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Oxford University

Heraldry Society

 

History

 

The Oxford University Heraldry Society can boast of being the oldest heraldry society in Britain, being founded on St. Matthias Day (14th of May) 1835 in the rooms of the Rev. Mr. Hughes at Magdalen College. It was then known as the Oxford University Genealogical and Heraldic Society and its first members were the Keepers of the Bodleian Library and University Archives, the Professor of Anglo-Saxon and Arthur Staunton Larken (latter Richmond Herald). Other members included the Secretaries of the English and Scottish Societies of Antiquaries and Sir William Woods, Clarenceux King of Arms. The Society commissioned a herald painter to draw up a roll of arms of the members which with the Societyís library is now lodged at the Bodleian.

Alas this early venture fell upon desuetude and in the 1930ís disappeared from the Universityís list of societies. It was not until 1949 that an undergraduate at New College named John Brooke-Little and another from Brasenose, named Colin Cole re-founded the Society. These two were to become Clarenceux King of Arms and Garter King of Arms respectively. However by 1955 the Society was again dissolved with heavy debts. The redoubtable John Brooke-Little and Colin Cole revived the Society again in 1958.

Brother Mark Turnham Elvins was a member of the Society from 1960 to 61 and then again from 1966 to 67 when he became Honorary Secretary. At the start of 1967 he found he was the only officer left extant, the rest having vanished into the ether. In vain he searched for the records and previous officers and once more the Society failed. Then in 2005 Michael Burtscher of St. Johnís revived the Society once more, only to disappear again in 2008. Brother Mark supported us in this the fifth re-launch, which aims to emulate the success and continuity of its Cambridge counterpart.

Sadly, Brother Mark passed away in 2014. For a fuller appreciation of his life and work, click here.