Oxford History: Mayors & Lord Mayors


John Seary (1819–1906)

Mayor of Oxford 1895/6

John Seary was born in St Clement's, Oxford in 1819 and baptised there on 12 September. He was the son of John Seary senior (born in Chipping Norton in 1783), who is variously described as a servant or a labourer, and his wife Elizabeth (born in Deddington in 1779). (Given that her youngest child has the middle name Churchill, she is likely to have been the Elizabeth Churchill baptised at Deddington on 26 November 1779.)

John had one younger brother, David Seary, baptised at St Clements on 26 June 1825.

By the time of the 1841 census John (21) had already left home, and was presumably working as a tailor elsewhere, probably in London. Meanwhile his parents and his brother David (15), who was an apprentice compositor, were living at the Plain, St Clements.

On 6 September 1847 at St Dunstan's Church, West London, John Seary, described as a tailor of 115 Chancery Lane, married Julia Churchill Price of James Place, the daughter of the servant Thomas Price. They came back to Oxford, and had nine children there:

  • Ann Webb Seary (baptised at St Clement’s Church on 9 August 1848)
  • Thomas Capel Seary (baptised at St Clement’s Church on 5 May 1850)
  • Louis Kossuth Seary (baptised at St Clement’s Church on 7 December 1851)
  • Walter Seary (baptised at St Clement’s Church on 3 September 1854)
  • Arthur William Seary (baptised at Cowley St John Church on 19 October 1856)
  • Francis or Frank Seary (baptised at St Clement’s Church on 20 June 1858)
  • Emily Ella Seary (baptised at Cowley St John Church on 25 December 1859)
  • Ralph Seary (born c.1861, but birth not registered, and no baptism found)
  • Julia Churchill Seary (baptised at Cowley St John Church on 5 March 1866)

They initially set up home in St Clement's Street, and John Seary went to work for the Hyde & Bays tailor's shop at 2 & 3 Queen Street.

At the time of the 1851 census John Seary (31), described as a tailor's foreman, was living in St Clement's Street with his wife Julia (27) and their first two children Ann (3) and Thomas (1), and they had one servant.

By 1854 the family had had moved to the Iffley Road. The 1861 census shows John Seary (41), described as a clothier’s assistant, living there with his wife Julia (37) and their first seven children: Ann (13), Thomas (11), Louis (9), Walter (6), Arthur (4), Frank (3), and Emily (1), and a 16-year-old servant girl. Later in 1861 his eighth child, Ralph, must have been born, followed by his last child, Julia in 1866.

On 17 April 1869 Thomas Hyde, who had been trading under the name Hyde & Bays at 2 & 3 Queen Street, announced in Jackson's Oxford Journal that he was retiring from the retail trade, and that he had disposed of the whole of his retail business to John Seary, who had been his assistant and then manager for over twenty years. John Seary inserted a complementary announcement, stating that he would continue the same system of business, namely purchasing goods from the best manufactories, adopting a short system of credit, and marking every article in plain figures.

By the time of the 1871 census John Seary (57), described as a clothier employing 14 men, two apprentices, and eight females, was living his shop at 2 & 3  Queen Street in St Martin's parish with his wife Julia (47) and five of their children: Ann (23), Louis (19), Frank (13), Emily (11) and Julia (5). Also living with them over the shop was a clothier’s assistant, a clothier’s apprentice, and two domestic servants. His eldest son Thomas Capel Seary (21) was a wood engraver, lodging in London at 15 Southampton Buildings, Holborn, and his fourth son Arthur Willilam Seary (14) was boarding at the grammar school at Bloxham.

Two of his children were married in the 1870s:

  • On 5 March 1872 at St Martin's Church, Carfax, Ann Webb Seary married Sydney Charles Hayes, a dentist of St Aldate's
  • On 9 October 1873 at St Mark's Church, Myddelton Square, Islington,, Thomas Capel Seary who was then working for the War Office and living at 73 Myddelton Square, married Jessie Priscilla White.

In 1874 John Seary was elected Conservative councillor for the South Ward.

The following advertisement was published in Jackson’s Oxford Journal of 29 September 1877:



MEN’s ULSTER COATS, from 21s. each    
 BOY’s ULSTER COATS, from 7s 6d.

ALL WOOL TWEED SUITS, made to order, at 50s.
13s. 6d. per Pair


lined with Woollen, and Straps and Shaped,
at 12s. 6d., ROLLER to match, 5s.


Seary button
Metal button bearing the text J. SEARY / OXFORD
found by Luke O'Byrne

The Times of 26 October 1880 gives some incidental details of Seary’s council career in a report about an inquiry into election procedures at Oxford:

Mr Seary, an outfitter and a member of the Town Council, after giving some information about the arrangements for the South ward, was asked if he knew anything about flags and colours, and said, unfortunately, he did. He had sent in a bill for £164, and he was sorry to say it was not paid. The flags were supplied to the whole town. Two known Conservatives came to him for an estimate for Mr. Evitts for 5ft poles and flags, and he asked 1s 6d each. They returned and brought an order for 400, which were made and distributed. Afterwards he saw Mr Evitts and said “People are worrying me for flags; what am I to do?” and Mr Evitts said, “Make another 500.” His place was inundated with people requiring flags. He did not receive any orders from the other side; but many came from private individuals. He had been returned twice to the Council, once after a contest hardly fought. He canvassed the ward, and the contest cost him from £20 to £30, chiefly for printing. He never expected to be repaid. He had no doubt it would be better for the city if the political parties were more equally balanced.

At the time of the 1881 census John Seary (61), now the employer of 39 hands and two apprentices, was living over Nos. 2 & 3 Queen Street with his wife Julia (59) and three of their children: Arthur (20), who was a clothier’s assistant, Francis (23), who was an unemployed ironmonger’s assistant, and Emily (20). Also living with them were a clothier’s assistant, an apprentice, and two servants. His son Louis (29) is hard to find in this and any following censuses, and may have emigrated.

Four more of his children were married in the 1880s:

  • On 22 January 1881 at St Dunstan West parish church in the City of London, Walter Seary, now a clerical tailor's manager of St George's, Bloomsbury, married Fanny Dalton, the daughter of the deceased grocer John William Dalton;
  • On 27 June 1882 at St Martin's Church, Oxford, Frank Seary, now an ironmonger in Newport, Monmouthshire, married Emily Clarke, residing at 2 Queen Street Oxford and the daughter of the deceased farmer Thomas Clarke.
  • On 1 August 1882 in Oxford (date recorded on banns), Arthur William Seary of St Martin's parish married Amy Elizabeth Ettie Carter of St Mary Magdalen parish.
  • On 4 April 1888 at St Martin's Church, Carfax, Julia Churchill Seary married Henry Benjamin Wilsdon, an organist of Henley-on-Thames.

Seary's son-in-law Sidney Hayes, dentist of St Aldate's, went bankrupt, and Jackson's Oxford Journal of 19 January 1884 reports on a dispute about whether his wife Ann's Broadwood piano, on which she gave lessons to support herself, belonged to her personally. The County Court came out in favour of Sidney Hayes' trustee. The couple appear to have separated, and Ann returned to live with her parents.

Kelly’s Directory for 1891 lists John Seary (then aged 71) in the court list as a private individual, living at 1 Queen Street, but the census that year describes him as a clothier at that address with his wife Julia (68) and their unmarried daughter Emma (31). Their married daughter Ann Webb Hayes (43) was also living with them with her children Cyril (17) and Gwendoline (16), An assistant clothier boarded with them, and they had two servants.

On 30 April 1893 Seary’s wife Julia Churchill Seary died at Queen Street, Oxford at the age of 69, and an announcement was placed in Jackson's Oxford Journal.

John Seary


John Seary was already an Alderman when in 1895, at the age of 75, he was elected Mayor of Oxford (for 1895/6).


Because he was on the Municipal Buildings Committee when the new Town Hall was opened in 1897, Seary’s head is carved in stone in the Council Chamber corridor (right).


His daughter Mrs Ann Webb Hayes, who was still living with her parents, died at 2 Queen Street, Oxford at the age of 49 in 1897, and her funeral was held at St Martin's Church on 18 November. .

By the time of the 1901 census, John Seary, a widower of 81 described as a retired clerical outfitter, had moved to London to live with his youngest son Ralph Seary (39) at 27 Rathcoole Avenue, Hornsey. Ralph, a clerical outfitter like his father, was single and the head of the household, which also comprised Seary’s spinster daughter Emily (41) and his granddaughter Gwendoline Hayes (26) who was a retail draper’s clerk.

His son Walter Seary died near the beginning of 1906 in the City of London and was buried at Newham on 13 January.

† John Seary died at 35 Rathcoole Avenue, Hornsey on 31 August 1906, aged 87. His effects came to £75, and his executor was his son Ralph.

In 1911 his two unmarried children Ralph Seary (49) , a clerical outfitter, and Emily Ella Seary (51) were living at 99 Birkbeck Road, Hornsey. Emily Ella Seary died in the Chelsea district in 1918.

See also:

  • 1841 Census: (parents) Oxford (St Clement), 876/10/19
  • 1851 Census: Oxford (St Clement), 1727/309; (parents) 1727/320
  • 1861 Census: Oxford (Cowley), 891/11
  • 1871 Census: Oxford (St Martin), 1437/20
  • 1881 Census: Oxford (St Martin), 1501/8
  • 1891 Census: Oxford (St Martin), 1167/7
  • 1901 Census: Middlesex (Hornsey), 1240/151

©Stephanie Jenkins

Last updated: 15 May, 2022

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