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Secret Societies in Britain

Higher institutions of learning outside of America also have a history of creating secret societies (like the Skull & Bones society of Yale University). In this article, you will encounter information regarding two  British university social circles , The Pitt Club and 16′ Club.

The Pitt Club at Cambridge University

The Pitt Club (also known as the University Pitt Club) is an organization only open to male students that attend Cambridge University. In the past, the majority of the membership came from certain private schools, which is no longer a criterion but seems to still have a prominent effect on selecting potential candidates. There is a fee to pay for the yearly membership, which is for life.

The Pitt Club dates back to 1835 when it was named after William Pitt the Younger, who had attended Pembroke College in Cambridge. The Club met at 7 a Jesus Lane, which was initially designed as Victorian Roman Baths in 1863. The bath business didn’t last too long in that space and closed in less than one year of opening. After the closing, a liquidation sale was held and the building was auctioned off. The architect of the building actually bought it, which he rented out half of the space to the Pitt Club. The other half went to a billiards club.

In later years, the club purchased the entire building and for the majority of the 20th century, the club was the only fixture at the location. In the 1990s, financial difficulties caused the club to sell the 25-year leasehold on the ground floor of the building to a food chain.

Notable members and former members of the Pitt Club include kings (such as Edward VII), economist John Maynard Keynes, and journalist Sir David Frost.

The 16′ Club at St. David’s College

Membership to the 16′ Club (now a dining club but once a secret organization) was associated with St. David’s College and is by invitation only. The requirements and procedure are not known to the public, but is seen as a secret society that only admits male members. The club has a history that started in the early 19th century.

Today, 16′ Club is the only dining club to remain at the college. The secrecy of the society was upheld by members that banded together and followed a strict collection of rules. The students were not allowed to appear in town without wearing their gown. Communicating with local women was frowned upon and going to the local alehouses was against the rules as well. These rules were strictly enforced from the 1830s to 1850s.

Today, the 16′ Club is a dining club that holds secret meetings and has members that are quite good at keeping the society activities unknown to outsiders. Since not much is known about the club, it is typical to hear all sorts of rumors pertaining to their practices.