Are We A 'Gentlemen-Only' Club?
Not anymore. It is true, the Eccentric Club was once a male bastion and some of the older members believed that it should stay that way. But the times change, and so do the people. In 1984 a decision was made by the Club Committee to open its membership to the ladies, too. After the renovation, when the Club will catch up with the 20th century realities and would be more of a businessmen's rather than a gentlemen's club...
There were objections, some believed that the Club will lose its unique spirit of the men-only fellowship, so much treasured for so many years. A gentleman needs, after all, a home away from home, a place of peace and quiet, where he can meditate, alone with his pipe, go through a newspaper over a cup of tea, or play a game of snooker with his friends... But the new times brought the new members, using the club more for their business meetings and seeing it as a nuisance - not being able to bring along their wives and female business partners.
Sadly, the Club renovation has finished with the Club's closure, so the idea of women becoming its full members never quite came to life. Not until the Eccentric Club was re-launched in 2008, and the new Committee decided to follow the decisions of its predecessors and fulfil their promise. The ladies ARE welcome now in our club as full members!
However, there are stories from the past of the 'ladies days' when women were coming as guests of the Club events, there are also stories of those women, who, in the utmost secrecy, we allowed to see the male bastion from the inside - as a rule, they were relatives of the prominent members.
But there was one particular woman who could have been considered a full member in the very early days of the Eccentric Club - she called herself Vesta Tilley and was 'one of the smartest gentlemen' you could see on stage. She was a famous male impersonator and a music hall singer, and the rumours were that she was seen on more than one occasion at the Eccentric Club, dressed as a gentleman.
Vesta was married to Sir Walter de Frece, a famous theatrical impresario of the time, a politician and one of the most active members of the Club, she was later styled as 'Lady de Frece'. But she was also known as 'Burlington Bertie', one of the characters from her repertoire.