The Madras Club, founded in 1832, is the second oldest surviving club in India after
the Bengal Club, Calcutta. It has had three homes including its present one, the
The first meeting of the Club was held in February, 1832 with Sir Robert Comyn,
the Chief Justice in the Chair. Plans for acquisition of premises were presented
at this meeting and a Club House was purchased just before the opening date of 15.05.1832,
in a Garden House, comprising 7 Acres, just off Mount Road between Whites Road and
General Patters Road. The premises were purchased from Mr. Webster for Rs.30,000/-
and forms the core of what is today called the "Express Estate", (now converted
to the "Express Avenue" mall) abutting Club House Road. Sir Henry Chamier, the Chief
Secretary, was the first President of the Club.
By 1862, the membership had grown to around 3000 and a need was felt for greater
space. This led to the acquisition of a 4 acre property from Waller in 1852 and
the lease of a 5 acre property from Col. Patullo, in 1898. These were the heydays
of the Club and it soon became known as the Ace of Clubs, comparing favourably with
the legendary Melbourne Club, Australia.
During this period the Club played host to grand balls including one in honour of
the Duke of Edinburgh in 1870, another for the Prince of Wales, (who later became
King Edward VI) in 1875, for the Prince of Wales (Later King George V) in 1905,
for the Duke of Connaught in 1921 and for the Prince of Wales (Later King Edward
VIII) in 1922. On these occasions, ladies were allowed into the all-male, well protected
precincts of the Club.
Since considerable expenses were required for maintenance as well as renovation
of the Club, the Club moved into its second home at Branson Bagh opposite to the
Church Park School, which belonged to the Raja of Bobbili. After renovation, it
was ready to receive its members from April 1948.
Less than 10 years after it moved into its second home, the financial position of
the Club was causing serious concern to its members. An increase in subscription
was inevitable, but most members felt that they could not afford subscription to
two major clubs, the other club being the Adyar Club, founded in 1890.
A proposal was mooted to merge both the clubs and after protracted discussions lasting
over seven years, the merger was finally effected in 1963. The Madras Club sold
its second home, Branson Bagh, and moved into its present location at Mowbrays Cupola
along with a part of Mowbrays Garden, comprising 12.7 acres purchased from the Archdiocese
of Mylapore, Madras, forming part of an extent of 105 acres which had been taken
on lease by the Adyar Club.
Mowbrays Cupola was built sometime before 1792 by George Mowbrays, a respected businessman
who later became the Sheriff and Mayor of Madras. He returned to England after his
retirement in 1792 and the entirety of Mowbrays Gardens comprising 105 acres was
acquired by Mr. John D’Monte, who died without any heirs, bequeathing his property
to the Archdiocese of Mylapore, Madras.
The club has achieved a blend between a family club and one where privacy is available,
and where serious business may also be addressed. Being run in a democratically
elected and broad based electoral system, the Club has a wonderful mechanism by
which it is run with the members’ interests uppermost. The Club has excellent dining
and entertainment facilities, extensive car parking area for 150 cars, 14 residential
rooms, an excellent library, two restaurants, a bakery, five tennis courts, the
best swimming pool in town, a gymnasium, a walking track, and of course it is located
on the Adyar River.
The Madras Club has retained its old world charm while at the same time offering
modern comfort and facilities to its members.