These days, when people talk about secret Melbourne they’re likely refering to the multitude of hidden local venues that abound in the city. These thinly veiled ‘secrets’ have their novelty but it’s hard to escape the obvious marketing strategy behind them. In an entirely different category, there exists a much older, more genuinely secret, secret Melbourne.
Exclusive, members only clubs have been a feature of Melbourne from the very beginning. The Melbourne Club, the most exclusive of all, held its first meeting in 1837 in the home of John Pascoe Fawkner. That’s just two years after the city was founded in the home of one of its founders. Among the ranks you will find politicians, important businessmen; a veritable who’s who in Australia. In fact one third of its 1500 odd members actually feature in the biograhical reference, ‘Who’s Who in Australia.’ It’s fair to assume many a government has been toppled from within its walls, many a business and business man been made.
Secrecy and exclusivity still prevail at the Melbourne Club, the nearby Athenaeum, the womens only Lyceum and Alexandra. You’ve probably walked past the clubs on Collins Street, where they blend in among the city’s oldest and most beautiful architecture. If you’ve accidentally entered one you were likely met by cagey security who quickly sent you on your way. Typically, guests enjoy excellent facilities, well built and well maintained. The clubs all boast excellent dining and drinking facilities, meeting rooms, function rooms, reading and smoking rooms.
Behind these closed doors, a certain old world order prevails. Rituals endure and while some lament the parochial nature, the sexism… it is hard to resist the centuries of tradition and intrigue.
If you want to know more, join us on our ‘Collins Street Twilight Tour.’ It’s a journey along Australia’s most beautiful and well loved street. Hear all about the fashion, theatre, history and so much gold that came to define the city on a one and a half hour tour. Tuesdays, 8pm from the Old Treasury Building, $30 per person – bookings are neccesary and places are limited.