Murray’s Cabaret Club

Christine Keeler, who died earlier this month worked as a topless showgirl at Murray’s Cabaret Club in London’s Soho. She needs no introduction but who was Murray?

Percival “Pops” Murray ran a café in Le Zoute, Belgium. In 1924 he had a club in Ostend, and by the late 1920s, he ran the popular Merry Grill in Brussels, a fabulous place specially designed and built for glamourous floor shows. During this time, he was connected with the Cabaret Club on Noel Street in London’s Soho. He opened Murray’s Cabaret Club in 1933. I’m unsure of the relationship between this club and Murray’s Night Club, which opened in 1913 — more research is needed.

Murray was of the opinion that a floor show with lovely girls is an essential part of the nightclub atmosphere. To avoid being caught by strict licensing laws which prohibited drinking after 11 pm, it was run on the “bottle party system”. Clients became “invitation holders” and signed a chit to enable them to drink spirits that they had previously “ordered” but not paid for.

During the war, the venue became an “officers only” establishment.

Murray's Cabaret Club, Beak Steet, London
Murray’s Cabaret Club — a couple of images from souvenir programmes.

David Murray

Percival Murray’s son, David (1922-2004) became catering manager for the club and, together with MP, Bill Sheppard, conducted a successful campaign to persuade the government to introduce new provisions to allow nightclubs to remain open after 11 pm. David then set about improving the club.

By the 1950s the club had a total staff of 130, including 65 showgirls and understudies. There was a charm school to train new recruits, costume designers, seamstresses, orchestrators, choreographers and a host of others as well as everything and everyone required to give the public a great night out. Professional dancing partners were available for unaccompanied members and their guests.

Murray's Cabaret Club in London promotional foldout
Percival Murray presents London’s loveliest show: Les Femmes du Monde, promotional foldout.

David was the brain behind the huge and complex acoustic and lighting systems used at the club. A set up so advanced and novel that not even the largest theatres in the West End had one remotely similar. He eventually took over as general manager and ran the club at the time of the Profumo scandal. As a personal friend of Stephen Ward, he often spent weekends at Ward’s cottage at Cliveden, where Christine Keeler was introduced to John Profumo. He continued to run the club until 1967 when he fell out with his father over proposals to introduce a gambling floor.

Murray's Cabaret Club in London.
Flyer from the world-famous Murray’s Cabaret Club, where Christine Keeler worked.

During the war, David Murray was a member of the Special Investigations Branch and then to SOE (I wonder if he knew Leo Marks who wrote the film Peeping Tom). He made several visits to occupied France to hand over ammunition to members of the Resistance, and to rescue RAF men who had evaded capture.

The club, known as London’s Oldest Luxury Club, closed in 1975.

David Murray ended up breeding rabbits for scientific research.
His father died in 1981.



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