Oxford History: Mayors & Lord Mayors

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Richard Cox

Mayor of Oxford 1799/80, 1812/13, and 1823/4


Richard Cox (1756–1834) went into partnership with Thomas Hardy in 1781 as an Oxford mercer and linen-draper. As a result of this Cox was compelled to take up his freedom of the city.

The partnership did not last long: Jackson’s Oxford Journal of 4 October 1783 announced that it had been dissolved by mutual consent, and that the business would be continued by Hardy at the old shop. On 22 November 1783, however, Thomas Hardy inserted an advertisement which included an attack on his nominal partner, Mr Cox, for making false representations to disparage his character.

On 1 November 1783, Cox announced that he had opened his shop near Mr Lock’s, goldsmith — Lock was at 135 High Street, and Cox’s home and shop were next door at No. 134 — and that he offered a “new and elegant assortment of Mercery, Linen, Drapery, etc.”

A month later, on 9 December 1783, Richard Cox (described as being of All Saints parish) married Miss Mary Adams (the second daughter of Mrs Payton of the Gold Cross in Cornmarket) at St Martin’s Church. They baptised seven children at All Saints Church:

  • Harriet Cox (baptised 15 September 1784)
  • Louisa Sarah Cox (baptised 22 August 1785)
  • Richard Ferdinand Cox (baptised 1 October 1786)
  • James Henry Cox (baptised 22 November 1791, died aged 5 months)
  • Julia Lavinia Cox (baptised 19 August 1793, died aged 3 months)
  • Mary Cox (baptised 11October 1795)
  • Charles Henry Cox ( born 16 November 1797, baptised 14 January 1798).

134 High Street

 

Another advertisement the following April announced that Cox had just purchased widely for the spring trade, especially calicos, chintz, patches, and sheeting, and that he could furnish funerals.

It was not long before Cox’s mercer’s shop (left) evolved to include a bank, and the British Directory of 1790 lists Cox & Co as bankers. The mercery business ran alongside it, however, and around this time Cox (described as a “linendraper haberdasher & hosier”) took on four apprentice mercers: John Badcock in 1788, Charles William Baseley in 1792, and Thomas Wright and Charles Foster in 1793.

On 17 August 1790 Cox announced that the banking business of Richard Cox, Thomas Adams, & Co. had been dissolved by mutual consent, and that it would be conducted henceforth by himself (with John Smith and Jonathan Patten) at newly-built premises (left) at his house in the High Street (No. 134), under the firm of Richard Cox & Co. Cox was to continue to live and work at this building for over forty years.

In 1792 Cox became a Chamberlain. On 30 July 1794 he resigned his freedom, but was readmitted to his freedom on 4 August and reinstated as a Chamberlain. In September 1794 he became a Keykeeper, in 1796 a Bailiff, in 1798 one of the Mayor’s Assistants.

Cox was first admitted as one of the 24 Common Councillors in October 1787, and was immediately appointed one of the two Cloth Searchers. In September 1799 he was elected Mayor (for 1799/1800), choosing Nicholas Gunn as his Chamberlain. Cox is famous for his refusal to go through the usual ceremony required by the University on 10 February 1800 (St Scholastica’s Day):

Mr Cox, some years since, in company with some young friends, said if ever he served the office of mayor he would not submit to such a humiliation. His acquaintance reminded him of his promise.

The University demanded its fine of 100 marks (£66) for this non-attendance, and Cox paid it out of his own pocket. The money was given to the Radcliffe Infirmary.

In 1807 Cox invited James Morrell (a brewer) and his cousin Robert Morrell (a solicitor in partnership with their cousin James Morrell) to join him in a new partnership, probably with an eye to win the brewery account away from Fletcher & Parsons and make it one of the chief assets of the bank that was to become Cox, Morrell & Co.: and indeed this duly happened in 1811.

Cox’s eldest son, Richard Ferdinand Cox, became a partner of his father in the banking business, while his youngest son, Charles Henry, matriculated at Christ Church, despite his father’s attitude to the University.

In 1812 Cox was elected Mayor a second time (for 1812/13), and made an Alderman in 1813. On 19 July 1821 Cox was one of the party from Oxford in attendance at the Coronation of George III.

It was reported in Jackson’s Oxford Journal for 8 August 1818 that Mary, the youngest daughter of Richard Cox, Esq, banker, of Oakley House, Berkshire married William Cockayne Frith, ex-Chaplain to H.M. Forces in the Ionian Islands and Fellow of St  John’s College, at Marcham in Berkshire.

Cox appears to have gone into partnership with his last apprentice, as Pigot's Directory for 1823 lists the firm as Cox & Foster.

In 1823 Cox was elected Mayor a third time (for 1823/4). Just three years later his son Richard Ferdinand Cox also served as Mayor.

To finance their investments and purchases of land, all four partners in the bank borrowed from the joint funds, and by 1830 Cox had an estate at Tubney and Blackthorn, leasehold lands at Cumnor, Botley, Binsey, and Beckley, and numerous other investments. In 1831, however, the Morrells discovered that Cox, the senior partner, had borrowed about £60,000, and his son had borrowed £14,000 and that both had engaged in corrupt practices.

Cox fled as a bankrupt to Calais in 1833. He died there on 27 November 1834 at the age of 78. In his death notice, he was still described as Senior Alderman of the city of Oxford.


See also:

  • Richard Ferdinand Cox, Mayor in 1826 (Cox’s son)
  • Brigid Allen, Morrells of Oxford. The Family and their Brewery 1743–1993 (Oxfordshire Books, 1994), pp. 38–9
  • Malcolm Graham, Oxford City Apprentices 1697–1800, entries numbered 2865, 2952, 2986, and 3010
  • Jackson’s Oxford Journal, 6 December 1834, p. 3c: Announcement of Cox’s death
  • PCC PROB 11/1841 (Will of Richard Cox of Calais, France, proved 7 January 1835)

©Stephanie Jenkins

Last updated: 23 February, 2014

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