Oxford History: Mayors & Lord Mayors


Jonathan Samuel Browning (1799–1880)

Mayor of Oxford 1841/2

Jonathan Samuel Browning was born in Oxford in 1799 and baptised at St Aldate’s Church on 11 October. He was the son of the ironmonger James Browning and his wife Jane (probably the James Browning and Jane Browning who were married at St Thomas's Church on 14 February 1797). By the time his younger brother James Henry Browning was born in 1807, his father had moved his ironmongery business to St Martin’s parish, almost certainly to 57 Cornmarket Street.

Jonathan's mother Jane Browning died at the age of 48 and was buried in St  Martin's churchyard on 12 February 1815.

By 1823 Jonathan was in partnership with his father and the business was described in Pigot’s Directory that year as “Browning & Son”, with the address given as 57 Cornmarket Street.

Jonathan's father James Browning died in St Clement's at the age of 65 and was buried in St Martin's churchyard on 20 November 1826. Hence Pigot’s Directory lists the family ironmongery business as “Jonathan S. Browning”.

On 28 July 1824 at St James’s Church, Cowley, Jonathan Browning married Anne Hester, baptised at All Saints’ Church on 13 October 1802. She was the daughter of John Hester, Steward and Manciple of All Souls College, and Susannah Torry, who lived just to the east of Magdalen Bridge in what was then deemed Cowley). They had the following children:

  • George Hester Browning (born in 1825 and baptised at St Martin’s Church on 24 June);
    died aged three and buried in that churchyard on 9 September 1825)
  • Ann Hester Browning (born in 1826 and baptised at St Martin’s Church on 24 October)
  • Maria Anne Browning (born in 1828 and baptised at St Martin’s Church on 24 October)
  • Jane Bedford Browning (born in 1830 and baptised at St Martin’s Church on 9 May)
  • James Torry Browning (born in 1832 and baptised at St Martin’s Church on 13 January)
  • Henry Thorp Browning (born in 1833 and baptised at St Giles’s Church on 6 November)
  • Susannah Catharine Browning (born in 1835 and baptised at St Giles’s Church on 31 July)
  • Emily Browning (born in 1837 and baptised at St Giles’s Church on 30 June)
  • Frederick William Browning (born in 1839 and baptised at St Giles’s Church on 26 April); died 1860
  • Mary Browning (born in 1840/1)
  • Alice Browning (born in 1844 and baptised at St Giles’s Church on 6 September).

Browning was a Liberal, and first joined the Common Council in 1827. He was elected Junior Chamberlain in 1830.

In about 1832 Browning moved house, and from then he is described as a “gentleman” living in “St Giles’s Fields” or “Park Place” (the name then given to the south end of the Banbury Road). His house, Northgate (nicknamed “Tinville”) was on the site of the Acland Home at 25 Banbury Road (now part of Keble College), and its address was sometimes given as 7 St Giles Road East. It was a sizeable house, as it had its own lodge which was occupied by his gardener.

After the passing of the Municipal Corporations Act, Browning was elected councillor for the North Ward on 26 December 1835 and six days later was elected an Alderman for three years. He continued to be elected Alderman on every possible occasion thereafter.

The 1841 census shows Jonathan (42), described as an ironmonger, living at their mansion Northgate with eight of their children: Maria Anne (12), Jane (10), James (9), Henry (7), Susannah (5), Emily (4), Frederick (2), and Mary (6 months). They also had four servants. Their eldest daughter Ann (16) is hard to find in that census.

Later in 1841 Browning was elected Mayor of Oxford (for 1841/2). He was nominated as Mayor again in 1848, but declined to serve and paid a £60 fine, because the role took too much time.

At the time of the 1851 census, Jonathan (52), described as a “Magistrate and Alderman”, was living at Northgate with his wife Ann (48) and eight of their children, namely Ann (26), Maria (22), and Jane (20); Henry (17), who was the pupil of an architect; and, Susannah (15), Emily (13), Mary (10), and Alice (6), who were scholars at home. The family had a governess, cook, and two housemaids. Their sons James (19), Henry (14). and Frederick (12) are hard to find in that census, but were probably away at school.

Browning lost three of his children in quick succession in the next decade. Their funerals were held at St Giles’ Church on the dates shown, and they were all buried at St Sepulchre’s Cemetery: Mary Browning (15) on 1 August 1856; Frederick William Browning (20) on 5 May 1859; and Henry Thorp Browning (26) on 17 April 1860.

Four of his children were married in the 1850s:

  • On 21 September 1852 at St Giles's Church, Ann Hester Browning (26) married the solicitor
    Edward Wells Hazel
     (33), the son of the Revd William Hazel and his wife Mary (see below);
  • On 25 September 1856 at St Giles's Church, Jane Bedford Browning (25) married Allen Ransome (23), an engineer from Chelsea and the son of the engineer James Allen Ransome;
  • In 1857 in Ipswich, James Torry Browning married Hannah Ransome;
  • On 28 October 1858 at St Giles's Church, Maria Ann Browning (29) married Henry Ward (26), the son of the coal merchant William Ward.

In Gardner’s Directory for 1852 Browning is described as “Wholesale and retail ironmonger, and Agent for Ransome’s ploughs”. The business survived until about 1888, when it was taken over by a group of ironmongers called Isons, Kidman & Watts.

By 1861 only his daughters Susanna (25), Emily (23), and Alice (16) were still at home. His 88-year-old mother-in-law Susanna Hester was living with them, and they had a live-in nurse and three house servants.

His daughter Emily was married in 1869:

  • On 30 March 1869 at St Giles's Church, Emily Browning married Robert Hunter, a solicitor of Kingston-upon-Thames and the son of the gentleman Robert Lachlin Hunter.

At the time of the 1871 census Browning (72), described as an ironmonger, justice of the peace, and alderman, was living at Northgate with his daughters Susannah (35) and Alice (26), plus their three servants.

Two more of his daughters were married in 1872:

  • On 23 January 1872 at St Giles's Church, Susannah Catherine Browning married the widower
    Humphrey Humphreys
    of Ceylon, the son of the gentleman Humphrey Humphreys senior;
  • On 6 June 1872 at St Giles's Church, Alice Browning married Henry Baines, a solicitor of St Giles and the son of the surgeon Joseph Baines.

A special council meeting was held on 23 October 1878 to celebrate Browning’s 50 years on the council, but he was too ill to attend. Soon after this he gave up public office.

† Jonathan Samuel Browning died on 25 March 1880 at his home in Northgate House, St Giles at the age of 81. His funeral service on 31 March 1881 took place at St Giles’s Church and he was buried in the family vault at St Sepulchre’s Cemetery in Walton Street with the three of his children who had predeceased him. His obituary was published in Jackson’s Oxford Journal on 3 April 1880, followed by this description of the funeral:

The funeral took place on Wednesday last, at the Cemetery in Walton-street, the remains being interred in the family vault, which is one of the deepest in the Cemetery grounds, and already contains the bodies of two sons and a daughter. The Corporation and several members of other public bodies in the City headed the cortege, they having met at the St. Giles’s Boys’ School Room, which is not far from the residence of the deceased. Supt. Head and Inspector Dixon walked first, followed by the Mayor’s Sergeant carrying the mace draped with crape, and the under-mentioned, most of whom wore their robes:—The Mayor (Ald. Galpin), the Deputy-Mayor (Ald. Eagleston), the Sheriff (Mr. Parish), Ald. Randall, Carr, Hughes, and Cavell; Councillors Lowe, Saunders, Clarke, Houghton, Round, Freeman, Emberlin, Pike, Wheeler, Jenkin, Seary, Wells, Cooper, Gray, Calcutt, C. Galpin, Twining, and Ansell; Justices G. Ward and Underhill; Professor Green, Mr. W. Wing, and Mr. H. Radbone, were also present. The mourners, who occupied four coaches, were:—Mr. Hazel, Mr. H. Ward, Mr. Humphreys, Mr Hunter, and Mr. Baines (sons-in-law of the deceased); Mr. Allen Ransome, Mr. Stafford Ransome, and Mr. W. Ward (grandsons); Mr. Justice W. Ward, Dr. Tuckwell, the Rev. H. Footman, Mr. Downing, Mr. Bracher, Mr. Watts, and Mr. Kidman. The coffin was of polished oak, with eight brass handles and a beautiful wreath of choice flowers was placed on the pall. The Corporate body halted at the lodge gate and remained standing on either side of the pathway until the cortege passed, and then they immediately left. The service in the Chapel and at the grave was most impressively read in a pouring rain by the Rev. C. J. H. Fletcher, Rector of Carfax. The inscription on the brass coffin plate was as follows:—

Jonathan Samuel Browning,
Died 25th March, 1880,
Aged 81 years.

The funeral arrangements were efficiently carried out by Messrs. Elliston and Cavell, Magdalen Street.

His widow, Anne, was living at Norham Gardens when she died just eight months later on 23 November 1881.

See also:

  • Jackson’s Oxford Journal, 31 July 1824: Announcement of Browning’s marriage
  • Jackson’s Oxford Journal, 3 April 1880: Browning’s obituary
  • 1841 Census: Oxford (St Giles), 891/05/13
  • 1851 Census: Oxford (St Giles): 1727/405
  • 1861 Census: Oxford (St Giles), 892/59
  • 1871 Census: Oxford (St Paul), 1436/77

©Stephanie Jenkins

Last updated: 8 November, 2018

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