The First Class Smoking Room
The Smoking Room, located off the Aft Grand
Staircase on 'A' Deck, for first class passengers has been
depicted in books and films about the Titanic as being the
meeting place for the rich and powerful to socialise and
relax. Indeed, it was designed to be a place for the wealthy
gentlemen to congregate after dinner and to read and play
cards. To get an idea of the atmosphere in Olympic's Smoking
Room in her early years, I would thoroughly recommend George
Behe's excellent article 'Fate Deals a Hand' in the Fall 1982
edition of the Titanic Commutator. It was the latest opening
public room on Olympic or Titanic, with lights out at
midnight, half an hour later than the First Class Lounge, the
Second Class Smoking Room and a whole ninety minutes after
third class passengers were required to turn-in to their
Therefore, on 14 April 1912 the equivalent
room on Titanic was still open and being used at the time she
struck the iceberg at 11.40pm and remained in use with a card
game involving Major Archie Butt continuing while the
lifeboats were being loaded on the deck above. The Smoking
Room was also the place where Harland & Wolff director and
widely acknowledged hero of the Titanic story Thomas Andrews
was last seen at about 2.10am, only a few minutes before the
As has often been referred to by a number of sources, the Smoking Room was designed to emulate the feel of a Pall Mall gentleman's club and appropriately, was the only room on the ship to be heated by real open coal fire.
The elegant setting of Olympic's Smoking
Room was described by the Shipbuilder as:
"...without doubt the finest apartment of its kind on the ocean. ...The style is a free adaptation of early Georgian of about 1720 A.D., and is based up on the decorations pertaining in various old English houses of that period. The walls are panelled with the finest mahogany, but the characteristic carving of the Georgian style has largely been replaced by inlaid work in mother-of-pearl... Light enters the room, tempered and softened, through large painted windows of remarkable size and beauty, upon which are depicted landscapes, ancient ships, and other subjects"
This stunningly beautiful room would have made an ideal candidate for full preservation following the decision to scrap the Olympic in 1935.
The auction catalogue described the fixtures thus:
"THE FINELY CARVED MAHOGANY PANELLING to room, with supporting pillars, and floral and scroll ornamentation and egg and tongue mouldings, inlaid mother-o’-pearl in scroll and floral designs as fixed throughout, having numerous leaded glass panels and windows, with scenic and figure panels, forming four bay windows, with leaded panels over, two side-screens with plate-glass panels, a three-sided screen, enclosing cloak room, chimney breast, with oil painting in panel over fireplace—”New York Harbour,” by NORMAN WILKINSON, 31 in. by 68 in., the whole fitted two doors with plate-glass panels to aft companionway, two panelled doors to lavatories, door-frame to starboard verandah café, folding revolving door to port verandah café with brass and glazed panels on café side, the doors having plate-glass upper panels including the ormolu and brass door fittings complete, the floor springs to doors, the ormolu bell-presses and the pierced brass pipe coverings where fitted at floor level, also the moulded and painted panelled ceilings to bays, and the main ceiling in three sections, with raised mouldings, the reeded mahogany carvings to uprights and the mahogany carvings on ceiling, size of room: 64 ft. by 62 ft. 6 overall by 11 ft. 6 high."
Sadly, however, the room did not have a
single buyer and went to at least three different locations.
This page details what artefacts are known to remain of
the ‘Reform Club on the high seas’.
section of the Smoking Room's inlaid mother o' pearl
panelling and a window is at an undisclosed location in
The owners of the property are elderly people and have requested the location of their house be kept private. If you are interested in making an offer for the purchase of this panelling, please get in touch and I will refer you to the relevant people.
In June 2010, Anderson & Garland
auctioned the mirror section of an alcove divider from the
smoking room. This was an extremely rare find!
There were only two items like this in the smoking room and it can be seen in the archival photo on the intact Olympic at the top of this page,
it can be seen where it was positioned on the starboard side of the smoking room. There was an identical divider on the port side.
The photographs below are of the divider
today, courtesy of Jonathan Quayle of the Purser’s
The carving of fruit and ribbon is similar to that found in the Grand Staircase.
‘Approach to the New World: New York Harbour’ by Norman Wilkinson
This oil painting by renowned maritime
artist Sir Norman Wilkinson (1878-1971), made famous by its
inclusion in the 1958 film adaption of A Night to Remember as
Thomas Andrews looks at it ruefully above the fireplace. This
was inaccurate as Wilkinson painted a different scene of
Plymouth Harbour for Titanic. This painting was recreated for
James Cameron's film in 1996 by Wilkinson's son Rodney using
surviving sketches and notes created by his father.
The ceiling of the Smoking Room was purchased separately from the panelling and was installed in the canteen of the paint factory’s canteen. The circles with star points were one of the most recognisable designs on the Olympic and hinted at the Edwardian high society that once passed below it.
Here are some
photos of the ceiling in use at the paint factory in the
1990s. The first photo shows the sections of the ceiling
that would have enclosed the alcove divider the mirror shown
above is from.
When the factory was stripped of its
Olympic fittings in 2004, each of the star patterns was taken
from the ceiling and sold individually.
Photo courtesy of Ray Cowell.
Ceiling Light Fittings