Oxford History: Mayors & Lord Mayors


John Galpin (1824–1891)

Mayor of Oxford 1873/4 and 1879/80

John Galpin was born at Spindelove's Yard in Oxford in 1824 and privately baptised by St Giles's Church on 7 January 1825.

His father William Galpin was born in Crewkerne, Somerset in c.1801. He came to Oxford as a young man to find work as a carpenter.

John's mother Lois Busby was born 1798/9 in Combe, Oxfordshire.

His parents were married at Yeovil in Somerset on 10 February 1822 and had the following children:

  • Susan Galpin (born in late 1822; died aged one and buried at St Giles’s Church on 2 November 1823)
  • William Robinson Galpin (baptised at Combe on 20 December 1823)
  • John Galpin (born at Spindlelove’s Yard, Oxford and privately baptised by St Giles’s Church, Oxford on 7 January 1825)
  • Joseph Galpin (baptised at Combe on 26 August 1827, with the family still described as being of St Giles’s parish).
  • Elias Galpin (born at Gloucester Green, Oxford and baptised at St Mary Magdalen Church on 6 December 1828)
  • Jane Galpin (born at Gloucester Green, Oxford and baptised at St Mary Magdalen Church on 20 December 1829)
  • Thomas Galpin (baptised Gloucester Green, Oxford and baptised at St Mary Magdalen Church on 25 December 1831)
  • Henry Galpin (born at Gravel Lane, Oxford and baptised at St Mary Magdalen Church on 29 December 1833;
    died in infancy)
  • Henry Busby Galpin (born at Gravel Lane, Oxford and baptised at St Mary Magdalen Church on 31 January 1836:
    died aged 21 months and buried at the church on 3 October 1837)
  • Elizabeth Galpin (born at Gravel Lane, Oxford and baptised at St Mary Magdalen Church on 25 March 1838)
  • James Galpin (born at Gravel Lane, Oxford and baptised at St Mary Magdalen Church on 29 January 1840).

John’s parents began their married life at Spindelove’s Yard in St Giles’s parish, but by 1827 they had moved to Gloucester Green in the adjacent parish of St Mary Magdalen. By 1833 their address in that parish was described as Gravel Lane.

By the time of the 1841 census, the Galpins were living in Gas Street, St Ebbe’s. John (16) had already left home, and was an apprentice carpenter with Margaret Wyatt’s building firm at the south-west end of St Giles’ Street.

in the first quarter of 1843 in Oxford, John Galpin (18) married Catharine Green (20), evidently in haste. Catharine was born in Oxford in c.1822, and was probably the Catherine Green, daughter of William Chester Green and Elizabeth Tyrrell, who was baptised at St Aldate's Church on 12 May 1822. They had the following children:

  • Lucy Mary Galpin (born in Oxford in 1843, reg. third quarter)
  • George John Galpin (born at Blackfriars Road, Oxford in 1844 and privately baptised by St Ebbe's Church on 19 April);
    buried on 23 September 1844
  • John Green Galpin (born in Oxford in 1845/6, reg. first quarter of 1846)
  • George Richard Galpin (born in Lambeth, Surrey in 1847, reg. fourth quarter)
  • Charles Alexander Galpin (born in Lambeth at the end of 1850, reg. first quarter of 1851)
  • Frederick James Galpin (born in Lambeth in 1852/3)
  • Julia Harriett Galpin (born in Oxford in 1855, reg. fourth quarter)
  • Arthur William Galpin (born in Oxford in 1857, reg. Abingdon district third quarter)
  • Henry Frank Galpin (born in Oxford in 1860).

John & Catherine Galpin began their married life in Oxford, but in about 1846 the family moved to London, where John worked for a building firm.

The 1851 census shows John (26) described as a carpenter living at Doris Street, Lambeth with his wife Mary (29) and their children John (5), George (3), and Charles (four months); his 19-year-old brother Thomas, also a carpenter, was living with him, as well as another carpenter and his wife and two children. Their eldest daughter Lucy (7) was staying at Bridge Street, St Ebbe’s, Oxford with her widowed maternal grandmother, the seamstress Mrs Elizabeth Green. Meanwhile in 1851 John Galpin’s own parents were living at Bath Street, St Clement’s, where they remained for the rest of their lives: their grave can be seen in St Clement’s churchyard.

In 1854 John Galpin (29) brought his family back. to Oxford when he was appointed Surveyor to the Paving Commissioners there. At the time of the 1861 census Galpin, described as “Surveyor to Oxford Improvements Committee”, was living with his wife and eight children in the parish of Cowley, probably at Donnington Lodge in Iffley Road. From 1864 to 1868 Galpin was Surveyor to the Local Board, with responsibilities that included drainage. He was responsible for designing Hythe Bridge.

In 1858 Galpin had begun to engage in speculative developments in the housing business, and when the Oxford Building and Investment Company was registered in February 1866, he was its Secretary and Surveyor. He was also manager of the Oxford and Berks Brick Company, and a partner with one of his sons in a timber business at Abbey Wharf, and with another son in an auctioneering and estate firm.

Three of his children were married before the next census:

  • On 5 September 1866 at St Clement's Church, Oxford Lucy Mary Galpin of St Clement's married the architect George Shirley of Brighton, the son of the cabinet maket George Shirley
  • On 20 May 1867 at All Saints’ Church, Oxford, John Green Galpin, described as an architect of St Michael's parish, married Ellen Jane Greenwood of All Saints parish, the daughter of Francis Greenwood, who kept the Maidenhead Hotel in Turl Street.
  • On 6 March 1871 at Summertown Church, George Richard Galpin, described as a gentleman of Summertown, married Mary Ann Dolley of St Aldate's, the daughter of the brewer Thomas Dolley.

Galpin’s growing prosperity is reflected in the fact that by the time of the 1871 census, where he was described as an “Auctioneer and Surveyor”, he was living at Northern House in Summertown and the family had two servants. Five of his children were still at home: Charles (20), who was an auctioneer’s clerk; Frederick (18), who was a surveyor’s clerk; Julia (15); and Arthur (13) and Henry (11), who were at school.

In politics, Galpin was a Liberal. In 1872 he was elected an Alderman, and Sheriff of Oxford for 1872/3.

In 1873 John Galpin was elected Mayor (for 1873/4). On 25 July 1874 he perambulated the city boundary.

Four more of his children were married before the 1881 census:

  • On 16 June 1873 at St Michael's Church, Oxford, Charles Alexander Galpin (22), an auctioneer of 15 New Inn Hall Street, married Matilda Artus (29) of Gloucester, the daughter of the butcher Reuben Artus.
  • In the second quarter of 1875 in Faringdon, Berkshire, Frederick James Galpin married Elizabeth Mary Langham.
  • On 9 April 1879 at Iffley Church, Julia Harriet Galpiin (23) of Iffley married Tom William Dodds (26), a Bacehlor of Music of Oxford and the son of the Professor of Music Thomas Dodds.
  • On 4 October 1880 at St Ebbe's Church, Arthur William Galpin (21), decribed as a gentleman of Iffley, married Catherine Cowdrey Langham of Longworth, the daughter of the farmer Maurice Langham.

John Galpin was elected Mayor again in 1879 (for 1879/80).

The last of his eight children was married in 1881:

  • In the third quarter of 1881 in Oxford, Henry Frank Galpin married Agnes Elizabeth Grainge, the daughter of the former Mayor James Grainge.

In the early years of the growth of the suburb of North Oxford, Galpin was a principal developer, acting as broker between builders and lessees and arranging finances. Together with the builder John Dover, he concentrated on the Norham Manor estate and the Warnborough Road area. But competition for sites increased, and when T. S. Omond became Estates Bursar of St John’s College in 1877 he questioned earlier “gentleman’s agreements”. Galpin found himself with a lot in Farndon Road from which the gravel had been removed and said, “I cannot but think that from some quarter or other there is someone giving me a sly poke and that an inch or two below the belt.” The business started to fail and by 1881 was in a very shaky state.

28 Beaumont Street


By the time of the 1881 census Galpin had moved back to Oxford from Summertown and was living at 28 Beaumont Street in St Mary Magdalen parish (right) with his wife Catherine and their youngest son Henry Galpin (21), who was an articled clerk to a solicitor, and two servants (a housemaid and cook).



The last of his children was married in 1881:

  • In the third quarter of 1881 in Oxford, Henry Frank Galpin married Agnes Elizabeth Grainge, the daughter of the former Mayor James Grainge.



On 27 October 1881 John’s first wife Catherine Galpin died at 28 Beaumont Street at the age of 59. She was buried at St Sepulchre’s Cemetery on 31 October.

Less than a year after his first wife's death, on 11 September 1882 at St Mary Magdalen Church, John Galpin (57) married his second wife Eliza Ann Howard (36), the daughter of the auctioneer William Henry Howard and his wife Ann: she was a teacher of music who had been living at 9 Iffley Road with her widowed mother.

The crisis for Galpin's business came in 1883. In March that year the directors announced that they would not pay any dividend on half-year savings, and in April the Oxford Building and Investment Company went into liquidation. An effigy in alderman’s robes, representing Galpin, was paraded through the streets of Oxford and dumped outside Galpin’s house in Beaumont Street, but the police removed it before it could be burned.

In August 1883 the Oxford and Berks Brick Company also went into liquidation, followed by Messrs Galpin & Son in November. The liquidator Walter Gray (who himself was to become Mayor in 1888) took over Galpin’s offices in New Inn Hall Street.

† John Galpin died on 16 March 1891 at the age of 66 at 36 Pembroke Street, St Aldate’s, and his funeral was held at St Mary Magdalen Church on 19 March, followed by interment in St Sepulchre’s Cemetery with his wife (see their grave). The following announcement appeared in Jackson’s Oxford Journal on 21 March 1891:


We regret to announce this week the death, after a short illness, of Mr. John Galpin, at his residence, 37, Pembroke street, St. Aldate’s, on Monday evening last, aged 66. He had in recent years suffered from occasional attacks of gout, and on Thursday, the 12th inst., was seized with paralysis, from which he never rallied, and gradually sank.

Mr. Galpin was a native of this city, and after an absence of some years returned on being appointed in 1854 to the office of Surveyor to the Paving Commissioners, a body which existed up to the formation of the Oxford Local Board. On ceasing his connection with the Commissioners he engaged in business as an auctioneer and surveyor, and in November, 1886, contested the East Ward, and was returned to the Town Council. He was re-elected in 1869 and 1872 without opposition, was opposed in 1875 but again returned, and in 1878 was again re-elected without opposition, and in November of the latter year he was created an Alderman. He served the office of Sheriff in 1872, and was twice Mayor, in 1873 and 1879, and it is somewhat singular that in his Mayoralties there were one uncontested and four contested Parliamentary elections….

Mr. Galpin was the Chairman of the Water Works Committee for several years, and suggested the formation of the reservoir on Headington Hill, and he was also President of the East Ward Liberal Association for many years. He was one of the founders of the Oxford Building and Investment Company, in which he held the offices of Secretary and Surveyor, and continued to do so until its collapse in 1883, and since that time he has lived in retirement.

The funeral, which was of a strictly private character, took place on Thursday afternoon, in Saint Sepulchre’s Cemetery, Walton-street.

John Galpin's effects came to just £100 9s. 9d., and his executor was his second wife Eliza.

Three of Galpin’s sons were still in Oxford at the time of the 1891 census:

  • Charles Alexander Galpin (40) was an auctioneer & surveyor, living with his wife at 4 Western Road;
  • Arthur William Galpin (33) was a coal merchant, living at 46 Aston Street with his wife and three children;
  • Henry Frank Galpin was a solicitor, living at 10 St Margaret’s Road with his wife and three children.

See also:

  • Jackson’s Oxford Journal, 21 March 1891, p. 5g (obituary)
  • Tanis Hinchcliffe, North Oxford (Yale University Press), pp. 43, 45, 52, 57, 59–63, 76, 109, 112, 150
  • Sydney Galpin, “The Oxford Branch of Galpins” (Bodleian Library, MS Top. Oxon. d.473).
  • 1841 Census: Oxford (St Ebbe’s), 891/03/58 (rest of his family only)
  • 1851 Census: Oxford (St Clements), 1727/362
  • 1861 Census: Oxford (Cowley), 891/20
  • 1871 Census: Oxford (Summertown), 1436/19
  • 1881 Census: Oxford (St Mary Magdalen), 1502/15

©Stephanie Jenkins

Last updated: 21 January, 2022

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