White’s was founded in 1693, a year before the Bank of England. London’s clubland provides a rich seam of anecdotes and unusual information some of which may be new to you.
During World War II Lord Portsea’s coachman would come to Brooks’s to drive him home in a carriage and pair. The Garrick is the only London club that has a street named after it. In 1958 a film, Indiscreet, starring Cary Grant and Ingrid Bergman was shot inside the Garrick. In the film it was called The Players.
Boodle’s has pictures of Jerry M, Covercoat and Sunlock all of which won the Grand National in the colours of the same member, Sir Charles Assheton-Smith. Members of Brooks’s have owned the winners of the Derby fifty-four times. Lord Egremont won it five times though it is said that once with a four-year-old. In 1963 sixteen dukes, two of them royal, were members of the Turf Club.
The dining room at the Reform is forty-two yards long. A few clubs have their own drinks. Boodle’s has gin and Buck’s its fizz. Traveller’s Joy is less well known. It is made of equal parts of gin, lemon juice and cherry brandy. The Army and Navy got its nickname, the Rag, from Captain William Duff of the 23rd Foot. He came into supper late and found the food so meagre that he likened it to the Rag and Famish, a brothel in Cranbourne Street.
Up to 1946 the RAC had the only ten-pin bowling alley in London. The first chairman of the Arts club, founded in 1863, was Tom Hughes, author of Tom Brown’s Schooldays. At the Athenaeum Anthony Trollope heard two clergymen saying that they were bored with Mrs Proudie, the wife of the Bishop of Barchester. “I will go home and kill her before the week is over” he told them and kept his word.
I gleaned this from Leather Armchairs, The Chivas Regal Book of London Clubs, by Charles Graves, and A History of Brooks’s by James Lees-Milne. The latter is an article he wrote for Country Life and is available as a booklet from the hall porter (£1.50).