Imagine the Natural History Museum, only grander, more elegant and more intimate. Designed by the same architect but for a very different purpose, the National Liberal Club was created as a place for people to relax, unwind and socialise – not just some of the world’s most eminent statesmen but also others from different backgrounds and ethnicities who were embraced by Britain’s 19th-century liberal culture just as they are today. From the moment you walk through the revolving doors into the high-ceilinged hall, with its spectacular staircase immediately in front of you, you feel yourself simultaneously transported into history yet connected to the best of contemporary multicultural London.
Make your way up Europe’s largest unsupported marble staircase, spiralling towards an ornate stained-glass ceiling. When you reach the landing, you can turn left into the Club’s magnificent dining room, the perfect space for wedding breakfasts, receptions and family gatherings – complete with tall Corinthian pillars and impressive views through the huge windows towards the Thames. Or turn right and make your way to the Smoking Room, the largest room in the building, framed by more glazed pillars with cosy alcoves with bookcases and fireplaces at each end – the ideal location for elegant wedding ceremonies by day and entertainment and dancing at night.
You will understand why film-makers have used these rooms as backdrops for many of notable feature films of the 20th century and more recently, episodes of Downton Abbey and The Crown.