Oxford History: Mayors & Lord Mayors


Richard Dry (1773–1848)

Mayor of Oxford 1843/4

Richard Dry was born in Oxford in 1773 and baptised at St Peter-in-the East Church on 20 November.

He was the fourth son of William Dry, a tailor of St Peter-in-the-East, and Mary Higgins, who were married at St Cross Church on 7 February 1766. He had eight siblings, and all except the eldest and youngest were baptised at St Peter-in-the-East Church on the dates given: William (born c.1767); Thomas (bap. 4 July 1769), Mary (bap. 9 December 1770), John (bap. 23 March 1772), , twins Edward and Samuel (bap. 31 March 1776, buried the same year), Ann (bap. 28 November 1777), and Elizabeth (born c.1779).

Richard was admitted free on 18 January 1802.

Richard’s mother Mary Dry died at the age of 70 on 16 July 1807 and was described as “wife of Mr Dry, tailor” when she buried in the first of the three Dry family tombs at St Peter-in-the-East Church three days later, His aunt Miss Mary Dry died the following year on 25 April 1808 and was buried with her sister-in-law.

Dry was elected Warden of the Tailors’ Company on 27 June 1808. It was probably about this time that he took over his father’s business in partnership with his older brother William, who lived in St Mary Hall Lane (now Oriel Street). His brother William died at Oriel Street the age of 50 in 1817 and was buried at St Peter-in-the-East churchyard on 19 June, and Richard inserted a notice in Jackson’s Oxford Journal on 18 October 1817 to say that following the death of his brother, he had taken his nephew, also William Dry, into partnership.

Two years later in 1819 Richard's father William Dry died at the age of about 77 (will), and was buried in his wife's tomb.

On 10 January 1814 Drayton St Leonard Church, Richard Dry (40), described as being of St Peter in the East parish, married Mary Deane of Drayton St Leonard. They had seven children:

  • Mary Elizabeth Dry (baptised on 28 December 1814 at St Peter-in-the-East Church)
  • Richard Deane Dry (baptised on 14 August 1816 at St Peter-in-the-East Church)
  • Emma Dry (baptised on 18 April 1818 at St Peter-in-the-East Church; died in infancy)
  • William John Dry (baptised on 23 May 1821 at St Peter-in-the-East Church)
  • Ann Charlotte Dry, later Charlotte Ann Dry (baptised on 9 May 1823 at St Peter-in-the-East Church)
  • Matilda Dry (baptised on 5 January 1825 at St Peter-in-the-East Church)

His baby daughter Emma died at the age of five months and was buried in the second of the two family tombs in St Peter-in-the-East churchyard on 9 August 1818. (The other occupants of this tomb were William's brother Thomas who died in 1848, and Thomas's wife Temperance who died in 1850, and their daughter Temperance, who died in 1881.)

Richard’s father William Dry died at the age of 77 on 29 May 1819 and was buried with his wife on 3 June that year.

Richard Dry was elected on to the old Corporation in 1822, following his brother Thomas who had become a councillor in 1818. He was elected Junior Chamberlain in 1824 and Junior Bailiff in 1829.

Pigot’s Directory for 1823 lists “R. & W. Dry” as tailors in the High Street. As the family home and business was in St Peter-in-the-East parish, it would have been at the east end. It is variously described as being in the High Street or in King Street (the part of Merton Street that runs southwards from the High). Richard certainly lived in Merton Street.

On 29 June 1829 his daughter Mary Elizabeth Dry died at the age of 14 and was buried in the third of the Dry family tombs in the churchyard of St Peter-in-the-East Church.

After the passing of the Municipal Corporations Act, Dry was elected as a Conservative councillor for the East Ward on 26 December 1835.

His second son William John Dry was matriculated at the University of Oxford at the age of 17 on 30 January 1839 from Wadham College. He obtained his BA in 1843 and MA in 1845.

In 1843 Richard Dry was elected Mayor of Oxford (for 1843/4), and also served as an Alderman.

In the 1841 census, when Dry was about 67, he was listed as “independent”, indicating that he had retired. He and his wife still had three children living at home (Richard, Matilda, and Anne), and the family was looked after by three servants. Their address was given as “King Street” (now the part of Merton Street that runs south from the High Street).

His spinster sister Mary Dry died on 19 March 1844 at the age of 73: Jackson’s Oxford Journal says she died at her house in the High Street, while the burial register states she was from Merton Street. She was buried with her niece Mary Elizabeth in the third tomb.

† Richard Dry died on 30 November 1848 at the age of 74 in his house in Merton Street and was buried in the churchyard of St Peter-in-the-East on 7 December in the same tomb as his daughter Mary Elizabeth Dry and his sister Mary.

His daughter Ann Charlotte Dry was married in 1851:

On 28 January 1851 at St Peter-in-the-East Church, Ann Charlotte/Charlotte Ann Dry married the Revd George Purdue, Curate of Wantage. They had at least one child, George Henry Purdue, born in Wantage in 1854.

The 1851 census shows Richard Dry's widow Mary Dry (61) , described as a fundholder, living at 13 Merton Street with three of her unmarried grown-up children: Richard (34), who was also described as a fundholder, and Emma (31) and Matilda (26). They had two servants. Her son William John Dry (29) was the Curate of Great Haseley and was living there alone with two servants. Her newly-married daughter Ann Purdue  (26) was living in Wallingford Street, Wantage with her husband George (25) and their servant.

Her unmarried daughter Matilda Dry died aged 32 on 14 April 1856 and was buried in the same tomb as her parents.

Her married daughter Ann Purdue died in Wantage at the age of about 35 in the third quarter of 1858.

At the time of the 1861 census Mary (71) was living at 13 Merton Street with two of her unmarried sons: Richard Deane Dry  (44) was described as a fundholder, and William John Dry  (39), who was now the Vicar of Weston-on-the-Green. They had two servants.

Richard's widow Mary Dry died at the age of 71 just days after that census on 12 April 1861. Both were buried in the churchyard of St Peter-in-the-East in the same tomb as Richard Dry.

Richard Dry’s three surviving children
  • Richard Deane Dry (born 1816) never married. At the time of the 1871 census he was aged 54 and living alone off dividends at his mother's old house at 13 Merton Street with two servants. The situation was exactly the same twenty years later in 1891. He died there on 26 February 1901 at the age of 84 and was buried in the family tomb in St Peter-in-the-East churchyard. His effects came to £38,946 12s. 2d.
  • Susannah Emma Dry (born 1820) married her cousin the Revd William Dry of Brasenose College at St Peter-in-the-East Church on 10 May 1854. He was the eldest son of William Dry and his wife Ann Sirman (married at St Mary-the-Virgin Church on 6 September 1821), and had been matriculated at the University of Oxford on 9 June 1841, aged 18. They had two surviving children: Mary Emma Ann Dry (born 1855) and William James Sirman Dry (born 1858). Susannah died at the age of 38 on 4 December 1858, about six months after William's birth, and was buried at Burton Abbots, Oxfordshire on 19 May. Her husband was Rector of Whitchurch, Herefordshire from 1862 to 1880 and died on 8 January 1886.
  • William John Dry (born 1821) was Vicar of Weston-on-the Green from 1854 until his death there on 30 April 1877. His effects came to under £6,000.

The other Richard Dry
  • There is a second Richard Dry in Oxford around this period, who was a wine merchant of 37 Pembroke Street. He may be the son of Dry’s older brother Thomas of Pembroke Yard. This Richard Dry married Charlotte Cecil, a solicitor’s daughter of Beaumont Street, on 21 July 1832. He was elected as councillor for the West Ward in 1840, but resigned at the end of his first year. According to Jackson’s Oxford Journal of 29 March 1851, he moved all over the south-east and ended up an insolvent debtor.

See also:

  • Jackson’s Oxford Journal, 15 January 1814: Announcement of Dry’s marriage
  • Jackson’s Oxford Journal, 2 December 1848, p. 3b: Report of Dry’s death
  • Inscriptions on the gravestones of St Peter-in-the-East Church (now the library of St Edmund Hall): these include the three Dry family tombs:
    (1)  Richard’s parents William & Mary Dry, his Aunt Mary, and his sisters Mary and Elizabeth\
    (2) Richard Dry himself, his wife, and their children Emma, Mary Elizabeth, Matilda, and Richard Deane Dry;
    (3) Richard’s brother Thomas and his wife and daughter (both named Temperance); and
  • PCC Will PROB 11/2087/353 (Will of Richard Dry, Gentleman of Saint Peter in the East, Oxford, proved 1 February 1849)
  • 1841 Census: Oxford (St Peter-in-the-East), 891/16/15

©Stephanie Jenkins

Last updated: 3 January, 2021

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