Oxford History: Mayors & Lord Mayors


William Thompson (1811–1871)

Mayor of Oxford 1862/3

William Thompson was born in St Aldate’s, Oxford on 6 February 1811 and baptised there on 10 March. His parents were William Thompson, a carver and gilder of that parish, and Catherine Hayes, who were married at St Peter-le-Bailey Church on 6 September 1802. They had six other children baptised at St Aldate's: Ann Hayes Thompson (b. 25 August 1804), Sara Catherine Thompson (b. 26 August 1806), Eliza Thompson (b.14 January 1809), Catherine Thompson (b. 29 September 1814), Elizabeth Thompson (b. 14 December 1816), and Georgiana Eaton Thompson (b. 8 September 1818).

William Thompson’s father of the same name is listed in Pigot's Directory for 1823 under the heading “Printsellers, Carver & Gilders, & Picture Frame Makers” as trading in St Aldate’s, but by the time of the 1830 directory he also had a shop in Oxford’s High Street.

In 1831, at the age of 20, Thompson was initiated as a Freemason in Alfred Lodge.

By the time of Robson’s Directory for 1839, Thompson had joined his father in his business, which was now described as William Thompson & Son and was situated at 39 High Street, on the corner of Queen’s Lane (now part of Queen’s Lane Coffee House). They were specifically described as “Printsellers, Gilders, Picture Frame Makers & House Painters”.

On 20 July 1836 at Iffley, William Thompson, described as being of St Peter-in-the-East parish, married Ella Allin (who was born in High Wycombe c.1810). They probably remained at 29 High Street, and the first six of their eleven children were born there:

  • William Allin Thompson (baptised on 24 August 1838 at St Peter-in-the-East Church)
  • Anne Ella Allen Thompson (baptised on 13 November 1839 at St Peter-in-the-East Church;
    died on 28 February 1842 at the age of 2 years and 5 months and was buried at that church
    a week later, with her death announced in
    Jackson’s Oxford Journal)
  • Walter Thompson (baptised on 21 February 1841 at St Peter-in-the-East Church)
  • Fanny Augusta Thompson (baptised on 17 June 1842 at St Peter-in-the-East Church)
  • Horace Vincent Thompson (born in Oxford in 1843/4, but no baptism found)
  • Edith Thompson (baptised on 21 May 1845 at St Peter-in-the-East Church).

In 1838 William Thompson was described in the baptismal register as a carver and painter, but thereafter as a printseller.

At the time of the 1841 census, William Thompson and his wife Ella (both aged 30) were at home at 39 High Street with their first three young children and two female servants.

Thompson was elected a member of the Apollo University Lodge in 1841, where he succeeded his father as Treasurer, and was appointed Worshipful Master in 1846 and Senior Grand Warden of the Province in 1849.

In 1846, Thompson moved his business and his family moved to 59 High Street (also in St Peter-in-the-East parish), and the Manciple of St Edmund Hall took over his former shop. Thompson’s seventh and eighth child would thus have been born at 59 High Street:

  • Florence Rosa Thompson (baptised on 21 September 1848 at St Peter-in-the-East Church)
  • Ella Helena Thompson (baptised on 14 December 1849 at St Peter-in-the-East Church).

Thompson was elected a member of Oxford Town Council in 1847, and represented the East Ward for many years. He was also Vice-Chairman of the Board of Guardians.

At the time of the 1851 census Thompson and his wife were inexplicably living in the vicarage at Sutton Courtenay, but he was still described as a printseller, as well as a [house] painter. Six of his children were at home with them.

The last three of Thompson’s eleven children were born in the 1850s:

  • Herbert Montague Thompson (baptised on 5 May 1852 at St Peter-in-the-East Church)
  • Harold Thompson (baptised on 10 July 1853 at Littlemore)
  • Evelyn Gertrude Thompson (baptised on 24 August 1856 at St Peter-in-the-East Church).

Thompson was appointed Sheriff of Oxford in 1860, and in 1862 during his shrievalty the foundation stone of the new Corn Exchange was laid with Masonic forms, and he gave a large party on the occasion in the Town Hall.

The 1861 census shows Thompson at the age of 50, living with his wife in Park Town and described as a printseller and Sheriff of Oxford. Five of his children were at home: William (22), who was a medical student, Walter (20), who was an articled clerk to a solicitor, Horace (17), who was a printseller, and Harold (7), and Evelyn (4). The family had one servant.

Thompson was appointed an Alderman in 1862 and in that year was elected Mayor of Oxford (for 1862/3). During his mayoralty he organized a huge bazaar in St John’s College gardens which raised £2240. On 8 September 1863 he perambulated the city boundary.

Thompson retired as an Alderman in 1868, and was appointed a Justice of the Peace in March 1870.

The 1871 census shows Thompson at the age of 60, living with his wife at Thornbury Lodge in Park Town and described as a Justice of the Peace for Oxford as well as a “printseller, and house painter and decorator employing an assistant and eight artisans”. Their son Walter (30), who was now an attorney at law, was living with them, as well as four of their daughters (all described as of “no occupation”): Fanny (28), Edith (26), Florence (22), and Ella (21). They had two servants. Just four months after that census, Thompson died.

William Thompson



† William Thompson died on 8 August 1871 at the age of 60 at Thornbury Lodge.



His funeral two days later was attended by the Mayor and Corporation in their robes of office, preceded by the Macebearer with the mace covered in black crape, and the Rector of the City Church at Carfax. He was buried in Holywell Cemetery (Plot G.56, right).



Thompson’s business at 59 High Street closed soon after his death: an advertisement in Jackson’s Oxford Journal for 5 July 1873 read: “To let, with immediate possession,—- the extensive business premises for many years in the occupation of Mr Thompson, printseller”.

See also:

  • Jackson’s Oxford Journal, 12 August 1871, p. 5c (obituary)
  • 1841 Census: Oxford (St Peter-in-the-East), 891/16/12
  • 1851 Census: Oxford (Sutton Courtenay), 1688/598
  • 1861 Census: Oxford (St Giles), 892/38
  • 1871 Census: Oxford (St Paul), 1436/103

©Stephanie Jenkins

Last updated: 21 January, 2022

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