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“Let’s go to the Kit-Kat Club!”

Does this sentence ring a bell? Yes, it was Miss Poppy who used to say it with enthusiasm in the series “You rang, M’lord?”, whenever the Kit-Kat Club was the solution for their aristocratic boredom. I was interested, whether this club exist or was a fictional club.

To my greatest surprise the original, or the first real Kit-Kat club had a different function than the one in the series and was established way earlier than the 1920s. The club used to be a political and literary club in the early 18th century and was committed to whig objectives (Whigs were against absolute monarchy). It held its meetings in London and in Water Oakley in Berkshire. The first meetings were held at a Tavern in Shire Lane, run by innkeeper Christopher Catt. Catt called his mutton-pies Kit-Cats, hence the name of the club. The club became famous with members like the architect Sir John Vanburgh, the Duke of Somerset or Sir Robert Walpoe (the first unofficial prime minister of Great-Britain.)

But what does it have to do with a night club in London in the 1920s? Apart from the name, nothing, really. The club Miss Poppy loved to visit, did exist. The Roaring Twenties were marked with the wealth of factory owners and their young families, whose products were needed and used during the war. For the young growing up, this decade brought out the wealthy bohemian aristocrats and new rich generally called as “The Bright Young Things”. They did their best to party as much as they could, because this generation was too young to fight in the Great War and felt guilty for not having fought and survived, or they just simply wanted to enjoy life, we do not know.

After the Great War, in 1921 the rules of serving alcohol were finally changed and drinks could be served until 1 o’clock in the morning, as long as it was served with a meal. As a result, night clubs and jazz clubs flourished.

The Kit-Kat club opened in the Haymarket Street, West End, London, in 1925 and became the centre of London’s night life. According to many, it was Europe’s most luxurious and expensive night club, attracting princes, ministers and of course London’s aristocracy as members. Its seated capacity was 1700 and the number of the members grew rapidly reaching 6000.

The club itself was 2 levels below the entrance level: this is where the ballroom, restaurant, American bar and the dance floor used to be. The balcony was a favorite meeting place for professionals, where the dress code did not apply. The ballroom was rectangular with high ceilings and lobbies. The colours of the interior design were ivory, gold and turquoise. The giant columns which were royal blue and gold and the lights of the dance floor were constantly changing: bright lilies, blue and orange light were illuminated from the ceiling. The club opened at ten o’clock in the evening, but the real party started at half past twelve, when the guests wanted to have fun after visiting the theater. At midnight, guests were entertained by singers, dancers and acrobats. I can see it with my eyes… it must have been similar to the world of the Great Gatsby… I can see the crowd, people dancing, glasses full of champagne chinking together, Charleston played by the band…

In December 1926, the club was closed for three months and fined because liqueurs were served outside of opening hours. There was no consistency in the club’s management and there was a fight going on for the manager position. In May 1927, it was announced that the club re-open as a restaurant, and finally in October, the Kit-Kat Club really opened with a new sparkling program. In the years to follow, the club was proud of many performers and artists and offered a variety of entertainment to its members. Despite all efforts the club’s financial situation deteriorated and it was closed in 1931. The Kit-Kat Club had been one of the most popular entertainment venues. Replacing the Kit-Kat Club was the Trocadero, simply called “Troc” which was popular in the West End, and the most expensive club was “The Embassy”, however they never managed to surpass the decadence of the Kit-Kat Club during it heyday.


This Post Has One Comment

  1. I am interested in an Arthur Johns who I believe was a manager of the Kit Kat club in the 1920’s London, he may have also gone as A Johns and my great uncle

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