Clubs of Madras

Madras has its share of old and prestigious clubs, and the newbie ones too. Becoming a member of a club means that you are allowed into a elite group, with exclusive priveleges, and is supposed to show one’s standing in the society. These clubs offer facilities for sports like Golf, Snooker, Swimming, Tennis and so on. Not to mention the snobbish bores you would meet in the evenings. Let me rank the Madras clubs on their snob value.

The Madras Club : Founded in 1832. The club is located in what was formerly Mr. Mowbray’s House (hence the name Mowbrays Road to what is now TTK Road) in Boat Club Road. This is the club’s third address since the time of founding. It was earlier in the You can become a member by invitation only, and invitations are sparse. Pretty High Snob value. Most people confuse it with the Madras Boat Club. No, this club is situated before that on the Boat Club Road, with a small plaque on the compound wall stating simply “The Madras Club”. More foreigners who come to Chennai seem to have visited this club than Indians I have spoken to. Irony is that the foreigners don’t think much about it. A sample review is here. The bar here is the best in the city, people say. Ofcourse, I will never find out whether it is true or not.

Madras Gymkhana Club: Founded in 1895. Located at the starting of Mount Road / Anna Salai. The Address is No.1, Anna Salai. The library in this club is supposed to be one of the best in the city. Again, I don’t know of this personally.

Madras Cricket Club: Founded in 1846 by Sir Alexander J Arbuthot. For the first twenty years it operated out of Island Grounds before moving to the present Chepauk Ground. Has the best facilities for sports in the city.

Madras Race Club: Founded in 1896. The race course had been formed way back in 1777. I have gone here as a guest, and can say that thier bar is good. They let you bring in your own liquor too, but you have to pay corkage fees (basically fees to bring your own liquor). I am glad to report that despite the club’s snob value, the club members were looking with envy at our prize bottle of Absolut.

Cosmopolitan Club: Founded in 1873. Since the above mentioned clubs were strictly European Clubs in 19th century, the local elite wanted to have a club of their own. Thus was formed the Cosmopolitan Club. Located in Mount Road. But this was not formed as a rebellious club, rather a Indian copy of The Madras Club. Presently one of the popular clubs in the city.

Presidency Club:An offshoot of Cosmopolitan Club. Founded in 1929, for “real clubbable people”, “free from prejudice”. What you can infer from the founding principles is that Indians who found Cosmopolitan Club very snobbish and found it difficult to enter, formed their own club. It is situated opposite to Ethiraj College in Egmore. Have been here again as a guest and have to say that the food is average, but please don’t sit in the lawn during monsoons. The mosquitoes eat you alive.

3 Comments so far

  1. Kaps (unregistered) on July 29th, 2006 @ 5:35 pm

    Good compilation. I think MCC was founded by Arbuthnot (typo). Any idea about the entry fees for some of these clubs?

    Have been to Cosmopolitan Club as a guest and the aura continues to remind one of the British Era. I think these clubs of repute are viewed as a place for the people who are 40+ and 50+.

  2. G V Balasubramanian (unregistered) on July 29th, 2006 @ 10:59 pm

    Good compilation on the Clubs at Chennai. I remember an incident about Madras Club. While I was serving in Delhi, one of the director of the company threw a party to the outgoing and incoming Chairmen. Two of my colleagues were invited for the dinner. They did not know the dress protocol of the club. Both were dressed in Safari. They were asked to come in suit. One had a suit, went home and came in suit. The other colleague went to another friend’s house , borrowed his wedding suit and attended the dinner.

    Another incident, when the Alumni of ACTECH 1976 batch met in Gymkhana Club, a class mate came in a collarless shirt. He was denied admission. He went to one of the shops in Anna Salai, purchased a formal shirt and came with that shirt.

    Chenthilnathan, there is an exclusive club for the Alumni of Anna University (Constituent colleges CEG, ACTech, MIT and School of Architecture) located next to Boat Club.

  3. Nancy (unregistered) on July 31st, 2006 @ 1:19 pm

    The bar at Madras Club is quite nice, though not as nice as the five-star bars; it’s cozy. They’ve relaxed some of their stodgy rules over the years to try to attract younger, more active members. (Not a member, but have been a guest there many times) I think it would be comparable to the bar at MCC, though that is certainly livelier.

    At the opposite end of the spectrum, how about the Royal Madras Yacht Club? an old club, but down at heels at the moment. But good for people who like to sail.

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