The Savage Club was founded in 1857 and remains one of the leading bohemian gentleman’s clubs in London.
Clubs elsewhere have borrowed both the name and the style, which continues to be the “pursuit of happiness” — a quest made infinitely more agreeable by the fellowship of Members who are known to each other by the sobriquet “Brother Savage”.
About the Club
The Savage Club is a gentleman’s club in London, named after the poet Richard Savage.
The founding meeting of the Club took place on 12 October 1857 at the Crown Tavern, Vinegar Yard, Drury Lane, after a letter by pro tempore Honorary Secretary George Augustus Sala was sent to prospective Members. The letter advised that it would be “a meeting of gentlemen connected with literature and the fine arts, and warmly interested in the promotion of Christian knowledge, and the sale of exciseable liquors” with a view to “forming a social society or club”. The inaugural gathering would also decide upon the new association’s “suitable designation”.
When about a dozen of the original members were assembled in the place selected for their meetings, it became a question what the Club should be called. Every one in the room suggested a title. One said the “Addison”, another the “Johnson”, a third the “Goldsmith”, and so forth; and 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 Mr Robert Brough) whose keen sense of humour enabled him, in the midst of our enthusiasm, to perceive that we were bent upon 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 — one that signifies as little as possible.”
Hereupon a member called out, in a pure spirit of wantonness, “The Savage!”
That keen sense of humour was 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 pride about us. ... ”
And so, in a frolicsome humour, our little society was christened the “Savage Club”.
Richard Savage (c. 1697 – 1743), best known as the subject of Samuel Johnson’s Life of Savage, was an English poet who had been convicted of murder, and who died in a debtors’ prison, probably from liver failure brought on by drinking.
Many of the original Members were drawn from the ranks of bohemian journalists and writers for The Illustrated London News who considered themselves unlikely to be accepted into the older, arts-related Garrick Club, but, within two decades, the Savage Club itself had become “almost respectable”. The early requirement – “a working man in literature or art, and a good fellow” – was soon broadened to include musicians, with actors, scientists and members of the legal profession joining in later years.
After a year the Club moved from its original home at the Crown Tavern to the Nell Gwynne Tavern. In 1863 it moved to Gordon’s Hotel in Covent Garden, then to 6-7 Adelphi Terrace, later to 9 Fitzmaurice Place off Berkeley Square, and, from 1936 to the end of 1963, Carlton House Terrace in St James’s (previously the home of the Conservative statesman Lord Curzon). Since 1990, the Club has been based in the National Liberal Club.
The Savage Clubroom and bar is open from noon and does not close until late. Ladies are always welcome as guests of Members. Alcohol, sandwiches, coffee, cigars, and Club writing paper are all available. The Clubroom may also be hired for private functions by both Members and non-Members.
Wine tastings & diversions
Wine, whisky, gin & other tastings as well as jazz evenings and musical soirées are held in the Clubroom from time to time for Members and their guests.
Wherever the Savage Club has made its home, it has maintained the tradition of regular House Dinners for Members and their guests, always followed by entertainment. These dinners are unique within clubland and often feature a variety of well-known performers from Music Hall to concert hall.
The Savage Club magazine is sent four times a year to Members and affiliated clubs. It has achieved a standard of literary excellence and erudition much admired by writers and publishers.
These are held monthly, with each lunch invariably being followed by a talk given by a Member or an invited guest on a subject of which he has specific expert knowledge. Spirited conversation follows as the logical outcome of a congregation of Savages.
As a courtesy, several clubs in London offer accommodation to Savage Club Members at reasonable rates. This is useful for Country Members and others who have enjoyed the delights of a House Dinner and do not wish to travel home.
Members are classified into one of the six Membership categories which best describes their main interest. This might identify with a Member’s profession, but not necessarily so. There is many a Savage with more than a passing interest in one or more of the Membership categories, but who practises none professionally.
This is not to imply that any gentleman can become a Savage: in this, as in other imprecise areas of life, personal qualities are decisive. It is sometimes an indication of suitability that a candidate has pursuits or attainments of a personal nature which would qualify him for Membership.
A gentleman who would be equally comfortable in more than one category is at liberty to choose.
Members in this category need to have shown a level of involvement with pure or applied art, design, typography, photography, architecture or one of the many variants calling for skill or appreciation and understanding of the medium beyond casual acquaintance.
If a Member has been published so much the better. While a letter to The Times is unlikely to be sufficient qualification, publishers themselves are likely to be welcomed as are journalists, editors, librarians, poets, archivists, translators, lecturers and teachers. The writings of many Members can be found in our library.
Instrumentalists, singers, conductors, arrangers, trustees of musical societies or opera groups, jazz musicians and others who can show genuine musical attainment.
The range of activities which can rightly be called ‘Science’ is wide. It includes medicine and pharmacy, dentistry, pathology, research, forensic sciences, food science, and computer and internet sciences.
Since the advent of the mechanical media, this category has included agents, performers, directors, and administrators associated with films, television and radio as well as the stage. The description ‘Drama’ happily includes light entertainment.
Judges, barristers and solicitors are clearly eligible, but so are some members of the police and of some professions requiring quasi-legal qualifications such as accountants and chartered secretaries.
The Club has amicable arrangements with clubs throughout the world which share the ethos of the Savage Club, and we have reciprocal arrangements whereby Members of the Savage Club in good standing are able to enjoy their facilities as Temporary Members.
Some are able to offer accommodation, and all of them offer a familiar and congenial atmosphere.
A Member may obtain the current list of affiliated clubs from the Club office. He needs to ensure that he has a card of introduction, available from the office, and that he telephones ahead where possible when wishing to avail himself of the services of any of these clubs.
The Savage Club is a member of the Association of London Clubs.
Savage Club Benevolent Fund
Uniquely in clubland, the Savage Club has an associated charity, the Savage Club Benevolent Fund, which exists to provide support, financial or otherwise, to Members, former Members, staff and former members of staff, as well as the family of deceased Members.
It is financially independent, regulated by the Charity Commission, and operated by volunteers who are all Members of the Club.
The current Chairman is Dr Eric Midwinter OBE, noted polymath, social historian and after-dinner speaker.
One of the more delightful duties that the “Ben Fund” conscientiously discharges is to ensure that, upon the death of a Member, the wife, partner, daughter and in some cases even carer of the deceased Savage is invited to become a “Rosemary” (rosemary being the herb traditionally associated with remembrance).
Each Rosemary receives an invitation to at least one Club dinner or other social event each year, the quarterly Club magazine Drumbeat, and an annual lunch to which all are invited, always as a non-paying guest of the Club. By this means, contact is not lost and they continue to receive the Club’s support. This is greatly appreciated by these ladies who enjoy each other’s company as much as that of the Members. There are currently approximately sixty Rosemaries who accept invitations to the Club.
“As a Rosemary, I feel particularly privileged to be included in the Savage Club’s benevolence and thoughtfulness. I cannot begin to tell you just how grateful I am that the stars were aligned the day the Club came into my life.”
Monday to Friday
12.00pm to 11.00pm (1.00am on House Dinner nights)
By prior arrangement
The Club is currently closed due to the prevailing national lockdown. Members should check the Members’ Area for more information.
The Club may be open outside normal hours by special arrangement for functions, and on days when official Club functions (such as House Dinners) are taking place. Members should telephone the Club to check current arrangements.
1 Whitehall Place, London SW1A 2HD
020 7930 8118