Savile Club bar
Clubhouse occupied since
The Savile Club is a traditional London gentlemen's club founded in 1868, many of whose members have a common interest in the arts. Located in fashionable and historically significant Mayfair, its membership, past and present, include many prominent names. It was originally formed after a division of opinion within the old Eclectic Club as to whether to accept an offer of rooms by the Medical Club and cease to be simply a "night club" (in its 19th-century sense).
Initially calling itself the New Club, it grew rapidly, outgrowing its first-floor rooms overlooking Trafalgar Square at 9 Spring Gardens and moving to the second floor. It then moved to 15 Savile Row in 1871, where it changed its name to the Savile Club, before lack of space forced the club to move again in 1882, this time to 107 Piccadilly, a building owned by Lord Rosebery. With its views over Green Park it was described by the members as the "ideal clubhouse". However, after 50 years' residence, demolition of the building next door to create the Park Lane Hotel caused the old clubhouse such structural problems that, in 1927, the club moved to its present home at 69 Brook Street, part of the Grosvenor Estate in Mayfair. This was the former home of "Loulou" Harcourt, 1st Viscount Harcourt, a Liberal Party cabinet minister. The building, a combination of Nos 69 and 71 Brook Street, owes its extravagant dix-huitième interior to Walter Burns, the brother-in-law of financier J. P. Morgan, who adapted it for his wife Fanny to entertain in suitable style. It thus includes an elegant hall, a grand staircase and a lavish ballroom.
Savile Club members are known as Savilians and the Club's motto of Sodalitas Convivium implies convivial companionship. The traditional mainstays of the Savile are food and drink, good conversation, playing bridge and poker, and Savile Snooker. This is a 19th-century version of the game, whose rules were first written down in the mid-20th century by Stephen Potter. It is a form of volunteer snooker, with some unusual features (the brown ball is spotted behind baulk on the opposite equivalent of the black spot, and counts eight; yellow and green are not used, "push shots" are allowed, fouling a ball with one's tie has no penalty, and sinking two reds at once means a score of two, for example).
The dining-room includes two long club tables, derived from the Club's original table d'hôte (a contrast to the contemporary habit of other clubs, where members tended to eat à la carte at small separate tables). In the Victorian period, the Savile was known for its freedom of conversation and conviviality.
To encourage interesting members the Savile has always had a policy of keeping costs and subscriptions low, so as not to exclude potential good members of more modest means, who might find the high cost of the grander London clubs too daunting. Unlike most other gentlemen's clubs, the Savile Club also has no black-ball system: candidates simply require the unanimous support of the membership committee. If they fail at the first meeting they are deferred to the next meeting; if they suffer three deferrals their application is dropped.
Some traditions have been lost: regular cigar club dinners went with the smoking ban, but have since been revived in memoriam on the terrace (weather permitting); "the penny game" (a form of bowls, using coins rolled down grooves in the banisters of the grand curving staircase), disappeared with decimalisation; Friday-night candlelit dinners in the Ballroom for wives and girlfriends disappeared with changes in fashions and attitudes. The musical tradition continues, with informal lunchtime and evening concerts, jazz evenings, sponsorship of music students and an annual St Cecilia's Day concert, where Club members perform. A strong science connection has been revived with regular "Science at the Savile" talks. Others traditions have evolved: the preferred dress is still jacket and tie, but the code has been relaxed slightly to allow for the less formal attire worn in offices today, but only if it does "not offend other members"; mobile phones are generally banned but can be used in the Club's old telephone area.
Acting and the theatre
Art, illustration and cartoons
Broadcasting and journalism
History and the military
Mathematics and computing
Politics and political theory
Fictitious members of the Savile Club include Bill Haydon, the aristocratic polymath and British intelligence agent at the heart of John le Carré's novel Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, and William French, wine merchant and Master of Wine (failed), in Alexander McCall Smith’s The Dog Who Came in from the Cold.