the morning-room from that of the smoking-room (formerly the library) on the floor above (Plate 102a), except that the woodwork is of maple, the order employed for the south end screen is Corinthian, and the main ceiling compartments are curved instead of angular.

The library (originally the drawing-room) is of the same size and general form as the coffee-room below (Plate 101a). The decorations are sumptuous, the walls of the three compartments being lined with bookcases and divided into bays by fluted pilasters of a Corinthian order, which rise from panelled pedestals and support, not a full entablature, but a deep cornice with enriched mouldings, dentils and modillions. This cornice is returned across the ends of each compartment, forming beams which rest on widely spaced columns, paired with pilasters. At each end of the room is a shallow recess containing a fireplace, its white marble chimneypiece having a deep cornicemoulded shelf resting on scrolled console jambs, with a tall oblong mirror above. The fireplace in the middle compartment is opposite the central window, and has a similar chimneypiece below a clear-glazed arch flanked by three-quarter columns over which the main cornice breaks forward. The deep cove surrounding each ceiling is modelled with a diaper pattern and finished with a guilloche band. The flat ceilings are adorned with scroll-ornamented border panels, oblong panels filled with cartouches and foliage-scrolls and large central panels of circular shape filled with a pattern of scales radiating from rich foliage chandelier-bosses. Before this room was transformed by Barry to serve as a library, the walls were covered with gold-and-silver damask, and the windows were furnished with goldenbrown draperies. (fn. 34) The elaborate plasterwork ornaments were gilded, on a ground of French white and drab, and the column-shafts were of Belgian white marble scagliola. Much of the original furniture designed by Barry, some in light amboyna and some in rosewood, remains in use about the club.

The splendour of the rooms was matched by the lavish layout of the kitchens, which were planned by Barry in active consultation with the club's famous chef, Alexis Soyer, and are fully described in London Interiors, published in 1841 (Plate 103).


  • 1. No. 181 in the Barrett collection of drawings in the library of the Royal Institute of British Architects is a detail drawing for the Reform Club cornicione, with a lettered frieze. The inscription begins 'AEDES SOCIETAT' and ends 'MDCCCXXXVII'.
  • 2. Norman Gash, Politics in the Age of Peel, 1953, pp. 402–4.
  • 3. Louis Fagan, The Reform Club, 1887, pp. 19–21, 29–31.
  • 4. Gash, op. cit., pp. 403–9, which contains a full account of the events leading up to the establishment of the Reform Club.
  • 5. Ibid., p. 423.
  • 6. C.E.O., file 10445.
  • 7. P.R.O., LRRO63/57, p. 255; R.B.
  • 8. C.E.O., London lease book 56, pp. 247–68.
  • 9. Fagan, op. cit., pp. 32, 34–6.
  • 10. Gash, op. cit., pp. 410–11.
  • 11. Fagan, op. cit., p. 37.
  • 12. Reform Club general meeting minutes, 17 May 1837.
  • 13. Ibid., building committee minutes, 7, 8 June 1837.
  • 14. Ibid., 13 July 1837.
  • 15. Ibid., 17, 25, 28 Nov., 13 Dec. 1837.
  • 16. Ibid., 15 Dec. 1837; D.N.B.
  • 17. Reform Club building committee minutes, 18 Dec. 1837, 23 Jan., 4 April, 1 May 1838.
  • 18. Ibid., 9 July 1838; general meeting minutes, 2 May 1838.
  • 19. Fagan, op. cit., pp. 45, 70. For an account of Gwydyr House see Survey of London, vol. XIII, 1930, The Parish of St. Margaret, Westminster, Part II, pp. 223–7.
  • 20. Fagan, op. cit., p. 70.
  • 21. Reform Club building committee minutes, 23 Jan., 10 April, 1 May 1839; 15 June 1840.
  • 22. Ibid., 26 June, 24 Sept., 30 Oct., 17, 20, 25 Nov., 27 Dec. 1840.
  • 23. Ibid., 27 Dec. 1840.
  • 24. Fagan, op. cit., pp. 56, 60, 62, 65.
  • 25. Reform Club building committee minutes, 1 May, 9 July 1838.
  • 26. Ibid., 4 May 1841; general meeting minutes, 4 May 1842.
  • 27. Fagan, op. cit., p. 72.
  • 28. Reform Club building committee minutes, 14 June 1837.
  • 29. Marcus Whiffen, 'The Reform Club', in Country Life, 3 Nov. 1950, pp. 1498–9.
  • 30. Fagan, op. cit., pp. 72–3.
  • 31. Ibid., pp. 92, 106, 117.
  • 32. Ibid., p. 49.
  • 33. London Interiors, 1841, p. 148.
  • 34. Ibid., p. 149.