Oxford History: Mayors & Lord Mayors


Lily Sophia Tawney (1867–1947)

Mayor of Oxford 1933/4

Lily Sophia Tawney
Lily Tawney in 1933 wearing the mayoral chain
Reproduced by kind permission of Oxford City Council

Lily Sophia Tawney was the first ever woman to be appointed Mayor of Oxford.

She was born at Wroxton in Oxfordshire on 26 January 1867, with her birth announced in the Morning Post, and was baptised there on 27 February.

Her father Archer Robert Tawney, Esq. was born in Dunchurch, Warwickshire in 1818. Her paternal grandfather, Richard Tawney of Dunchurch, was the great-grandson of another Richard Tawney (1684–1756), who was the founder of the Lion Brewery in Oxford and Mayor of Oxford in 1748/9. She was also related to three other Mayors of Oxford surnamed Tawney in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.

Lily Tawney’s father had been an undergraduate at Merton College, Oxford and had then studied at the Inner Temple. The 1851 census shows him as an unmarried banker, aged 32, living alone in Wroxton, near Banbury and looked after by four servants.

Her mother was Emma Harriett Richards, a wine merchant's daughter born in Bloomsbury in 1828 who was living at 28 Park Crescent, Marylebone in 1851 with her widower father and her two siblings and seven servants

For more information about her parents and siblings, see the page about their grave in St Sepulchre's Cemetery, Walton Street

Lily's father was living at Wroxton near Banbury and her mother at 28 Park Crescent, London when they were married at Marylebone on 2 April 1853. They had seven children baptised at the parish church at Wroxton in north Oxfordshire:

  • Eleanor Mary Tawney (born at Wroxton on 23 March 1856, and baptised there on 25 June; birth announced in the Morning Post and the Caledonian Mercury)
  • Mabel Emma Tawney (born at Wroxton in 1858 and baptised there on 21 April)
  • Edward Plowden Archer Tawney (born at Wroxton on 8 January 1861 and baptised there on 2 February; birth announced in the Morning Post)
  • Lawrence Archer Tawney (born at Wroxton on 20 October 1862 and baptised there on 19 November)
  • Ethel Catherine Tawney (born at Wroxton in 1864/5 and baptised there on 20 February 1865)
  • Lily Sophia Tawney (born at Wroxton on 26 January 1867
    and baptised there on 27 February; birth announced in the Morning Post)
  • John Archer Tawney (born at Wroxton in 1868).

Lily’s father was a retired banker by the time of her birth.

At the time of the 1871 census Lily (4) was at home at Wroxton with her mother Emma (42) and her siblings Eleanor (14), Mabel (13), Lawrence (8), Ethel (6), and John (2); her father was paying a visit to the Vicar of Isleworth, and her brother Edward (10) was at boarding school.

In 1881 Lily (14) was again home in Wroxton with her mother Emma (52) and three of her older sisters: Eleanor (24), Mabel (23), and Ethel Catherine (16). Her father was staying at a hotel in Cornwall with her brother Edward (20). Her two other brothers were away from home: Laurence (20) was a midshipman in the Royal Navy on board the Dido off Natal, and John (12) was at Alvescot House School in Alvescot.

62-64 St Giles

In the mid-1880s the family moved to Oxford, where they lived at
63 St Giles’ Street (the middle house on the left, demolished in
the 1920s to make way for Blackfriars).

At the time of the 1891 census Lily (24) was visiting her aunt, Miss Mary Richards (65), at 3 St Andrew’s Place, Marylebone. Her father Archer (72) and her mother Emma (62) were at home at 63 St Giles's Street with Lily's three sisters Eleanor (34), Mabel (33), and Ethel (26), and two of her brothers: Edward (30), who was a Captain in the Royal Artillery and John (22), who was an articled clerk. The family had five servants: a cook, lady’s maid, upper housemaid, under housemaid, and kitchenmaid.

Lily's brother Captain Edward Plowden Archer Tawney was married at St Mary Magdalen Church on 2 November 1892.

Lily's father Archer Robert Tawney died at 63 St Giles's Street at the age of 75 on 27 February 1893 and was buried at St Sepulchre's Cemetery. His effects came to £18,007 6s. 6d.

At the time of the 1901 census, Lily Tawney (34) was home at 63 St Giles’ Street with her 72-year-old mother and her sisters Eleanor (44) and Mabel (43), and her brother John (32), who was a bank clerk. (There were also three Tawney grandchildren aged 6, 4, and 2 living with their grandmother: their father Edward was in India, and was to die there on 12 September.) They now had six servants: a cook, lady’s maid, nurse, parlourmaid, housemaid, and kitchenmaid.

Lily's other two brothers John and Lawrence were married in 1903 and 1906 respectively.

By 1911 Lily (44) was living at 62 Banbury Road, Oxford with her 82-year-old mother and her unmarried sisters Eleanor (54) and Mabel (53).

Lily's mother died at 62 Banbury Road at the age of 87 on 3 November 1915 and was buried in St Sepulchre's Cemetery. The following year Lily was living at 14 Northmoor Road with her married brother John Archer Tawney junior.

Miss Tawney came on to Oxford City Council in 1918 when there were no contested elections, and was returned unopposed for the North Ward in 1920. She was made an Alderman on 3 April 1929.

By 1927 Miss Tawney was the head of the household at 14 Northmoor Road, where she lived with her sister Eleanor until the latter died on 7 May 1930.

By 1932 Lily was listed as living at 5 Lathbury Road.

Miss Tawney was on the Board of Guardians and was Chairman of the Public Assistance Committee. In 1933 she was elected Mayor or Oxford (for 1933/4), and while in office was always addressed as “Mistress Mayor”. She was awarded an OBE for public service.

Miss Tawney was still at 5 Lathbury Road in 1936, but in 1938 she moved to 28 Belsyre Court, Woodstock Road, where she spent the rest of her life. The 1939 Directory shows her living there with one general maid.

Miss Tawney resigned from the city council in 1942.

† Miss Lily Sophia Tawney died at the Acland Hospital, Oxford on 14 October 1947 following an operation. Her funeral took place at St Paul’s Church, Oxford and she was buried in Wolvercote Cemetery.

Her effects came to £22,109 18s.

See also:

  • Richard Tawney I (Mayor in 1748)
  • Richard Tawney II (Mayor in 1764/5, 1778/9, and 1790)
  • Edward Tawney (Mayor in 1772, 1784, and 1793)
  • Charles Tawney (Mayor in 1837 and 1840)
  • Oxford Magazine, 1933–4, p. 207
  • Oxford Monthly, November 1933, p. 27
  • Oxford Times, 17 October 1947, p. 8 (obituary)
  • 1851 Census: Oxford (Wroxton), 1733/456
  • 1861 Census: Oxford (Wroxton), 916/79
  • 1871 Census: Oxford (Wroxton), 1462/63
  • 1881 Census: Oxford (Wroxton), 1525/87
  • 1891 Census: rest of family at Oxford (St Mary Magdalen), 1167/130
  • 1901 Census: Oxford (St Mary Magdalen), 1384/153

©Stephanie Jenkins

Last updated: 6 February, 2022

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