Victorian London - Entertainment and Recreation - Clubs - Army and Navy Club

Illustrated London News, 1851

see also London at Dinner, 1858 - click here 

The ARMY AND NAVY CLUB, 36 Pall Mall, corner of George Street, was built in 1850, from the designs of Messrs. Parnell and Smith. The site cost 52,500l., and the building about an equal sum. It is famous for its cuisine, which is managed on a scale of vastness that might have delighted Apicius; its large and well-ventilated Smoking-Room, its Morning-Room, a sumptuously upholstered, apartment, with a ceiling of richly ornamented carton-pierre and papier-mâché, its Louis Quinze Library and Drawing-Room, and its Coffee-Room. a salon 81 ft. by 30. The present Emperor of the French is an honorary member of this Club, and presented it in 1851 with some fine tapestry.
    The number of members (who must belong to one of the two services) is limited to 2250. Entrance fee, 30l. ; annual subscription, 6l. 11s.

Cruchley's London in 1865 : A Handbook for Strangers, 1865

ARMY AND NAVY, CLUB-HOUSE, Pall Mall, corner of Geogre-street, designed by Parnell and Smith, was opened in February 1851. The exterior is a combination of Sansovino's Palazzo Cornaro, and Library of St. Mark at Venice; but varying in the upper part, which has Corinthian columns, with windows resembling arcades filling up the intercolumns' and over their arched headings are groups of naval and military symbols, weapons, and defensive armour - very picturesque. The frieze has also effective groups symbolic of the Army and Navy; the cornice, likewise very bold, is crowned by a massive balustrade. The basement, from the Cornaro, is rusticated: the entrance being in the centre of the east or George-street front, by three open arches, similar character to those in the Strand front of Somerset House. The whole is extremely rich in ornamental detail. The hall is fine; the coffee-room, eighty-two feet by thirty-nine feet, is panelled with scagliola, and has a ceiling enriched with flowers, and pierced for ventilation, by heated flues above; adjoining is a room lighted by a glazed plafond; next is the house dining-room. decorated in the Munich style; and more superb is the morning room, with its arched windows, and mirrors forming arcades and vistas innumerable. A magnificent stone staircase leads to the library and evening rooms; and in the third story are billiard and card rooms; and a smoking-room, with a lofty dome elaborately decorated in traceried Moresque. The apartments are adorned with an equestrian portrait of Queen Victoria, painted by Grant, R.A.; a piece of Gobelins tapestry (Sacrifice to Diana) presented to the club in 1849 by Prince Louis Napoleon; marble busts of William IV. and the Dukes of Kent and Cambridge; and several life-size portraits of naval and military heroes. The Club-house is provide with twenty lines of Whishaw's Telekouphona, or Speaking Telegraph, which communicate from the Secretary's room to the various apartments. The cost of this superb edifice, exclusive of fittings, was 35,000l.; the plot of ground on which it stands cost the Club 52,000l.

John Timbs, Curiosities of London, 1867

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Army and Navy Club, Pall Mall.—Is instituted for the association of commissioned officers of all ranks in Her Majesty’s Regular Army, Royal Navy, and Royal Marines. Election by ballot in club meeting. Thirty members must actually vote, and one black ball in ten excludes. Entrance fee, £40; subscription, £7 7S. for old members; but the following resolution was carried at the annual meeting of the club on the 3rd June, 1878: “All new members who are elected to the club, commencing with the next ballot, shall pay an annual subscription at £10 10s.”

Charles Dickens (Jr.), Dickens's Dictionary of London, 1879

    But in the clubs of those long-ago days the most cold-blooded inhospitality obtained. If you called upon a friend you had to wait on the door-mat, and the offering of a glass of sherry was attended by the risk of expulsion. Smoking rooms - if tolerated - were placed in the attics, and a "strangers' room" was an innovation that only came into existence years after.
    For long many clubs held out against the recognition of "strangers," and only within the last few years have the "Senior" and the more exclusive establishments over-ruled the snarling objections of the few old fossils who use a club from morning to night without adding one cent to its revenue.
    It was the privilege of the Army and Navy Club to make the first drastic move in the right direction, and to Louis Napoleon's frequent visits for luncheon and its attendant cigarette and coffee may be traced the present accepted theory that "clubs were made for man, and not man for clubs".

'One of the Old Brigade' (Donald Shaw), London in the Sixties, 1908

George Birch, The Descriptive Album of London, c.1896