Oxford History: Mayors & Lord Mayors


William Henry Perkins (1865–1942)

Mayor of Oxford 1923/4 and 1926/7

William Henry Perkins was born in Neath, Glamorgan on 10 December 1865. His parents were William Perkins (born in Llandeilo, Carmarthenshire) and his wife Ann (born in Carmarthen),

At the time of the 1871 census William (5) was living at Ty'n-y-caeau, Neath with his father William (34), who was a puddler in the iron works, his mother Ann[e] (35), and his older brother Charles (8).

William's mother Ann Perkins died the following year at the age of 36.

By the time of the 1881 census William (15) was working as a behinder in the tin works, which meant he would use tongs to catch the hot bars fed through the rollers by the rollerman and pass them over the top back to the rollerman as the latter passed through another bar. He was living at 40 Llantwit Road, Neath with his widower father William (43), who was still an iron puddler and his brother Charles (18), who was an iron furnaceman. His father's widowed sister Mrs Ann Phillips (12) had come to live with them to act as their housekeeper, bringing her daughter Jane (12).

At the time of the 1891 census William (26) was working for the Great Western Railway as a signalman and boarding in Monmouthshire at 15 Richmond Road, Upper Llanfrechfa, Pontnewydd, the home of a GWR checker and his wife.

Soon after the census the GWR sent him to Heyford in Oxfordshire in 1891, and it is likely that he met his future Oxford-born wife at this point. He then moved on to work for the GWR at Long Sutton, near Spalding, Lincolnshire.

On 13 September 1897 at St Barnabas' Church, Oxford, William Henry Perkins (32), described as a railway clerk of 10 Victoria Terrace, Long Sutton, Lincolnshire, married Mary Louise Pavier (21) of 26 Walton Crescent Oxford, who was born in Oxford on 27 August 1876 and was the daughter of the grocer Frederick George Pavier and his wife Elizabeth. They had just one child:

  • Gladys Mary Perkins (born at Long Sutton, Lincolnshire on 11 September 1898
    and baptised at St Barnabas' Church, Oxford on 14 May 1899).

In 1899 William Henry Perkins came to Oxford with his wife and child and took over a coal merchant’s business.

At the time of the 1901 census, William Henry Perkins (35), described as a coal merchant, was living at 30 Albert Street, Jericho with his wife Mary (24) and their daughter Gladys (2).

In 1902 the Perkins family moved to 75 Walton Street, and in 1907 to 11 Tackley Place. In 1910 they moved to 43 Chalfont Road, where they remained until 1927.

Perkins was elected as a Conservative for the West Ward in 1909.

At the time of the 1911 census William Henry Perkins (45), still described as a coal merchant, was living at 43 Chalfont Road with his wife Mary (34) and their daughter Gladys Mary (12).

His photograph appeared in the Oxford Journal Illustrated on 5 November 1913 and 3 November 1920 when he was again elected councillor. Another photograph appeared on 10 November 1920 when Perkins was elected Sheriff of Oxford, and on 7 November 1923 when he was again elected councillor.

In 1923 he retired from his coal merchant’s business, and in that year he was elected Mayor of Oxford (for 1923/4). During his Mayoralty there were three General Elections and he was presented with a silver mallet by the people of Oxford to commemorate this. He was pictured many times in the Oxford Journal Illustrated during his year of office: at the Remembrance Day service at Oxford war memorial on14 November 1923; as the new Mayor on 21 November 1923; supervising the distribution of vouchers from the Mayor's Christmas Fund on 2 January 1924; opening the Salesian Fete at Cowley on 11 June 1924; presenting the Fire Chief with the freedom of the city on 13 August 1924; and starting the ladies' egg & spoon race at the West Oxford Horticultural Show on 27 August 1924.

In 1924/5 he served as Deputy Mayor, and a photograph of him being presented with a chairman's mallet and striking block at a gathering of the West Ward Conservative Association was published in the Oxford Journal Illustrated of 28 January 1925. Then on 25 November 1925 it published another photograph of him when he was appointed a Justice of the Peace.

In 1926 Perkins was again elected Mayor of Oxford (for 1926/7), and on 13 October 1926 the Oxford Journal Illustrated published a photograph of him again, and on 10 November 1926 a scene in the Council Chamber after he had taken his seat. On 7 September 1927 there was a photograph of Perkins having his hand read at St Giles' Fair. His mayoralty was the time of the General Strike, and he was also appointed Coal Controller for Oxford.

He served as Deputy Mayor again for 1927/8.

In 1927 William Henry Perkins moved to 7 Portland Road, Summertown, where he remained for the rest of his life.

William Henry Perkins was elected an Alderman in 1929.

Perkins was President of the West Oxford Horticultural Society and also a member of the North Oxford Bowls Club, the Clarendon Club, the Conservative Club, and the Management Committee of the Oxford Canal Company.

The 1939 Directory shows Perkins, described as a retired company director, living at 7 Portland road with his wife Mary and their daughter Gladys.

Perkins plaque




† Alderman William Henry Perkins died at 7 Portland Road on 4 August 1942 at the age of 76. His effects came to £17,614 18s. 9d., and his daughter was his executor.


His wife Mary Louise Perkins died at 7 Portland Road seven years later on 23 March 1949 at the age of 72. Her effects came to £3,803 12s. 7d., and her daughter was her executor


Their daughter Gladys Mary Perkins never married, and died at Oxford on 3 June 1979 at the age of 80.



Right: Plaque on the wall of Oxford Crematorium dedicated to William Perkins and his wife and daughter

See also:

  • Oxford Times, 7 August 1942, p. 8f (obituary)
  • 1901 Census: Oxford (St Barnabas), 1386/152

©Stephanie Jenkins

Last updated: 5 December, 2018

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