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Famous private members’ club to open first venue outside London

It launched in London’s Soho almost 40 years ago, and quickly became notorious for its celebrity clientele and “tales of naughtiness and excess”.

Now the renowned Groucho Club, one of London’s most famous private members’ clubs, has announced plans to expand – to a village near Wakefield.

Groucho Bretton is set to open in the Grade II listed Bretton Hall, in the grounds of Yorkshire Sculpture Park, and will be the first permanent venue outside the capital in the club’s history.

The venue, which will also have 40 bedrooms and be open to non-members, is set to open in 2026.

Ewan Venters, chief executive of Groucho owners Artfarm, described the move as “possibly the most exciting venture in the 39-year history of the Groucho”.

He continued: “We have done pop-ups at literary and music festivals in the past, but this will be the first time we have set up a permanent home outside of London’s Soho.

“Groucho Bretton will have a life of its own, separate from the original Groucho, but equally with a uniquely eclectic style and personality rooted in both people and place.”

A home for celebs – but some were turned away

The Groucho Club, one of London's most famous private members clubs, is opening a second venue on the outskirts of Wakefield. Pic: Courtney Lovejoy
Image: The original Groucho Club in London’s Soho opened in 1985. Pic: Courtney Lovejoy

The original Groucho Club opened on Dean Street in Soho on 5 May 1985 and by the 1990s, it had established itself as the go-to place “for the famous and infamous”, as the venue itself puts it.

But fame alone wasn’t enough to get you in.

“The membership committee quickly established itself as fearsome, fickle and notoriously difficult to impress,” the club’s history section states. “Even if you got through the gauntlet of membership, it didn’t always guarantee actually getting in to the club.”

Member Eric Clapton was once turned away as he wasn’t recognised – and even the Spice Girls at the height of their fame were unsuccessful.

Why Wakefield?

Bretton Hall previously housed an arts college before it closed in 2007, and has its own equally storied history.

Its heritage was the main draw for the new venue, Mr Venters said.

“Our plans will be respectful of these traditions while reinventing its appeal,” he said. “We want people to feel they are part of a family and a community, not just a members’ club.”

Artfarm and property developers Rushbond Group will work on the site in partnership with Wakefield Council, with the support of the Yorkshire Sculpture Park.

“The longstanding reputation of Bretton Hall as an innovative arts institution makes it the perfect place for Groucho to establish its unique offer outside London,” council leader Denise Jeffery said.

“I am very pleased that Bretton Hall will be entering a dynamic new phase of its history, enhancing our area’s reputation as a cultural centre.”

Sky News Source