|Purpose||Club for East India Company officers|
The East India Club is a gentlemen's club founded in 1849 and situated at 16, St James's Square in London. The full title of the club is the East India, Devonshire, Sports and Public Schools' Club due to mergers with other clubs.
Founded in the middle of the 19th century, the club's original members, as set out in the Rule Book of 1851, were:
The East India Company's servants – Clerical, Civil, Military, Naval and Medical of all the Presidencies, including those retired [and] all commissioned officers of Her Majesty's Army and Navy who have served in India, members of the Bar and Legal Profession who may have been or are Company's Advocates and Solicitors ...
But within the first eight years of the club's foundation, following the Indian Rebellion of 1857, the Government of India Act 1858 led to the British Crown assuming direct control of India in the form of the new British Raj. The company was dissolved altogether in 1874, having been rendered by then vestigial, powerless, and obsolete. As a result, the club could no longer look to the East India Company as its main source of members.
Since then, the club has amalgamated with the Sports Club (1938), the Public Schools Club (1972) and the Devonshire (1976), all of which ran into the twin problems of keeping up membership numbers and making ends meet, especially with the escalating costs of maintenance for historic buildings. With the disappearance of the East India Company, the public school influence has become an important one. The club is still primarily referred to as the East India Club or EIC for convenience.
The club's facilities include a dining room and a luncheon room in addition to the American Bar (named in gratitude to the American officers who stayed at the club during the Second World War and provided funds to refurbish the bar after the war), the Canadian Room (named in gratitude to the Canadian officers who stayed at the club during the Second World War and afterwards provided the timber for the room when it was still in short supply), the Drawing Room, the Smoking Room (although smoking within the club is no longer permitted), the library (which includes antiquarian and contemporary books), the Clive Room (named in honour of controversial East India Company General Robert Clive), the Card Room, the Rugby Room (where the International Rugby Board met until its move to Dublin), the New York Room, and a gymnasium, a billiard room and 67 bedrooms (including the St James's Suite). The East India Club is a popular venue for private events and offers conference facilities.
The club has reciprocal arrangements with more than 100 clubs throughout the world. Members can use the facilities of overseas reciprocal clubs with a card or letter of introduction issued by the East India Club.
The far-right Traditional Britain Group has long held a string of annual dinners in the Canada Room of the East India Club. The 2013 dinner with guest speaker Jacob Rees-Mogg led to criticism three months later of Rees-Mogg, who then said that he had not properly checked the organisation before speaking (despite being warned by Searchlight about TBG's far-right associations prior to attendance), disassociated himself from the group, and apologised for his attendance, calling it "a mistake".
In 2014, the club made headlines after one of its staff successfully stole over £500,000 during a five-year period before the loss was noticed, later pleading guilty to the fraud. Having failed to recover the money, which was spent on a gambling habit, the Club later threatened to sue its own bank for not adequately warning them of the fraud that took place over five years.
In 2017, Conservative MP Anne Marie Morris had the whip suspended after being recorded speaking to a meeting of Tory MPs at the East India Club using the idiom "nigger in the woodpile", without any response from the other MPs present.
The club premises are situated at 16 St James's Square, London SW1, on the west side of the square.
The first occupant of the original house to stand on the site was Thomas Jermyn, 2nd Baron Jermyn (?1670-1676). He passed the house on to Robert Villiers, 3rd Viscount Purbeck, who occupied the house for two years (1676–78). After Viscount Purbeck, a Swedish Ambassador occupied the house, followed by two successive Earls of Suffolk and the Earl of Romney. The house was then taken over by Sir John Germain, 1st Baronet, the lover and, later, husband of Mary Howard, Duchess of Norfolk. When Sir John died in 1719, he left the house to his second wife, Lady Elizabeth Berkeley, second daughter of the 2nd Earl of Berkeley. She was to occupy the house for 50 years. When Lady Elizabeth died, the house went to George Germain, 1st Viscount Sackville. It then became the home of Admiral Vere Beauclerk, 1st Baron Vere and then of his son, Aubrey Beauclerk, 5th Duke of St Albans.
In 1785, George Anson bought No. 16. When he died in 1789, the house was passed on to his son, Thomas Anson, 1st Viscount Anson. In 1804, Viscount Anson sold the house to Edmund Boehm, a successful merchant. Mr and Mrs Boehm were very active socially and hosted many dinner parties. On 21 June 1815, the Prince Regent (later George IV) was the principal guest at the dinner party. He heard the news of the victory at Waterloo at the house, where Major Henry Percy, aide-de-camp to the Duke of Wellington, presented the Prince Regent with four captured French eagles and Wellington’s victory despatch.
When Edmund Boehm was declared bankrupt, Robert Vyner became the owner of No. 16. In 1825, Vyner sold the house to the Marquess of Clanricarde. During Lord Clanricarde's tenancy, he let the house for a time to the Marquess Wellesley. In 1849, the East India Club Committee signed a lease with Lord Clanricarde. The club bought the house from Lord Clanricarde in 1863.
In 1866, the club demolished the old building, to build the present clubhouse on the same site.
In addition to the facilities at the St James's Square clubhouse, the club has several sports sections. There are active Chess, Cricket, Rowing, Rugby, Billiards and Shooting sections as well as other sections, such as the Polo section, who do not compete but do organise trips to various events. The club also has a sports blazer, which may be worn by club members.
The club's cricket team begins the season with nets sessions at Lords and the Oval with a social beverage or two afterwards. These are open to all members. There is a mix of Sunday friendly cricket and T20 evening matches, and they end the season with a tour in another country.
The Rowing Section boats out of Quintin Boat Club in Chiswick and competes at events such as Head of the River, Head of the River Fours, Henley Town and Visitors Regatta, Staines Regatta, Molesey Amateur Regatta, Hammersmith Regatta and Oxford Regatta, and has twice competed in the Ladies' Challenge Plate at Henley Royal Regatta, beating Oxford Brookes B in the 2019 regatta before being beaten in the quarter-final by Leander Club. The Rowing Section has a different blazer from the main club for those who have competed at senior events or have been awarded a blazer for services to club rowing.
All fixtures played at The Hub, Regents Park, the section along with playing matches the section also encourages supporters and others with interests in rugby.
A series of Rugby Lunches are hosted for members and their guests at the club. They take place on the day prior to each England fixture.
The Shooting Section exists to provide all members, regardless of experience, the opportunity to shoot with other club members. With more than 300 members, it is currently the largest section of the club.
The club's yacht squadron takes part in a variety of sailing events and has also initiated an inter-club regatta in honour of Colonel Newman VC – a day of sailing races from Seaview, Isle of Wight, in the mermaid class of boats.
This is a small selection of the notable people affiliated with the club or its constituent clubs:
J. K. Stanford, creator of George Hysteron-Proteron, wrote in 1964 that "George... owed his origin to a face in the East India Club... On one occasion at breakfast he sent for the waiter and said, in my hearing, 'Didn't I order mutton cutlets with blood? There's no blood in these! Take them away!' "