Oxford History: Mayors & Lord Mayors


Edwin Thomas Spiers (1808–1885)

Mayor of Oxford 1866/7

Edwin Thomas Spiers was born at Holborn, Middlesex in 1808 and baptised at St Andrew’s Church there on 14 September. His family came from Oxford: his grandfather Richard Spiers, who had married Elizabeth Dodd on 27 October 1772, died in Oxford at the age of 35 and was buried at St Mary Magdalen Church on 11 September 1785. Edwin's parents were the tailor Thomas Spiers (born in Oxford on 2 April 1777) and his wife Harriet (born in Devon).

Edwin was admitted free on 31 August 1832.

On 2 July 1838 at Upper Heyford, Edwin Thomas Spiers (30) married Elizabeth Pearson (22): she was simultaneously described in the register as a farmer’s daughter and the daughter of Richard Pearson, a shoemaker. They had just one child, born five months after the wedding:

  • George King Richard Spiers (baptised at Upper Heyford on 27 January 1839).

The baptismal register shows that the family had already moved to Oxford by the beginning of 1839, as Edwin Spiers was described as a “stationer of Oxford”.

At the time of the 1841 census Edwin, described as a bookseller, was living at Bear Lane in St Mary-the-Virgin parish with his wife Elizabeth, and they had a female servant and a clerk living with them. Their two-year-old son was curiously not listed, and is hard to find.

By the time of the 1841 census, Edwin's parents were also back in Oxford. Thomas Spiers (56) was a tailor, living in Blackfriars Road, St Ebbe's with his wife Harriet (52) and Edwin's sisters Hester (18) and Helen (15).

In 1848 Edwin Spiers contested the North ward with Isaac Grubb, losing by just one vote; and in 1851 he was returned for the West ward.

From the mid-1840s Edwin Spiers was a bookseller, stationer, and newsagent (as well as managing a circulating library) at 96 High Street in St Mary-the-Virgin parish (one of the shops demolished in 1909 to make way for Oriel College's Rhodes Building).

At the time of the 1851 census Edwin (42), described as a bookseller employing two men, was living over his shop at 96 High Street with his wife Elizabeth (33) and their son George (12), plus their servant. A graduate of Brasenose College occupied a separate part of the living accommodation.


Edwin's wife Elizabeth Spiers died on 3 April 1852 at the age of 37 and was buried in St Mary-the-Virgin Churchyard five days later.

Her grave is one of the very few that remain in the grass to the north of the church (left) and reads:

APRIL 3 1852


Edwin Spiers was one of the four Liberal leaders on the city council, and was elected Sheriff of Oxford for 1856/7.

On 30 July 1856 Edwin's mother Harriet Spiers died at Blackfriars Road, St Ebbe's at the age of 75 and her funeral at Holy Trinity Church was on 7 August. On 30 October 1859 his father Thomas Spiers died there at the age of 82 and his funeral was on 2 November. They are probably buried at Osney Cemetery.

By 1859 Edwin had changed his trade at 96 High Street from that of a bookseller to a wine merchant, and in Jackson's Oxford Journal on 22 January 1859 his son George announced that he also had commenced business as a wine merchant in a separate part of the shop (96A).

On 29 December 1859 Edwin Thomas Spiers married his second wife, the widow Mrs Charlotte Matilda Sheard. Born Charlotte Matilda Betteris in about 1815, she had married her first husband, Robert Sheard, on 1 Jan 1835, and following his death at the age of 39 on 30 January 1842, she had taken over his licence and continued to run his wine & spirit merchant's shop at 31 Broad Street (at the north end of Catte Street), and then at 10 Turl Street.

Edwin’s only son George King Richard Spiers was admitted free on 27 July 1860.

At the time of the 1861 census Edwin (51), now described as a wine merchant, living over his shop at 96 High Street with his second wife Charlotte Matilda (45), his stepson Edwin Sheard (22), who was also a wine merchant, and his stepdaughter Matilda Sheard (23), who was a governess. His own son George (22) was no longer living with his father but lodged at 2 Museum Terrace (now 27 Museum Road) and was still described as a wine merchant.

In 1866 Edwin Thomas Spiers was elected Mayor of Oxford (for 1866/7). After his term of office he remained councillor for the West ward.

At the time of the 1871 census, Edwin (61), who described himself as an Alderman & J.P. (Wine Merchant), was living above both 96 and 97 High Street with Charlotte (49) and a cook and a housemaid. His son George (32), described as a wine merchant, was lodging at May Cottage in the Cowley Road (next-door to the Crown pub) with a carpenter and his family.

On 15 March 1872 Edwin's only child George King Richard Spiers was admitted to the Warneford Lunatic Asylum in Headington. He died there four years later on 16 March 1875 at the age of 34, and his funeral was held at St Mary-the-Virgin Church three days later. His death notice in Jackson's Oxford Journal read: “March 16, after a severe illness, George King Richard Spiers, son of Mr. E. T. Spiers, Alderman and Magistrate of the City of Oxford, aged 34. Much regretted by a large circle of friends.”

The 1881 census shows Edwin (72), now retired from business and described as an Alderman and J.P., living at “Rycote”, 31 Leckford Road with his wife Charlotte (66) and his stepdaughter Miss Charlotte Sheard (39) and one servant.

† Edwin Thomas Spiers died at Leckford Road on 2 March 1885 at the age of 76. His funeral was held on 6 March at St Mary-the-Virgin Church, and he was buried in Holywell Cemetery (Plot G.120).

His personal estate came to £1,556 14s. 6d., and his second wife Charlotte was his executor.

His second wife, Charlotte Matilda Spiers, died at 26 Walton Well Road on 11 January 1900 at the age of 85. Her effects came to £656 6s. 8d., and her executors were the Misses Matilda Ann Sheard and Charlotte Louisa Sheard.

See also

  • Jackson’s Oxford Journal, 7 March 1885, p. 5c (obituary)
  • 1841 Census: Oxford (St Mary the Virgin), 891/09/8
  • 1851 Census: Oxford (St Mary the Virgin), 1728/92
  • 1861 Census: Oxford (St Mary the Virgin), 893/69
  • 1871 Census: Oxford (St Mary the Virgin), 1437/71
  • 1881 Census: Oxford (St Giles), 1499/115

Edwin Thomas Spiers was the cousin of Richard Spiers (Mayor 1853/6).

©Stephanie Jenkins

Last updated: 8 September, 2021

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