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White's

White's
Formation 1693 (1693)
Location

White's is a gentleman's club in St James's Street, London. It is the oldest and most exclusive gentleman's club in London.[1][2] It gained a reputation in the 18th century for both its exclusivity and the often raffish behaviour of its members. Notable current members include Charles, Prince of Wales, Prince William, Duke of Cambridge, Conrad Black and Tom Stacey. British Prime Minister David Cameron was formerly a member for fifteen years but resigned in 2008, despite his father Ian Cameron having previously been the club's chairman, over the club's refusal to admit women.[3][4][5][6][7] White's continues to be a men-only establishment; the only exception being made during a visit by Queen Elizabeth II in 1991.[7] White's is a member of the Association of London Clubs.[8]

Contents

  • History 1
  • Clubhouse 2
  • Notable former members 3
  • Notable current members 4
  • See also 5
  • References 6
  • External links 7

History

The club was originally established at 4 Chesterfield Street, off Curzon Street in Mayfair, in 1693 by an Italian immigrant named Francesco Bianco as a hot chocolate emporium under the name Mrs. White's Chocolate House. Tickets were sold to the productions at King's Theatre and Royal Drury Lane Theatre as a side-business. White's quickly made the transition from teashop to exclusive club and in the early 18th century, White's was notorious as a gambling house and those who frequented it were known as "the gamesters of White's." Jonathan Swift referred to White's as the "bane of half the English nobility."[9]

In 1778 it moved to 37-38 St James's Street. From 1783 it was the unofficial headquarters of the Tory party, while the Whigs' club Brooks's was just down the road. A few apolitical and affable gentlemen managed to belong to both. The new architecture featured a bow window on the ground floor. In the later 18th century, the table directly in front of it became a seat of privilege, the throne of the most socially influential men in the club. This belonged to the arbiter elegantiarum, Beau Brummell, until he removed to the Continent in 1816, when Lord Alvanley took the place of honour. It was here that Alvanley bet a friend £3,000 as to which of two raindrops would first reach the bottom of a pane of the bow window. It is not recorded whether he won his bet.[7]

This was not the most eccentric bet in White's famous betting book. Some of those entries were on sports, but more often on political developments, especially during the chaotic years of the French Revolution and the Napoleonic Wars. A good many were social bets, such as whether a friend would marry this year, or whom.

Despite the club's refusal to admit women as members, one of its best known chefs from the early 1900s was Rosa Lewis,[10] a model for the central character in the BBC television series The Duchess of Duke Street.[11]

Prince Charles held his stag night at the club before his wedding to Lady Diana Spencer in 1981.[7]

Clubhouse

The clubhouse is located at 37-38 St James's Street in the City of Westminster and is a Grade I listed building.[12] Originally built in 1674 and then rebuilt in 1787-88, probably by James Wyatt, it was further altered in 1811 and the frontage was remodelled by Lockyer in 1852. Constructed of Portland stone with a slate roof it possesses the Victorian version of a Palladian façade with some French motifs. The buildings consists of three storeys, a basement and a dormered attic. In the late 1970s, the exterior was painted azure with white trim.

Whilst the club does not have members' accommodation, facilities include a private dining room and a billiards room. The menu revolves around the best of British game: grouse, partridge, wild salmon, gull’s eggs, potted shrimps, smoked eel and smoked trout. There is also a vegetarian option, but it is unpopular. In one seven-year period, only three vegetarian portions were sold.[7][13]

Notable former members

Notable current members

See also

References

  1. ^ Wheeler, Brian (24 November 2003). "'If anybody wants me, I'll be at my club'".  
  2. ^ Rance, Penelope (3 January 2013). "Joining the club". Economia.  
  3. ^ Laura Pitel (19 July 2013). "Cameron declares war on the gentlemen’s club".  
  4. ^ Ros Taylor (18 October 2005). "Smashing chaps".  
  5. ^ Peter Dominiczak; Steven Swinford (18 July 2013). "Gentlemen's clubs are a 'thing of the past', says David Cameron".  
  6. ^ Steerpike (18 July 2013). "Cameron whiter than White’s".  
  7. ^ a b c d e  
  8. ^ "Association of London Clubs". The Association of London Clubs. Retrieved 23 August 2013. 
  9. ^ Grivetti, Louis Evan; Shapiro, Howard-Yana, eds. (2009). Chocolate: history, culture, and heritage.  
  10. ^ "London's Cleverest Cook.".  
  11. ^ "Read the Book, Darling," Charles McGrath. New York Times, August 22, 2004, section 2, page 9.
  12. ^  
  13. ^  
  14. ^  
  15. ^ "Iain Dale's Diary: The Lord Pearson Interview". Iaindale.blogspot.com. 2010-01-22. Retrieved 2011-10-12. 
  • Christopher Hibbert; London, the Biography of a City; 1969; William Morrow, NY
  • Stella Margetson; Regency London; 1971; Prawger Publishers, Inc. NY
  • Ellen Moers; The Dandy: Brummell to Beerbohm; 1960; The Viking Press, Inc., NY
  • Dod's Parliamentary Companion (various editions)
  • Debrett's People of Today, 2011

External links

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