History of the Circle

Short History of the Oxford Circle.

The first proposal to form an Oxford Circle was made in 1935 by Reading Circle following a letter from the Provincial President. After several meetings however, it was decided that Oxford was indeed “The home of lost causes” and the matter was dropped.

Then in 1943 two formidable characters appeared on the scene in the persons of Percy Hedges and John Woodcock and they organised a meeting in the Mitre Hotel and members of the Catenian hierarchy addressed the meeting of 24 potential members from town and gown.

Following this Oxford, the 126thCircle, was inaugurated on Sunday 31stOctober 1943 at the Randolph Hotel Oxford. It was conducted by Brother Grand President Addley assisted by Grand Director Richards, Provincial President Grobal and the Grand Secretary. In the social proceedings that followed, the Mayor and Mayoress of Oxford and two Jesuit fathers were guests.

Twenty–six brothers were enrolled with Percy Hedges as founder President, the twenty-six include two famous names, that of JRR Tolkien author of ‘Lord of the Rings’ and Frank Pakenham who became Lord Longford.

After this meeting the Circle met at various venues such as the King’s Arms, The Angel, the Masonic Hall. and the Royal Oxford Hotel. The first Directory to be published after the war (1946) showed that the Circle met on the 3rdFriday of the month at 6.30pm in the Forum Restaurant and that membership had risen to 33.

There is little documentary history between 1943 and 1963 although we do know that the 200thmeeting took place in 1960 at the Royal Oxford Hotel. We also know that some August meetings were missed. Any records we do have are due to Bro Paul de Lusignan who took over as Secretary in April 1966 when Jimmy James was President. Both of these went on to become Provincial President and Bro Jimmy was our first and only Grand Director.

In October 1967 Oxford Circle sponsored the inauguration of a Circle in Banbury which reduced Oxford membership numbers and at various times since due in part to company moves our membership has fluctuated but remained around the 40 mark.

Other landmarks include:

  • 8 Decembers 1969 300thMeeting, 49 brothers present
  • 21 October 1983 Oxford 40thAnniversary Ball at the Elms Hotel, Iffley
  • 11 August 1986 Oxford 500thMeeting at the Moat House Hotel, Wolvercote. 95 brothers present.
  • 1987 John Graber was presented with a scroll for his 50 years as a Catenian. This was celebrated at the Upper Reaches Hotel, Abingdon.
  • 30 October 1993. 50thAnniversary Dinner Dance at Eynsham Hall, Grad President Bro M J Cusack JP and The Minister for Education John Patten were principal guests of honour.
  • 8 August 1994. First Joint meeting with Aylesbury held at Oxford.
  • The 600thMeeting held at Foxcombe Lodge Hotel in 12 December 1994 . Attending were Grand President, Immediate Past Grand President, Grand Secretary and 44 other visiting Brothers together with 29 Oxford Brothers.
  • The 700th Meeting at the Four Pillars Hotel in 9 June 2003, Sandford on Thames.
  • Th 800th Meeting in June 2012 at Oriel College
  • October 2018 the Circle celebrates it’s 75thAnniversary of inauguration.
  • The 900th Meeting Celebration on Monday 14th February 2022 at VOCO Thames Hotel in Oxford.
  • The 80th Anniversary Dinner on Monday 16th October 2023,
    celebrated at the Hawkwell House Hotel in Iffley Oxford.

Two famous Catholics John Henry Newman and Dominic Barberi left significant mark on Oxford: the Church of Blessed Dominic Barberi and Newman’s College now the International Centre of Newman Friends (both in Littlemore, Oxford).