Cache-Control: public, max-age=1024000 The Union Club


This noble Club-house, at the south-west angle of Trafalgar-square, was erected in 1824, from designs by Sir Robert Smirke, R.A. It is much less ornate than the Club-houses of later date; but its apartments are spacious and handsome, and it faces one of the finest open spaces in the metropolis. As its name implies, it consists of politicians, and professional and mercantile men, without reference to party opinions; and, it has been added, is "a resort of wealthy citizens, who just fetch Charing Cross to inhale the fresh air as it is drawn from the Park through the funnel, by Berkeley House, out of Spring Gardens, into their bay-window."

James Smith, one of the authors of the Rejected Addresses, was a member of the Union, which he describes as chiefly composed of merchants, lawyers, members of Parliament, and of "gentlemen at large." He thus sketches a day's life here. "At three o'clock I walk to the Union Club, read the journals, hear Lord John Russell deified or diablerized, do the same with Sir Robert Peel or the Duke of Wellington, and then join a knot of conversationists by the fire till six o'clock. We then and there discuss the Three per Cent. Consols (some of us preferring Dutch Two-and-a-half per Cents.), and speculate upon the probable rise, shape, and cost of the New Exchange. If Lady Harrington happen to drive past our window in her landau, we compare her equipage to the Algerine Ambassador's; and when politics happen to be discussed, rally Whigs, Radicals, and Conservatives alternately, but never seriously, such subjects having a tendency to create acrimony. At six, the room begins to be deserted; wherefore I adjourn to the dining-room, and gravely looking over the bill of fare, exclaim to the waiter, 'Haunch of mutton and apple-tart!' These viands dispatched, with the accompanying liquids and water, I mount upward to the library, take a book and my seat in the arm-chair, and read till nine. Then call for a cup of coffee and a biscuit, resuming my book till eleven; afterwards return home to bed." The smoking-room is a very fine apartment.

One of the grumbling members of the Union was Sir James Aylott, a two-bottle man; one day, observing Mr. James Smith furnished with half-a-pint of sherry, Sir James eyed his cruet with contempt, and exclaimed: "So, I see you have got one of those d—d life-preservers."

The Club has ever been famed for its cuisine, upon the strength of which, we are told that next-door to the Club-house, in Cockspur-street, was established the Union Hotel, which speedily became renowned for its turtle; it was opened in 1823, and was one of the best appointed hotels of its day; and Lord Panmure, a gourmet of the highest order, is said to have taken up his quarters in this hotel, for several successive seasons, for the sake of the soup.[26]

[26] London Clubs, 1853, p. 75.

John Timbs
Club Life of London Vol. I
London, 1866