The Oxford University Heraldry Society has a long and distinguished history … unfortunately, it is also something of an episodic history as explained in these notes.
Most of the following was gleaned from:
Little is known about the early years of the Oxford University Heraldry Society apart from its first four years of existence, records relating to which can be found in the Bodleian Library. Thus we know it was founded on St. Matthias’ Day 1835 in the rooms of a Rev. Mr. Hughes of Magdalen College and it was then called Oxford University Genealogical and Heraldic Society.
Founder members included the Keepers of the Bodleian Library and of the University Archives, the Professor of Anglo-Saxon and Arthur Staunton Larken (Richmond, 1880s). These were later joined by the secretaries of the Scottish and English Societies of Antiquaries, Sir William Woods (Clarenceux) and even an M.P. Since there were members living as far apart as Cornwall, Edinburgh and even Pennsylvania, this society could claim to be the first national heraldry society.
It appointed its own printer and bookseller, herald-painter, and stationer, held dinners and meetings, and had its own library of 35 books including volumes dating back to the early seventeenth century.
In late 1836, it became the Oxford University Heraldic and Archaeological Society and by June 1839 had 64 ordinary members (resident within 10 miles of Carfax) and 36 honorary members. The existing records indicate the wide range of activities it had been involved with up to this date. Unfortunately, this is where the records stop.
It is thought that during the 1930s, those with heraldic interests would have joined the Architectural and Historical Societies. In 1949, however, a New College undergraduate, John Brooke-Little (subsequently Clarenceux), assisted by Colin Cole (subsequently Garter) refounded the Society. There were about 100 members at this time. Nevertheless, in 1955, it succumbed to the fate of many Oxford societies – the proctors were forced to wind it up in a state of debt.
It was revived in 1958 with John Brooke-Little and Colin Cole (by now Bluemantle and Portcullis respectively) as Honorary Vice-Presidents. By the late 1960s, however, it was becoming dormant again.
The latest revival was in 1978 by which time the Honorary Vice-Presidents John Brooke-Little and Colin Cole had become Richmond and York respectively. In the late 1980s/early 1990s however, membership had dwindled and the Society once again passed into suspended animation.
C.U.H.&G.S. is in (indirect) contact with some of the last committee members of O.U.H.S. and we would be very willing to put anyone from Oxford University who is interested in refounding O.U.H.S. in contact with them.