Royal Automobile Club
Mewes & Davis
- Original design
- Mewes & Davis, 1911
The 2017 programme is now past. We will be launching the 2018 programme on 21st August.
Today, the Royal Automobile Club is one of the foremost private members’ clubs in the world with a diverse membership, an extensive events programme, and two beautiful and unique clubhouses (in Pall Mall and at Woodcote Park, near Epsom) with first-class accommodation, dining and sports facilities.
The Club was formed in 1897 to champion motorists and promote the motor car as a new form of transport. Its first headquarters was at 4 Whitehall Court but the Club was an enormous success and soon outgrew its first home. Despite moving to 119 Piccadilly in 1902, the expanding membership merited even larger premises and, in 1908 the Club acquired its present site in Pall Mall and the old War Office buildings that occupied the site were demolished to make way for a new clubhouse.
Designed by fashionable Edwardian architects Messrs. Mewés and Davis, who numbered the Ritz and the interiors of Cunard liners amongst their achievements, the Pall Mall clubhouse opened in March 1911.
At a cost of £250,000, the new building included electric lights, a telephone exchange and an elevator, which were ‘state of the art’ in 1911. The Club also contained its own post office, which is still in situ today and is one of the few remaining private post offices.
The new building befitted the new status of the Club, which had secured royal patronage from King Edward VII in 1907, adding the ‘Royal’ to the Club’s name. The main facade was created in Portland stone in the style of Louis XIV with ionic columns that extend the height of the first two floors.
Upon entering the Club the entrance hall, or Rotunda as we call it today, is an impressive Pantheon like structure with a giant oval window in the dome.
To the left of the Rotunda is the Brooklands restaurant. The columns are made of Siena marble and the walls are panelled with landscapes by Hubert Robert, acquired from an old chateau in France.
Also on the ground floor is the Great Gallery restaurant. 115ft long and 30ft high, it pays homage to Louis XIV’s playful style, with a frescoed ceiling emulating the Galerie des Glaces at Versailles.
Today's visitors are often struck by the sheer magnificence of the 86ft long and 30ft wide swimming pool, rendered in white Sicilian marble with lamps based upon incense burners found at Pompeii.
The lower floor also houses four squash courts and the Turkish Baths, where members can move between five rooms, each with varying degrees of heat and humidity.
The Club was also responsible for establishing motor racing in the UK. It created the Tourist Trophy Race in 1905 which is the oldest, still competed for, trophy in motorsport today. The Club also organised the first British Grand Prix at Brooklands in 1926, as well as the first modern Grand Prix d’Europe at Silverstone in 1950. The governing body for motor sport in Britain, the MSA, was formed by the Royal Automobile Club.
This motoring heritage is, as you would expect, reflected throughout the clubhouse.