Oxford History: Mayors & Lord Mayors


Tom Basson (1861–1930)

Mayor of Oxford 1922/3

Tom Basson was born at an earlier Iffley Lock House on 26 April 1861. He was registered as Thomas Basson and baptised with that name at St Mary-the-Virgin Church in Iffley on 4 August, but he was always known as Tom.

His father was William Basson (born in Lechlade, Gloucestershire in c.1831), who was a tailor at Nuneham Courtenay at the time of his marriage. His mother was Elizabeth Baston (born at Baldon/Nuneham Courtenay in c. 1832). His parents were married at Nuneham Courtenay Church on 30 May 1855. Three of Tom's siblings were also baptised there: Louisa Basson (17 May 1856), George Henry Basson (8 March 1857), and John William Basson (9 July 1860). His youngest brother Walter Frederick Basson was born in Iffley in 1863, but was not baptised there.

At the time of the 1861 census Tom's father William (29), described as a pound keeper, was living in Iffley village with his wife Elizabeth (28) and their first three children Louisa (5), George (4), and John (1), plus a lodger. Tom was born later that month.

Tom's family moved to New Hinksey (then in Berkshire), and he was educated at St Aldate’s and Hinksey Schools.

Tom's father William Basson died at New Hinksey at the age of 36 in 1868 and was buried at South Hinksey Church on 5 March.

On 31 July 1870 at St Paul's Church, Oxford, his widowed mother Elizabeth Basson married her second husband, the carpenter William Allen, a bachelor who was thirteen years her junior (although Elizabeth trimmed the difference down to ten years). They were both described as living in Walton Street.

At the time of the 1871 census, Tom Basson (10) was living at 38 Post Office Street, South Hinksey, Berkshire with his mother Elizabeth Allen (38, recorded as 35), his stepfather William Allen (25), and his brothers George Basson  (14), who was a printer's machine boy, John Basson (11) and Walter Basson (8), who were still at school. He also had a one-month old half-sister, May Allen.

By the time of the 1881 census, Tom Basson was a wood sawyer of 19 boarding with the family of a gardener called Henry Heath in Church Street, South Hinksey.

Soon after this census he started his own timber business, which was to develop into T. Basson & Son of St Aldate’s.

Basson was a keen rower and one of the founders of Hinksey Rowing Club. He was Captain for several years, and rowed head of the river in 1889–90. He later became President of Oxford Watermen’s Rowing Club, and Vice-President of the Oxford Royal Regatta.

On 1 January 1889 at the Commercial Road Baptist Chapel in St Ebbe’s, Tom Basson married Sarah Ann Read of Bierton near Aylesbury. They had four children:

  • Edgar Basson (born 1889, registered Oxford district fourth quarter)
  • Edith Mary Basson (born 1892, registered Oxford district second quarter)
  • Hilda May Basson (born 1895, registered Oxford district third quarter)
  • Annie Constance Basson, known as Constance (born 1899, registered Oxford district third quarter).

The 1891, 1901, and 1911 censuses shows the family living at 27A St Aldate’s Street (which in 1901 is described as the “City Saw Mills”).

Basson was elected as a City Councillor for the South Ward in 1908. By 1916 he was serving on five committees: Waterworks, Market & Fairs, Farm, Cemeteries, and Allotments.

Two of his children were married in 1916 and 1917:

  • In 1916 in Oxford, Edith Mary Basson married Frederick James Grimsdale.
  • On 25 January 1917 at Sandford-on-Thames Church, Edgar Basson (27), who was serving in the army, married Annie Pether (25) of the King's Arms Hotel in Sandford-on-Thames, where her father Richard Pether was the licensed victualler. Edgar was then living at 50 Abingdon Road, and his father Tom Basson was described as a timber merchant.

Basson was elected Sheriff of Oxford in 1917.

In 1922 Tom Basson was elected Mayor of Oxford (for 1922/3).

During his mayoral year his youngest daughter was married:

  • In April 1823 at the George Street Congregational Church, Annie Constance Basson married Arthur A. Kayll.
    A photograph of the couple leaving the church appeared in the Oxford Journal Illustrated of 25 April 1923 under the heading “Marriage of the Mayor's daughter”

In July 1925 Basson was made an Alderman.

The fourth of his children was married the following year:

  • In 1926 in Oxford, Hilda May Basson married Gilbert D. Deane.

Tom Basson was Manager of the Wesleyan Boys’ School in Oxford, and was on the general Committee of the YMCA from the time of its opening and President for several years. He was also President of the Oxford & District Sunday School Union, and was Deacon, Treasurer, and superintendent teacher at the Commercial Road Baptist Chapel in St Ebbe’s for 20 years. He was also President of Sunningwell War Allotments, and Trustee of the South Ward Allotments Association.

He was also Treasurer of the South Oxford Cricket, Tennis, & Bowls Club, and represented the County at bowls several times. While Mayor he promoted a bowling contest between the Oxford and Cambridge Corporations.

Tom Basson's grave

† Tom Basson died on 11 January 1930 at the age of 68 in his home at 50 Abingdon Road after enduring a long illness since the summer of 1928. His funeral was held at the Wesley Memorial Church, followed by interment in Rose Hill Cemetery (B.1, Grave 16). His son and his daughters Edith and Hilda (Mrs Grimsdale and Mrs Deane) attended the funeral, at which the Mayor, Sheriff, and almost the whole council were present.


His effects came to £3,533 12s. 7d., and his executors were his son Edgar Basson, who was now a timber merchant, and his son-in-law Frederick James Grimsdale, who was a solicitor.


His umarried daughter Constance died at the age of 38 on 15 August 1937 and his widow Sarah Ann Basson at the age of 77 on 30 September 1939. Both are buried with him.

See also:

  • Oxford Journal Illustrated, 2 February 1916, p. 9 (“Who’s Who in Oxford”): includes photograph
  • Oxford Times, 17 January 1930, p. 13f–g (obituary)
  • 1871 Census: Berkshire (South Hinksey), 1264/60
  • 1881 Census: Berkshire (South Hinksey), 1284/63
  • 1891 Census: (St Aldate’s), 1167/15
  • 1901 Census: Oxford (St Aldate), 1384/31

©Stephanie Jenkins

Last updated: 2 June, 2022

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