Club Life in London , an book, begins: "The Club in the general acceptation of the term, may be regarded as one of the earliest offshoots of man's habitual gregariousness and social inclination.
List of gentlemen's clubs in London - Wikipedia
An increasing number of clubs were characterised by their members' interest in politics, literature, sport, art, automobiles, travel, particular countries, or some other pursuit. In other cases, the connection between the members was membership of the same branch of the armed forces, or the same school or university. Thus the growth of clubs provides an indicator as to what was considered a respectable part of the "Establishment" at the time.
By the late 19th century, any man with a credible claim to the status of "gentleman" was eventually able to find a club willing to admit him, unless his character was objectionable in some way or he was "unclubbable" a word first used by Samuel Johnson. Members of the aristocracy and politicians were likely to have several clubs.
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The record number of memberships is believed to have been with Earl Mountbatten , who had nineteen in the s. Public entertainments, such as musical performances and the like, were not a feature of this sort of club. The clubs were, in effect, "second homes"  in the centre of London where men could relax, mix with their friends, play parlour games , get a meal, and in some clubs stay overnight. Expatriates, when staying in England, could use their clubs, as with the East India Club or the Oriental Club , as a base. They allowed upper- and upper-middle-class men with modest incomes to spend their time in grand surroundings.
The richer clubs were built by the same architects as the finest country houses of the time, and had similar types of interiors. They were a convenient retreat for men who wished to get away from female relations, "in keeping with the separate spheres ideology according to which the man dealt with the public world, whereas women's domain was the home.
Gentleman's clubs were private places that were designed to allow men to relax and create friendships with other men.
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In the 19th and 20th centuries, clubs were regarded as a central part of elite men's lives. They provided everything a regular home would have. Clubs were created and designed for a man's domestic needs. They were places to relieve stress and worries. They provided emotional and practical needs.
They provided spaces such as dining halls, library, entertainment and game rooms, rooms for sleep, bathrooms and washrooms, and a study. In many ways, they resembled a regular home. Clubs had separate entrances for maids and the help, which were usually located on the side of the building that was not easily seen to the public eye. Many clubs had waiting lists, some as long as sixteen years. There is no standard definition for what is considered a gentlemen's club.
Each club differed slightly from another. Clubs were created in a time where family was considered one of the most important aspects of a man's life in the 19th century. A man's home was his property and should have been a place to satisfy most of his needs, but for elite men, this was not always the case; it was not always a place that provided privacy and comfort.
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An explanation for this might be because the home of elite families often entertained guests for dinners, formal teas, entertainment, and parties. Their lives were on display, and often their lives would be reported in local papers. A gentleman's club offered an escape from this family world.
Another explanation would be that men as boys were brought up in all-male environments in places like schools and sports pastimes, and they became uncomfortable when they now had to share their lives with women in a family environment. A gentleman's club offered an escape.
Men's clubs were also a scene of gossip. The clubs were designed for communication and the sharing of information with each other. By gossiping, bonds were created which were used to confirm social and gender boundaries. Gossiping helped confirm a man's identity, both in his community and within society at large. It was often used as a tool to climb the social ladder.
It revealed that a man had certain information others did not have. It was also a tool used to demonstrate a man's masculinity. It established certain gender roles. Men told stories and joked. The times and places a man told stories, gossiped, and shared information were also considered to show a man's awareness of behaviour and discretion.
Clubs were places where men could gossip freely. Gossip was also a tool that led to more practical results in the outside world. There were also rules that governed gossip in the clubs. These rules governed the privacy and secrecy of members. Clubs regulated this form of communication so that it was done in a more acceptable manner. Women also set about establishing their own clubs in the late nineteenth century, such as the Ladies' Institute, and the Ladies' Athenaeum.
They proved quite popular at the time, but only one London-based club, The University Women's Club , has survived to this day as a single-sex establishment. Until the s, clubs were also heavily regulated in the rooms open to non-members. Most clubs contained just one room where members could dine and entertain non-members; it was often assumed that one's entire social circle should be within the same club.
Harold Macmillan was said to have taken "refuge in West End clubs The class requirements relaxed gradually throughout the 19th and 20th centuries.
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From the s onwards, some single-sex clubs opened to both sexes as guests and as members, partly to maintain membership levels. Although traditional gentlemen's clubs are no longer [ when? Membership is by election after the proposers at least two and in many clubs more , who have known the candidate for a term of years, formally nominate the person for membership.
Election is by a special committee itself elected , which may interview the candidate and which looks at any support and also objections of other members. Some top clubs still maintain distinctions which are often undefined and rarely explained to those who do not satisfy their membership requirements. After reaching the top of a long waiting list, there is a possibility of being blackballed during the process of formal election by the committee. In these circumstances, the principal proposer of such a person may be expected to resign, as he failed to withdraw his undesirable candidate.
More often, the member who proposes an unsuitable candidate will be "spoken to" at a much earlier stage than this, by senior committee members, and he will withdraw his candidate to avoid embarrassment for all concerned.
The clubs are owned by their members and not by an individual or corporate body. These kinds of relationships have been analyzed from the network analysis perspective by Maria Zozaya. Today, gentlemen's clubs exist throughout the world, predominantly in Commonwealth countries and the United States. Many clubs offer reciprocal hospitality to other clubs' members when travelling abroad.
There are perhaps some 25 traditional London gentlemen's clubs of particular note, from The Arts Club to White's. Many other estimable clubs such as the yacht clubs have a specific character which places them outside the mainstream, or may have sacrificed their individuality for the commercial interest of attracting enough members regardless of their common interests. See article at club for a further discussion of these distinctions. The oldest gentleman's club in London is White's, which was founded in Discussion of trade or business is usually not allowed in traditional gentlemen's clubs, but increasingly politicians and businesspeople hire club premises for debates and conferences on current affairs.
The use of such establishments for public discussion and debate is in its infancy, as many of the larger and more established clubs strictly enforce their rules on such matters. The Liverpool Athenaeum was founded in by art collector and social reformer William Roscoe and friends, and contains a notable library of rare books.
St Paul's Club was formed in in Birmingham , the first in the Midlands. Jersey and Guernsey in the Channel Islands , although outside the UK proper, each have their own The United Club , founded, respectively, in and in In London, there are similarities between the original gentlemen's clubs and the more modern but otherwise similarly private members' clubs such the Groucho Club , Soho House and Home House ; but those offer memberships by subscription and are owned and run as commercial concerns.
All offer similar facilities such as food, drink, comfortable surroundings, venue hire and in many cases accommodation. In recent years the advent of mobile working using phone and email has placed pressures on the traditional London clubs which frown on, and often ban, the use of mobiles and discourage laptops, indeed any discussion of business matters or 'work related papers'.
A new breed of business-oriented private members' clubs, exemplified by One Alfred Place and Eight in London or the Gild in Barcelona, combines the style, food and drink of a contemporary private members' club with the business facilities of an office.
It was for this reason that the Institute of Directors acquired one of the older clubhouses in Pall Mall as more business friendly. Modern day clubs include Blacks and Groucho Club. Several private members clubs for women were established in the late 19th century; among them the Alexandra Club. Most major cities in the United States have at least one traditional gentlemen's club, many of which have reciprocal relationships with the older clubs in London, with each other, and with other gentlemen's clubs around the world.