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Barneys Club

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Crest of the Barneys Club

The Barneys Club is a discussion group, and the oldest society at the University of Bristol, founded in Wills Hall in December 1931.[1] The club’s name is derived from the brand of tobacco that members would historically smoke during meetings. Barneys is an academic club that encourages students to develop their critical thinking skills by engaging with new ideas and open debate.

Historically, Barneys meetings or “meets” consisted of a member presenting a topic of interest while other students relaxed over glasses of port and smoked pipes.[1] Topics of discussion have varied to reflect members' interests and the current domestic and international climate; for instance, during World War II, several meetings centred around military strategy.[1]

The modern formulation of the club encourages members to develop their public speaking and informal debating skills.


The club is known for its selective membership, prioritising those who show promise and interest in their academics and future careers. The number of members was historically limited to twelve, four per academic year group.[1] Invitations were extended to students at Wills to become members (often from more senior students). It was expected that every member would contribute by leading a discussion on a topic. All members were male until shortly after women were allowed into the hall.

The club no longer caps the number of members or limits membership to present or former Willsians. However, numbers are usually kept to no more than 24 for practical reasons, and students are nearly exclusively from Wills.


The Guardian published an article reporting on tension between the different groups that form the University of Bristol's student body, in it refers to the Barneys Club stating that it "offers members the opportunity to get together over a pipe and a glass of port.[2]"

Relationship with University and Students Union[edit]

The Barneys Club is the only club at the University of Bristol not to be affiliated with the Bristol Students Union. The Barneys Club has no official affiliation with the University; however, its operations are supported by the Halls pastoral team.


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 Crossley Evans, Martin (1994). A History of Wills Hall, University of Bristol. Blackwells. Search this book on

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