1857 - 1980
1857 - The English aristocrat Earl Granville and Marchese d’Azeglio, a Sardinian Minister, after a dispute at the Travellers club decided to found a new club intended as a London base for travelling diplomats. In April 1859, Francis Cavendish sent out a circular from the Foreign Office to every British Embassy and legation to recruit members for the new St. James’s Club.
1860 - As well as an international clientele it attracted important members of the British upper classes such as Lord Randolph Churchill and luminaries such as Baron Ferdinand de Rothschild. Charles Dickens writes: “members are elected by ballot, but members of the corps diplomatique, of the English diplomatic service, and of the Foreign Office, may be admitted without ballot, under certain restrictions”.
1890 - The St. James's Club was at the height of its prosperity during the years before the First World War and continued to attract the cream of London society. Henry James used the club to study English colloquialisms and Arthur Sullivan, the composer of the Savoy Operas, was also a member for some years. The subscription was eleven guineas and the entrance fee twenty-five guineas.
1920 - Sir Winston Churchill was often seen in the club during the 1930s and during the Second World War, the club was briefly the home of Ian Fleming, the creator of James Bond. Other notable members of St. James’s Club included: Sir Harry Verney, 4th Baronet MP (politician); Victor Hay, 21st Earl of Erroll (diplomat); Sir Murdoch Macdonald (politician and engineer); Lord Ivor Spencer-Churchill (cousin of Winston Churchill).
1950 - Backgammon was especially popular with club members, it was played more assiduously than at any other London club. Large sums were won and lost; the leading players in the mid 50s were the Marquess of Milford Haven, Lord Pender and Rupert Bellville. A member, Charles Jerdawin, won the world championship in 1968. During the 60s ladies have been admitted for dinner.
1970 - During the early 70s financial difficulties led to the closure of the St. James’s Club.
1980 - The St. James’s Club reopened thanks to international sportsman and financier Peter De Savary using the premises at 7-8 Park Place. These were originally built in 1892 as apartments for gentlemen.
The club regained its popularity and it became well known as a place for good food, good wine and the best parties, usually hosted by someone from the film world. The club committee was chaired by Sir John Mills.
Members included Liza Minelli, Dudley Moore, Peter Townshend, Sir Michael Caine, Sir Sean Connery, Tim Rice, Michael Parkinson and Lord Attenborough. And with visits by Sir Elton John as well as Tom Selleck and Christopher Reeve, it is not surprising that it became known as one of London’s most popular clubs.