Pitt Club

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University Pitt Club
7a Jesus Lane facade night.jpg
The façade of the Pitt Club
Motto Benigno numine – 'By the favour of the heavens' (Horace)[1]
Formation 1835 (1835)
Type Dining club
Headquarters 7a Jesus Lane
Location Cambridge, England
Coordinates 52°12′30″N 0°07′11″E / 52.20824°N 0.11966°E / 52.20824; 0.11966Coordinates: 52°12′30″N 0°07′11″E / 52.20824°N 0.11966°E / 52.20824; 0.11966
Website universitypittclub.org.uk
Remarks Grade II listed building

The University Pitt Club, popularly referred to as the Pitt Club, or merely as Club, is a club, open only to certain male students at the University of Cambridge.[2] In the past, most of its membership attended certain private schools,[3] and whilst this is no longer a criterion for membership it is still largely true. Membership is for life.

History[edit]

The Pitt Club was founded in Michaelmas term 1835 and named in honour of William Pitt the Younger,[3] who had been a student at Pembroke College, Cambridge. It was originally founded as a political club, 'to do honour to the name and memory of Mr William Pitt, to uphold in general the political principles for which he stood, and in particular to assist the local party organizations of the town of Cambridge to return worthy, that is to say, Tory, representatives to Parliament and to the Borough Council'. From the start, however, there was a social element as the Club's political events were combined with 'the pleasures of social intercourse at dinner, when party fervour among friends, dining in party uniform, might be warmed towards a political incandescence by the speeches to successive toasts'.[4]

Over the course of the Pitt Club's first few decades, the political element diminished whilst the social element increased. By '1868, at the latest, the Pitt Club [had] ceased from all political activity and . . . elected members to its social advantages without any regards whatever to considerations of political party'.[5] Though the Club's raison d'être changed in its early years, it 'was from the first, and has always remained, an undergraduate organization'.[6]

The Pitt Club has been in almost continuous operation since its founding. During the First World War, however, the Club's existence became increasingly tenuous as more Cambridge men joined the forces. It temporarily closed in October 1917 but reopened in early 1919. By 1920, the Club had 'become nearly normal again, "the only real trouble", according to the Minutes, "being the horrible scarcity of whisky'".[7]

The premises were commandeered during the Second World War and made available to the public. One observer, A. S. F. Gow, remarked at the time that the Pitt Club's 'eponymous hero looks down from the pediment, with a nose visibly tiptilted in disgust, upon an enormous notice displaying the legend "British Restaurant"'.[8] As for the members, they were forced to seek alternative accommodation and eventually settled for temporary rooms above the post office in Trinity Street, which they called the Interim Club.[9]

The Pitt Club's equivalent Oxford club is the Gridiron Club. Several other universities also have comparable establishments, including the Skull and Bones at Yale, The Ivy Club at Princeton and the Porcellian Club at Harvard. The Pitt Club maintains reciprocal relations with the Oxford and Cambridge Club, Harvard's Fox Club, and Oxford's Gridiron Club.[10]

Clubhouse[edit]

The Club was a peripatetic organisation during its first few years, meeting variously in the rooms of members and in other venues. In 1841, it acquired rooms over the shop of Mr Richard Hutt, bookseller, at 29 Trinity Street, which it occupied until 1843. From 1843 until 1866, the Pitt Club's rooms were located over the furniture shop of a Mr Metcalfe at 74 Bridge Street, on the corner of All Saints’ Passage.[11]

Since 1866, the Club's premises have been at 7a Jesus Lane. The building was originally designed in 1863 as Victorian Roman Baths by Sir Matthew Digby Wyatt. The baths were an extremely short-lived venture, opening in late February 1863 and closing by December of that year. After the closure, a liquidation sale ensued, and the building was auctioned off in 1865, being bought by its own architect, Wyatt, for £2,700.[12] He rented out half of the building to the Pitt Club, and the other half to Orme's Billiards Rooms.[13][14]

In 1907, the Club bought the entire building. Following a fire in the same year, the interior of the Club was extensively renovated.[15] There were further renovations in 1925, and the dining room was paneled in 1927.[16]

The large plaque of Pitt’s head that adorns the pediment over the entrance to the Club was presented in February 1933 by General Sir Neill Malcolm. It had formerly been on a wall at Bowling-Green House in Putney, Pitt's place of death, which was pulled down in 1932.[17]

For most of the century after its purchase of 7a Jesus Lane, the Club occupied the whole of the prominent neo-classical building. The clubhouse was designated a Grade II listed building in 1950.[18] As the Club went through mounting financial difficulties in the 1990s, it sold a 25-year leasehold on the ground floor of its building to the Pizza Express chain in October 1997. Since then, the Club has occupied the first floor of the building, with the entire ground floor now taken up by the restaurant.[3][19]

Scholarship[edit]

In October 2011 the Pitt Club set up the Pitt Club Scholarship. Graduate students applying to read for an MPhil in Politics or International Relations will be eligible to apply for the scholarship which will provide up to £15,000 per annum to cover fees, maintenance, travel costs or other funding to help with research.[20] The Pitt Club Scholarship is open to any student, regardless of nationality, age, gender or race.[21]

Notable members[edit]

The current president of the Pitt Club is the renowned History of Art Professor David Watkin. The other trustees are Tim Steel, Jeremy Norman and Lord Edward Spencer Churchill.

Notable members and former members of the club include kings Edward VII and George V, HRH Prince Albert Victor, Duke of Clarence and Avondale, Olympic gold-medalist Lord Burghley (on whom the character Lord Lindsay in Chariots of Fire is based), the economist John Maynard Keynes, Cambridge spies Guy Burgess and Anthony Blunt, journalist David Frost, and actor Eddie Redmayne.

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Dictionary of Latin Phrases and Proverbs: B". Latin-Phrases.co.uk: the Latin Phrases Dictionary. latin-phrases.co.uk. Retrieved 6 May 2013. 
  2. ^ Kadir, Shaira (10 April 2005). "Stepford Wives in Training?". The F Word: Contemporary UK Feminism. The F Word. Retrieved 7 March 2013. 
  3. ^ a b c Bowers, Mary (17 November 2006). "Pitt Club under pressure from Council" (PDF). Varsity. p. 5. Retrieved 20 August 2009. 
  4. ^ Fletcher, Walter Morley (2011) [1935]. The University Pitt Club: 1835-1935 (First Paperback ed.). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. p. 1. ISBN 978-1-107-60006-5. 
  5. ^ Fletcher, Walter Morley (2011) [1935]. The University Pitt Club: 1835-1935 (First Paperback ed.). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. p. 11. ISBN 978-1-107-60006-5. 
  6. ^ Fletcher, Walter Morley (2011) [1935]. The University Pitt Club: 1835-1935 (First Paperback ed.). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. p. 10. ISBN 978-1-107-60006-5. 
  7. ^ Fletcher, Walter Morley (2011) [1935]. The University Pitt Club: 1835-1935 (First Paperback ed.). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. p. 67. ISBN 978-1-107-60006-5. 
  8. ^ Gow, Andrew Sydenham Farrar (1945). Letters from Cambridge, 1939-1944. London: J. Cape. p. 128. 
  9. ^ Stanley, Louis Thomas (1987). Cambridge: City of Dreams. Virgin Books. p. 52. ISBN 9781852270308. 
  10. ^ The O&C Club
  11. ^ Fletcher, Walter Morley (2011) [1935]. The University Pitt Club: 1835-1935 (First Paperback ed.). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. pp. 23–26. ISBN 978-1-107-60006-5. 
  12. ^ Shifrin, Malcolm. "England: Cambridge: Jesus Lane: Postlude". Victorian Turkish Baths: Their Origin, Development, & Gradual Decline. Retrieved 7 March 2013. 
  13. ^ Shifrin, Malcolm. "England: Cambridge: Jesus Lane: Façade". Victorian Turkish Baths: Their Origin, Development, & Gradual Decline. Retrieved 7 March 2013. 
  14. ^ Shifrin, Malcolm. "England: Cambridge: Jesus Lane: Further Details". Victorian Turkish Baths: Their Origin, Development, & Gradual Decline. Retrieved 7 March 2013. 
  15. ^ Fletcher, Walter Morley (2011) [1935]. The University Pitt Club: 1835-1935 (First Paperback ed.). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. pp. 53–57. ISBN 978-1-107-60006-5. 
  16. ^ Fletcher, Walter Morley (2011) [1935]. The University Pitt Club: 1835-1935 (First Paperback ed.). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. pp. 68–70. ISBN 978-1-107-60006-5. 
  17. ^ Fletcher, Walter Morley (2011) [1935]. The University Pitt Club: 1835-1935 (First Paperback ed.). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. pp. 70–71. ISBN 978-1-107-60006-5. 
  18. ^ "List Entry Summary - University Pitt Club". English Heritage. Retrieved 11 March 2012. 
  19. ^ cambridge.gov.uk[dead link]
  20. ^ "The Pitt Club Scholarship". Department of Politics and International Studies (POLIS). University of Cambridge. Retrieved 8 May 2013. 
  21. ^ "Pitt Scholarship". The University Pitt Club. The University Pitt Club. Retrieved 7 March 2013.