Athenaeum Club

The Athenaeum Club is a gentlemen's club standing at 107 Pall Mall, London, England, at the corner of Waterloo Place.

It is noted for its large library, and for a bas-relief frieze decorating the club house exterior. It was long regarded as a clergymen's club and boasts bishops, Cabinet Members, and peers amongst its members.

The club's facilities include a dining room, a smoking room and a suite of bedrooms. A notable feature of the Club's clock which hangs above the stairs is that it has two figure sevens and no figure eight, the reason for which is uncertain.

History

John Wilson Croker, Sir Thomas Lawrence, and some friends founded the club in 1824 for individuals known for scientific, literary or artistic accomplishments as well as patrons of these endeavours. Sir Thomas Lawrence designed the club crest: a head of Athena inside an oval surrounded by the legend "ATHENÆUM CLUB·PALL MALL".

The club house was designed in Neoclassical taste by Decimus Burton. The main entrance and the front of the house on Waterloo Place has a Doric portico with paired columns. There is a continuous balustrade on the piano nobile, the main floor above the ground floor, with an outstanding but costly frieze copied from the Parthenon above. A statue of Pallas Athene by Edward Hodges Baily stands above the porch. The original design was for two storeys; the third was added later. Croker directed the original work, resisting pressure from some members (in those pre-refrigeration days) that an ice-house be part of the scheme; hence the rhyme:

"I'm John Wilson Croker, I do as I please, instead of an Ice-House I give you a... Frieze!"

For many years The Athenaeum Club was widely seen to represent the peak of London's clubland for the public intellectual. Most members of the Athenaeum were men of inherited wealth and status, but, under Rule II, the club additionally admitted men "... of distinguished eminence in Science, Literature, or the Arts, or for Public Service" The admission of men who had gained their social position through intellectual influence and achievement rather than by title or money gave the club an unusual diversity of membership.

The membership of the Athenæum was originally limited to one thousand, and the waiting list was always long. The cost of the magnificent premises had resulted in a deficit of some £20,000 and 200 supernumerary members were elected in 1832 to restore the finances.

By 1838 the Club was again in straitened circumstances after undertaking expensive remedial action because of the damage caused by the gas lighting. (It was one of the earliest buildings to be lit by this means). To alleviate the situation, 160 supernumeraries were admitted to ordinary membership and an additional forty brought forward from the waiting list. These "forty thieves", as they became known, included Charles Dickens and Charles Darwin. In 1886 the clubhouse was lit by electricity, a relative innovation for London buildings. (Source 'AIM 25 Archives in London and the M25 area http://www.aim25.ac.uk/)

In 1853, Charles Manby Smith noted the importance of the club - "... from having been wise enough to join the grocer's Plum-pudding Club, they shall end by becoming prosperous enough to join the Whittington Club, or the Gresham Club, or the Athenaeum Club, or the Travellers' Club; or the House of Commons, or the House of Lords either." [Smith, Charles Manby, "Curiosities of London Life, or Phases, Physiological and Social of the Great Metropolis" (1853) online at [http://www.victorianlondon.org/publications/curiosities-32.htm Victorian London - Publications - Social Investigation/Journalism - Curiosities of London Life, or Phases, Physiological and Social of the Great Metropolis, by Charles Manby Smith, 1853: UNFASHIONABLE CLUBS] (accessed 14 January 2008)]

In 2002 the members voted to admit women.

Notable members

This is a small selection of the notable people who have belonged to the club:
*The Earl of Aberdeen
*Augustine William Shelton Agar, naval hero
*Matthew Arnold
*Andrew Geddes Bain geologist, road engineer, palaeontologist and explorer
*Owen Barfield (1898-1997) philosopher, poet, etymologist, and solicitor
*Louis Lucien Bonaparte, linguist
*James Bryce, 1st Viscount Bryce (1838-1922), jurist, historian and politician
*Sir Francis Burdett, 5th Baronet
*Lord Alec Broers
*Thomas Campbell (poet)
*Winston Churchill
*John Duke Coleridge, 1st Baron Coleridge (1820-1894)
*Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
*Joseph Conrad
*Charles Darwin
*Charles Dickens
*Isaac D'Israeli
*T. S. Eliot poet
*Michael Faraday
*Victoria Glendinning
*Henry Hallam historian, Commissioner of Stamps (1826)
*Cardinal Basil Hume
*Roy Jenkins Chancellor of the Exchequer and Home Secretary
*Charles Kemble
*Rudyard Kipling
*Walter de la Mare (1873-1956)
*Lord Robert Montagu (1825-1902)
*Thomas Moore (poet)
*Sir Roderick Impey Murchison (1792-1871), President of the Geological Society and the Royal Geographical Society.
*George Nugent-Grenville, 2nd Baron Nugent (1789-1850)
*Lord Palmerston
*Harry St John Philby archaeologist and Arabist
*Michael Polanyi
*Cecil Rhodes
*Sir Walter Scott writer
*Herbert Spencer (1820-1903)
*James Joseph Sylvester, Mathematician
*William Makepeace Thackeray author
*Professor Rick Trainor, Principal of King's College London
*Anthony Trollope, author
*Sir Barnes Wallis, engineer (1887-1979)
*Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington (1769-1852)
*W. B. Yeats poet

References

*Phiz, "London at Dinner, or Where to Dine", (London: Robert Hardwick, 1858) ('Phiz' was a pseudonym of Hablot Knight Browne)
*Frank Richard Cowell, "The Athenaeum: Club and Social Life in London, 1824-1974", (London: Heinemann, 1975) ISBN 0-435-32010-6

Footnotes

ee also

* [http://www.athenaeumclub.co.uk Official Website of the Athenaeum Club]
* [http://www.aim25.ac.uk/cgi-bin/search2?coll_id=7253&inst_id=87 Guide to the archives of the Athenaeum Club]
*List of London's gentlemen's clubs
* [http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/ld200102/ldhansrd/vo020522/text/20522-09.htm Interesting debate in the House of Lord's May 2002 re the Sex Discrimination Bill and women members of Clubs]
* [http://www.victorianweb.org/art/architecture/athenaeum/members.html List of prominent Victorian era members of the Athenaeum Club]
* [http://www.streetmap.co.uk/newmap.srf?x=529684&y=180320&z=0&sv=N51:30:25+W0:07:58&st=7&mapp=newmap.srf&searchp=newsearch.srf Map showing location of the club (streetmap.co.uk)]
*Boston Athenæum


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