Buildings steeped in aristocratic British heritage
AN INTRODUCTION TO LES AMBASSADEURS
Les Ambassadeurs Club, or “Les A” as it is fondly referred to by its members, has been welcoming aristocracy, diplomats and famous names since the early 19th Century. Once owned by the Conyngham family and Leopold de Rothschild, son of Baron Lionel de Rothschild, the club was re-opened in 1991 and once again established itself as a major landmark in the architectural heritage and social life of the Mayfair and London scene, and as one of the most exclusive and sought after casino memberships.
The 4th Earl of Buckinghamshire, Robert Hobart, a politician and Colonial Administrator, was the first to live at No. 5 Hamilton Place from 1812 to 1816. He was followed by three generations of an even grander aristocratic family: the Conynghams. The 1st Marquess Conyngham entirely owed his whole rank and station in life to his wife’s close personal friendship with the Prince Regent, later George IV, who undoubtedly visited No. 5 Hamilton Place. When the Regent succeeded to the throne in 1820, the Conynghams’ importance greatly increased. The King heaped presents on Elizabeth and even permitted her to wear a number of the Crown Jewels in public. The house remained in the family until 1878, when the 3rd Marquess Conyngham sold No. 5, ending the family’s 60-year association with Hamilton Place.
The following year Leopold de Rothschild bought the house to use as his London residence marking a new chapter in the history of No. 5. Leopold de Rothschild, son of Baron Lionel de Rothschild, was a city banker whose efforts in the banking house in London’s New Court served to support him in a very grand style. With Leopold’s arrival, Hamilton Place became known as ‘Rothschild Row’ and was soon the centre of the Mayfair social scene. Rothschild drastically remodelled the mansion to suit his extravagant tastes. The overall style was heavily influenced by fin de siècle Louis XV with Renaissance flourishes.
In 1881, at the age of 35, Rothschild married Marie Perugia of Trieste at the Central Synagogue, Great Portland Street. Leopold died in 1917 and No. 5 Hamilton Place faded from the spotlight. His widow Marie lived on in the house until her death in 1930.
The next owners were Captain Leonard Frank Plugge, a businessman and Conservative politician, and his wife, Ann Muckleston, who purchased the house in 1934. Plugge lived at No. 5 Hamilton Place until 1950, when he sold the house to John Mills, a Polish man who had changed his name from Jean-Jean Millstein. He was allegedly the sole survivor of the Holocaust in the Polish town of Lodz.
For £40,000 Mills was able to secure the lease of Hamilton Place and there relocated Les Ambassadeurs, which, due to its extraordinary popularity with the “in set”, had outgrown the current location. Over the coming years Les Ambassadeurs was home to various ventures, including The Milroy Nightclub, The Garrison Club and Le Cercle, one of London’s first gaming clubs complete with French croupiers, Paris-made chips and correct kidney-shape tables. Le Cercle was something of an innovation and as such, when it opened in May 1961 (to members of Les Ambassadeurs only), it attracted the notice of The Times newspaper, which was most impressed by its “high standard of professionalism and sophistication”.
John Mills ran Les Ambassadeurs Club until 1981, when it was purchased by casino group London Clubs International (LCI) part of Caesars Entertainment Corporation and in 2006 by Bluestream Holdings Limited. Since the early 1990s, Les Ambassadeurs Club has established itself as one of the most exclusive casinos and sought after memberships in the world. Landing International Development Limited purchased the club in 2016 and sold it in 2017 to Mr Cho Hung Suen, who also owns Birmingham City Football marking the most recent phase in No. 5 Hamilton Place history.