In his book on London academical dress, Philip Goff gives a glimpse of the University’s original scheme.1 As he says, robes were not used at all, until an enquiry in 1843 caused Senate to discuss the matter. The enquiry came from a clergyman-graduate, the Revd F. Harrison Rankin, who obviously needed to have a hood to wear over his surplice; he wondered whether the University had hoods of its own or allowed the use of Oxford and Cambridge ones! Robes were authorized on 28 February 1844; their use was not compulsory. [Excerpt].
Groves, Nicholas (2005) "With Velvet Facings’: The Original London Robes," Transactions of the Burgon Society: Vol. 5.