(Clubhouse occupied since 1962)
|Purpose||East India Company civil and military officers who served in the East|
The Oriental Club in London is a gentlemen's club established in 1824 that also admits ladies since 1950s. Charles Graves describes it as fine in quality as White's but with the space of infinitely larger clubs. It is located in Stratford Place, near Oxford Street and Bond Street.
The Asiatic Journal and Monthly Miscellany reported in its April 1824, issue:
An Oriental Club has just been established in London, of which the Duke of Wellington is President, and upwards of forty individuals of rank and talent connected with our Eastern empire are appointed a Committee. The following is the Prospectus... The Oriental club will be established at a house in a convenient situation. The utmost economy shall be observed in the whole establishment, and the subscription for its foundation and support shall not exceed fifteen pounds entrance, and six pounds per annum. There will be a commodious reading room... A library will be gradually formed, chiefly of works on oriental subjects. The coffee room of the club will be established on the most economical principles, similar to those of the United Service and Union. There will be occasional house dinners. The qualifications for members of this club are, having been resident or employed in the public service of His Majesty, or the East-India Company, in any part of the East – belonging to the Royal Asiatic Society – being officially connected with our Eastern Governments at home or abroad... The British Empire in the East is now so extensive, and the persons connected with it so numerous, that the establishment of an institution where they may meet on a footing of social intercourse, seems particularly desirable. It is the chief object of the Oriental club to promote that intercourse...
The founders included the Duke of Wellington and General Sir John Malcolm, and in 1824 all the Presidencies and Provinces of British India were still controlled by the Honourable East India Company.
The early years of the club, from 1824 to 1858, are detailed in a book by Stephen Wheeler published in 1925, which contains a paragraph on each member of the club of that period.
James Grant said of the club in The Great Metropolis (1837):
The Oriental Club, corner of Hanover Square, consists of gentlemen who have resided some time in the East. A great majority of its members are persons who are living at home on fortunes they have amassed in India. India and Indian matters form the everlasting topics of their conversation. I have often thought it would be worth the while of some curious person to count the number of times the words Calcutta, Bombay and Madras are pronounced by the members in the course of a day. The admission money to the Oriental Club is twenty pounds, the annual subscription is eight pounds. The number of members is 550. The finances of the Oriental are in a flourishing state, the receipts last year amounted to 5,609l, while the expenditure was only 4,923l, thus leaving a balance in favour of the club of 685l... at this rate they will get more rapidly out of debt than clubs usually do... Nabobs are usually remarkable for the quantity of snuff they take; the account against the club for this article is so small that they must be sparing in the use of it; it only averages 17l. 10s. per annum. Possibly, however, most of the members are in the habit of carrying boxes of their own...
The old Smoking Room is adorned with an elaborate ram's head snuff box complete with snuff rake and spoons, though most members have forgotten its original function.
On 29 July 1844, two heroes of the First Anglo-Afghan War, Sir William Nott and Sir Robert Sale, were elected as members of the club by the Committee as an "extraordinary tribute of respect and anticipating the unanimous sentiment of the Club".
On 12 January 1846, a special meeting at the club in Hanover Square presided over by George Eden, 1st Earl of Auckland, a former Governor-General of India, paid a public tribute to the dying Charles Metcalfe, 1st Baron Metcalfe, which Sir James Weir Hogg described as "a wreath upon his bier".
With the formation of the East India Club in 1849, the link with the Honourable East India Company began to decline.
In 1850, Peter Cunningham wrote in his Hand-Book of London:
ORIENTAL CLUB, 18, HANOVER SQUARE, founded 1824, by Sir John Malcolm, and is composed of noblemen and gentlemen who have travelled or resided in Asia, at St Helena, in Egypt, at the Cape of Good Hope, the Mauritius, or at Constantinople; or whose official situations connect them with the administration of our Eastern government abroad or at home. Entrance money, 20l.; annual subscription 8l. The Club possesses some good portraits of Clive, Stringer Lawrence, Sir Eyre Coote, Sir David Ochterloney, Sir G. Pollock, Sir W. Nott, Mountstuart Elphinstone, Henry Pottinger, Duke of Wellington, &c.
In 1861, the club's Chef de cuisine, Richard Terry, published his book Indian Cookery, stating that his recipes were "gathered, not only from my own knowledge of cookery, but from Native Cooks".
Charles Dickens Jr. reported in Dickens's Dictionary of London (1879):
Oriental Club is "composed of noblemen, M.P.'s, and gentlemen of the first distinction and character." The Committee elect by ballot, twelve are a quorum, and three black balls exclude. Entrance fee, £31; subscription, £8 8s
Dickens appears to have been quoting the club's own Rules and Regulations; that phrase appears there in 1889, when the total number of members was limited to eight hundred. When Lytton Strachey joined the club in 1922, at the age of forty-two, he wrote to Virginia Woolf
Do you know that I have joined the Oriental Club? One becomes 65, with an income of 5,000 a year, directly one enters it ... . Just the place for me, you see, in my present condition. I pass almost unnoticed with my glazed eyes and white hair, as I sink into a leather chair heavily, with a copy of The Field in hand. Excellent claret, too – one of the best cellars in London, by Jove!
Stephen Wheeler's 1925 book Annals of the Oriental Club, 1824–1858 also contains a list of the members of the club in the year 1924, with their years of election and their places of residence.
In 1927, R. A. Rye wrote of the club's library – "The library of the Oriental Club ... contains about 4,700 volumes, mostly on oriental subjects", while in 1928 Louis Napoleon Parker mentioned in his autobiography "... the bald and venerable heads of the members of the Oriental Club, perpetually reading The Morning Post.
In 1934, the novelist Alec Waugh wrote of
the colonial administrator's renunciation of the pomp of official dignities for the obscurity of a chair beside the fireplace in the Oriental Club.
Another writer recalling the club in the 1970s says:
Inside were a motley collection of ageing colonials, ex-Bankers, ex-directors of Commonwealth corporations, retired Tea estate owners from Coorg and Shillong and Darjeeling, the odd Maharajah in a Savile Row suit, and certainly a number of Asiatics entitled to be addressed as Your Excellencies.
In its monthly issue for June 1824, The Asiatic Journal reported that "The Oriental Club expect to open their house, No. 16, Lower Grosvenor Street, early in June. The Members, in the mean time, are requested to send their names to the Secretary as above, and to pay their admission fee and first year's subscription to the bankers, Messrs Martin, Call and Co., Bond Street."
The club's first purpose-built club house, in Hanover Square, was constructed in 1827–1828 and designed by Philip Wyatt and his brother Benjamin Dean Wyatt. The construction of additions to the Clubhouse that were designed by Decimus Burton, in 1853, was superintended, when eventually commenced, in 1871, by his nephew Henry Marley Burton.
Edward Walford, in his Old and New London (Volume 4, 1878) wrote of this building
At the north-west angle of the square, facing Tenterden Street, is the Oriental Club, founded about the year 1825... The building is constructed after the manner of club-houses in general, having only one tier of windows above the ground-floor. The interior received some fresh embellishment about the year 1850, some of the rooms and ceilings having been decorated in a superior style by Collman, and it contains some fine portraits of Indian and other celebrities, such as Lord Clive, Nott, Pottinger, Sir Eyre Coote, &c. This club is jocosely called by one of the critics of 'Michael Angelo Titmarsh' the "horizontal jungle" off Hanover Square.
The club remained in Hanover Square until 1961. The club house there was in use for the last time on 30 November 1961. Early in 1962, the club moved into its present club house, Stratford House in Stratford Place, just off Oxford Street, London W1C, having bought the property for conversion in 1960.
The central range of Stratford House was designed by Robert Adam and was built between 1770 and 1776 for Edward Stratford, 2nd Earl of Aldborough, who paid £4,000 for the site. It had previously been the location of the Lord Mayor of London's Banqueting House, built in 1565. The house remained in the Stratford family until 1832. It belonged briefly to Grand Duke Nicholas Nikolaevich, a son of Tsar Nicholas I of Russia. The house was little altered until 1894, when its then owner, Murray Guthrie, added a second storey to the east and west wings and a colonnade in front. In 1903, a new owner, the Liberal politician Sir Edward Colebrook, later Lord Colebrooke, reconstructed the Library to an Adam design. In 1908, Lord Derby bought a lease and began more alterations, removing the colonnade and adding a third storey to both wings. He took out the original bifurcated staircase (replacing it with a less elegant single one), demolished the stables and built a Banqueting Hall with a grand ballroom above.
In 1960, the Club began to convert its new property. The ballroom was turned into two floors of new bedrooms, further lifts were added, and the banqueting hall was divided into a dining room and other rooms. The club now has a main drawing room, as well as others, a members' bar, a library and an ante-room, a billiards room, an internet suite and business room, and two (non)smoking rooms, as well as a dining room and 32 bedrooms.
Stratford House is a Grade I listed building.
The flag flying above the club house bears an Indian elephant, which is the badge of the club.
The club possesses a fine collection of paintings, including many early portraits of Britons in India such as Warren Hastings. The Bar is overlooked by a painting of Tippu Sultan, the Tiger of Mysore (1750–1799). There are portraits of the club's principal founders, the first Duke of Wellington (by H. W. Pickersgill) and Sir John Malcolm (by Samuel Lane). Other portraits include Lord Cornwallis (1738–1805), also by Samuel Lane, Sir Jamsetjee Jeejebhoy, 1st Baronet (1783–1859), by John Smart, Clive of India (1725–1774) by Nathaniel Dance-Holland, Major-General Stringer Lawrence by Sir Joshua Reynolds, Major General Sir Thomas Munro, 1st Baronet (1761–1827), by Ramsay Richard Reinagle, Edward Stratford, second Earl of Aldborough (died 1801) by Mather Brown, Mehemet Ali, Pasha of Egypt (c. 1769–1849) and General Sir William Nott, both by Thomas Brigstocke, Henry Petty-Fitzmaurice, 5th Marquess of Lansdowne (1845–1927) by Sydney P. Kenrick after John Singer Sargent, Lieutenant-General Sir Richard Strachey (1817–1908) by Lowes Dickinson (the bequest of his widow, Jane Maria Strachey), Charles Metcalfe, 1st Baron Metcalfe by F. R. Say, Thomas Snodgrass by an unknown artist, and a bust of the first Lord Lake.
After Wellington's death in 1852, no further Presidents were appointed.
The first club Committee of 1824 included: