The Drones Club – regular hangout of Bertie Wooster and friends and the site of many a shenanigan. But was it real? The short answer is no, but the long answer is much more interesting…
P.G. Wodehouse based the Drones Club on three real London clubs – the Bachelors’ Club, the Bath Club and the Buck’s Club. All were aimed at wealthy young gentlemen, and all were in Mayfair.
The first inspiration for the Drones was the Bachelors’ Club at 106 Piccadilly. As the name suggests, the club was only open to unmarried men, and the membership had a reputation for being young and rowdy. While it permanently closed in the 1940s, the building is still there, just under construction unfortunately. I only managed to get a pic of the original numbered lamp post.
Former site of the Bachelor’s Club, 106 Piccadilly, London W1J 7NL
The Bath Club was a sports club famous for its swimming pool and boxing ring, two things mirrored in the Drones. It was actually founded by one of Wodehouse’s uncles and located at 34 Dover Street – just down the street from the fictional Drones. Sadly, the original building was bombed in the Blitz, and although the club subsequently moved to different locations around Mayfair and St James, it closed for good in 1981.
However, the club thought to be closest to the Drones is the Buck’s Club, still going strong at 18 Clifford Street. Buck’s was founded in 1919 and quickly replaced the Bachelor’s as the go-to place for young wealthy men. Buck’s was famous for its American Bar, where the bartender, Mr. McGarry, invented the Buck’s Fizz and Sidecar cocktails. McGarry was at the Buck’s for over 20 years and earned the distinction of being named the Drones bartender. It was rare for Wodehouse to use someone’s real name, so the exception here is duly noted.
The Buck’s Club, 18 Clifford Street, London W1S 3RF
A little side note – the Drones Club gets its name from the drone bee. Quite the opposite of the female worker bee, drones don’t gather pollen or nectar, don’t nurse and don’t build the hive. They are pretty idle and are known to meet in drone congregation areas (I’ll let you wiki what exactly this is…) away from the hive. I’m assuming any similarities here to the Edwardian gentleman are entirely intentional!