One of the most influential clubs in the world, with a great, albeit small, clubhouse soaked in atmosphere. The mood is friendly and the service is on a level you would expect only from a fully staffed private home.
- Full name: The Carlton Club
- Location: 69 St James’s Street, London SW1
- Type: Political. Very exclusive, non-commercial private members’ club
- Formed: 1832
- Membership requirements: Proposed and seconded by at least two current members who have known the candidate for years.
The Carlton Club doesn’t have the biggest clubhouse in St James’s – and it may not offer the facilities of some of the other clubs in the area. But what is lacks in swimming pools and squash courts it more than make up for in power, atmosphere and service.
Despite being the bastion of Tory power, a club where more decisions have been made than most high government building, the Carlton Club is astonishingly friendly. It is one of those clubs where you stop to speak to people in the hallways and where guests are greeted warmly both by staff and other members.
The club was formed in 1832, and was from the very start a Tory powerhouse. At times the club has performed more like a Conservative Central Office than a social club.
In 1835 the club built a substantial clubhouse at 94 Pall Mall, which was extended even more in the 1850s. This building was, however, destroyed completely by German bombs in 1940. Astonishingly no members died, prompting political opponents in the Labour Party to comment that “the devil looks after his own”. The current clubhouse, into which the club moved in 1944, was originally built for Arthur’s, which had closed its doors after 120 years, in 1941. Smaller than the old clubhouse, but more than large enough for today’s member numbers which is about 1,600 – making the Carlton Club one of the smaller of the St James’s clubs.
Walking in to the Carlton, as soon as you manage to get past the friendly but stern porters, you enter the great hall, with a rather grand staircase leading up to The Wellington dining room and the Thatcher drawing room. To your right is Cads’ Corner, the small but charming Macmillan bar and the Churchill Lunch Room, and to your left is the Morning Room with Disraeli’s old cabinet table.
2019 update: Beyond the bar, the back garden – or “The Terrace” – has been completely redesigned and the size significantly increased. It now offers a perfect outdoor area for those wanting to enjoy a cigar or two.
The service at the club is fantastic. And the place is soaked in atmosphere. One of London’s top clubs.