Old fashioned elegance but with many young members. Great atmosphere and service!
- Full name: The East India, Devonshire, Sports and Public Schools Club
- Location: 16 St James’s Square, London SW1
- Type: Social, former service club. Exclusive, non-commercial private members’ club
- Formed: 1846
- Membership requirements: Gentlemen only. Proposed and seconded by at least two current members who have known the candidate for at least two years. HMC leavers may join with only a letter from their Headmaster, within 18 months of leaving.
Few names are more easily associated with old men smoking cigars and drinking Gin & Tonic in deep leather chairs, than the East India Club. And how unjust that mental image would be. The East India Club is an amalgamation of many clubs, but the two that has had most influence on the atmosphere of the club is the merger with The Sports Club in 1938 and that with the Public Schools Club in 1972.
The former has meant that the club today is quite sport focused, with a box at Ascot, seats at Twickenham and regular participation in sporting events throughout the year. The latter has contributed the so called J7 scheme under which young men from selected boarding schools can join the club without the usual proposer and seconder, within 18 months of leaving their schools. All that is required is a letter for the headmaster. This has meant that, unlike many clubs, the East India has kept a good inflow of you members.
The club was formed in 1846 as East India United Service Club, primarily for higher ranking civil employees of the East India Company and military officers who had served in India. As the East India Company started to lose its influence in India, finally being relieved of its remaining obligations and powers after the Indian Mutiny of 1857, the club naturally had to look elsewhere for new members.
The club is today officially called “The East India, Devonshire, Sports and Public Schools Club”, though no-one ever refers to it in any other way than “The East India”. The Devonshire Club (the old one, not the modern, commercial one in Devonshire Square, which proudly boosts “Sponsored by Veuve Clicquot” on its website), amalgamated with the East India Club in 1975, bringing with it a very heathy purse and a good deal of new members.
Its current clubhouse, acquired shortly after the formation of the club, in 1849. Originally two town houses they were joined into a single building by the renowned architect Adam Lee.
As you enter the clubhouse, you will find the splendid dining room on the left hand, the morning room on the right. The main bar, The American Bar, straight ahead past the grand staircase with the shields of all the public schools, is a great place for a quiet drink. The menu in the dining room is traditional British, with the exception for the curry of the day. After dinner, members can withdraw to the drawing room on the first floor.
All in all, this is one of the best clubs in the area. The Carlton and the National Liberal (whose members’ presence sometimes grace the East India during the weekends while their own club is closed) may be more exclusive, and White’s and Boodles’s are definitely more posh – but an evening at the East India, with London’s best G&Ts in the bar, followed by today’s curry and rounded off with tea into the late hours in the drawing room, is probably the most pleasant way to spend an evening in all of clubland.