Origin of the Club
The Victorians loved the strange and exotic. At an Exhibition of Lepidoptera in the autumn of 1879, William Cole and his brother had, by request, arranged a display at Buckhurst Hill of their entomological collection, which is now in the Passmore Edwards Museum at Stratford. Among the visitors was Mr H. Vigne, Master of the Woodford Harriers: he was much impressed and, according to recorded tradition, remarked to William Cole "Mr Cole, we ought to have a Naturalists' Society for Essex". That night, Mr Cole wrote to Professor Meldola, whom he and his friend W. J. Argent had met ten years earlier on entomological forays, to enlist support: and so the Club was conceived.
The infant club was publicly launched at a meeting held at Buckhurst Hill on 10 January 1880, with the blessing of many prominent scientists. Prof. R. Meldola, F.R.S., was elected the first President, William Cole, the Hon. Secretary, and his friend, W. J. Argent, the Librarian. Charles Browne, Esq., M.A. ; Charles Darwin, Esq., M.A., LL.D., F.R.S., F.L.S., F.G.S., &c.; Alfred Russel Wallace, Esq., F.L.S., F.Z.S., &c., and William Whitaker, Esq., B.A., F.G.S., &c. (of Her Majesty's Geological Survey), were elected Honorary members of the Club at this inaugural meeting of this Club. The first Council Meeting was held on 28 February 1880: within two months the new Club, named rather ponderously "Epping Forest and County of Essex Naturalists' Society'', had 140 members. In 1882, the name of the Club was changed to the more concise one, which is still in use,'' The Essex Field Club''.
The Club was founded to promote the Study of the Natural History, Geology and Pre-historic Archaeology of the County of Essex and its borderlands; to establish a Museum and to issue publications.
On 30 October 1880, H.R.H. The Duke of Connaught, K.G., Ranger of Epping Forest, consented to become Patron of the Club. After the death of the Duke, his successor, as Ranger of Epping Forest, H.R.H. The Duke of Gloucester, graciously consented to continue the Patronage. After that Duke's death in 1974, his son, H. R. H. The present Duke of Gloucester, G.C.V.0., generously agreed to continue the Patronage of the Club.