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The Reform Club
Founded 1836
Home Page
Address 104-105 Pall Mallmarker
Clubhouse occupied since 1841
Club established for Whigs and Liberals

This 1840s drawing shows the corridors around the central saloon at first floor level

The Reform Club is a gentlemen's club on the south side of Pall Mallmarker (at number 104), in central Londonmarker. Originally for men only, it has admitted women since 1981. In 1977 its subscription fees were among the highest in London.


It was founded in 1836 by Edward Ellice, Whig whip, whose riches came from the bank Hudson's Bay Company but whose zeal was chiefly devoted to securing the passage of the Reform Act 1832. The new club, for members of both Houses of Parliamentmarker, was meant to be a centre for the radical ideas which that bill represented; a bastion of liberal and progressive thought that became closely associated with the Liberal Party, which had largely succeeded the Whigs by the middle of the 19th century.

Brooks's Club, the headquarters of the old Whig aristocracy, was not prepared to open its doors to a flood of new men, so preliminary meetings were held in Ellice's house to plan a much larger club, which would promote "the social intercourse of the reformers of the United Kingdom". When a Liberal Member of Parliament "crossed the floor" to join or work with another party, he was expected to resign from the club. The Club no longer requires any particular political view of its members, and is purely social.

Until the decline of the Liberal Party, it was de rigueur for Liberal MPs to be members of the Reform Club, which almost constituted another party headquarters, although the National Liberal Clubmarker, formed under William Gladstone's chairmanship, was established in 1882, designed to be more "inclusive", and was geared more towards Liberal grandees and activists in the country.

The building, like its neighbour the Travellers Clubmarker, (number 106), was designed by Sir Charles Barry and opened in 1841. The new club was palatial, the design being based on the Farnese Palacemarker in Rome. The Reform was one of the first clubs to have bedrooms, and its library contains some 75,000 books, mostly political history and biography.

With the decline of the Liberal Party in the mid-20th century, the club increasingly drew its membership from civil servants in the Treasury, as a counterpart to the neighbouring Travellers Clubmarker, which became synonymous with Foreign Office officials.

References in Popular Culture

Victorian publisher Norman Warne is shown visiting the Reform Club in the 2006 film Miss Potter.

The Reform Club appears in Anthony Trollope's 1867 novel Phineas Finn. The eponymous main character becomes a member of the club and there comes into contact with liberal members of the House of Commons, who arrange to get him elected to an Irish borough. The book is one of the political novels in the Palliser series, and the political events in it are a fictionalized account of the build-up to the Second Reform Act (passed 1867) which effectively extended the franchise to the working classes.

It is used fictionally in Jules Verne's Around the World in Eighty Days; the protagonist, Phileas Fogg, is a member of the Reform Club who sets out to circumnavigate the world on a bet from his fellow members, beginning and ending at the club.

The club was used for the filming of the fencing scene in the James Bond movie Die Another Day (2002) [29361]

Michael Palin, in imitation of his fictional predecessor, also began and ended his televised journey around the world in 80 days at the Reform Club. The Club, like other St James's clubs, has a dress code requiring gentlemen to wear jackets and ties; Mr Palin preferred to remain casually dressed and so was not actually permitted into the building to complete his journey, and the trip ended on the steps outside.

Notable members

Further reading

  • Lejeune, Anthony, with Malcolm Lewis, The Gentlemen's Clubs of London, Bracken Books, London, 1979 (reprinted 1984 and 1987), ISBN 0-946495-14-9
  • Burlingham, Russell & Billis, Roger (eds), Reformed Characters. The Reform Club in History and Literature. An Anthology with Commentary (London, 2005)
  • Woodbridge, George, The Reform Club 1836-1978. A History from the Club's Records (London, 1978)

See also

External links

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