The Oriental Club


With the Duke of Wellington as its founding president, the Oriental Club has a distinguished pedigree. For two centuries, the club has been a focal point in Central London for those who have lived, worked or travelled in the East.

Victorian novelist William Makepeace Thackeray acknowledged its status in Vanity Fair.  Referring to the return to London in 1827 of one of his key characters, rich East India Company official Joseph Sedley, he wrote: “His very first point, of course, was to become a member of the Oriental Club”. It, like the Bath Royal Literary and Scientific Institution (BRLSI), had been founded in 1824 while the fictitious Sedley was overseas.

Drawing on the Oriental Club’s distinctive heritage, its Vice-Chairman, Laurence Singlehurst, will give the next in a series of talks spotlighting organisations which share BRLSI’s Bicentenary year.  His talk about the club (yesterday, today and in the future) and some of the characters associated with it, takes place at 7.30pm on Tuesday 16 July, at BRLSI, 16-18 Queen Square, Bath, and will also be streamed live. All are welcome.

When the club was founded it was advertised as drawing its members from “Noblemen and gentlemen associated with the administration of our Eastern empire, or who have travelled or resided in Asia, at St Helena, in Egypt, at the Cape of Good Hope, the Mauritius, or at Constantinople.” So the Duke of Wellington, whose victory at Waterloo nine years before had been preceded by considerable early military success in India, was an apt president for a new private members’ club whose founders were officials and military officers returning from India and the East. The Indian elephant is the symbol of the club.

For its first four years the Oriental Club’s home was in Grosvenor Street, before a move to a newly-built clubhouse in Hanover Square. Today it offers modern amenities to a diverse membership – as well as an impressive library of books, and an extensive art and artefact collection which brings the history of the club to life – in Stratford House near Oxford Street, where it has been since 1962. Grade 1 listed, the house was built in the 1770s for Edward Stratford, who later became the second Earl of Aldborough.

BRLSI, a cultural hub and educational charity based in the centre of Bath, hosts a programme of more than 150 public lectures each year, both virtual and in-house, on topics including science, philosophy, art, and literature. Future BRLSI Bicentenary talks include the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA), London’s Athenaeum Club and the University of Manchester, all also founded in 1824, and feature some big name speakers like the Today Programme’s Justin Webb.

To book this talk:


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