Sunday, 4 November 2012

The Garrick Club, London and Lord Frederic Leighton's House

I was invited to the Garrick Club in London steps away from Leicester Sq. in the theatre district. This is the Club of theatre people and it is also one of the most prestigious Clubs in London. The walls are covered with portrait paintings of famous actors and countless mementos which belonged to all these great theatre people. An old fashion club with lots of sterling silverware, leather chairs and the air of exclusivity. Only men can be members at the Garrick Club though women can come as guests. Exactly what a men's club should be. Even the toilets are in the old style with soaps and cologne, clothes brushes and fresh towels, a wonderful place.
The bar prepares perfect cocktails and one only needs to ring the bell for the waiter to come and refresh drinks. It is as if time stood still, it has a large variety of wines and champagnes, the way bars use to be.

The Club is named after David Garrick (1717-1779) the most famous actor of 18 century England. His father had immigrated to England from France and the family name was originally Garrigue.  Garrick became director of the Drury Lane Theatre in 1749 and remained there for 30 years. He is buried in Westminster Abbey in the Poets corner. There are so many famous actors names associated with this Club that your head is spinning a real who's who.

To become a member one must be proposed by other members and it can take up to 7 years. The selection is said to be done on the basis that '' It would be better that ten unobjectionable men should be excluded than one terrible bore should be admitted''  

When you enter you see the porter first who will greet you, if you go up the great staircase to the bar you will be greeted by the barman and the waiter. All the staff know the members and in turn the members know the staff. Once you have entered the portico of this great club you have passed the threshold into a world of old charm, traditions and civility.

Earlier I went to see the private house of Frederic Lord Leighton at 12 Holland Park Rd. he was the most famous artist of his day very much into the Arts and Crafts movement. He died in 1896 and the house is a reflection of a man of taste in late Victorian era. A real gem of a place and well worth a visit. Born into a wealthy family, his father was a physician to Queen Victoria and his grandfather had been a Court physician to the Tsar of Russia. Leighton was an intimate of the British Royal Family. This meant that he could devote his life to painting and traveling. The became the President of the Royal Academy of Arts in London and upon his death the house and contents were put up for sale, Leighton had promised a sum of money to the Academy but it was not readily available. So though the house is quite large, it only has one bedroom and could not be sold. The contents paintings and furnishing were dispersed at auction by Christie's. However in the last 100 years much of it has been given back to the museum or bought back and you can now see what the house was like when Leighton lived there.

Though is style of painting today may seem passé it is still beautiful and gives us, moderns, a glimpse into another world and how people lived. He has his mausoleum in St-Paul Cathedral next to General Gordon of Khartoum.

Frederic Lord Leighton, self-portrait

Acme and Septimus

Daedalus and Icarus


  1. Are modern British actors still interested in belonging to the Garrick Club?

    1. yes they are. Belonging to a Club is still a prestige thing in UK.