National Liberal Club
National Liberal Club
2.7 out of 5.0 stars

A great address and an amazing clubhouse. A historical club – with very few members, sadly being ruined by jeans-wearing Americans who do not understand the clubland culture.  Let the NLC serve as a warning against any other club planning to relax its dress code.

  • Full name: National Liberal Club
  • Location: 1 Whitehall Place
  • Type: Originally a political club, now social. Very exclusive, non-commercial private members’ club
  • Formed: 1882
  • Membership requirements: Proposed and seconded by at least two current members. No waiting list.

The National Liberal Club boasts one of the most stunning interior of all the traditional gentlemen’s clubs in London, impressing visitors long before they walk through the front door. Not only does the club have the most prestigious address of all London clubs—1 Whitehall Place—but the building itself, designed by Alfred Waterhouse (who also designed the Natural History Museum), stands majestically just off the Embankment. Overlooking the Thames and the London Eye, the fortunate members of the National Liberal Club not only enjoy their summer drinks on one of London’s best terraces but also have the city’s best view of the New Year’s fireworks.

Entering through the front doors, you find yourself in the Main Hall, where strict porters gently turn away the curious and American tourists who mistake the club for the neighboring Royal Horseguards Hotel. However, if you are lucky enough to be allowed further in, you will enter the rotunda with the largest free-standing marble staircase in Europe—an absolutely magnificent piece of design that replaced the old staircase after it was damaged during the war.

As you wander around the club, you can’t help but notice the tilework covering walls, ceilings, and columns throughout the building. Although certainly impressive, the colors and style of the tiles have sometimes drawn comparisons to a very large and heavily decorated public lavatory. The 1st Earl of Birkenhead, famously reprimanded for regularly using the men’s room without being a member, reportedly retorted, “Good God! Is it a club too?”

Jokes aside, the interior of the National Liberal Club is splendid, albeit a bit faded. The Smoking Room, now serving as a members’ sitting room, the Dining Room, the Bar, and the club’s many function rooms are stunning. As you explore the enormous clubhouse, it’s hard to believe that the club was originally even larger, having been forced to sell off parts of the building to the next-door hotel during the challenging times of the 60s and early 70s.

Today, the National Liberal Club is open to both political members, naturally of liberal persuasion, and non-political members. If what you’re after is an ultra-traditional club with dark leather sofas, old paintings and a large smoking room, this used to be as good as it gets.  Sadly, a few years ago, the NLC introduced a very relaxed come-as-you-please dress-code.  The policy was pushed through against fierce opposition from some of the long term members; many of the old guard have since resigned.

Since the changes, the NLC has accepted many jeans-wearing members who you’d otherwise suspect belonged to commercial establishments such as Home House or Onda.  As a result, its reputation in clubland has plummeted and in 2023 the Oxford & Cambridge Club terminated its reciprocal agreement with NLC after repeated history of “unfortunate behaviour”.  As one committee member said: “It was never about the dress-code. It’s about the character of the people you want as your fellow members.  If you can’t be bothered to put a tie on, you probably don’t care much for your club.”

Credit, however, where credit is due: the NLC still offers an amazing location, great food, a splendid atmosphere, and a sufficient number of old-timers asleep in the smoking room to give it all a very traditional club feel.

April 2024 update: We have been contacted by a number of current and past members describing massive internal disputes at the NLC.  It appears that the dress-as-you-please policy scared away long-time members in favour of people who joined one year and left the next (presumably in search for the next Soho House).  As a result the club’s finances are in a dire state.


  1. Mike
    June 14, 2018 at 7:23 pm

    This club is just amazing. It is in every way exactly like you would imagine a top English gentlemen’s club; somehow managing to be luxurious and derilict, shabby and glossy at the same time. Deep, deep leather chairs, with gentlemen sleeping in them, rooms the size of a football field and a river front balcony.

    I got to go there for an event. To be a member here would be a dream come true. Sadly I didn’t go to Cambridge, I’m not friends with the Prime Minister, nor do I own a country house where I can invite people for weekend shooting. Which I presume is a basic requirement…

  2. July 30, 2018 at 10:14 am

    Dear Mike

    I was pleased to read that you enjoyed your visit to the NLC and that you would be interested in joining. You would be welcome to apply and if you look on our website you will find membership information and an application form.
    If I can be of further help, do let me know.

    With all good wishes

    Rosemary Tweddle
    Membership Secretary

  3. Olubunmi ariyo Eddo
    June 27, 2021 at 6:47 pm


    1. John Cunningham
      September 26, 2022 at 12:00 am

      I’m fortunate to be a member. A forward looking club with a traditional clubhouse that epitomises all that is attractive about London “clubland”. If you want excellent food and wine or a doze in front of the fire with the papers or a good book, this is the place. I’m an overseas member. The NLC gives me a reason to come back to London. I’m never disappointed.

      1. Gill Travers
        April 2, 2024 at 10:22 pm

        The Membership fee is very reasonable.
        I am a member here because I consider myself to have good taste.
        I also consider myself a decent human being, unpretentious, lacking in snobbery, and a good Parnellite, so am very much at home here in 1 Whitehall Place!

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