So, Are We The '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 has been made by the Club Committee to open its membership to the ladies. 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 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 new members, using club more for their business meetings and seeing it as a nuisance - not being able to bring along their wives and female business partners.
The Club's renovation has finished with the Club's closure, so the idea of women becoming its members never quite came to life. Not until the Eccentric Club UK was re-launched in 2008.
However, there are stories from the past of the 'ladies days' when women were coming as guests of the Club's events, there are also stories of those women, who, in utmost secrecy, we allowed to see the male bastion from the inside - as a rule, they were relatives of the Club 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 had been seen on more than one occasion at the Eccentric Club, obviously, dressed as a gentleman.
Vesta was married to Sir Walter de Frece, one of the most active members of the Club, and was later styled as Lady de Frece. But she was also known as 'Burlington Bertie', one of the characters from her repertoire.
Hear 'Matchless Tilley' singing in the early 1900s here.
Read more about her here.