Oxford History: Mayors & Lord Mayors


James Hastings (1857–1928)

Mayor of Oxford 1917/18

James Hastings was born at Misterton in Nottinghamshire in early 1857 and baptised there on 6 March.

His father William Hastings was born in Welham, Nottinghamshire in c.1820 and his mother Ann was born at Epworth, Lincolnshire in c.1821. They were probably married in about 1850.

At the time of the 1861 census James (3) was living at Misterton with his father William (40), who was an agricultural labourer, his mother Ann (39), his grandfather James Hastings (77), who was a Chelsea Pensioner, and his siblings James (9), William (7), and Ann (2).

In 1871 James (13) was employed in agricultural work and living in the Wesleyan Chapel Yard in Misterton with his father William (50), who now described himself as a foreman at the drainage works engine, his mother Ann (48), and his sister Ruth (9).

By the time of the 1881 census James (24) had moved to London, where he was working as a bricklayer and boarding with a milkman and his family at 14 Harvard Road, Lewisham.

By 1887 Hastings had moved to Oxford and set up business as an estate agent and auctioneer at 55 Cornmarket Street. He first appeared in Jackson’s Oxford Journal of 27 August 1887, when he attended a meeting of the Conservative Association for the Central Ward.

In the second quarter of 1888 in the Headington registration district (probably in a Methodist chapel), James Hastings married his first wife Florence Grace Eltham. Florence was born in Eynsham near the end of 1865, the daughter of the road contractor John Eltham and his wife Ann. They had one child:

  • James William John Hastings (born in Oxford in 1888/9, probably in St Clement's, and reg. Headington district first quarter of 1889).

On 21 June 1890 he inserted the following advertisement in Jackson's Oxford Journal:

55 Cornmarket Street, Oxford

All kinds of Surveying. Plans prepared for Estates. Valuations for Probate and general purposes. House and Estate Agency. Special attention given to laying out of new Building Estates. Fire, Life, & Accident Insurance effected.

His wife Florence Grace Hastings died at St Clement's at the age of 24 in 1890 and was buried in the churchyard at Eynsham, her home village, on 18 September.

At the time of the 1891 census James (34), described as an auctioneer, was living at 72 Kingston Road with his two-year-old son James and a housekeeper.

Between 1890 and 1896 James Hastings built eight houses in Polstead Road (Nos. 14–28), all designed by H. W. Moore.

In 1891 in the Headington registration district, James Hastings married his second wife, the widow Mrs Helen Fanny Hall, daughter of the former Oxford mayor James Grainge. She already had one daughter, Janet Mary Hall (born in Hampshire on 17 February 1889). They had one daughter together:

  • Florence Nellie Hastings (born in Oxford on 1 July 1897).

Hastings took on the lease of Nos.14 and 20 Polstead Road himself, and moved into the former house. He also changed his business address that year: on 17 June 1893 the following notice appeared in Jackson's Oxford Journal:

CHANGE OF ADDRESS.–Mr. James Hastings, Auctioneer, &c., late of 55, Cornmarket-street, will in future carry on business at No. 45 Queen-street (adjoining Carfax Church).

In January 1893 Hastings, described as being of Polstead Road, stood as the Liberal candidate for the West Ward of the city, but lost to the Conservatives.

On 29 August 1893 Hastings attended the laying of the foundation stones of the Wesleyan Chapel at Combe. The Duke of Marlborough laid the first stone, and Hastings the fourth: the Revd Chapman said that

in the carrying out of the arrangements he did not think anyone had played a larger part than had Mr. Hastings, and but for the services which he had rendered he (the speaker) did not think it would have been possible at that early date to have laid the foundation stone of this new building, and he trusted Mr. Hastings would continue to give attention to the structure until he saw it completed.

Hastings came on to the city council as a Conservative representative of the North Ward later in the 1890s.

In 1900 he contributed material for a big bonfire held at the north end of St Giles to celebrate the Relief of Mafeking.

At the time of the 1901 census James Hastings (44), described as an auctioneer and an employer, was living at 14 Polstead Road with his second wife, Helen (39) and their daughter Florence (3). Also living with them were his son James (12) from his first marriage, and his stepdaughter Janet Hall, who was also aged 12. They had a nursemaid and a general servant.

His second wife Helen Fanny Hastings died near the end of 1910 at the age of 48. She was buried in Wolvercote Cemetery.

James Hastings was elected Sheriff of Oxford for 1913/14 and 1914/15, and in 1917 Mayor of Oxford (for 1917/18).

Hastings was President of Summertown Allotments Association, President of the City & County Bowling Association, and a keen golfer. He was also a life member of the Clarendon Club, of which he was President for a period, and a Freemason at the Alfred Lodge.

His only son James William John Hastings fought in the First World War and then emigrated to the USA. He was living in California in 1920 when he petitioned for naturalization.

The Oxford Times described James Hastings as “a prominent critic of the administration of the city”. In 1922, when he was Chairman of the Property & Estates and Farm Committees, and the member of several other committees, he surprisingly lost his seat, coming fourth at the election.

Hastings regained his seat on the council in November 1927, but less than two months later died of double pneumonia following a chill.

† James Hastings died at 14 Polstead Road the age of 70 on 4 January 1928. His funeral was held at St Margaret’s Church, and he was buried at Wolvercote Cemetery on 7 January. He was buried with his second wife Helen in Wolvercote Cemetery (E2/8) on 7 January. Mourners including his daughter Miss Florence Nellie Hastings, his step-daughter Miss Janet Hall, his brother-in-law Thomas James Grainge, and his nephews F. Howard and Henry Frank Galpin.

His effects came to £15,825 11s. 11d., and his brother-in-law Thomas James Grainge was one of his executors.

Children of James Hastings

His son by his first wife, James William John Hastings (born 1888/9), is hard to trace in the USA after 1920.

His daughter by his second wife, Florence Nellie Hastings (born 1897), never married. She died in Cheltenham at the age of 76 near the beginning of 1974.

His stepdaughter Janet Mary Hall (born 1889/90) never married. She died in 1971 at the age of 82 and was buried at Wolvercote Cemetery in the same grave as James Hastings and her mother on 16 July.

See also:

  • Oxford Times, 6 January 1928, p. 11d (report of Hastings’ death)
  • Oxford Journal Illustrated, 11 January 1928, pp. 13b (funeral), 14d (photograph of Hastings in mayoral robes)
  • 1881 Census: Kent (Lewisham), 0734/112
  • 1891 Census: Oxford (St Giles), 1166/8
  • 1901 Census: Oxford (St Giles), 1381/17

©Stephanie Jenkins

Last updated: 3 December, 2018

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