Victorian London - Entertainment and Recreation - Clubs - Athenaeum Club

ATHENAEUM CLUB, PALL MALL. Instituted in 1823 by the Right Hon, John Wilson Croker, Sir Thomas Lawrence, Sir. F. Chantrey, Mr. Jekyll, &c., "for the Association of individuals known for their literary or scientific attainments, artists of eminence in any class of the Fine Arts, and noblemen and gentlemen distinguished as liberal patrons of Science, Literature and the Arts." The members are chosen by ballot, except that the committee have the power of electing yearly, from the list of candidates for admission, a limited number of persons, "who shall have attained to distinguished eminence in Science, Literature, and the Arts, or for Public Services," the number so elected not to exceed nine in each year. The number of ordinary members is fixed at 1200; entrance fee 25 guineas; yearly subscriptions, 6 guineas. One black ball in ten excludes. The present Club-house (Decimus Burton, architect) was built in 1829.
    ... In the Coffee-room is a fine full-length unfinished portrait of George IV., the last work of Sir Thomas Lawrence. He was painting one of the orders on the breast a few hours before he died. The library is the best Club Library in London.

Peter Cunningham, Hand-Book of London, 1850

The ATHENAEUM, 107 Pall Mall, opposite the United Service Club, was established in 1823, by Croker, Jekyll, Chantrey, Sir Thomas Lawrence, and others, for "the association of individuals known for their scientific or literary attainments, artists of eminence in any class of the fine arts, and noblemen and gentlemen distinguished as liberal patrons of science, literature, and the arts." Nine members of literary or artistic reputation are elected annually by the managing committee.; other members (limited in number to 1200) are chosen by ballot. The entrance fee is 31l. 10s. ; annual subscription, 6l. 6s.
The Club-house was built in 1829, from the designs of Decimus Burton. The Library is one of the best in London, and exceeds 30,000 volumes. The interior fittings are rich, but "chaste," and lack the gorgeousness of some of the more aristocratic club-palaces.

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

ATHENAEUM CLUB, Waterloo-place, Pall Mall, was established in 1823 ... The present Club-house, designed by Decimus Burton, was built in 1829-30, on a portion of the court-yard of Carlton Palace; the architecture is Grecian, with a frieze exactly copied from the Panathenaic procession in the frieze of the Parthenon - the flower and beauty of Athenian youth gracefully seated on the most exquisitely-sculpted horses - which Flaxman regarded as the most precious examples of Grecian power in the sculpture of animals. Over the Roman-Doric entrance is a colossal figure of Minerva, by Baily, R.A.; and the interior has some fine casts from chef d'oeuvres of sculpture: the style of the hall, staircase, gallery, and apartments, is grand, massive and severe.  ... The number of ordinary members is fixed at 1200; they are mostly eminent persons, civil, military and ecclesiastical; peers spiritual and temporal; men of the learned professions, science, the arts and commerce; and the distinguished who do not belong to any particular class. ... For thirty guineas entrance, and six guineas a-year, every member has the command of an excellent library (the best Club library in London) with maps; of newspapers. English and foreign; the principal periodicals; writing materials, and attendance. The building is a sort of palace, and is kept with the same exactness and comfort as a private dwelling. Every member is a master, without any of the trouble of a master; he can come when he pleases, and stay away when he pleases, without anything going wrong; he has the command of regular servants, without having to pay or manage them; he can have whatever meal or refreshment he wants, at all hours, and served up as in his own house. ... The principal rooms are lighted by chandeliers fitted with Faraday's perfect ventilation apparatus.

John Timbs, Curiosities of London, 1867

[ ...  back to main menu for this book]

Athenaeum Club, Pall Mall Eminence in, or patronage of, science, literature, or any branch of the fine arts, are the qualifications for membership of this club. The Athenaeum possesses one of the best club houses, and certainly the best club library in England. Election is by ballot in committee. Entrance fee, 31 10s; subscription, 8 8s.

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

Victorian London - Publications - History - The Queen's London : a Pictorial and Descriptive Record of the Streets, Buildings, Parks and Scenery of the Great Metropolis, 1896 - The Athenaeum Club

The Athenaeum Club - photograph


 No London club ranks higher than the Athenaeum, which was founded in 1824 and has a membership limited to 1,200. The entrance is in Waterloo Place, and the building, which was designed by Decimus Burton, and cost 35,000, abuts also on Pall Mall. Its exterior is chiefly remarkable for the frieze, and for the figure of Minerva, by Baily, over the handsome porch. Of the interior the Library is the chief glory. The membership is made tip of those distinguished in letters, art, and science, with judges and bishops, and politicians of Ministerial rank. The large house to the right of the York Column in Carlton House Terrace, is Prussia House, the residence of the German Ambassador.