For more than forty years, the name Almack's was erased
from the London landscape. But in 1904, it surfaced again,
albeit in less flamboyant guise. With Sir Hugh Houghton
Stewart, Bt, as its secretary, Almack's established itself
as arguably London's most fashionable bridge club. For twenty
four years, until 1928, it was comfortably housed, initially
at 20, Berkeley Street, then, briefly, at 54, Grosvenor
Street, and, for seven years, at 1, Hyde Park Place. It
then suffered an unsettled period, closing for a year, before
re-opening at 19, Upper Grosvenor Street.
By the beginning of 1934, it had - according to one contemporary
newspaper report - secured its future by merging with the
Kenmar Club, thereby creating a "flourishing concern
with a membership of 600". The report added that Almack's
premises, 1, Great Stanhope Street, had formerly been occupied
by the Duke of Manchester, and were "handsome and spacious".
Nevertheless, this account concluded, the amalgamated clubs
were soon likely to acquire new buildings, "with the
added amenities of a swimming pool and a squash rackets
Perhaps this was why, by the end of the year, Almack's
was negotiating for the lease of another house in Great
Stanhope Street. Despite its promising address, the property's
previous owner was a man of distinctly equivocal reputation:
Clarence Hatry, a financier sentenced to fourteen years'
During his four years at No 5, Hatry spent £70,000
on the house. His improvements were of questionable, though
indisputably exuberant, taste, as a contemporary newspaper
report recorded: "He installed - among other luxurious
things - a swimming bath on the principal bedroom floor,
and a stone-floored Tudor-style cocktail bar in the sub-basement."
Until his imprisonment, Hatry swam in the pool every morning,
throughout the year. (Released after serving nine years'
hard labour, Hatry abandoned finance to try his hand, successively,
at writing, publishing and the coffee bar trade. He died,
aged 76, in 1965). In the event, it seems that Almack's
found Hatry's style resistible. In 1936, it moved, for the
last time, paying an annual rent of £3,000 for the
lease of a house in Savile Row, where its members played
Bridge and poker for high stakes. That year, its secretary
was obliged to appear before Bow Street magistrates, for
allowing alcoholic drinks to be brought into the club from
one of its neighbours, the Albany Club, and for supplying
the Albany with three "automatic gaming machines".
The prosecution acknowledged that both clubs were "bona
fide and respectably conducted"; the defence, reported
the Daily Telegraph, said that Almack's was "beautifully
furnished", that its members included nine international
Bridge players, and pointed out that the club secretary
had been ill at the time of the offences. "The mistake
had been made of thinking to keep within the licensing laws
by making members of Almack's Club honorary members of the
It was to no avail: Almack's was fined £25, with
£21 costs. It was a minor blow; the post-War years
proved more of a challenge, just as they did to many of
London'ssmaller clubs, which variously suffered amalgamation
- sometimes, repeatedly so - or closed forever. Almack's
was more durable than most but, eventually, it, too, admitted
defeat, closing late in 1963.