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History & Architecture

The Reform Club was founded in the ferment of ideas, ideals and political activity which, in part, found expression in the Great Reform Act of 1832. Having succeeded, after a great parliamentary battle, in securing the passing of the Reform Bill, Radicals and Whigs needed a centre for their political activities.

The Club first opened its doors to members in a house at 104 Pall Mall, on 24 May 1836. Planning for  a new building began swiftly, and, after an architectural competition Charles Barry was selected to create a new clubhouse. Sir Charles’s design was inspired by the Italian Renaissance architecture that he was exposed to as a young student in Rome. The front fa├žade of the Clubhouse borrows from the Palazzo Farnese, a building studied closely by Barry which was completed in 1589 by Michelangelo. The Reform’s clubhouse was finished in 1841 and was immediately hailed as a masterpiece of classical architecture. 

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Open House London and Tours

The Reform Club occasionally offers access to the public to view its unique historic and architectural features, art collection, furnishings and artefacts. Each September the Club participates in Open House London, the world’s largest architecture festival, when hundreds of buildings in London open their doors to the public.

The Club does not hold tours for the general public, but organised groups are welcome on weekday mornings. The minimum number of visitors per group is ten. Those taking part in these tours are invited to contribute £15 per person to the Reform Club Conservation Charitable Trust. Visitors are required to adhere to the Club's dress code.  

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Phileas Fogg

“Phileas Fogg left his house in Saville Row [sic] at half past eleven and, when he had put down his right foot five hundred and seventy times before his left foot, and his left foot five hundred and seventy times before his right foot, he arrived at the Reform Club, a huge edifice, standing in Pall Mall, that cost quite a hundred and twenty pounds to build.”

Jules Verne, Around the World in Eighty Days, 1872

The Club will forever be associated with Jules Verne's novel Around the World in Eighty Days, as the place where the idea of this incredible journey was conceived and the famous bet made.

 

Further references

‘Reformed Characters: The Reform Club in history and literature - An Anthology with Commentary’ Russell Burlingham and Roger Billis (2005), Reform Club
 
'The Reform club: its founders and architect’, Louis Fagan (1887)

Reform Club entry in the Survey of London

‘175 Years of the Reform Clubhouse 1841 – 2016’