Oxford History: Mayors & Lord Mayors


Thomas William Taphouse (1838–1905)

Mayor of Oxford 1904/5

Thomas William Taphouse was born at Sherfield Green, near Basingstoke, Hampshire, on 11 February 1838. He was the eldest son of Charles Taphouse, who was also born at Sherfield Green in 1816, and Sarah Nevill, who was born at Hartley Row, Hampshire in 1818.

His parents were married at Sherfield on Loddon in 1836, and Thomas's next two siblings were also born there: Henry John Taphouse in 1839 and Rosina Taphouse near the end of 1841.

At the time of the 1841 census Thomas (3) was living at Sherfield on Loddon with his father Charles (25), who was an agricultural labourer, his mother Sarah (23), and his brother Henry (1).

Thomas’s family moved to Osney Mill in Oxford in 1842 when he was four years old, and from the age of five he attended the Wesleyan School in Oxford.

His sister Emma Taphouse was born in Bull Street, St Ebbe's on 30 May 1847 and on 13 June was baptised at an Oxford Primitive Methodist Church (almost certainly the one in St Ebbe's). Their father was described as a sawyer.

By the time of the 1851 census the family lived in St Ebbe’s Street. Thomas (13) was still at school and was at home with his father Charles (35), who was described as a broker, his mother Sarah (33) and his brother Henry (11) and sister Emma (5). His sister Rosina (9) was paying a visit to Stanton St John. His youngest brother Charles Page Taphouse was baptised at St Ebbe's Primitive Methodist Church on 7 March 1852, and their father was now described as a broker.

Thomas William Taphouse left school at 14 and assisted his father as a cabinet maker for 4 years. During this time he saved up ten guineas which enabled him to purchase a harmonium.

In 1856, at the age of 18 Taphouse went to London for a year to learn piano-tuning.

In 1859 Thomas went into business with his father Charles Taphouse as a music-seller at 3 Magdalen Street in central Oxford.

By the time of the 1861 census, Thomas (23) was described as a piano tuner and living at 3 Magdalen Street, where he was the head of the household, and living with him were his brother Henry (21), who was a watch and clockmaker; a lodger; and a 14-year-old servant girl. Although Thomas appears to have partly taken over the family business, he was described simply as a pianoforte tuner, and used to travel around Oxford with a pony and trap. His father meanwhile was living at their other business premises at 7 Park End Street.

On 12 July 1866 at the Congregational Church, Broadway, Worcestershire, Thomas William Taphouse married his first wife Alice Milner of Broadway. They had two children:

  • Charles Milner Taphouse (born in Oxford in 1867)
  • Alice Milner Taphouse (born at 3 Magdalen Street, Oxford on 23 November 1868).

Thomas’s wife Alice Taphouse died at 3 Magdalen Street at the age of 23 when her daughter was two weeks old, and was buried in St Sepulchre's Cemetery. Thomas and his son Charles went to live with his parents at 62 Walton Street, and his baby daughter Alice was brought up by her great-uncle Thomas Taphouse and his wife, and later by her grandparents.

On 28 August 1878 at Wootton Bassett, Thomas William Taphouse married his second wife, Mrs Selina Anne Woodward (known as Annie). The 1881 census shows Taphouse (42) and Annie (33) living at 3 Magdalen Street with Thomas’s son Charles (13) and Annie’s daughter Eleanor (11), who were both then still at school.

Thomas's father Charles Taphouse died in 1886 and was buried in the grave of Thomas's wife in St Sepulchre's Cemetery.

Thomas Taphouse

Taphouse did not enter local government until the age of 50, when in 1888 he was first elected for the Central Ward. In 1892/3 he was Sheriff of Oxford.

At the time of the 1891 census Thomas was still living over the shop at 3 Magdalen Street with his second wife Annie, his son Charles (23) who was described as an organist, his stepdaughter Eleanor Woodward, and one servant. Eleanor, known as Nellie Woodward-Taphouse, became a harpsichord player.

Because he was on the Municipal Buildings Committee at the time the new Town Hall was opened in 1897, Taphouse’s head can be seen carved in stone in the Council Chamber corridor (right). He sat on numerous other committees, including Property & Estates, Public Library, Public Improvements, Watch, and Farm & Allotments.

By the time of the 1901 census, Thomas William Taphouse was described as a dealer in works of art at 12 George Street, while his son Charles ran his grandfather's old business, Charles Taphouse & Son, pianoforte & music sellers, at 3 Magdalen Street. Thomas and his wife Annie spent census night at the Tollard Royal Hotel in West Hill Road, Bournemouth, while back in Oxford his son Charles (33), described as a music-seller and head of the household at 3 Magdalen Street, was living there with his sister Alice (32) and his stepsister Eleanor Woodward (31), plus one servant.

Taphouse had one of the finest music libraries in the country (more information here), and in June 1904 he was awarded an honorary M.A. from the University of Oxford, largely for his research into old English music and his discovery of several unknown works.

In October 1904 Thomas William Taphouse was unanimously elected Mayor of Oxford (for 1904/5), but only managed to preside over one council meeting before he fell ill. He died just over two months into his mayoral year.

Taphouse's grave

† Thomas William Taphouse died at Bournemouth on 8 January 1905 at the age of 66. He was buried at Rose Hill Cemetery (Plot B1,127, 142 & 143) on 14 January.

He had been an Honorary M.A. for less than eight months and Mayor of Oxford for only two months at the time of his death, but both achievements are proudly mentioned on his gravestone.

His effects came to £6322 15s. 11d., and probate was granted in Oxford on 3 May 1905. His executors were the ironmonger Henry Halford Ison and the auctioneer Robert Buckell.


By 1914 his second wife (Selina) Annie Taphouse was living at 225 Woodstock Road. She died there at the age of 97 and was buried with him on 9 February 1945,

His daughter Alice Milner Taphouse died at 31 Stanley Road, east Oxford at the age of 83 and was buried with her father and stepmother on 12 February 1953.


Taphouse’s music shop remained at 3 Magdalen Street until 1982:

See also:

  • Jackson’s Oxford Journal, 14 January 1905, pp. 5a-d, 6d (obituary)
  • Jackson’s Oxford Journal, 4 February 1905, p. 8g
  • 1861 Census: Oxford (St Ebbe’s), 1728/200
  • 1871 Census: Oxford (St Giles), 1436/71
  • 1881 Census: Oxford (St Mary Magdalen), 1502/17
  • 1891 Census: Oxford (St Mary Magdalen), 1167/121
  • 1901 Census: Bournemouth (St Michael), 1040/71;
    Oxford (St Mary Magdalen) 1384/155 for his son

©Stephanie Jenkins

Last updated: 9 September, 2021

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