Oxford History: Mayors & Lord Mayors


Edmund Butterworth Lewis (1872–1947)

Mayor of Oxford 1920/1

Edmund Butterworth Lewis was born at 39 Herbert Street, Hightown, Cheetham, near Manchester on 29 March 1872.

His father, Henry Lewis, was born in Ombersley in Worcestershire in 1846 and his mother Mary Frances Butterworth in Moston, Lancashire in 1847. His parents were married in the Chorlton district in the second quarter of 1871.

In about 1875 Edmund moved with his parents to 24 Walnut Street, Hightown. At the time of the 1881 census Edmund (9) was living here with his father Henry (34), who was described as a draper’s buyer, his mother Mary (33) and four younger siblings: Edith (7), Thomas (5), Frances (3), and Russell (eight months).

In 1892 Edmund (19) was a pupil teacher, living at 22 Heywood Street, Cheetham with his father Henry (44), who was still a draper's buyer, his mother Mary (43), and his four younger siblings: Thomas (15), who was a warehouseman, and Frances (12), Russell (11), and Ernest (4). His mother's widowed sister Mrs Elizabeth Farrar (56) was living with them, and they employed a domestic servant.

Meanwhile down in Oxford, by 1877 Faithful Cape had founded Cape’s Drapery Store at 26 St Ebbe’s Street. Cape expanded into No. 29 in the 1880s, and in 1887 rebuilt Nos. 30 and 31 to match No. 29. Cape retired in 1888, selling the business to Daniel Bailey of Bristol, who expanded it again to include 47 Church Street.

In 1893 Daniel Bailey sold the Cape’s shop to Edmund’s father Henry Lewis for £10,865 5s., which included stock and fixtures and furniture, and in that year, when Edmund was 21, his family moved to Oxford to run the shop. In 1899 his father expanded Cape’s to include 28 St Ebbe’s Street, and further expanded into No. 32 in 1900; in the latter year he also bought 8 St Ebbe’s Street on the other side of the road for a wool shop, and opened another branch at 86–90 Cowley Road.

At the time of the 1901 census Edmund (29) was a draper’s assistant, living with his family at 125 Woodstock Road, Oxford. His father Henry (53) was simply described as a draper; and his sister Frances (23) as a draper’s cashier. His only other sibling still at home was Ernest (14). Elizabeth Farrar (66) was still living with them, and they had one servant.

In the second quarter of 1901 in the Stow-on-the-Wold district, Edmund Butterworth Lewis married Florence Kate Mathews. They do not appear to have had any children.

In 1904 Edmund's father bought the lease of 71 and 72 Walton Street for another branch of Cape's. By 1905 he had also bought 11 and 12 St Ebbe’s Street for Cape’s menswear and shoe departments, and then Nos. 7 and 8 for a furnishing department.

From 1907 to 1921 Edmund’s father Henry Lewis, who was a Methodist and a member of the United Methodist Church in St Michael’s Street, served on the city council, and in 1908 Edmund followed him on to the council as the Liberal representative for the East Ward.

Edmund and his two brothers all went into their father’s business as buyers with a seat on the board. Edmund, who was the buyer for mantles, joined the Oxford Chamber of Trade in 1907, and was chosen as its President in 1910 and 1911.

The 1911 census shows Edmund and his wife Kate living at 228 Iffley Road with one servant.

On the death of their father in 1921, Edmund Lewis and his brothers Tom and Russell took over Cape’s.

Edmund Lewis was Sheriff of Oxford for 1919/20, and in 1920 was elected Mayor of Oxford (for 1920/1).

He was made a Justice of the Peace in November 1926, and continued as a councillor until 1929, when he was elected an Alderman: he served the council in this capacity for the rest of his life.

Lewis was President of the Cumberland Road Allotments Association and the Oxford representative on the Thames Conservancy Board from 1925. He was also President of the National Chamber of Trade in 1928.

In 1928 Lewis opened another branch of Cape’s in Headington (6 Windmill Road), and in 1932 he moved into The Brambles at 4 Latimer Road, Headington.

The 1939 directory shows him living at 4 Latimer Road with his wife Florence and their parlourmaid. Also living with them was a nine-year-old schoolboy called Percy Albert Callegari, born in West Ham on 2 January 1930, and possibly another child.

† Edmund Butterworth Lewis was still living at 4 Latimer Road when died at the age of 75 in a nursing home at 230 Woodstock Road on 24 October 1947. His funeral was at the Wesley Memorial Church, followed by cremation at Oxford Crematorium. His effects came to £36, 754 19s 4d.

Lewis’s nephew, Major Anthony Lewis, continued to run Cape’s until its closure in 1971.

See also:

  • Oxford Journal Illustrated, 10 November 1920, p. 1 (full front-page photograph of “Oxford’s New Mayor”)
  • Oxford Times, 31 October 1947, p. 8e (obituary)
  • 1881 Census: Lancashire (Cheetham): 4024/106
  • 1901 Census: Oxford (SS Philip & James), 1381/97
  • Richard Foster, F. Cape & Co of St Ebbe’s St Oxford. From Drapers Shop to Department Store (Oxford City & County Museum, Publication No. 3, 1973)

©Stephanie Jenkins

Last updated: 5 December, 2018

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