Explore Our Rooms

The National Liberal Club boasts some of the best preserved Victorian architecture in London

Designed by architect Alfred Waterhouse – best known for London’s Natural History Museum – the NLC building has an elegant yet earthy style all its own. Waterhouse included Italianate and French Classical Revival elements in his design, but the magnificent tiles in natural colours were made at the Bermantoft factory in Leeds, shining examples of British craftsmanship. The final touch was to incorporate cutting-edge modern technology of the time, including London’s first-ever lift and electrical lighting throughout. When completed in 1887, the National Liberal Club was the largest clubhouse in the world, capable of accommodating 6,500 members – more than four times as many as the Reform Club.

Explore our rooms

Hallway

The club's grand Entrance Hall fully displays the range of Alfred Waterhouse's unique talent as one of the great architects of the nineteenth century, from the immaculate marble floor to the stunningly detailed ceiling. It provides a stately entrance to the club and is adorned with numerous distinctive works of art, including a group portrait of Gladstone's first cabinet in 1868, a memorial to club staff who died in both world wars, and a series of stained glass windows of four great Liberal statesmen of the nineteenth century. Particularly notable is the portrait of the young Winston Churchill in 1915, as First Lord of the Admiralty, which was extensively restored after the club suffered a direct hit during a bombing raid in 1941. Churchill was a member of the club for eighteen years, and in 1943 he re-unveiled the restored portrait.

Grand Staircase

The club’s main staircase is the largest unsupported marble staircase in Europe and is built on the cantilever principle, with the marble base adorned with alabaster. It is one of the few parts of the club that is not original, with Waterhouse’s main staircase having been destroyed by a bombing raid in 1941, and this magnificent replacement was completed in 1950. In striving for an ‘unsupported’ structure, the present-day staircase went for a different design to the original, which had been flanked by marble pillars throughout. The original staircase was immortalised in Arthur Quiller-Couch’s 1918 novel Foe-Farrell, with a character cautioning that the lift should be preferred by late-night visitors after a heavy meal: “Don’t try the marble staircase—it’s winding and slippery at the edge.”

David Lloyd George Room

The largest of the Club's function rooms, the David Lloyd George Room can seat up to 140 people. Originally designed as the Club's Grill Room, it still has two enormous original Victorian grill mountings, which gives it much of its character, and is decorated throughout with Alfred Waterhouse's distinctive tilework. Between 1930 and 1988, it also served as the Club bar. Due to the influence of the temperance reform movement in the 19th century Liberal Party, the club was originally designed in the 1880s without a dedicated bar - something that was finally put right in 1930. When the bar was relocated elsewhere in the club in 1988, the room was renamed in honour of Liberal Prime Minister David Lloyd George, who had lodged in the Club in the 1890s. Lloyd George also made extensive use of the Grill Room, including when he hosted a dinner there in 1905 to mark Winston Churchill's defection to the Liberal Party. A copy of Felix Weiss' 1935 bust of Lloyd George is to be found by the window. The Lloyd George Room hosts several of the Club's larger functions and is fully equipped with a wide variety of AV facilities (and a grand piano) and is available for private hire.

Lady Violet Room

The Lady Violet Room was named in honour of Lady Violet Bonham Carter (1887-1969). It has a highly unusual, distinctive, design with numerous angular cubby-holes, of the kind which give the National Liberal Club much of its unique character. The room’s decor celebrates the achievements of Liberal women; and as well as the main portrait of Lady Violet herself, it includes a portrait of another influential Liberal peer, Baroness Nancy Seear, and a 1988 centenary plaque for the Women’s Liberal Federation. Lady Violet was a lifelong Liberal campaigner, and the daughter of H. H. Asquith. In an age when there were few women politicians, Lady Violet was a determined, uncompromising, outspoken figure, and later in life she came to be regarded as a feminist icon. She lived in Downing Street for over a decade while her father was Chancellor and then Prime Minister, and after an early infatuation with her lifelong friend Winston Churchill, Violet Asquith married Sir Maurice Bonham Carter. She became a renowned orator on Liberal election platforms, and variously served as President of the Women’s Liberal Federation, President of the Liberal Party, a Governor of the BBC, and a Governor of the Old Vic Theatre. She unsuccessfully stood for Parliament twice, including a narrow defeat in Colne Valley in 1951, and she eventually entered the House of Lords in 1964, as Baroness Bonham Carter of Yarnbury.

Smoking Room

One of the most dramatic rooms in the club, the Smoking Room is not only gorgeous to contemplate, but remarkably versatile. Alfred Waterhouse's supremely elegant room, framed by its tile columns, has two large, adaptable spaces at either end, one of which can accommodate bridge tables or be turned into a dancefloor. Bookcases separate the sides into alcoves where members can speak among themselves or doze quietly when the Club is not too busy. Well-stocked with periodicals, and lined with historic portraits, the NLC's Smoking Room is surely the room Charles Kennedy had in mind when the late Liberal Democrat leader called the Club “an oasis of calm in the heart of Westminster”. Full afternoon tea is served here from 3:30pm to 5:30pm, along with other drinks and refreshments throughout the day.

The Bar

The heart of any club’s social life is its bar, and the NLC is no exception. Despite the grand dimensions of the main club rooms, the bar provides a cosy, intimate space for members to meet, facing one of the most dramatic views in London, overlooking the Thames and the London Eye. The bar offers a varied selection of drinks, including a wine list hand-picked by our Wine Committee, and an innovative selection of cocktails by our award-winning barman, who was once praised by former US President George Bush Sr as making “The best martinis in the world”. Additionally, members may order a variety of snacks and inexpensive meals from the bar menu, which can also be enjoyed al fresco on the terrace.

Terrace

The jewel in the Club’s crown, especially in high summer, is surely its terrace. Unique in clubland, the NLC Terrace overlooks Embankment Gardens and the River Thames. Shaded by enormous plane trees, which not only provide welcome shade but also reduce the traffic noise, the Terrace is large enough to seat nearly 100 people while allowing smokers to indulge their habit (or smoke one of the fine cigars on sale at the bar) at opposite ends without annoying others. Food and drink are served here all day, making it a tempting place to linger for several hours on a warm afternoon or evening. Every NewYear’s Eve, the Terrace comes into its own once more, as jolly, well-fed members and guests gather at midnight to admire the annual firework display and wish one another well before moving back inside to dance into the small hours.

Dining Room

Blessed with a sumptuous view of the river Thames and the London Eye, lined with portraits of John Bright, Richard Cobden, William Ewart Gladstone and William Vernon Harcourt, and carefully watched over by a vast statue of Gladstone, the Dining Room provides an unforgettable dining experience, tended to by our professional team of staff. The menu blends traditional, signature club dishes such as Dover sole and Châteaubriand Vert Pré with innovative contemporary cuisine. Members and guests alike have found that lunching and dining in the National Liberal Club provides a memorable and enjoyable experience.

Lawrence Robson Room

The Lawrence Robson Room is named in honour of Sir Lawrence Robson (1904-1982), an accountant and Liberal politician, who saved the club from closure during a particularly difficult period in the 1970s. Sir Lawrence was a founder of the accountancy firm Robson Rhodes (which subsequently merged into the present-day Grant Thornton), was a former President of the Liberal Party, and unsuccessfully stood for Parliament twice. Works of art on display in the room include an oil portrait of Liberal Leader Sir Archibald Sinclair – a close friend and ally of Winston Churchill who served in his wartime Cabinet as Air Minister – and a pencil sketch of Prime Minister Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman.

Snooker Room

The National Liberal Club has a distinguished history in snooker, having hosted the first series of the BBC TV programme Pot Black, which first brought the game into public consciousness. Today’s Snooker Room is much smaller, and includes a notorious “tricky corner”, requiring the use of a shortened cue to negotiate an encroaching piece of wall. This gives the NLC team a slender home advantage that may account for its excellent record in the annual Inter-club tournament. Players of all standards are welcome, while those more competitively inclined may join in the club ladder as well as an annual knockout event.

Business Room

On the lower ground floor, the business room allows members to work at the club. PC’s and a printer are provided with broadband access for email communications and desk space and wifi for those with laptops.

Library

As well as general reference works available to members in the Smoking Room, the National Liberal Club is home to London’s only specialist library on Liberal history, politics, biography and philosophy, including books, pamphlets and theses on the British Liberal tradition. Members may access the library at any time during the club’s opening hours by signing in for the keys from the front desk. Queries about the library – including requests from non-members to view material – should be directed to the club’s Librarian, Dr. Seth Thévoz, at seth@cantab.net.
Hallway
Grand Staircase
David Lloyd George Room
Lady Violet Room
Smoking Room
The Bar
Terrace
Dining Room
Lawrence Robson Room
Snooker Room
Business Room
Library

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