Oxford History: Mayors & Lord Mayors


James Grainge (1826–1879)

Mayor of Oxford 1878/9

James Grainge or Grange was born on 4 June 1826 and baptised at St Helen’s Church in Abingdon on 23 July 1826.

His father John Grainge, who was an upholsterer, was baptised at St Peter-in-the-East Church on 28 March 1787. He in turn was the son of George Grainge, a carpenter of St Peter-in-the-East parish, who married Alice Roberts of Cassington at St Peter-in-the-East Church on 4 November 1784. John's mother died soon after his birth, and was buried at Cassington on 7 May 1787, while his father is probably the George Grainge buried at Cassington in 1834. At the time of his marriage John was described as being of St Aldate’s parish in Oxford.

His mother Susannah Clinkard was baptised at Garsington on 26 January 1789

James's parents were married at Garsington on 22 April 1813 and settled in Abingdon. They had eleven children in all:

  • John Grainge (baptised on 15 January 1815 at St Helen’s Church, Abingdon)
  • Susannah Grainge (born on 1 September 1815 and baptised nineteen days later at St Aldate’s Church, Oxford)
  • Fanny Grainge (baptised on 8 March 1818 at St Helen’s Church, Abingdon;
    buried there 24 November 1818)
  • Alice Grainge (baptised on 23 April 1820 at St Helen’s Church, Abingdon)
  • Sara Grainge (baptised on 21 January 1821 at St Helen’s Church, Abingdon;
    buried there 29 October 1821)
  • Elizabeth Grainge (baptised on 27 July 1823 at St Helen’s Church, Abingdon)
  • Nathaniel Grainge (baptised on 26 December 1824 at St Helen’s Church, Abingdon;
    buried there on 14 March 1826)
  • James Grainge (baptised on 23 July 1826 at St Helen’s Church, Abingdon)
  • Edwin Grainge (baptised on 27 March 1828 at St Helen’s Church, Abingdon)
  • William Grainge (baptised on 10 December 1830 at St Helen’s Church, Abingdon;
    buried there on 28 July 1832)
  • Thomas Grainge (baptised on 26 December 1832 at St Helen’s Church, Abingdon).

Pigot’s New Commercial Directory of 1823/4 describes Grainge’s father as a cabinet maker & upholsterer and pawnbroker of Butcher Row in Abingdon. It seems likely that John inherited an established family business there, as in its latter days the firm of Grainge & Co. was to boast a foundation date of 1794.

James’s father John Grainge died on 9 February 1836 at the age of 49 and five days later was buried at St Helen’s Church in Abingdon: he was described as a pawnbroker in the parish register.

His mother Susannah continued to run the family business: she describes herself as a broker in the 1841 census, when she was living with five of her children at Boar Street in Abingdon: the family had one servant.

James’s eldest sister Susannah married the Noke farmer James Rogers in Abingdon on 20 November 1845. (James was probably her cousin, as he was the son of a Fanny Grainge who had married William Rogers at Noke in 1817.) Their daughters Fanny and Susannah Rogers were baptised at Noke in 1846 and 1848.

James Grainge grew up in Abingdon, and became a chemist in Boar Street there.

On 11 September 1849 at Wootton, near Abingdon, James Grainge (23) married Mary Ann Couling (25), the daughter of the farmer Stephen Couling. They had six children:

  • Rosa Mary Grainge (born in Abingdon in late 1856 and baptised at the age of two at St Ebbe's Church on 28 March 1858, at the same time as her next brother)
  • James Henry Grainge (born in Oxford in 1857/8 and baptised at St Ebbe’s Church on 28 March 1858)
  • Albert Edward Grainge (born in Oxford in 1859 and baptised at St Ebbe's Church on 17 August)
  • Agnes Elizabeth Grainge (born in Oxford in 1861 and baptised at St Ebbe’s Church on 2 June)
  • Helen Fanny Grainge (born in Oxford in 1862 and baptised at St Ebbe’s Church on 21 June 1863)
  • Thomas John Grainge (born in Oxford in 1864 and baptised at St Ebbe’s Church on 15 January 1865).

The 1851 census shows James and his wife living with James’s mother Susannah in “Boar or Bath Street”, Abingdon, with both mother and son now described as pawnbrokers. All James’s siblings had now left home, but James’s four-year-old niece Fanny Rogers was staying in the house with them.

James and Mary's first child Rosa was born in Abingdon near the end of 1856, more than seven years after their wedding.

James’s mother Susannah Grainge died on 1 September 1857 at the age of 69 and was buried at St Helen’s Church in Abingdon nine days later.

Brewer Street


Soon after his mother’s death, James Grainge and his wife Mary moved to 5 and 6 Brewer Street in St Ebbe’s parish, Oxford (left), where he continued as a pawnbroker.


Grainge inserted the following advertisement in Jackson’s Oxford Journal for 13 August 1859:

“Money advanced, in sums of £5, £10, £20, £40, £80, £100, and upwards, on Diamonds, Plate, Watches, jewellery, and every description of valuable property, for any length of time, repayable by instalments or otherwise.— Apply to Mr James Grainge, 5 and 6, Brewer’s street, Oxford.—Established 1794.”

The 1861 census shows the family living over the pawn shop at 5 and 6 Brewer Street.

Grainge served as Churchwarden of St Ebbe’s Church from 1863 to 1868.

In 1866 James's wife Mary Grainge died here at Brewer Street at the age of 42, and her funeral was held at St Helen’s Church in Abingdon on 20 March 1866.

Two months later their son James Henry Grainge died at the age of eight, and again his funeral was at Abingdon.

Grainge was elected on to the Council as a representative of the West Ward in 1868, and was re-elected in 1871.

The 1871 census shows Grainge home at Brewer Street with his daughters Rosa (14), Agnes (9) and Helen (8). His son Albert (11) was a boarder at Cowley School, while Thomas (5) is hard to locate.

In 1874 Grainge was narrowly defeated on the council, but regained his seat the following January as a result of a resignation. He was appointed Sheriff of Oxford for 1874/5. He was a member of the Local Board of Health of the Police Committee.

In 1878 James Grainge was elected Mayor of Oxford (for 1878/9). During his mayoral year he went to Torquay for the sake of his health, but caught typhoid fever there. He returned to Oxford, but despite the administrations of the Oxford doctors Mr Owen and Mr Tuckwell, he died.

† James Grainge died of typhoid at Oxford on 4 April 1879 at the age of 52, leaving “a widow and large family to lament their loss”. He had served only five months of his mayoral year.

His funeral was St Helen’s Church in Abingdon on 8 April 1879, and he was buried at Abingdon Cemetery. The cortège left his home in Brewer Street, went along St Ebbe’s Street, Queen Street, and St Aldate’s, and was joined at the Town Hall by members of the Corporation in their robes. The Corporation proceeded only as far as the city boundary on Folly Bridge, but the hearse and five mourning coaches continued on to Abingdon. Tradesmen in Oxford partially put up their shutters and drew their blinds, and the flags on Carfax, St Mary Magdalen, and St Michael-at-the-Northgate Church were all at half-mast, and bells tolled as the cortège went past. Similarly in Abingdon, nearly all the shops closed, and the flag of the tower of St Nicholas’s Church was at half-mast. The Mayor of Abingdon joined the funeral party, and the service was performed by the Revd C. J. H. Fletcher of the City Church at Carfax and the Revd A. Pearson of St Ebbe’s.

His effects came to £212,234 1s. 7d., and his executors included his brothers John Grainge of Leamington and Thomas Grainge of Lewisham.

A stone tablet in Grainge’s memory can be seen on the outside of St Ebbe’s Church in St Ebbe’s Street (below). The text reads:

Sacred to the memory of James Grainge, Mayor of this ancient city & churchwarden of this parish, from 1863 to 1868, who departed this life April 4, 1879, aged 52 years”.

Grainge plaque at St Ebbe's

Jackson’s Oxford Journal describes the memorial set up in Abingdon Cemetery a few months after Grainge’s burial:

A handsome Gothic marble memorial stone has been fixed in our cemetery in memory of the late Mayor of Oxford, Mr James Grainge. The inscription is of solid lead, medieval letters, and the work has been well executed by Mrs C. Payman of the memorial works, Ock-street. The inscription runs thus: “Sacred to the memory of James Grainge, Mayor of Oxford. Born June 4, 1826; died April 4, 1879.”

James Grainge's wife and children

James’s widow Mary Ann Grainge carried on her husband’s trade as a pawnbroker in Brewer Street together with her son Albert.

At the time of the 1881 census Mary Ann (49), described as a pawnbroker, was living in Brewer Street with all of her surviving children: Rosa (24), Albert (21), described as a pawnbroker, Agnes (20), Helen (18), and Thomas (17). They had two general servants.

All five of her children were married in the 1880s:

  • In the second quarter of 1881 in Oxford, Rosa Mary Grainge married the brewer’s manager Frank Howard.
  • In the third quarter of 1881 in Oxford, Agnes Elizabeth Grainge married Henry Frank Galpin (the son of the former Mayor John Galpin, an auctioneer & surveyor who turned unsuccessfully to speculative development).
  • On 4 June 1884 at St Ebbe's Church, Oxford, Albert Edward Grainge (24), described as a pawnbroker of 8 Brewer Street, married Alice Gray (22) of 38 Speedwell Street, the daughter of the college servant James Gray.
  • On 22 November 1887 at Ss Philip & James's Church, Oxford, Helen Fanny Grainge (25) of Norham Road married Francis James Hall (22), a tailor of St Aldate's and the son of the deceased tailor Henry Hall.*
  • On 1 May 1888 at St Mary Magdalen Church, Oxford, Thomas John Grainge (24), described as an organist of Woodstock, married Catherine Fanny Lillingston (22) of 10 Beaumont Street, the daughter of the bootmaker William Lillingston.

The Mary Ann Grainge who died in the Headington registration district at the age of 53 in 1886 is likely to be James Grainge's widow.

* In Oxford in 1891 James Grainge's daughter Mrs Helen Fanny Hall married her second husband, the future Mayor James Hastings.

Grainge & Co, pawnbrokers

The family pawnbroking business survived for 70 years after Grainge’s death. By 1900 it occupied 6, 7, 8, and 9 Brewer Street, and from 1925 it included general sales and house furniture.

In the late 1930s the shop moved around the corner into Littlegate Street, with the jewellery and clothing section at No. 1 and the original pawnbroking side at No. 1A.

Grainge & Co. ceased trading in about 1950.

Pawn ticket front

Above and right: front and back of a pawn ticket
issued by Grainge & Co to G. Smith of Summertown
who pawned a gold Albert watch for £10 in 1910.
This ticket was found in 2005 under the floorboards
of a house in Harpes Road, Sunnymead.

Pawn ticket back

Book presented to William Rogers
Bible presented by James Grainge to William Rogers, the son of his sister Susannah, in 1872

George Grainge, 1784
Portrait dated 1784 of George Grainge, who appears to have been a relation
of the Mayor (probably his father’s brother

See also:

  • Jackson’s Oxford Journal, 12 April 1879, p. 8b (obituary)
  • Jackson’s Oxford Journal, 16 August 1879, p. 7c (memorial in Abingdon cemetery)
  • 1851 Census: Oxford (Abingdon): 1688/216
  • 1861 Census: Oxford (St Ebbe), 894/121
  • 1871 Census: Oxford (St Ebbe): 1439/19
  • 1881 Census: Oxford (St Ebbe), 104/16

©Stephanie Jenkins

Last updated: 3 January, 2021

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