Oxford History: Mayors & Lord Mayors


Leonard Henry Alden (1873–1937)

Mayor of Oxford 1936–7

Leonard Alden


Leonard Henry Alden was born in Grandpont (which is now in the south part of the city of Oxford but was then in Berkshire) in 1873.

He was the son of Robert Rhodes Alden (1841–1927) a butcher at Eastwyke Farm, and Hannah Morriss, who were married at Southampton in 1868.

Leonard's parents had eleven children: Grace, Arthur, Leonard, Stanley, Reginald, Harold, Edward, William, Frederick, Eveline, and Winifred.

Alden’s ancestors
  • Alden’s great-great-great-grandfather William Alden had come from America to settle in Chipping Sodbury in the eighteenth century.
  • His great-great-grandfather was Thomas Alden (1745–1830)
  • His great-grandfather Isaac Alden (1770–1832) was a butcher, and the head of the whole Alden dynasty of butchers and printers in Oxford. He had been a yeoman in the service of the Duke of Somerset (a gentleman commoner of Christ Church in the early nineteenth century), and had remained in Oxford after the Duke went down. He became a Baptist, and was warden of New Road Baptist Church. By 1790 he had taken on the tenancy of Eastwyke Farm. He married Martha Curtis in 1794 and they had ten children between 1796 and 1809, whose births are all recorded in the register of New Road Baptist Church. He himself was buried there on 16 September 1832
  • His grandfather Thomas Amos Alden (1807–1874) was also a butcher, and founded R. R. Alden’s butcher’s shop in the covered market in Oxford. He had seven children.

Leonard Alden

The 1881 census shows Leonard as a child of 7 living at Eastwyke Farm with his father Robert, his mother Hannah, his sister Grace (11), and his five brothers: Arthur (9), Stanley (5), Reginald (3), Harold (2), and Edward (seven months). There were eventually to be eight Alden sons, five of whom (including Leonard himself) followed their father into the butchery trade.

Eastwyke Farm
Above: Eastwyke Farm in 2011

Leonard Alden was educated privately and then at the Oxford Central School. At the time of the 1891 census he was a butcher’s assistant of 17; his older brother Arthur (19) was a butcher’s shopman, and his younger brother Stanley (15) was an apprentice grocer. His other siblings Reginald, Harold, Edward, William, Frederick, Eveline, and Winifred were still at school. The family had one servant.

On 20 June 1894 at South Hinksey Church, Leonard Alden (21), described as a butcher of Eastwyke Farm, married Emily Penn (21), who was living at 162 Abingdon Road, New Hinksey, the daughter of the college servant Edward Penn. They appear to have started their married life in Cowley St John, moving to New Hinksey by 1895, and then South Hinksey in about 1900. They had seven children:

  • Arthur Rhodes Alden (born in Cowley St John in 1894/5, reg. first quarter of 1895)
  • Nellie Alden (born in New Hinksey in 1895, reg. fourth quarter)
  • Grace Morris Alden (born in New Hinksey in 1898, reg. fourth quarter)
  • Leonard Stanley Alden (born in South Hinksey in early 1901)
  • Rodney Robert Alden (born in South Hinksey in 1902, reg. third quarter)
  • Kathleen Alden (born in South Hinksey in 1904, reg. second quarter)
  • Priscilla M. Alden (born in Oxford in 1911, reg. third quarter).

At the time of the 1901 census Leonard (27), described as a butcher, farmer, and cattle dealer, was living at Egrove Farm in South Hinksey with his wife Emily (28) and their four eldest children Arthur (6), Nellie (5), Grace (2), and Leonard junior (under three months), plus one servant.

By 1911 Leonard (39), described as a butcher and farmer, was living at Eastwyke (or Eastwick) Farm off the Abingdon Road with his wife Emily (38) and five of their first six children: Nellie (15), Grace (12), Leonard junior (10), Rodney (8), and Kathleen (6). They also had two domestic servants. Their eldest son Arthur Rhodes Alden (16) was a civil service student living in a boarding house at Shepherd's Bush, and their youngest child, Priscilla, was born later that year. .

Alden was President of the Master Butchers’ Association, and acted as Cattle Judge in Reading, Northampton, Wellington in Shropshire, and finally at Smithfield (1935–6). His business was described as “probably the biggest butchering business under one roof in England”.

Alden was Chairman of South Hinksey Parish Council from 1898 to 1908, and a Liberal Oxford City Councillor from 1919 to 1936. While on the council he was Chairman of the Farm Committee (1920-5), Vice-Chairman of the Watch Committee (1922–6) and Chairman of the Highways Committee and the Sewers and Lighting Committee (1931–6). In 1935 he was Chairman of Oxford Liberal Association.

In November 1936 at the age of 63, Leonard Alden was elected Mayor of Oxford (for 1936/7) and during his year of office was made an Alderman. The Coronation of George VI on 12 May 1937 fell during his mayoralty, and he attended the Coronation with his sergeant, as his wife Emily had been ill for a long time, and she died the next month. He died just three weeks after her funeral.

† Leonard Henry Alden died on 21 July 1937 in the Radcliffe Infirmary after he had driven from Eastwyke to visit his son Robert at his farm at Wheatley Bridge and was hit by a car when walking across the road between the farm and its yard.

His funeral service at New Road Baptist Church was attended by the Vice-Chancellor and many other members of the University as well as many members of the corporation. The Minister said at his funeral:

We see the passing of a type for he had lineage and descent … generations under the same roof … farming the same fields, and known and respected in the same city life…. And on that yeoman stock Leonard Alden grafted some new qualities. He did not rise in any pretentious way above it … he loved his flowers and his cattle, and his fields. He was a yeoman of England.

At a luncheon the Vice-Chancellor (Alexander Dunlop Lindsay) said:

I thought more of the Mayor every time I met him. You expect at the head of a great city ability, honesty, and shrewdness, but you will not misunderstand me when I say that you don’t expect to find a saint. I do think our Mayor was, in a most straightforward sense, a saint… I felt that everybody in the city really must respect and love him.

He was buried with his wife at Wolvercote Cemetery (see his grave).

His effects came to £48,062 17s. 11d., and his executors were his three sons (Arthur Rhodes Allen, now a civil servant, Leonard Stanley Alden, now a motor engineer, and Rodney Robert Alden, now a master butcher) and his solicitor.

Alden’s supermarket at Eastwyke Farm closed in 1986, and the land reverted to University College. The Four Pillars Hotel was built on the site, and in March 2010 they converted the farmhouse to ten additional hotel rooms.

See also:

  • Who’s Who in Oxfordshire, 1936, p. 5
  • Oxford Magazine, 1937–8, p. 4 (obituary)
  • Oxford Monthly, August 1937, p. 1
  • Oxford Times, 23 July 1937, pp. 14c and 15fg (obituary and editorial)
  • The Times, 29 July 1937, p. 15 (obituary)
  • Clyde Binfield, “The Aldens of New Road: A Baptist continuity” in Rosie Chadwick (ed.), A Protestant Catholic Church of Christ: Essays on the History and Life of New Road Baptist Church, Oxford (Oxford: Alden Group Ltd, 2003), pp. 201-58
  • Portrait of Leonard Alden in the Council Chamber Corridor of the Town Hall
  • 1881 Census: Oxford (St Aldate), RG11: 1501/52
  • 1891 Census: Oxford (St Aldate), RG12: 1167/20

©Stephanie Jenkins

Last updated: 3 November, 2018

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