The Hellfire Club refers to a collection of exclusive societies founded in Britain and Ireland in the 18th century. These clubs were mainly attended by aristocrats and other wealthy people, and they were predominantly identified with high society. The Hellfire Clubs were known for their excess, which included binge drinking, gambling, and other types of scandalous and immoral activity. The clubs were also notorious for their secrecy and alleged ties to the occult, which added to their notoriety.
The Order of the Friars of St. Francis of Wycombe, afterwards known as the Knights of St. Francis, was the most well-known Hellfire Club and was established by Sir Francis Dashwood in 1749. Meetings of the club were held in Medmenham Abbey, a disused Cistercian monastery, and afterwards at the West Wycombe Caves, both in the English county of Buckinghamshire. Dashwood’s group was notorious for holding fictitious religious rites where members donned licentious monastic garb.
Around 1735, Richard Parsons, the first Earl of Rosse, founded another renowned Hellfire Club in Dublin, Ireland. The raucous parties and unethical activities that this bar was known for. Members congregated in the Hellfire Club Lodge, a former hunting lodge on Montpelier Hill.
The Hellfire Clubs finally collapsed in the late 18th century as a result of mounting public criticism and disfavor. But because of their mystique and scandalous image, they continue to be part of popular culture and serve as inspiration for books, movies, and television shows.