From Lincoln to London, ASALI Designs has had the pleasure of visiting the glorious RAF Club on a number of occasions. For those of you that haven’t had the been, here’s a glimpse…
A brief history…
The Royal Air Force Club was founded in 1918 when the then President of the Air Board, the first Viscount Lord Cowdray, sent a letter to the Chairman of the Royal Flying Corps, Sir Sefton Branker, with an accompanying cheque for £100,000. Within the letter was stated that the funds should be ‘…sufficient to ensure a permanent Club House worthy of the airmen and of their ‘brilliant and superlative heroic work’’.
The buildings that still house the Club were acquired by the middle of 1919 and are an amalgamation of what was formally ‘the Ladies Lyceum Club’ and some stables overlooking Old Park Lane. Between 1919 and 1921 extensive reconstruction took place and the Club was eventually opened on 2 January 1922 to members and officially opened by the Duke of York on 24 February 1922.
After the Club was able to acquire the Freehold of 128 Piccadilly and 6 Old Park Lane in the 1980s, the Club was able to develop into the impressive space that it is now. Improvements included the conversion of the basement area into ‘The Running Horse’ Tavern, best described as a traditional English pub in the heart of the Club and named after the public house that stood on the site in the 18th century.
“I enjoy my visits. It’s steeped in history and a charming waterhole for like minded individuals to bang on about the old days” Ian Smith, MBE
- Her Majesty The Queen is the Club’s patron
- Membership in the 1920’s was 3 guineas, just over £3 in today’s money
- The site was previously a public house, the Running Horse Tavern
- Members of the club can enjoy associated benefits at 50 private member clubs worldwide
- Serving officers can book in for a taster session before committing to membership
Would you believe…
- Once upon a time the Piccadilly entrance was only to be used by men!
- Waiters were once summoned in the ‘Smoking Room’ by one of 18 bell pushers!
- The Churchill Bar was once the Billiard Room and open until 4.30am
- The American Bar was closed in 1928, being blamed as the “root cause of increasing numbers of members being intoxicated.”
- Ladies were permitted into the club but only with a host and only via the Old Park Lane entrance
- Ladies were not allowed to use the ground floor or main staircase as “no gentleman wished to be assailed by ladies’ perfume” while using the stairs.
- There was one bathroom for every 3 bedrooms so all guests had their own chamber pot…(presumably well used by those frequenting the American Bar!)
Fast forward to…
Clearly things have moved on quite a bit and we’ve sampled first hand the beautiful main entrance, the stair case and of course the champagne and culinary delights. Our most memorable visit was for the Fly2Help gala dinner which we were happy to support.
But what of other guests to the club and their experiences? We’ve been asking…
“You can’t help but be impressed by the RAF Club. I’m always blown away with the location, the splendour, the incredible artwork and the sense of being part of something really special every time I am there” Flt Lt Jim Peterson, Typhoon Display
“The Royal Air Force Club is one of the world’s genuinely special places and I count myself very lucky to have visited many times over recent years. There is always something remarkable to catch your eye. To be invited to exhibit in such a historic place and amongst so many other works of art celebrating the Royal Air Force was a genuine honour and something that I will never forget” David Bent Hon CRAeS
After their recent visit to Bomber County, we got in touch with the presenters that bring us aviation podcast, ‘Top Landing Gear’. We asked former RAF pilot and podcast fact checker James Cartner about why he loves the RAF Club:
“Back in my RAF days it was my first port of call for all London visits. The most beautiful, fantastic building is full of aeroplanes, and simply put I love aeroplanes! It’s also fortuitous that on many a visit it has also been full of legends, legends happy to chat, just marvellous!” James Cartner, Top Landing Gear.
Have you been or will you be visiting soon?
We are delighted to announce that parts of our collection now sit alongside the glorious artwork inside the RAF Club and are available to buy. Members can also purchase ASALI gifts via the Club’s website or directly with us. Contact the club for exclusive member rates.
The RAF Club combines RAF heritage with a host of excellent modern facilities for relaxing and dining, along with well-priced overnight accommodation. With over 110 bedrooms, a well-equipped Fitness Centre and Business Suite and relaxed public areas, use of the Piccadilly clubhouse can be enjoyed as part of your annual membership.
Serving and Former Serving Officers do not require a proposer or seconder to become members of the Club, read more about memberships here.