Advertisement

Garrick Club inches closer to allowing women members after 180 years

The Garrick is renowned as a symbol of the central London gentlemen’s clubs
Notable members of the Garrick include Lord Neuberger, actors Hugh Bonneville and Stephen Fry, and Michael Gove - Geoff Pugh for The Telegraph

The majority of members of the exclusive Garrick Club want to allow women to join, a new poll has revealed.

The renowned central London club, which is currently men only, may have moved a step closer to admitting women after an internal poll came out in favour of the move.

In the poll, first reported by The Guardian, 51 per cent of members that took part indicated they were in favour of admitting women.

This was against 44 per cent of those that were against the idea, and four per cent that were undecided.

The Garrick is renowned as a symbol of the central London gentlemen’s clubs, and counts celebrities, actors, judges and politicians among its members. Notable members include Lord Neuberger, actors Hugh Bonneville and Stephen Fry, and Michael Gove, a cabinet minister.

Previous members included Charles Dickens and Laurence Olivier

It is one of just a handful of clubs that still do not permit women becoming members. These include White’s and the East India Company.

Despite the majority of men voting to back female membership in the most recent poll, there has been little movement in the number in support for the move in the last eight years.

Recent polling reveals that 51 per cent of members are in favour of the Garrick opening its doors to women
Recent polling reveals that 51 per cent of members are in favour of the Garrick opening its doors to women - Geoff Pugh for The Telegraph

In 2015, a similar poll saw 50.5 per cent of members vote to back the move. However, at the time 48 per cent were against the idea.

According to The Guardian, the club’s chair, Christopher Coker, emailed members with the polling result last Friday, writing: “This has been a most helpful exercise and the general committee is extremely grateful to you all for your response.

“Quite clearly you are all engaged with the club and you care about it a great deal.”

However, it was suggested how the club’s organising committee proposed to respond to the poll.

In 2011, actress Joanna Lumley attempted to become the first woman in the club’s 180-year history to join as a member.

However, at the time Michael Beloff KC gave a ruling that women could not be proposed for membership.

Earlier this year Mr Beloff revised that legal opinion, instead suggesting that women could now be permitted.

In comments first reported in The Times, Mr Beloff wrote that there was “now a cogent argument” that the Law of Property Act 1925 means “he” and “she” can be used interchangeably in contracts.

“If so, there is no legal obstacle to the proposal of a woman for membership of the club by one member, seconded by another; nor, if she obtains the support required under the rules, any legal obstacle to her admission as a member of the club.”

If it does begin accepting female members it will follow the move of Pratt’s, which earlier this year took the decision to begin admitting women after being strictly male-only since it was created in 1857.

However, some have suggested that it might take longer than expected to see a vote that could finally relent in its “men only” policy.

Speaking to The Guardian, Seth Alexander Thévoz, the author of Behind Closed Doors, a study of London clubs, said: “The younger members in historic clubs can be among the most traditionalist, joining because they want a sort of Victorian cosplay, whereas it’s often the older members who can be rather more liberal.”

Broaden your horizons with award-winning British journalism. Try The Telegraph free for 1 month, then enjoy 1 year for just $9 with our US-exclusive offer.