Oxford History: Mayors & Lord Mayors


George William Cooper (1833–1923)

Mayor of Oxford 1894/5

George William Cooper was born at Lower Heyford on 13 April 1833 and baptised there on 5 May. He was the son of the farmer (later butcher) George Cooper and Marianne or Mary Ann Pearson, who were married at Lower Heyford on 30 September 1830.

The 1841 census shows George (8) living at Lower Heyford with his father George Cooper, who was a butcher, his mother Mary Ann, and his younger siblings John (4) and Leah (seventeen months).

By the time of the 1851 census George had already left home. His father George (43), who now described himself as a butcher & land surveyor, was still living at Lower Heyford with Mary Ann (44) and George's younger siblings John (13), Leah (11), James (8), Sarah (6), and Henry (3).

On 26 December 1859 at Burton Latimer, Northamptonshire, George William Cooper (26), who was now a baker of Burton Latimer, married Ann Shirley (28). She was born in Kidlington and baptised there on 15 May 1831, the daughter of the labourer William Shirley and his wife Ann, and was working as a servant in All Saints' parish in Oxford at the time of her marriage. They had eight children (four of whom were dead by 1911). These included:

  • George Henry Cooper (born in Burton Latimer, Northamptonshire in late 1860)
  • Elizabeth Ann Cooper (born in Kidlington in 1862)
  • Harry Cooper (born in Oxford in 1863/4, reg. first quarter of 1864)
  • Ernest Charles Cooper (born in Oxford in 1871)
  • Sidney Walter Cooper (born in Oxford in 1874/5)

At the time of the 1861 census George (28) and Ann (29) were living at Burton Latimer in Northamptonshire with their eldest son George (four months). A journeyman baker was lodging with them.

They moved back to Oxfordshire in 1861/2, and appear to have lived for a short while in Kidlington. By 1863 they were in the St Thomas area of Oxford.

By the time of the 1871 census George (37) was a baker in Oxford, living at 55 St Thomas’s High Street. with his wife Ann (39) and their sons Harry (7) and Ernest (three days), who was as yet unnamed. Also living with them were his sister-in-law Miss Elizabeth Shirley (47) and his brothers Henry Cooper (22) and Frank Cooper (17), both described as a bakers. Another two bakers who worked for Cooper and were described as his servants were lodging with them, and they had one domestic servant and a nurse, presumably for the baby.

Cooper’s civic career began in 1876 when he was elected as a Liberal for the North ward, but after the council rearrangement in 1889 he served on the West ward.

At the time of the 1881 census Cooper (47), now described as a master baker and corn merchant, was still living at 55 St Thomas’s High Street, Oxford with his wife and their sons George (20) and Harry (17), both described as baker’s sons, and his daughter Lizzie (18), described as a baker’s daughter. His two other sons, Ernest (10) and Sidney (6), were still at school. Also living in the house were five journeyman bakers (ranging in age from 15 to 24) and a female general servant.

George William Cooper was appointed Sheriff of Oxford for 1887/8.

His eldest son was married in 1889:

  • In the third quarter of 1889 in Oxford, George Henry Cooper married Ruth Lindsey Laird.

The 1891 census shows George (57), now described as a corn merchant, living at 8 St Frideswide Terrace in west Oxford with his wife Ann (59) and four of his children: Elizabeth (28), Harry (27) and Ernest (20), who were both grocer’s assistants, and Sidney (16), who was an accountant’s clerk. The family had one servant.

Cooper was chosen as Mayor of Oxford for 1894/5. Because the new Town Hall was in the process of being built during his mayoralty, council meetings were held in various places, such as New Road or the University Schools.

All of his other children were married in the 1890s:

  • In the third quarter of 1892 in Oxford, Elizabeth Ann Cooper married John Hughes.
  • In the third quarter of 1894 in Oxford, Ernest Charles Cooper married Ethel Gertrude Wilkins.
  • On 11 December 1894 at St Matthew's Church, Oxford, Harry Cooper (30) described as a corn merchant of 6 St Frideswide Terrace, married Ellen Elizabeth Lucas (18) of Stanley Terrace, the daughter of the late Albert James Lucas, auctioneer.
  • In the first quarter of 1897 in Oxford, Sidney Walter Cooper married Edith Rose Hosier.

On completing his mayoral year in 1895 Cooper was made an Alderman, and that winter “Alderman Cooper, with two others, was driven in a coach-and-four on the frozen Thames, from Folly Bridge to Iffley”.

In 1899 George William Cooper became a Justice of the Peace.

Cooper’s arms

George Cooper


Cooper’s arms are set in glass in the Council Chamber (left)



Because he was on the Municipal Buildings Committee when the new Town Hall was opened (1897), Cooper’s head is carved in stone in the Council Chamber corridor (right).

By the time of the 1901 census, George (67) was retired and living at Glendale, 39 Banbury Road, a large eleven-roomed house. His wife spent census night with her married son Sidney, but his widowed daughter  Elizabeth Ann Hughes (38) was at home with him, as well as two servants (a cook and a housemaid). His son George (40) was a baker & confectioner living at 81 Banbury Road with his wife Ruth (42) and their children Evelyn (9), Vernon (8), Harold (4), and Mabel (2), plus three servants.

George William's Cooper's son George Henry Cooper, described as a gentleman, died at 86 Woodstock Road at the age of 50 in 1910 and was buried at Wolvercote Cemetery on 16 December.

In 1911 George (77) and his wife Ann (79), both described as retired bakers & grocers, were living at 39 Banbury Road with their widowed daughter Elizabeth Ann Hughes (48) and one servant.

His wife Ann Cooper died at the age of 82 and was buried at Wolvercote Cemetery on 27 December 1913.

Cooper is probably the only councillor to have served on the council simultaneously with his son (G. H. Cooper) and his daughter (Mrs Lizzie Hughes).

† George William Cooper died at 39 Banbury Road at the age of 89 on 29 March 1923 and was buried at Wolvercote Cemetery on 3 April (Grave C1/24).

His effects came to £6,962 17s. 3d., and his executors were his sons Sidney and George, and Frank Gray MP.

The four surviving children of George William Cooper
  • Elizabeth Ann Cooper, Mrs Hughes (born 1862) remained a widow. She died at 4 Summerhill Road, Oxford on 8 October 1946 at the age of 84 and was buried in her parent's grave in Wolvercote Cemetery on 11 October. Her effects came to £13,386 0s. 5d., and her executors included her brother Sidney, now a retired confectioner.
  • Harry Cooper (born 1863/4) was a grain merchant in 1901, living at 112 Banbury Road with his wife Ellen and their children Constance Nellie Cooper (5), Joan Cooper (3), and Harry Richard Lucas Cooper (1), plus three servants (a cook, housemaid, and nurse. In 1911 he was still a self-employed corn merchant, now living at 17 Bardwell Road with his wife Ellen (34) and their daughter Joan (13) and son Harry (11), and they now just had one 17-year-old servant girl. Constance was at boarding school in Caversham in 1911. Harry Cooper senior died at the age of 67 and was buried at Wolvercote Cemetery in a grave next to that of his parents on 9 March 1931. His wife Ellen died at the age of 74 and was buried with him on 12 December 1951.
  • Ernest Charles Cooper (born 1871) was a grocer in 1901, living at The Elms in Park End Street with his wife Ethel (28) and their daughter Ethel Violet Cooper (4), plus a general servant. In 1911 Ernest (40) was still a grocer, living at 30 Park End Street with his wife Ethel (38), their only child Ethel (14), and a servant girl. He died at the age of 91 and was buried on 7 June 1962.
  • Sidney Walter Cooper (born 1874/5) was a confectioner in 1901, living at 11 Botley Road with his wife Edith (28) plus a servant, and and his mother Ann (69) spent census night with them. In 1911 Sidney (36) was a baker & confectioner, living at 169 Woodstock Road with his wife Edith, their only surviving daughter Edith Freda Cooper (7), and their servant. His wife Edith died at the age of 73 and was buried at Botley Cemetery in the grave of her baby son Gordon on 9 January 1946, and Sidney died at the age of 82 and was buried with them on 19 March 1957.

See also:

  • Oxford Journal Illustrated, 9 June 1915, p. 9 (“Who’s Who in Oxford”)
  • Oxford Times, 14 April 1922, p. 8 (interview on his 89th birthday)
  • Arms of Cooper in stained glass in a window of the Council Chamber
  • 1841 Census: Oxford (Lower Heyford), 886/05/06
  • 1871 Census: Oxford (St Thomas), 1440/65
  • 1881 Census: Oxford (St Thomas), 1504/8
  • 1891 Census: Oxford (St Thomas), 1169/45
  • 1901 Census: Oxford (St Thomas), 1381/125

©Stephanie Jenkins

Last updated: 10 June, 2021

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