Oxford History: Mayors & Lord Mayors


Richard Chillingworth Godfrey (1789–1851)

Mayor of Oxford 1847/8

Richard Chillingworth Godfrey was born in Oxford and baptised at St Ebbe’s Church on 29 April 1789.

He was the eldest of the eight children of Thomas Godfrey (1762–1822) and Ann Chillingworth (1768–1840), who were married in Marston on 6 June 1788. His seven siblings were also baptised at St Ebbe's Church: Anne Godfrey (1791), Mary Harris Godfrey (1793), twins William & Thomas Godfrey (1796), John Godfrey (1799), Henry Godfrey (1803), and a second Henry Godfrey (1810).

Richard Chillingworth Godfrey was an Oxford baker. He was described as still being of St Ebbe’s parish when on 8 June 1813 at Witney he married Charlotte Biggar. She was baptised in Witney on 29 April 1791 and was the youngest daughter of Jeremiah  Biggar, a blanket manufacturer of Hailey, and his wife Anne.

The couple initially lived in Oxford’s High Street, where they had the following children:

  • Anne Biggar Godfrey (born in Oxford in 1815 and baptised on 10 December at All Saints' Church)
  • Mary Godfrey (born in Oxford in 1817 and baptised on 10 August at All Saints' Church)
  • Thomas Godfrey (born in Oxford in 1819 and baptised on 7 September at All Saints' Church).

Richard’s father died in 1822, and soon afterwards his mother Ann Godfrey married her second husband, James Paxton.

In Pigot’s Directory for 1823 and 1830 Godfrey is listed as a baker in Oxford’s High Street, but by 1839 his shop was at 8 St Giles’ Road (the south end of the present Woodstock Road). In 1837 he inherited a house in Headington from Miss Elizabeth Bostall, which he let out.

On 2 May 1837 he was described as a “mealman” when was granted a lease by Balliol College for 33 and 33A St Giles’ Street (in his capacity as executor of the will of the late Richard Chillingworth) for £183 3s. 3d.

Richard was described as a corn chandler when his daughter Mary was married in 1838:

  • On 18 June 1838 at St Giles's Church, Oxford, Mary Godfrey married the Revd Thomas Taylor,

Richard Chillingworth Godfrey was first chosen as a member of Oxford Town Council in 1840. At the time of the 1841 census he was described as a mealman aged 51, and was living at his Woodstock Road home with his wife Charlotte and their daughter Anne.

His son Thomas Godfrey, who had studied at King's College Hospital, London, where he was house surgeon, was admitted as a member of the Royal College of Surgeons in 1841 and obtained the licentiate of the Society of Apothecaries in 1842. He was matriculated as a privileged person at the University of Oxford on 5 December 1842 as a surgeon (chirurgus).

On 30 March 1844 Jackson's Oxford Journal reported that Godfrey was re-elected as one of the two Guardians of the Poor for St Giles parish in Oxford (which came under the Headington Union).

Godfrey was re-elected on to the council in 1843 and 1846. He was an active member of the Board of Commissioners of streets.

Richard Chillingworth Godfrey was elected Sheriff of Oxford for 1846/7 and an Alderman in 1847. In 1847 he was also unanimously elected Mayor of Oxford (for 1847/8).

By 1850 Richard's brother John Godfrey, who was a surgeon, had moved his practice from Charlbury to Oxford.

When his daughter Ann was married in 1850, Richard was described as a gentleman:

  • On 9 April 1850 at St Giles’ Church, Oxford, Anne Biggar Godfrey (with her middle name recorded as Biggers) married the widower Edward Widt Culsha.

At the time of the 1851 census Richard Chillingworth Godfrey (61) described as an Alderman and a retired mealman, was living with his wife Charlotte (59) on the Woodstock Road. His son Thomas (31) was living at Herne Bay in Kent with two servants: a dispensing agent who presumably helped him in his medical practice, and a housekeeper.

† Richard Chillingworth Godfrey died at his home at the south end of the Woodstock Road on 7 July 1851 at the age of 61, and his funeral was at St Giles’ Church. His obituary in Jackson's Oxford Journal of 12 July 1851 read:

DEATH OF ALDERMAN GODFREY.—We regret to announce the death, on Monday the 7th inst., at his residence in St. Giles's, of Mr. Alderman Richard Chillingworth Godfrey, in his 62nd year. Alderman Godfrey was elected a member of the Town Council in 1840 and again in 1843 and 1846; he served the office of Sheriff in 1846 and was elected an Alderman in 1847 on the death of Mr. Alderman Fisher. In November 1847 he was unanimously elected Mayor which office he served with great zeal and ability. He was an active member of the Board of Commissioners of the Streets and on the resignation of Mr. Alderman Sadler as chairman was put in nomination to succeed him but up to the present time no appointment has been made. Alderman Godfrey was in every respect a very useful citizen and having time at his disposal was enable to take an active part in civic matters generally; his loss will consequently be felt beyond his own circle of friends by whom he was highly esteemed.

The notice in the Oxford Chronicle and Reading Gazette of 12 July 1851 read:

July 7, at his residence, St. Giles', Oxford, Alderman Richard Chillingwoth Godfrey, aged 62 years: deeply lamented by all classes of society in this city. Mr. Godfrey, a few years since, served the office of Mayor. Although a strict Conservative when in private life, his political opinions, after mixing in public affairs, and when he knew the jsut wants of his fellow man, underwent a change sufficiently to induce him to prpose for re-eection the Liberal Member for this city, Sir W. P. Wood, Her Majesty's Solicitor-General.

He was buried in St Giles' churchyard (see grave). As this churchyard had been closed in 1848, there must have been a family vault here.

The Court Rolls of the Manor of Heddington show that Godfrey left his house in Headington jointly to the Revd Thomas Taylor of Colwall (his son-in-law) and George Bridges (grocer of 56 St Giles’ Street).

Children of Richard Chillingworth Godfrey
  • Anne Biggar Godfrey, Mrs Culsha (born 1815) was aged 24 at the time of the 1851 census and living in Burton-on-Trent (at Station Street) with her husband Edward Widt Culsha (24), who was the Curate of Holy Trinity Church there, and one servant. She appears to have died in 1855, when her husband was Curate of Great Malvern, as her PCC will was proved on 3 January 1856. Her husband was elected to be Headmaster of the Free Grammar School, Colwall in June 1855.
  • Mary Godfrey, Mrs Taylor (born 1817) was aged 33 and living at Colwall Green in Herefordshire in 1851 with her husband Thomas (44), who was the incumbent of Little Malvern, and their children Thomas (10), Mary (5), and Anne (2), and her husband's parents. Also living with them was a teacher of French and drawing and six boy pupils and three servants. In 1861 Mary (43) was living in the Vicarage at Longney, Gloucestershire with her husband Thomas (54) who was now the Curate of Longney, and their daughters Mary (16) and Ann (12), plus Thomas's widowed mother and one servant. In 1871 Mary (53) was living at St Clement's Hill, Norwich with her husband Thomas (64), who was now the Rector of St Edmund's Church and their daughter Anne Gwillum Taylor. Their nephew Thomas de Breton Godfrey (10) was paying them a visit, and they had one servant.
  • Thomas Godfrey (born 1819) married Louisa Matilda Buchanan on 11 June 1859 at St Martin-in-the-Fields, Westminster. In that year he was also elected a Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons. At the time of the 1861 census Thomas (41), described as a medical practitioner, was living at Charles Street in Herne Bay with his wife Louisa (26) and their nine-month-old baby Thomas de Breton Godfrey, plus two servants (a cook and a housemaid). In 1871 he was described as a Surgeon & apothecary F.R.C.S. England and was living at The Lodge, William Street, Herne Bay with his wife and their children Louisa Mary Alice Godfrey (9), John Buchanan Godfrey (8), Charles Chillingworth Godfrey (6), Frances Dora Godfrey (5), George Hamilton Godfrey (3), Frederick Frankland Godfrey (2) and Agnes Charlotte M. Godfrey (six months). They had three servants (a cook, nurse, and a housemaid). Their son Thomas (10) was paying a visit to his aunt Mary Taylor. Thomas Godfrey died at Herne Bay at the age of 58 on 3 January 1878. His personal estate came to under £8,000, and his executors included his brother-in-law, the Revd Thomas Taylor of Norwich.

See also:

  • Jackson’s Oxford Journal, 12 June 1813: Announcement of Richard Chillingworth Godfrey’s marriage
  • PCC Will PROB 11/2137/315 (Will of Richard Chillingworth Godfrey, Gentleman and Alderman of Oxford, proved 5 August 1851)
  • 1841 Census: Oxford (St Giles), 891/06
  • 1851 Census: Oxford (Summertown), 1727/482

©Stephanie Jenkins

Last updated: 30 November, 2018

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