The clubhouse is inspired by Raphael’s Palazzo Pandolfini in Florence
The present building was opened in 1832 to much acclaim. The Pall Mall elevation is inspired by Raphael’s Palazzo Pandolfini in Florence, and the garden elevation owes much to Venice. Barry received just under £1,500 for his work and became a member of the Club in 1834.
The principal rooms still retain many of the original features, with fine examples of mahogany furniture and light fittings designed by Barry himself having been adapted from oil to gas and then to electricity. The handrail fitted to the main staircase for the benefit of the old and infirm Prince Talleyrand, survives as a tangible reminder of Lord Castlereagh’s original intentions.
In 1911, the Coffee Room was transferred upstairs and the original room which had served that purpose became the present Smoking Room. At the same time, the Hall was enlarged by absorbing the western bay of the Court. In 1930-31, two new storeys were added over the Billiard Room by H.L. Andersen. Bomb damage sustained during WWII was repaired in the early 1950's. More recently, the Club has been renovated and the delicate plasterwork and panelling restored.
Today, the Library remains the room most closely associated with travel. In character, it epitomises a gentleman's library of the last century with two thirds of its shelves occupied by travel books. The original catalogue was prepared by Benjamin Wheatley, the distinguished bibliographer, who also worked at the Athenæum. It is generally regarded as one of the most charming rooms in London. The central section is particularly striking, decorated with a cast of the Bassae Frieze, which was excavated in the Peloponnesus by the architect C.R. Cockerell, a founder member of the Club.
In recent years the Club has developed the Bramall Room on the lower ground floor, which provides access to Carlton Gardens where Members enjoy the surroundings in summer weather; and the Map Room adjacent where modern travel literature and a collection of maps of important journeys of exploration can be found.
Sir Charles Barry’s inspiration for the building was his Grand Tour around the Mediterranean and Middle East from June 1817 to August 1820. The Renaissance architecture of Italy in particular influenced him and based the Clubhouse on Raphael’s Palazzo Pandolfini in Florence. Barry also remodelled Highclere Castle and the Palace of Westminster.