Savage Club

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The Savage Club
Founded 1857
Home Page
Address 1 Whitehall Place
Clubhouse occupied since 1990
Club established for The arts, science and law

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The Savage Club, founded in 1857, is a gentlemen's club in London.


Many and varied are the stories that have been told about the first meeting of the Savage Club, of the precise purposes for which it was formed, and of its christening. But it would hardly be possible to discover a more reliable record than that written by Andrew Halliday, who was elected a joint honorary secretary at the first Annual Meeting in 1858, and who later became its first president:

The Savage Club was formed to supply the want which Dr Samuel Johnson and his friends experienced when they founded the Literary Club. A little band of authors, journalists and artists felt the need of a place of reunion where, in their hours of leisure, they might gather together and enjoy each other’s society, apart from the publicity of that which was known in Johnson's time as the coffee house, and equally apart from the chilling splendour of the modern club.
When about a dozen of our original members were assembled in the place selected for their meeting, it became a question what the Club should be called. Everyone in the room suggested a title. One proposed the “Addison”, another the “Johnson”, a third the “Goldsmith”, and so forth. At last, after we had run the whole gamut of famous literary names of the modern period, a modest member in the corner suggested the “Shakespeare”. This was too much for the gravity of one of the company (the late Robert Brough) whose keen sense of humour enabled him, in the midst of our enthusiasm, to perceive that we were bent on making ourselves ridiculous. “Who are we,” he said, “that we should take these great names in vain? Don’t let us be pretentious. If we must have a name, let it be a modest one - that signifies as little as possible.”
Whereupon a member called out, in a spirit of pure wantonness, “The Savage”. Robert's sense of humour was once again tickled. “The very thing!” he exclaimed. “No one can say that there is anything pretentious in assuming that name. If we accept Richard Savage as our Godfather, it shows that there is no false pride in us.” And so, in a frolicsome humour, our little society was christened the “Savage” Club.

The history of Richard Savage gives ample proof of the lack of pretentiousness and false pride (and of “the spirit of pure wantonness”) which settled the choice of its name. For Richard Savage, a shady, satirical poet, had died, after a very chequered career, more than a century before the Savage Club was born. We read of him as a crony of Dr Johnson, and that he had occasional successes with his plays and poems. But his history also records the facts that he killed a man in a brawl, and was reprieved only by the intercession of a noble patron, that his life was mainly a story of quarrels, bitterness and vindictiveness, that he was prosecuted for libel, and finally that, after his irregular habits had reduced him to penury, he was imprisoned for debt and died in the year 1743.

This grim record will correct the assumptions that Savage was either one of the original members of the Club, or a distinguished person whose name the members wished to honour – or that they were born in some vague savage clime surrounded by assegais and tom-toms, shields and skulls, and other barbaric trophies such as those which decorate the walls.

Taken from "Brother Savages and Guests: A History of the Savage Club" by Percy Bradshaw


The club has moved around over the years, from its original home at the Crown Tavern, Vinegar Yard, Drury Lane, the next year to the Nell Gwynne Tavern, in 1863 to Gordon's Hotel in Covent Garden, then to 6-7 Adelphi Terrace, later to 9 Fitzmaurice Place, Berkeley Square, London W1, and, from 1936 to the end of 1963, Carlton House Terrace in St James's (previously the home of the Conservative statesman Lord Curzon) and elsewhere.

At the moment it is based in the National Liberal Club, at 1 Whitehall Place, London SW1. The nearest underground station is Embankment.

Founders of the Savage Club

The club was founded in 1857 by George Augustus Sala and 11 other members, including:

  • William Brough
  • Robert Brough
  • Gustav von Franck
  • Dr G.L.Strauss
  • William Bernhardt Tegetmeier

The club today

At present, there are 291 members. The club maintains a tradition of fortnightly dinners for members and their guests, always followed by entertainment. These dinners often feature a variety of famous performers from music hall to concert hall. Several times a year members invite ladies to share both the dinner and the entertainment — sometimes as performers. On these occasions guests always include widows of former Savages, who are known as Rosemaries (after rosemary, a symbol of remembrance).

There are also monthly lunches, which are followed by a talk given by a member or an invited guest on a subject of which he has specific expert knowledge.


Members are classified into one of six categories which best describes their main interest: art, drama, law, literature, music or science. They must be proposed and seconded by two existing members, and if unknown by any other members, are required to attend a club function in order to meet some members.

The category of membership might mirror a member's profession, though there are many members with an interest in one or more of the membership categories, but who practise none professionally.

Membership fees range from £248 to £654 per annum depending on membership category. The joining fee for 2008 for gentlemen introduced by present Savages is £200 if aged 35 or over at the date of joining, or £90 for those under 35. For those who apply for membership without introduction the fees are £500 and £150 respectively.

Opening hours and reciprocal arrangements

The club is open to members from Monday to Thursday from noon to 11pm, on Friday from 4.00pm to midnight (or later depending on the number of members present), and on Saturday by private arrangement. The barman is Michael Leonard. Lady guests are welcome on Tuesday and Wednesday evenings; at other times, use is restricted to members, their male guests and male members of affiliated clubs. Gentlemen who are accompanied with ladies must use the bar in the National Liberal Club if they do not visit on Tuesday or Wednesday Evenings.

During the weekend, members are permitted to use either the Oxford and Cambridge Club in Pall Mall, or the East India Club in St James's Square. There are also reciprocal arrangements with more than 40 other clubs worldwide, giving members a home-away-from-home when abroad.

Members of the Savage club may also use accommodation at the Savile, Lansdowne and Cavendish Clubs.

Notable members

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  • James Agate
  • Norman Allin
  • Richard Arnell
  • Arthur Askey
  • George Baker
  • Webster Booth
  • Collin Brooks
  • Sir Charles Spencer Chaplin (Charlie Chaplin)
  • Albert Chevalier
  • Alan Civil
  • Samuel Langhorne Clemens (Mark Twain)
  • Mortimer Collins
  • Wilkie Collins
  • Robert Courtneidge
  • Most of the members of The Crazy Gang
  • Augustin Daly
  • King Edward VII
  • Herman Finck
  • Sir Alexander Fleming
  • C. B. Fry
  • W. S. Gilbert
  • Dan Godfrey
  • Walter Goodman
  • George Grossmith
  • Weedon Grossmith
  • Mark Hambourg (pianist)
  • Tommy Handley and the cast of It's That Man Again (ITMA)
  • John Hassal (artist)
  • Macdonald Hastings
  • Jack Hawkins
  • A. P. Herbert
  • Tom Hood
  • Sir Henry Irving
  • Alex JamesTemplate:Disambiguation needed
  • C.E.M. Joad panellist on The Brains Trust
  • Gwynn Parry Jones
  • Mark Lemon (Editor of Punch)
  • Sidney Kilner Levett-Yeats
  • David Low (Colonel Blimp)
  • Arthur Lucan, aka Old Mother Riley
  • Phil May
  • Malcolm McEachern ('Mr. Jetsam')
  • Benno Moiseiwitsch
  • Earl Mountbatten
  • Fridtjof Nansen
  • Prof. R. G. W. Norrish
  • Norman O'Neill
  • E. Phillips Oppenheim
  • Robert Young Pelton
  • H.R.H. Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh
  • Dr. Magnus Pyke
  • Sergei Rachmaninov
  • Heath Robinson
  • Carl Rosa
  • Dante Rossetti
  • Rafael Sabatini
  • George Augustus Sala
  • Charles Santley
  • Captain Scott
  • Harry Secombe
  • Dylan Thomas
  • Herbert Beerbohm Tree
  • Tommy Trinder
  • Peter Underwood
  • Stanley Unwin
  • Peter Ustinov
  • Edgar Wallace
  • Artemus Ward
  • Alec Waugh
  • James McNeill Whistler
  • Hugh Ross Williamson
  • Wee Georgie Wood (Music Hall comedian)
  • Henry Wood (conductor)
  • Lewis Pinhorn Wood (artist)
  • John WorsleyTemplate:Disambiguation needed
  • Sir Charles Wyndham
  • Oswald Yorke actor
  • George Western (Western Brothers)

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The Savage Club Masonic Lodge

In 1882, the then Prince of Wales (later Edward VII) became an honorary member of the Savage Club and, appreciating its informal atmosphere, took a great interest in the affairs of the club. The Prince suggested that a good addition to the facilities at the club would be a Masonic lodge. On 3 December 1886, Thomas Catling, the editor of Lloyd’s News, wrote to the Grand Secretary of United Grand Lodge as follows:

"A long cherished idea on the part of many members of the Savage Club has at length received an amount of support which justifies the accompanying application to the Most Worshipful Grand Master for a warrant for a new lodge. The Savage Club, which is “instituted for the association of gentlemen connected professionally with literature, art, the drama, or science”, now consists of 400 members, fully one-fourth of whom are masons, though many it is found are not at the present time subscribing members. From the interest evinced in the proposal there is a confident belief that if the new lodge is founded it will draw the majority of the masons in the club more closely together, and at the same time be the means of adding to the strength and prosperity of the craft by increasing its members. The petitioners are all “Savages”, but they do not bind themselves to admit none save their own members, though it will be their aim and endeavour to keep as close as possible to the principles which govern the elections to the Savage Club."

Enclosed with the letter was a formal petition to the Grand Master for the formation of the new lodge. The signatories were Sir Francis Wyatt Truscott, President of the Society of Artists, who was to be first Master of the new lodge, Sir John Somers Vine, the club’s secretary, who was to be the first Senior Warden, Lord Dunraven (Viscount Adair), then Provincial Grand Master of Oxfordshire, Catling, W. E. Chapman, Thomas Burnside and Archibald Neill, all described as journalists, another literary gentleman, John Paige, John Maclean, an actor, Raymond Tucker, an artist, and the actor Sir Henry Irving, who was not sufficiently experienced as a mason to take one of the more senior offices in the lodge, but agreed to act as Treasurer. Evidently Catling had been busy lobbying members of the Savage Club who were masons to assemble as imposing group of petitioners as possible. He had asked Lord Dunraven not only to support the petition but to agree if possible to take office in the new lodge. Dunraven had agreed to sign the petition, but could not take office.

The Savage Club Lodge was consecrated at Freemasons’ Hall on 18 January 1887, and Irving was invested as Treasurer of the new lodge. The lengthy report of the consecration in The Freemason refers to Irving’s presence but does not mention any speech by him. The Savage Club Lodge was enormously successful. In its first year, eleven meetings were held, and in the following year another ten. By the end of 1890, membership of the lodge had risen to 124. Many new masons had been initiated in the lodge and then passed through the various degrees in lengthy and elaborate rituals, and it was the working of these rituals which accounted for the large number of meetings. The club invited the Prince of Wales to become an honorary member, but although he declined this honour, he presented to the club for use in lodge meetings a gavel which had been used by the Queen when laying the foundation stone of the Imperial Institute at South Kensington.

Although there is no longer any formal connection between the club and the lodge, the lodge and its visitors still enjoy traditional Savage bonhomie at the club's premises in Whitehall following the quarterly lodge meetings in Covent Garden. Members of the lodge are also always invited to the frequent club events which are open to guests.

Founders of the Savage Club Lodge

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  • Sir Francis Wyatt Truscott, PGW
  • John Maclean
  • Sir J. R. Somers Vine, PGD
  • Thomas Catling, PAGDC
  • Sir Henry Irving
  • Archibald McNeill
  • W. E. Chapman, PAGDC
  • Raymond Tucker, PPGSB Berks.
  • Thomas Burnside
  • Earl of Dunraven, PC KP
  • John Paige

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  • Bradshaw, Percy V. (1958), Brother Savages and Guests, W. H. Allen & Co.

External links

See also

  • List of London's gentlemen's clubs


Template:Arts-themed gentlemen's clubs of London