Oxford History: Mayors & Lord Mayors


William Edward Sherwood (1851–1927)

Mayor of Oxford 1913/14 and 1914/15

William Edward Sherwood was born in Workington in Cumberland in 1851 and baptised at St Michael's Church there on 24 May. He was the eldest son of Thomas Sherwood (born in 1809 in Purley, Berkshire) and his wife Charlotte (born in 1814 in Fyfield, Hampshire) who married in Mapledurham on 23 August 1832. Their daughter Louisa Sherwood was born at Workington in 1833, and they had another daughter Charlotte Sherwood, near the end of 1834, but she died shortly after her birth.

William’s family appears to have moved to Basingstoke shortly after his birth in 1851, as his brother John Sherwood was born there in 1852 and his sister Eva Jane Sherwood in 1855.

In 1858, when William was six years old, the family moved to Oxford when his father was appointed manager at Morrell’s Brewery. His youngest brother, Harry, was born the following year. The 1861 census shows William living at 1 Fisher Row with his parents and three younger siblings, plus a nurse, cook, and kitchenmaid. His father is described as a brewer’s agent. Ten years later his family were still there.

William attended Magdalen College School from the age of 11, and won a junior scholarship at Christ Church in 1869. He matriculated on 14 October 1870, at the age of 19, and gained a First in Mathematics Moderations, but only a Third in Mathematics Finals. He was a keen rower, rowing in the winning boat in the Fours of 1871 and in the University Boat Race of 1873 and 1874.

William's father was still manager of Morrell's Brewery when he died in 1874

In 1874 Sherwood returned to Magdalen College School as a teacher of Mathematics, but in 1878 was appointed Vice-Principal of Sidney Sussex College in Bath; when this was absorbed by Bath College, he became mathematics master and chaplain there.

The 1881 census shows the Revd William Sherwood (28) living at North Lodge at Bathwick with two boarders and two servants.

On 2 August 1883 at Teddington Church, Middlesex, William Edward Sherwood (32), described as a Clerk in Holy Orders of Bathwick, married Mabel Susan Eady (24) of Teddington, the daughter of Thomas William Eady, a gentleman. Born in Hornsey, Middlesex in 1859, Mabel was the younger sister of one of William's schoolfriends. They had no children.

58-59 High Street


In 1888 Sherwood was called back by Magdalen College to become Master (head) of its choir school, which was then on the college premises.

At the time of the 1891 census William Sherwood (39) was living at the Magdalen College School boarding house at 58–59 High Street (left). It was the school holidays, and only four boys aged 11–13 were in residence, but also living in the house are eight servants who worked for the school: a porter, cook, two housemaids, a dormitory maid, kitchen maid, and house boy. His wife Mabel (31) was paying a visit to the family of Dr Charles Parsons at 2 St James Street, Dover.

Sherwood raised the standards of the school in every way, and in 1893–4 Magdalen College built the new school on the site of Turrell’s Hall on the west side of Cowley Place (which today houses the junior section of Magdalen College School).

In 1894 Sherwood and his wife then moved to the new Master’s house next to the new school.

In 1900 Sherwood retired from teaching in at the age of 49 because of his wife’s delicate health after a serious operation, and they went to live at 260 Iffley Road (now the Acorn Guest House).

At the time of the 1901 census William (49), described as a Church of England Clergyman) was living at 260 Iffley Road with his Mabel (41), looked after by a parlourmaid and a cook, plus a sick nurse for his wife. Just two months later, on 17 June 1901, his wife Mabel Susan Sherwood died. She was buried at SS Mary and John Church on the Cowley Road.

In 1901, the year of his wife’s death, Sherwood published an account of Oxford Rowing up to that date, and became treasurer and historian of the University Boat Club.

Sherwood was Vicar of Sandford-on-Thames from 1901 to his retirement in 1910.

He was then persuaded to serve as Conservative University Member of the City Council.

The 1911 census shows Sherwood, a retired widower of 59, living at 260 Iffley Road with a housekeeper.

W. E. Sherwood


In 1913 Sherwood was elected Mayor of Oxford (for 1913/14), the first university councillor to hold the office. The Times wrote of his election:

“Coming events cast sometimes very strong shadows before. An event of real omen and importance, both for the city and the University of Oxford, and, indeed, in a sense a landmark in local history seems practically certain—namely the election to-day, for the first time, of a member of the university, and one of the university representatives on the city council, to be the Mayor of the City. At Cambridge this conjunction has been already seen, but at Oxford it has still to be realized.”

Because of the outbreak of war during his term of office, he was asked to continue serving for the next year (1914/15) as well.

In 1915 the University bestowed on Sherwood the honorary degree of Doctor of Civil Law.

† The Revd William Edward Sherwood was still living at 260 Iffley Road when he died at the Acland Home in Oxford on 23 September 1927 at the age of 76, and was buried at SS Mary and St John Church in the same grave as his wife. His sister (Miss Eva Jane Sherwood) and his wife’s brother (Mr Eady) were the principal mourners.

His effects came to £6,402 5s. 9d., and his executors were his sister Miss Eva Jane Sherwood, and the Revd Francis Gordon Sherwood, who was likely to have been a cousin.

See also:

  • Jackson’s Oxford Journal, 11 August 1900, p. 7a (resignation from Magdalen College School)
  • William E. Sherwood, Oxford rowing: a history of boat-racing at Oxford, with a record of the races (Oxford, 1900)
  • The Times, 10 November 1913, p. 10d: “A University Mayor of Oxford: Probable election of Mr Sherwood”
  • Oxford Journal Illustrated, 14 April 1915, p. 9 (”Who’s Who in Oxford”)
  • Oxford Times, 15 November 1913
  • Oxford Times, 5 June 1925
  • W. E. Sherwood, Oxford Yesterday (Basil Blackwell, 1927)
  • The Times, 24 September 1927, p. 12a: Obituary
  • Oxford Journal Illustrated, 28 September 1927, pp. 11d, (photograph), 15(report on his funeral)
  • Oxford Magazine, 1927–8, p. 22
  • 1861 Census: Oxford (St Thomas), 895/96
  • 1871 Census: rest of his family at Oxford (St Thomas), 1440/23
  • 1881 Census: Somerset (Bathwick), 2432/90
  • 1891 Census: Oxford (St Peter-in-the-East), 1167/92
  • 1901 Census: Oxford (Cowley St John), 1379/143

©Stephanie Jenkins

Last updated: 10 March, 2019

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