The Reform Club in Pall Mall, London, stands in a row with two other famous clubs, the Travellers and the Athenaeum. Due to their long standing position at the heart of Britain's establishment many historical figures have passed through them.
The Reform Club was founded in 1836, when Sir William Molesworth commissioned architect Charles Barry to build a club house. Opening in 1841, membership was restricted to those who had pledged their support for the Reform Act of 1832. In practice this meant that the Reform Club was Liberal Party headquarters. By the 1920s the club had lost its political function and had become a social club, as it is today. Famous Reformers have included Henry James, H.G.Wells, E.M. Forster and Arthur Conan Doyle. The Reform Club was a symbolic centre of order and stability in Around the World in Eighty Days by Jules Verne. Phileas Fogg lives his orderly life here, before he takes up the challenge of going around the world in eighty days.
Visiting the club is not straightforward, and photography is not allowed, so here is Verne's portrait from the book. Bear in mind that Verne never visited the Reform Club, and based his account on an article by Francis Wey. The American writer, and Reformer, S.J. Perelmen claimed soon after Around The World In Eighty Days was published that the description was not accurate. Certainly the breakfast that Fogg eats at the Reform Club is more French than English. However, I'll still include Verne's passage as it describes the vision that people had of such places:
Reform Club from the garden
"When he chose to walk it was with a regular step in the entrance hall with its mosaic flooring, or in the circular gallery with its dome supported by twenty red porphyry Ionic columns, and illumined by blue painted windows. When he breakfasted or dined, all the resources of the club - its kitchens and pantries, its buttery and dairy - aided to crowd his table with the most succulent of stores; he was served by the gravest waiters in dress coats, and shoes with swan skin soles, who proffered the viands in special porcelain, and on the finest linen; club decanters of a lost mould, contained his sherry, his port, and his cinnamon-spiced claret; while his beverages were refreshingly cooled with ice brought at great expense from the American lakes." (Around the World in Eighty Days Chapter 1)
Around the World in Eighty Days was first published in 1873, and reflected a changing world. Developments in science and technology were allowing people to travel in ways that would have seemed impossible only a few decades earlier. But after all of Fogg's travelling he comes back to the same place. Fogg begins and ends his journey at the Reform Club. The Reform Club is a place of order and tradition, which came about because of one of the greatest changes in recent British political history, the 1832 Reform Act. To Verne the Reform Club seemed to symbolise both stability and change.
The Reform Club is often used as a film location, and appears in Die Another Day, The Four Feathers, The Bounty, Sherlock Holmes, and Quantum of Solace.
Opening Times: The Club participates in Open House London, and offers public visiting on one Saturday in September. This is by application only. Expect a strict dress code.
For groups of between 10 and 20 visiting can be booked for a weekday morning. To arrange a group visit please use the e-mail address below.
Access: There are nine stone steps from the pavement into the clubhouse and a further eight steps once inside. Access is therefore difficult for those with mobility problems. The club does have a wheelchair stairclimber and offers many willing hands to those requiring assistance.
Directions: The Reform Club is at 104 Pall Mall. Look for the number on the door. The Club does not announce its presence. If you haven't been able to make an appointment to go inside, there is a nice view of the Reform, the Travellers and the Athenaeum Club from across the garden behind them. Walk down Waterloo Place to get this view. Click here for an interactive map centred on the Reform Club.
web site: http://www.reformclub.com/
telephone: 020 7930 9374
fax: 020 7930 1857