Theophilus Poynter (1636–1709)

Theophilus POYNTER or POINTER came from a high-born family of Whitchurch, Hants, according to his memorial plaque, which describes him as “Generosâ Prosapiâ de Whitchurch, in Agro Hantoniensi oriundus”. It seems to be his father, John, who first came to Oxford to live.

On 28 September 1666 Theophilus forfeited his freedom of the city of Oxford so that he could be matriculated by the University as a privileged chirurgeon the very next day, aged 30. His entry in Alumni Oxonienses reads:

Poynter, Theophilus, “Chirurgeon”, s. John, of Oxford (city) privilegiatus 29 Sept., 1666, aged 30; licenced to practice in surgery 11 Oct., 1666.

It was around the same time that he must have married first wife, Sarah Williams (baptised at All Saints Church in 1642, and daughter of the former Mayor of Oxford Thomas Williams).

By 1667, Poynter had moved to Cheyney Lane in St Michael’s parish, and his first daughter, Mary, had been born: he is listed there as paying in poll tax that year £1-1-0 for his money, 2/- for his wife and child, and two shillings for his servant Elizabeth Fox on her wages of 30s.

Poynter’s first wife, Sarah Williams, appears to have died soon after 1667, and his second wife was Mary Crips. They had three daughters, followed by two sons.

In 1674 Poynter was left £5 in the will of his father-in-law Thomas Williams.

By 1675, when his third daughter was baptised at St Mary the Virgin Church, Poynter’s home and surgery were in Catte Street in that parish. Anthony Wood tells of the death of William Browne, Fellow of Magdalen, at his house in 1678 (ii.402) and how he himself was treated there in the same year (ii.412):

Mr. Poynter the surgeon made 2 holes in my shoulders; for which I gave him 10s., and 3s. for braces, and 1s. for salve.

In 1696 Poynter paid tax on ten windows in St Mary the Virgin parish in 1696, and is marked as a commissioner.

Poynter died on 22 September 1709 at the age of 73. Of Poynter’s six children, only his second daughter Mrs Rebecca Willoughby outlived him.

Poynter’s widow, Mary, was buried at St Mary’s on 10 December 1718.

Poynter wall-plaque


There is also a large marble wall monument (left) on the wall of the staircase leading up from the North-East corner of the nave, commemorating Poynter himself (“Chirurgus peritissimus”) and the four of his children who predeceased him.(John who died in infancy is not included.) Roughly translated from the Latin, it reads:

Here lies buried Theophilus POYNTER, a most skilled surgeon, sprung from a high-born family in Whitchurch in Hampshire, who died on 22 September 1709 aged 73.

Next to him are buried Theophilus, his only son, of New College, Bachelor of Arts in the Faculty of Medicine, who died on 19 June 1706, just as he was about to embark on his career; Mary, his eldest daughter, who, with the chain of a blameless comforter broken by the sudden advent of premature death, died on 3 April 1692; Sarah, his fourth daughter, who when she reached the seventh year of her marriage died on 15 September 1702; and Eleanor, his youngest daughter, who died a virgin on 14 May 1703.

Mary, once his wife and now scarcely a mother (with only one child surviving to prevent her from being destitute, and that one with another name) put up this monument

Poynter diamond



Right: Diamond reading “T.P. 1709”,
commemorating the death of
Theophilus Poynter, set into the floor
of the Church of St Mary the Virgin, Oxford

The “Will of Theophilus Poynter, Surgeon of University of Oxford” (date of probate 13 March 1710) was deposited at the Prerogative Court of Canterbury: ref PROB 11/514. He left his property in Oxfordshire, including houses and land near Hailey and his two houses in Catte Street, to his second wife Mary for the duration of her widowhood, and then to his grandson Theophilus Medcalf for his lifetime. Should Medcalf have no issue, then the property was to go to Theophilus Medcalf’s sister Mary.

He left his property in Warwickshire to his wife during her widowhood, and then to his daughter Rebecca Willoughby for her life, to pass down eventually through her eldest son, or if there were no male issue, through his granddaughter Elizabeth Willoughby.

Poynter’s six children

  • Mary Poynter (|Mrs Willoughby), his first daughter and the only child by his first wife
    Born by 1667
    Married Mr Medcalf, a London upholsterer (his third wife)
    Died 3 April 1692, aged c.25
    Buried St Mary’s: 3 April 1692. Anthony Wood (III:385) says that she was brought into Oxford on 4 April: “1692 Apr 4, M., the body of … daughter of Pointer of Oxon, chirurgeon, the 3rd wife of … Medcalf of London upholsterer, came into Oxford about 8 at night; buried in S. Marie’s church; no escocheons – quaere.”
    Her two children, Theophilus and Mary, were still living in 1674
  • Rebecca Poynter (Mrs Willoughby), second daughter
    Born between 1667 and 1671
    Married Hugh Willoughby.
    Still alive in 1709
    Her daughters Rebecca and Elizabeth were alive in 1674.
  • Sara Poynter (Mrs Badger), third daughter
    Recorded in baptismal record of St Michael’s Church as born on 28 March 1672
    Married James Badger, Master of New College School in October 1695 (Wood: III.492)
    Died 15 September 1702, aged 30, in the seventh year of her marriage.
    Buried St Mary’s, 17 September 1702, “worth £600”
  • Eleanor Poynter: fourth and youngest daughter
    Baptised St Mary’s, 14 September 1675
    Did not marry
    Died 17 May 1703, aged 27.
    Buried at St Mary’s, 19 May 1703, “worth £600”
  • Theophilus Poynter
    First son (and only one to survive babyhood)
    Baptised St Mary’s 23 October 1678.
    Obtained BA, New College
    Died 19 June 1706, aged 27, when he was just about to embark on a career in Medicine
    Buried at St Mary’s, 22 June 1706, “worth £600”
  • John Poynter
    Second son
    Baptised at St Mary’s on 19 September 1680
    Buried at St Mary’s on 24 September 1680, aged probably only a week or so

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