The first Round Table was formed in Norwich, England in 1927, and the club is still going strong.The founder, Louis Marchesi, was a young member of Norwich Rotary Club who felt there was a need for a club aimed more at the younger businessmen of the town. His vision was for them to exchange ideas, learn from the experiences of their colleagues, and together contribute to the civic life of the town. In the following 12 months, interest was so high that the club attracted 85 members, and people around the country were starting to show an interest in establishing other clubs. From the beginning, the Round Table was a non-religious, non-political, and non-sectarian club, an ethos that still underpins the movement today.
The second Round Table club opened soon after in Portsmouth and then the idea really took off — by the time the Second World War broke out in 1939 there were 125 clubs and 4,600 members.The first overseas group was formed in Copenhagen in 1936, and while the movement continued to grow in Denmark, the war years halted British expansion for a while. The existing clubs held strong, however, and when the war was over the momentum grew once again as clubs were chartered all over Britain. Today there are 600 local clubs, with a combined membership of close to 8,000.
The Round Table is now a truly international movement, with active members in most European countries, as well as Africa, the Middle East, India, Hong Kong, New Zealand, and the USA. In fact, there are Round Table clubs on every continent Although the Round Table is based on a table that hangs in the Great Hall at Winchester, which is a medieval reproduction of King Arthur’s Round Table, the name of the Round Table does not owe its heritage to the mythical ruler.
In fact, the name comes from a speech that the then Prince of Wales made in 1927 to the British Industries Fair, when he said: “The young business and professional men of this country must get together round the table, adopt methods that have proved so sound in the past, adapt them to the changing needs of the times and wherever possible, improve them”. This speech inspired the fledgling movement’s name, and also provided its maxim: adopt, adapt, improve – principles that remain at the heart of the modern movement.