The Club's Origin - The Gresham Club


At the beginning of 1843 the City of London Commercial Club closed and in March of that same year, the foundation for the Gresham Club was laid in the same place. The Gresham Club was founded in 1843 as a dining club for the professional classes of the City of London and named originally after Sir Thomas Gresham, a celebrated Elizabethan merchant who founded the Royal Exchange.

The club’s first president was John Abel Smith (1802 – 1871), a member of parliament for Chichester. Mr Abel Smith was also founding partner of the Hong Kong based trading company Jardine, Matheson & Co. and Lombard Street based merchant bank Magniac, Smith & Co.

The newly established club commissioned a club house at 1 King William Street, in the City of London, on the corner of St Swithin’s Lane. The architect was Henry Flower and the beginning of construction in 1844 was marked by a dinner at the Albion Tavern at which Sir William Magnay, Lord Mayor of London, presided.

Sir William Magnay, laid the first foundation stone at the St Swithin’s Lane address on February 8th 1844. It was paid to vacate these premises and a new building was constructed in 1915 in Abchurch lane by William Campbell Jones, as a purpose built home for the members of the Gresham Club. Membership was initially drawn from the old London Commercial Club and those former members paid 10 guineas each to join, new members paid 20 guineas.

In 1853, Charles Manby Smith located the Gresham Club as a stepping stone in a successful Londoner’s sequence of increasingly elite memberships.

In 1915, the Club moved to a new purpose-built club house at 15 Abchurch Lane.

In 1932 with growing unease in Europe and rumours about what might be ahead the decision was taken to lower the entrance fee from 20 guineas down to 10 guineas. In the middle war year of 1941 – 1942 the entrance was in fact temporarily suspended for that year. During the war 56 Club members served their country in the armed forces. The Club suffered from minor damage inflicted by two air raids, and the wine cellars lost 360 bottles of 1927 vintage Port, 300 bottles of 1929 Bollinger and 60 bottles of Veuve Clicquot n.v.

After the Second World War, the gentlemen’s clubs of London fell into decline. The Gresham Club was “a faded place offering school dinners and port”. By 1991, the membership had fallen and the remaining members decided to dissolve the club.

In 1993, the club premises was acquired by CCA Holdings, who found it in need of renovation and refurbishment. The company owns a network of Clubs and operates over 200 prestigious worldwide private members’, golf and country clubs.

The Grade II listed building comprises of 14,000 square feet spread across 7 floors. On 21 October 1993, the Club was given a listed building consent for 15 Abchurch Lane, described as “Repairs and restoration of interior and exterior of building which is to be retained as a members’ dining club.

In September 1994, the building was re-opened as the London Capital Club, a private members’ club with similarities to the old Gresham Club but with a more modern approach (open to ladies and gentlemen, an improved culinary offering and a more liberal approach to conducting business in the club).

The Gresham name survives in the new club’s Gresham Room, which is used for dinners, receptions and meetings.