For years the famous male-only Garrick private members club has batted away calls to allow women to join – and has relied on a top lawyer’s opinion on an obscure piece of law to justify its stance.
But now that same barrister has reportedly changed his mind – potentially opening the doors to the first women members since the London club opened by the Duke of Sussex in 1831.
The volte-face by Michael Beloff KC reopened a fresh row among Garrick members who disagree about whether to let women in.
With members including Stephen Fry and Benedict Cumberbatch and a waiting list of ten years, membership of the club is one of the most sought after in London. Joanna Lumley unsuccessfully applied to join in 2011, and Emily Bendell, who owns a lingerie brand has campaigned for female membership.
Many of the club’s 1,300 members have been pushing to allow women in and now believe they have secured the upper-hand.
The Garrick private members club has long batted away calls to allow women to join
Many of the club’s 1,300 members have been pushing to allow women in and now believe they have secured the upper-hand
Previously, Mr Beloff told the club’s hierarchy that the Law of Property Act 1925 excluded female membership. He said in 2011 that this was because the law states ‘no candidate shall be eligible unless he (ITALICS) be proposed by one member and seconded by another’.
But last week he informed the club that he had changed his stance and warned the club’s committee if they continue to ban female members it is ‘likely to provoke an expensive lawsuit’.
Mr Beloff reportedly told senior members: ‘There is no legal obstacle to the proposal of a woman for membership of the club by one member, seconded by another.’
The lawyer’s change of heart was revealed in an email sent to former conservative MP Lord Tyrie by Garrick members who have been campaigning to change the rules.
But the letter reportedly angered Christopher Kirker, who chairs the Garrick’s general committee, who said the committee was ‘unanimous in its decision not to adopt Mr Beloff’s latest opinion’ and that any debate on club rules should wait until next year’s annual general meeting.
The club in the West End is named after the 18th-century actor David Garrick and is popular with thespians, writers and politicians. It was founded by Augustus Frederick, Duke of Sussex and brother of George IV, in 1831.