Oxford History: Mayors & Lord Mayors


James Edward Salter (1857–1937)

Mayor of Oxford 1909/10

James Edward Salter was born in Wandsworth, Surrey near the beginning of 1857. He was the third son of the boat-builder John Salter (b. Fulham 1826) and Harriet Yates (b. Wandsworth 1833), who were married in the Marylebone district near the beginning of 1853. His two older brothers were also born in Wandsworth: John Henry Salter in 1853, and Thomas Alfred Salter in 1855.

In 1858, when James was one year old, his father John Salter and his uncle Stephen Salter moved to Oxford to take over Isaac King’s boat-building firm at Folly Bridge, marking the beginning of the Salters’ Steamers firm which still survives today. The birth of his next three siblings was registered in Oxford: George Stephen Salter (1859), Elizabeth Annie Salter (1861), Kate Salter (1863), and Fanny Salter (1865).

At the time of the 1861 census James (4) was living at 41 St Aldate’s Street with his father John (34), who was described as a boat-builder, his mother Harriet (27), and his four siblings John (7), Thomas (5), George (2), and Elizabeth (one month, as yet unnamed). Also living with the family were Mrs Harriet Salter’s younger sisters, Jane Yates (17) and Elizabeth Yates (12).

John's sister Elizabeth Annie Salter died at St Aldate's at the age of 1 year 10 months, and her funeral was held at All Saints’ Church on 22 January 1863. The birth of James's two youngest sisters Kate and Fanny was registered in 1863 and early 1865 respectively.

In early 1865 when James was aged eight, soon after giving birth to her youngest child, his mother Harriet Salter died at St Aldate's at the age of 31, and her funeral was held at All Saints' Church on 2 March.

At the time of the 1871 census James (14) was described as a boatbuilder and was living at 45 St Aldate’s Street with his father John (45), who was helped by a housekeeper and a domestic servant, and his five siblings: John ( 17) and Thomas (15) who were also described as boat builders, and George (12), Kate (8), and Fanny (6) were still at school.

In the third quarter of 1879 in Oxford, James Edward Salter married Julia Maria Millin, the daughter of an Oxford draper and the sister of his brother John Henry Salter's wife. The couple initially lived at 9 Speedwell Street St Ebbe’s, and they had four sons:

  • James Arthur Salter (born in Oxford on 15 March 1881 and baptised at New Inn Hall Street Methodist Church on 1 May 1881)
  • George Herbert Salter (born in Oxford on 17 January 1884 and baptised at New Inn Hall Street Methodist Church on 2 April 1884)
  • John Francis Salter (born in Oxford on 13 June 1885 and baptised at New Inn Hall Street Methodist Church on 7 October 1885)
  • Edward Arnold Salter (born in Oxford on 19 August 1889 and baptised at New Inn Hall Street Methodist Church on 22 November 1889).

At the time of the 1881 census James (24), described as a boat builder, was living at 9 Speedwell Street with his wife Julia (30) and their their three-week-old son James. A nurse and a 14-year-old servant girl lived with them.

James Edward Salter’s uncle Stephen Salter retired from the boat-building business and his father John Salter died in Oxford at the age of 64 in January 1890. James then took over the business with his older brother John and his younger brother George. Its name was changed from J. & S. Salter to Salter Brothers, and in 1888 they launched their own steamboat service between Oxford and Kingston on the Alaska. As the Salter family were strict Wesleyan Methodists, boats were originally not let or operated on a Sunday, and alcohol was not served on board.

Oxford to Kingston steamer

At the time of the 1891 census James (34), described as a boat builder and farmer, was living at “Southlea” on the Abingdon Road with his wife Julia (32) and their four sons James Arthur (10), George (7), John (5), and Edward (1), plus one servant.

By 1901 James (44), now just described as a boat builder again, was living at at Isis House on the towing path with his wife Julia (4) and their four sons. Their eldest son, James Arthur Salter, was then an undergraduate at Brasenose College, and was to get a First in Classics.

In about 1903 James Edward Salter came on to the council representing the South Ward as a Liberal (taking the place of his brother, who was elevated to an Alderman).

In 1909 he was elected Mayor of Oxford (for 1909/10).

On 1 June 1910 at Iffley Church his second son George Herbert Salter (26), now a Clerk in Holy Orders, married Olive Evelyn Gillman (24), the daughter of the deceased boot manufacturer George Gillman.

At the time of the 1911 census James Edward Salter (54), described as a boat builder, was living at Hollycoate on Boars Hill (then in Berkshire) with his wife Julia (50) and their unmarried son John Francis (25), who was also described as a boat builder. They had one servant. His sons James Arthur Salter (30), described as a Higher Division Clerk in the Civil Service, and Edward Arnold Salter (21), who was a student, were both paying a visit to the insurance agent Angelo Mathews and his wife Emma who lived on Boars Hill. His son George Herbert Salter (27), an Assistant Curate at St Mary's Church, Reading, was living at 14 Mansfield Road, Reading with his wife Olive (25) and their 14-year-old servant girl.

Later in 1911 in the Edmonton district, James's youngest son Edward Arnold Salter married Ethel Bullard.

James Edward Salter's second wife Julia Maria Salter died at the age of 75 in 1926 and was buried at Wolvercote Cemetery on 21 April.

James continued as a partner in the Salter Brothers boat-building business until his death.

† James Edward Salter died at Isis House on the Towing Path, Folly Bridge on 31 March 1937 at the age of 80 and was buried at Wolvercote Cemetery with his second wife Julia on 5 April (Grave C1/75).

His effects came to £28,821 15s. 10d., and his four sons were his executors. The eldest, Sir James Arthur Salter was then the Member of Parliament for the University of Oxford; the second, the Revd George Herbert Salter, M.A., was the Rector of St Sepulchre's Church in London; and the two youngest sons, John Francis Salter and Edward Arnold Salter, B.A., were boat builders.

In 1940 in London his son Sir James Arthur Salter married the widow Mrs Ethel Bullard. They had no children. In 1953 he was created Baron Salter of Kidlington, but the peerage became extinct when he died in 1975.

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©Stephanie Jenkins

Last updated: 20 August, 2021

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