A walk from the THEATRE ROYAL down PALL MALL is one of the most impressive settings of all the London walks. We walked all along this elegant street to Marlborough House and St. James’s Palace on our way to Buckingham Palace. I know the area very well because we had a home in Catherine Wheel Yard for years–just behind Clarence House. Let me tell you a bit about this history of the Pall Mall Clubs.
THE ATHENAEUM: On the corner of Waterloo Place at No.107 Pall Mall is THE ATHENAEUM, founded in 1824 by John Crocker, the first man to coin the term “Conservative.” Many writers have been members of the ATHENAEUM. Rudyard Kipling described it as like “a cathedral between services,” while Henry James thought it “the last word o a high civilisation.” William Makepeace Thackeray and Charles Dickens were reconciled by a handshake onthe staircase here, aftaer a long and bitter estrangement that began over the blackballing of another member.
THE TRAVELLERS CLUB: The Travellers Club at No. 106 Pall Mall was founded in 1819 as a reunion club for gentlemen who had travelled abroad. To qualify you had to have travelled at least 500 miles (800 km) away from London in a straight line. One or two applicants rather exaggerated the extend of their travels, and a list of qualifying destinations was consequently drawn up. All foreign ambassadors are invited to take advantage of the club’s hospitality during their time at the Court of St James’s. There have been two suicides at the Travellers, after one of which the Chairman was heard to declare “I take damn good care he never gets into any other club I have anything to do with.”
THE REFORM CLUB. The Reform Club, at 104-05 Pall Mall was founded in 1836 by radical supporters of the 1832 Reform Bill. It was here that Phineas Fogg, the hero of jules Verne’s novel, took on the bet and set off to go around the world in eighty days.
THE RAC, at No. 89 Paull Mall, known as the “chauffeurs Arms,” was founded in 1897 for the PROTCTION, ENCOURAGEMENT, AND DEVELOPMENT OF AUTOMOBILISM. The RAC is a huge place where privacy and anonymity are much prized, which is probably why in June 1951 double agents Guy Gurgess and Donald Maclean met here for lunch before defecting to the Soviet Union. The club’s biggest crisis occurred in the early 1990′s when it was revealed that the new Jubilee Line tunnel between Green Park and Westminster would run just 15 feet below the club’s splendid swimming pool. As one alarmed member told THE SUNDAY TIMES: ”The prospect of diving into the pool an ending up in Neasden is not one I relish.” The RAC is the only club with its own post office.
THE ARMY AND NAVY CLUB. Opposite the RAC is the Army and Navy Club at no. 36 Pall Mall. The club was founded in 1837 and moved to this site in 1851. The Army and navy is better known as THE RAG, after a certain Captain Billy Duff called the bill of fare “a rag and famish affair.”
Over the road again at Nos 80-82 is SCHOMBERG HOUSE, constructed in 1698 for the 3rd Duke of Schomberg, son of William III’s general who died at the Battle of the Boyne in 1690. In 1781 Scottish doctor James Graham moved his Temple of Health and Hymen here from the Adelphi Terrace, but within a few years he was confined to a lunatic asylum. The painter Thomas Gainsborough lived in the west wing from 1774 until his death there in 1788.
Now, I would say this is a perfect walk. At the top of Pall Mall, there are a few Italian restaurants down the lanes near St. James’s Palace. Nice.
Thomas Moore email: TMooreSr@me.com Telephone: 801.791.9918