Oxford History: Mayors & Lord Mayors


Harry Gordon Lionel Gordon-Roberts (1888–1958)

Mayor of Oxford 1958

Harry Gordon Lionel Gordon-Roberts was born at Littlemore in September 1888. Until the 1950s, his name was shorter: Harry Gordon Lionel Roberts.

He was the only child of Harry Benton Roberts (born in Sandford-on-Thames in 1864/5) and Mary Ellen Green (born in London in 1860), who were married in Oxford in 1888.

At the time of the 1891 census Harry (2) was living with his mother Mary (30) at 14 Pembroke Street, where she kept a lodging house: on census night they had two boarders and a 15-year-old servant girl. His father spent census night at Pembroke College, where he was an under-porter.

Harry was educated at the Wesleyan Higher Grade School.

At the time of the 1901 census Harry (12), named as Gordon, was living at the Seven Stars Inn at Marsh Baldon, Oxfordshire with his father Harry, who was the publican there, his mother Mary (38), and his grandfather John Roberts (70), a widower living on his own means.

Harry started work at Oxford University Press, but then decided to go into the motor trade, working first for J. Coxeter and then from 1909 for William Morris at his famous Longwall garage.

On 3 October 1909 at Forest Hill, Harry Gordon Lionel Roberts, (21), described as a chauffeur of Great Milton, married Gertrude Ruth Constable (21) of Great Milton. Known as Ruth, his wife was born in Oxford, the daughter of the plumber William Constable. Harry's father was now described as a butler. They had one daughter:

  • May Elizabeth Roberts (registered as Elizabeth May Roberts and born in Oxford on 30 January 1910)

At the time of the 1911 census Harry and Ruth (both aged 22) were living at 75 Mill Street, Osney with their daughter May (1). Harry described himself as “Chauffeur Mechanic (Motor Car Driver)”, and they had a boarder with the same occupation.

By 1914 they were living at 25 Church Street, St Ebbe's.

Harry Roberts was a keen footballer, and played as goalkeeper for Oxford City Reserves.

Harry volunteered to serve in the First World War, enlisting in the Queen’s Own Oxfordshire Hussars on 7 December 1914 (Service No. 035071). He served as a Corporal in the Army Service Corps. He appears to have emerged unscathed, except for a period in the 3rd Southern General Hospital with scabies from 29 October 1918. He continued to serve as a Corporal until January 1919

Harry served as a special constable between the wars, and during the Second World War he was made a full-time special constable, and later became a member of the Home Guard Upper Thames Motorboat Patrol.

In 1931 his daughter May Elizabeth Roberts married Albert J. Bowring.

Harry and his wife kept a general store at 26 Rymer’s Lane, Cowley from at least 1930 until 1950.

Harry Gordon-Roberts was elected councillor for the East ward in 1946. He was Sheriff of Oxford for 1953/3, and made an Alderman in 1953.

Gordon-Roberts served as Master of four Masonic Lodges, as president of the Frewen Club, and as Provincial Grand Master of the Oxford District of Independent Order of Oddfellows Friendly Society.

In 1955 he became landlord of the Red, White, & Blue pub at 47/48 James Street, and he and his wife went to live there.

In 1958 Harry Gordon Lionel Gordon-Roberts was elected Mayor (for 1958/9), but died five months after taking up office.

† Harry Gordon Lionel Gordon Roberts died on 20 October 1958 at the age of 70. His funeral was held at the City Church of St Michael, followed by cremation. He was survived by his wife and his only child, Mrs A. J. Bowring.

See also:

  • Oxford Times, 24 October 1958, p. 20bd (obituary)
  • 1891 Census, Oxford (St Aldate 2), 1167/31

©Stephanie Jenkins

Last updated: 30 November, 2018

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