For some years now the STA has been holding its annual dinner at the National Liberal Club – preferably when the Liberal Party’s MPs and supporters are off in another UK city attending their annual conference. You see, STA members and guests then have the place to ourselves. Genius! This year was also the STA’s 30th birthday so the date was set for the 30th (November) with a special discounted price of £30; and they came in droves.
At Whitehall Court (SW1A 2HE) on the corner of Victoria Embankment, according to English Heritage it was ‘hailed as the most imposing clubhouse in the British metropolis’ when it was completed in 1887. Founded by Liberal grandee and PM W E Gladstone it was the biggest of the gentlemen’s clubs (until the RAC popped up in 1910) and a ‘home for democracy, void of the class distinctions associated’ with the other ones. H G Wells added, ‘the Club is Liberalism made visible in the flesh – and Doultonware’, which you can see in the photo of the dining room.
And what a delight the venue is. It had the first lift in the capital and was first to be lit entirely with electricity. We all enjoy its magnificent terrace overlooking the Thames to the London Eye. Designed by Alfred Waterhouse, it’s an early example of the use of a steel frame and was requisitioned by Canadian Army officers in WWI.
After pre-dinner drinks in the library and seated at our tables, over 100 of us tucked into delicious food served by delightful waitresses, knowledgeable wine waiters, and a discreet Maître D’. Old hands, young and new members, guests and the speaker, all had plenty of time to catch up, meet and mingle. The STA Board were out in force – more of which later – and the atmosphere festive.
We will let the photos do the talking…