The club was founded in 1832, by Tory peers, MPs and gentlemen, as a place to coordinate party activity after the party’s defeat over the First Reform Act. It later played a major role in the transformation of the Tory party into its modern form as the Conservative Party. The club lost its role as a central party office with the widening of the franchise after the Reform Act 1867, but remained the principal venue for key political discussions between Conservative ministers, MPs and party managers.
The club was formed at the Thatched House Tavern in 1832 and its first premises were in Carlton Terrace (provided by Lord Kensington), from which it drew its name. These premises were quickly found too small. The second club house was situated next to the Reform Club in Pall Mall, London, and was purpose-built in 1835. It was replaced by a third club house on the same site in 1856.
The Caen stone used on the façade of the third building proved unsuitable in the London atmosphere and had to be completely replaced in 1923–1924
Bombing by the Luftwaffe, and move to current building
The club suffered a direct hit during the Blitz on 14 October 1940, No-one was killed in the explosion, although the entire building was destroyed. The Carlton at once moved to its current premises, at 69 St James’s Street, London, formerly the premises of Arthur’s Club, which had closed earlier in 1940. The current Georgian clubhouse is architecturally important (Grade 2* listed) and includes two elegant dining rooms, together with a collection of political portraits and paintings dating back to the 18th century, imported from ruins of the old club house and the former Junior Carlton Club. The current Carlton has not retained any of the furnishings belonging to the building when it was Arthur’s club, apart from the war memorial plaque in the entrance. The walls of the Disraeli and Macmillan rooms and their windows at the back of the club were part of the fabric of the original White’s Club building.