The Upper Norwood Athenaeum had its beginnings on 15 November 1875, when a group of young men met to found a club 'to improve their minds by discussions, impromptu speeches, recitations, readings, music etc', with weekly meetings during the winter. On 27 March 1877, it was decided that during the summer there should be rambles or visits to places of historical or archaeological interest, about which the member leading the ramble was required to prepare a paper. This established the Athenaeum of today.
These papers and the descriptive notes issued in their stead today, have since 1878 been published as the 'Record', an annual volume. Unfortunately the minutes of the pre-1907 period have not survived, but the 'Record' gives some indication of the Athenaeum's activities. These included annual dinners, which still continue today.
Ladies were not admitted as members until 1920, but have since played a prominent role in the society. Membership now (1986) stands at about 70.