Oxford History: Mayors & Lord Mayors


Charles James Sadler (1792–1872)

Mayor of Oxford 1836/7, 1849/50, 1854/5, and 1860/1

Portrait of Charles James Sadler

Charles James Sadler was born on 26 November 1792 in St Clement’s, which was then just outside the city boundary of Oxford, and baptised at the old St Clement's Church on the Plain on 21 December.

He was the third son of Thomas Blakeney Sadler and his wife Eleanor, and nephew of the aeronaut James Sadler. His older siblings were also baptised at St Clement's Church: Elizabeth Sadler (18 October 1782), Mary Sadler (25 September 1783), Henry Sadler (17 October 1784), Thomas Sadler (6 June 1788), and Eleanor Sadler (19 March 1790).

Right: Alderman Charles James Sadler,
painted in 1862 by Sir William Boxell, R.A.

Sadler’s parents must have moved from St Clement's into Oxford city proper soon after his birth, as In the Universal British Directory of 1794/5, his father Thomas Sadler is listed as a pastry-cook and confectioner there. His business was then in All Saints parish.

Charles's mother Eleanor Sadler died when he was 15 and was buried at All Saints’ Church on 25 September 1807.

104 High Street

The Sadler family had moved to 104 High Street (left) in St Mary the Virgin parish by 1814, as an Oriel College plan of that year names Sadler as the occupant here.

Charles Sadler was admitted free on 2 September 1816 and joined his father to work as a confectioner in his shop at 104 High Street.


On 5 September 1815 at St James's Church, Westminster, Charles James Sadler, described as a “confectioner of Oxford”, married Jane Neadle of Piccadilly (born 26 May 1792).

Their only child Charles James Sadler junior was born on 26 February 1817 and baptised at All Saints’ Church on 14 March 1817.

Charles James Sadler became a Councillor in the old Corporation in 1823, and was elected Senior Chamberlain in 1825 and Junior Bailiff in 1828.


Charles James Sadler’s father Thomas Blakeney Sadler retired to Rose Hill, and died at his house at Rose Hill (“Cowley”) at the age of 72. He was buried at All Saints’ Church on 12 April 1829.

The entry for the shop under “Confectioners & Pastrycooks” in Pigot’s Directory for 1830 reads: “Sadler Charles James, High st”.

After the passing of the Municipal Corporations Act, Charles James Sadler was elected councillor for the South Ward on 26 December 1835 and six days later was elected an Alderman for six years. He led the more moderate reformers following that Act, and in 1836 was elected Mayor of Oxford (for 1836/7), although he was attacked by the Liberals for allowing himself to be nominated for the Mayoralty by the Conservatives.

On 18 July 1837 Sadler was the first Mayor to perambulate the city since the boundary change of 1835 that took in St Clement's (brief details). His initials C.J.S. appear on a number of Oxford boundary stones set up for the occasion: on the Godstow Road, on the north side of Cuckoo Lane and probably two others: on the south side of Cuckoo Lane and at the west end of Barracks Lane.

Sadler became Chair of the Paving Commission in the late 1830s.

On 29 July 1840 at St Nicholas's Church, Bristol, his son Charles James Sadler junior married Elizabeth Sadler Reed.

By the time of the 1841 census, Sadler (aged 48) had moved away from his shop at 104 High Street, although he was still described as a confectioner, and was living in Broad Street with his wife Jane and two servants. His High Street shop was taken over for a few years by his son Charles James Sadler junior and his son’s wife Elizabeth, who were living there at the time of the 1841 census, along with six male servants (who presumably include shop assistants) and one female servant.

1 Turl Street



On 30 December 1841 Charles James Sadler was granted a lease by the council of the high corner tenement (built in 1813) on the corner of Turl Street and Broad Street (right). He remained at this house (which was in St Michael’s parish) for over thirty years until his death.

Charles James Sadler opposed the adoption for Oxford of the Health of Towns Act 1848, disliking the idea of local autonomy being threatened by “foreigners”.

In 1849 Sadler was elected Mayor a second term (for 1849/50). In a debate in the town council in 1850 he alleged that many clergy were teaching Roman doctrines while being paid by the Established Church.

The support of Sadler in an election was said to control 300 votes, and he was described as “autocrat of the street commissioners, the city estates committee, the market, the city charities, and the gas works”.

The 1851 census shows Charles James Sadler (58), described as an Alderman and Magistrate, living at the top of Turl Street with his wife Jane and one servant. In Gardner’s Directory of 1852 he is listed in the Gentry section as “Charles James Esq., Turl-st”.

In November 1851 Sadler urged the council to provide “a public reading room or library for the mass of the people … instead of driving them to the public house”. In October 1852 ratepayers voted in favour of a free city library by 596 to 72, and the library opened on 1 June 1854 beneath the old Town Hall. It was open from 9am to 11pm in summer and 9am to 10pm in winter, and attracted 650 visitors on its first day. Sadler praised its “solid advantages to the Middle and Working classes of this City”.

In 1854 Charles James Sadler was elected Mayor of Oxford a third time (for 1854/5)

In 1860 he was elected Mayor a fourth time (for 1860/1).

At the time of the 1861 census Sadler (67), described as “Mayor, Alderman & Magistrate”, was living at 1 Turl Street with his wife Jane (67) and their two servants.

Because he had served as Mayor four times, it was agreed that W. Boxall, R.A., described in Jackson's Oxford Journal of 12 July 1862 as “one of the best portrait painters of the day, and likewise a citizen of Oxford” should paint his portrait, which would be presented to the city: it still hangs in the Council Chamber at Town Hall, and is shown above. The portrait was exhibited at the Royal Academy, and Jackson's Oxford Journal of 28 May 1864 reported:

The art critic of the Times, in speaking of Mr. Boxall's portrait of Ald. Sadler, now at the Exhibition, says:–“In his portrait of Alderman Sadler, of Oxford, the kindly shrewd old face, animated by a pair of bright eyes, full of plesaant humour, is painted with nice feeling, while the management of the scarlet robe may usefully be compared by painters with Mr. Wells' treatment of the same difficult drapery.”

His wife Jane Sadler died at the age of 76 on 2 February 1869. She was buried at St Mary-the-Virgin Church, and the parish register has a note in the margin reading “Aldn. Sadler’s wife buried in their old vault in the churchyard.”

The 1871 census shows Charles Sadler (78) living at Turl Street with his 27-year-old granddaughter Emily J. Sadler acting as his housekeeper, and with a cook and a housemaid. He was described as an Alderman and an agent to the gas company.

† Charles James Sadler died on 17 April 1872 at the age of 79. His obituary included the following:

One of our oldest and most prominent citizens — Alderman Charles James Sadler — passed away from us suddenly and tranquilly, at his residence in Turl-street, on Wednesday last, at the ripe age of 79 years…. Probably no man ever held so many public appointments in the City as he did, and to mark their sense of his services his fellow-citizens, a few years since, had his portrait painted. He presented it to the City, and it now hangs in the Council Chamber. Latterly he had been afflicted with total blindness, and could not, therefore, take so active a part in public affairs as he had been accustomed to do. Still he was constantly to be seen, guided by an attendant, walking about, and wearing the accustomed scarlet geranium in his button-hole (for he was a devoted lover of flowers) and his cheery “How are you,” when accosted by an acquaintance, made one completely forget his affliction.

When Sadler’s funeral took place at St Mary-the-Virgin Church on 22 April 1872, the shops in the vicinity closed entirely or partially from 1pm. His funeral procession included the Mayor & Corporation, the City Magistrates, the Coroner of the Local Board, and a deputation from the Druids (”with which body the deceased was connected”), with the Macebearer in front carrying the mace covered with black crape. He was buried in a vault in the churchyard.

His obituary says, “His self-conceit was prodigious, and he would frequently say that he was never wrong.”

Grave of Sadler and his wife and grandchild

People now have lunch beside Sadler’s vault, which is behind St Mary-the-Virgin Church. The inscription reads:

Charles James SADLER Alderman of this City died April 17 1872 aged 79
Jane SADLER his wife died Feb 2 1869 aged 76
Amelia Elizth SADLER their grandchild died in infancy 1841

His effects came to under £5,000, and his executors were the city solicitor Thomas Mallam and the University Bailiff William Francis Perkins

Sadler’s only child

Charles James Sadler junior (born 1817) and his wife Elizabeth had two daughters while still in Oxford. Their first daughter, Amelia Elizabeth Sadler, was born on 30 July 1841 and baptised at St Mary-the-Virgin Church on 7 September, but died at the age of seven weeks and was buried there on 19 September 1841. Their second daughter Emily Jane Sadler, described in the register as the daughter of a confectioner in the High Street and of St Mary the Virgin parish, was baptised at St Martin’s Church on 17 April 1844.

It appears that soon after Emily’s birth Charles junior gave up his father’s business and moved out of Oxford, and by 1846 the old confectioner’s shop was a bookshop.

At the time of the 1851 census Charles James Sadler junior (34) described as a wine merchant, was living at 8 Vyvyan Terrace, Clifton, Bristol with his wife Elizabeth (34) and their children Emily Jane Sadler (7), Frederick Charles Sadler (5), and Augustus Henry Sadler (4), and three servants.

By 1861 he was a Civil Servant living at 114 Tadbrook Street in Westminster with his wife and three of his children: Emily (17), who was a governess, Augustus (14), and Florence (9). They now had only one servant.

On 21 July 1869 at St Gabriel's Church, Warwick Square, London his son Frederick Charles Sadler married Christiana de Wilde, the youngest daughter of William Charles Cater, Esq. of Pall Mall, and a notice was inserted in Jackson's Oxford Journal.

In 1871 Charles (54) was still a civil servant and living at 111 Wilson Road Lambeth with his wife Elizabeth (54) and their son Augustus (24), who was also a civil servant, their daughter Florence (19), and one servant.

In 1881 Charles (64) was described as working for the Civil Service as Senior Examiner in the Exchequer & Audit Department. He was living at 41 Wilson Road, Camberwell with his wife Elizabeth (64) and their unmarried daughter Emily Jane Sadler (37), and one general servant.

Charles James Sadler died at 41 Wilson Road, Camberwell on 21 February 1882. His personal estate came to £41 12s. 6d., and his son Augustus was his executor.

See also:

  • Jackson’s Oxford Journal, 9 September 1815: Announcement of Sadler’s marriage
  • Jackson’s Oxford Journal, 20 April 1872, p. 5e (obituary)
  • Jackson’s Oxford Journal, 27 April 1872, p. 5c (funeral)
  • Victoria County History of Oxfordshire, Volume IV: The City of Oxford, opp. p. 22 (photograph of the portrait of Charles James Sadler)
  • 1841 Census: Oxford (St Michael), 0891/14/20
  • 1851 Census: Oxford (St Michael), 1728/529
  • 1861 Census: Oxford (St Michael), 894/80
  • 1871 Census: Oxford (St Michael), 1438/71

©Stephanie Jenkins

Last updated: 21 January, 2022

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