The Athenaeum, Pall Mall
After a decade of improvements between 1895 and 1905 ‘had transformed the interior of the Athenaeum into a more opulent and archaeologically inspired sequence of spaces’ Humphrey Ward in his centennial History of the Athenaeum, published in 1926, wrote ‘Before, everything was so quiet as to be almost dull; after our artists had finished, the eye could rest with satisfaction upon a fine colour scheme which seemed to complete in a natural way the dignified lines of Burton’s architectural work’.9


It seems that there are two examples of Karystian cipollino at the Athenaeum in Pall Mall, on the outside of the building and inside. First there are panels along the outside of the wall or balustrade facing Pall Mall and Waterlow Place which give the appearance of ancient cipollino, presumably due to their weathering over the years. There is a reference to the ‘decision to replace the balustrade and its completion during August 1894’ which would indicate that they were all part of the redecoration of the building during the late 19th century and early 20th century. Brindley had advised green Irish marble for the balustrade and Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema (one of the artists responsible for the new interior design for the building) had supported this view, on the grounds that it would retain its polish in London. As the outside marble is much weathered, and in a recognisably cipollino manner, it would seem likely that the final decision was to use cipollino. This view is supported by Sarah Dodgson, the Librarian of the Athenaeum in 2000, in her letter to Mr and Mrs Jarrold of 28 February 2000, when she writes, ‘I cannot find either specification in the archive to confirm that it was indeed Irish marble that was used. If no such Irish stone was available at the time, and it is clear from the surviving correspondence that there was very little time between the decision to replace the balustrade and its completion during August 1894, it may well be that cipollino was used instead. This would account for the decay noted by Professor Boucher in his footnote (no 45) although it would have to be exceptionally hard stone indeed to survive the pollution on that corner.’

On Pall Mall there are 10 panels measuring 1.58 m. wide and .45 m. in height. They are all made in two sections. Some are slightly chipped or cracked but the majority are whole (Plates 8.38A & 8.38B). On the side facing Waterlow Place, north of the entrance, there are two panels fitted into the curved corner which measure 1.23 m wide and .45 m. high and 4 more on the straight which measure 1.60 m wide and .45 m. high. South of the entrance there are a further four pieces which measure 1.68 in width and .45 m. in height. They are all in two matching sections.


In addition to these panels outside the building there are references in the Bruce Boucher article on the Athenaeum from the October 1999 edition of the magazine, Apollo, to cipollino which was supplied by Farmer and Brindley for the entrance and lower hall (‘a marble dado of green cipolin with the joinery painted a tawny yellow’) and also for the front hall (‘the front hall is dadoed with pavonazetto and other coloured marbles, the back with green cipollino’).10


The cipollino marble in the inside of the building is all in the entrance hall. On each side of the main staircase the walls are clad with cipollino, seemingly cut in the Rorschach pattern but with the two halves not matching in most cases. On the right hand side facing the staircase, to the left of the entrance leading to the lift there are six panels with a height of between 2.12 and 2.13 m. and a width of .57 m., .60 m., .52 m., .73 m., .74 m., and .70 m. (Plate 8.39). Under the stairs the eight panels start at the same height, becoming shorter as they reach the bottom of the stairs. They vary in width from .74 m., four at .83 m., one at .53 m., one at .43 m. and the shortest at .15 m. In the corner there is a small curved joining panel measuring .20 m. in diameter. On the other wall on the right hand side of the entrance there are four panels measuring 2.13 in height and .53 m., .60 m., .58 m., and .55 m. in width (Plate 8.40).


On the left hand side facing the main staircase thee are six panels which measure 2.11 m. in height and .67 m., .68 m., .70 m., 69 m., 69 m., and .70 m. in width. Here there is no curved join (Plate 8.41A). There is a smaller staircase on this side, leading to the lower floor and the three panels above this measure .54 m., .57 m., and .57 m. in width. Here it is possible to see the thickness of the cladding which is 1.5cm. and there is also another curved joining panel (Plate 8.41B). The panels continue as the smaller staircase descends and there are three more panels with a width of one at .70 m., and two at .73 m. (Plate 8.42). Under the main staircase on this side there are nine panels varying in width from .78 m. to .13 m. at the lowest part of the staircase.


Near the entrance, on each side of the wall there are narrow bands of cipollino in the dado which measure 3.51 m. by .04 m. (Plate 8.43).

9 Burton was the architect to the Athenaeum until 1864. The decoration sub-committee which was set up in 1890 consisted of Arthur Lucas, Edward Poynter and Alma-Tadema.
Bruce Boucher, Lawrence Alma-Tadema, Edward Poynter and the Redecoration of the Athenaeum Club, article on the Athenaeum from the 1999 edition of the magazine, Apollo, pp.21-23 and footnote 45.

10 Boucher, Bruce, p. 25 and footnote 23.

Maps and Plates

Plate 8.38 A.JPG

Plate 8.38A & 8.38B Cipollino panels inset into the balustrade of the Athenaeum, Pall Mall, London; and close up of panels.

Plate 8.38 B.JPG

Plate 8.38A & 8.38B Cipollino panels inset into the balustrade of the Athenaeum, Pall Mall, London; and close up of panels.

Plate 8.39.JPG

Plate 8.39 Six cipollino panels on right hand side of staircase, on the left hand side of the entrance leading to the lift, the Athenaeum, London.

Plate 8.40.JPG

Plate 8.40 Four cipollino panels on the right hand side of the entrance to the lift, the Athenaeum, London.

Plate 8.41 B.JPG

Plate 8.41A Six cipollino panels to the left of the staircase in the entrance to the Athenaeum, London.

Plate 8.41 B.JPG

Plate 8.41B Cipollino cladding above the smaller staircase on the left hand side of the entrance, Athenaeum, London.

Plate 8.42.JPG

Plate 8.42 Three cipollino panels on the left hand side of the entrance, the lower part of the smaller staircase, Athenaeum, London.

Plate 8.43.JPG

Plate 8.43 Narrow bands of cipollino on each side of the walls of the entrance hall, the Athenaeum, London.