Open House Festival

Reform Club


Charles Barry, 1841

104 Pall Mall, SW1Y 5EW

Built as a Whig gentleman's club and inspired by Italian Renaissance palaces. Lobby leads to an enclosed colonnaded courtyard with complementary glazed roof and tessellated floor. Tunnelled staircase leads to upper floor.

Getting there


Piccadilly Circus


Charing Cross


9, 94





The Reform Club was designed and built by Charles Barry (who also designed the Houses of Parliament) between 1837 and 1841. The origins of the Club lay in the nineteenth century Whig party, many of whose members favoured political reform. Gladstone and Palmerstone were among its early members - and many other prominent politicians belonged over the years, such as Lloyd George and Winston Churchill. Notable fictional characters to have been associated with it are Jules Verne’s Phileas Fogg, who entered here into the wager which led to his journey round the world, and P G Wodehouse’s Bertie Wooster. Women did not have full membership until 1981.


Both Barry’s slightly earlier Travellers’ Club next door and the Reform Club marked a change in English architectural design away from the classically inspired Regency style, where external columns were of such paramount importance, to the column-less style of the Italian Renaissance palazzi, in particular the Palazzo Farnese in Rome.

The Reform Club presents a symmetrical front of Portland stone ashlar to Pall Mall. The ground floor is raised half a storey above street level and has a central entrance with a cornice, and four windows to each side. The first floor has a balcony and nine pedimented windows with demi-columns. Above all is a splendid, substantial cornice with a frieze below it.

The entrance lobby leads into a central court covered by coved glazing of heavily-faceted glass, a concession to the English weather. The courtyard or hall thus formed is two-storied with yellow marble Corinthian columns and a cloister all round it at both levels. The staircase joining the levels again reveals the influence of the Italian palazzi – understated, it rises between solid walls with just one landing where it turns 180 degrees. The Morning Room on the lower floor has a half-size copy of the Parthenon frieze all around its walls. Above, are the Smoking Room and the Library, divided into three sections by columns.


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