Oxford History: Mayors & Lord Mayors


Sydney Francis Underhill (1860–1934)

Mayor of Oxford 1910/11

Sydney Francis Underhill was born in Oxford on 23 March 1860, the son of Alderman Charles Underhill (Mayor in 1887) and his second wife Ellen Francis, who had married in 1859.

At the time of his second marriage Sydney’s father's grocery shop was at 37 Cornmarket Street and his home at Diamond Villa in South Parade. Sydney can be found there with his parents in the 1861 census at the age of one, with his older half-siblings Frederick Robert (16), Ernest Augustus (14), Mary Ellen (13), and Emily Rosa (5).

In 1870 Sydney’s father took a lease on Woodbridge Lodge (now 57 Banbury Road and a Hertford College house), and the 1871 census shows Sydney here as a boy of 11, with a new younger brother, George Francis Underhill.

In 1881 Sydney Underhill (21), described as a grocer, was still living with his parents at 57 Banbury Road.

In 1888 in the Hampstead area, Sydney Francis Underhill married Emily Matilda (“Lilio”) Spence, the fourth daughter of the late Revd Dr James Spence of the Poultry Chapel, London, and their marriage was announced in Jackson’s Oxford Journal of 28 July that year. The couple moved to 2 St Michael Street (which was then numbered 20b New Inn Hall Street) on the opposite corner to the family grocer’s shop at 37 Cornmarket Street. Their two sons were born there:

  • Sydney William Francis Underhill (born in 1890)
  • Charles Kenneth James Underhill (born in 1894 and baptised at St Michael's Church on 9 May 1906 when he was 22).

In 1898 Underhill was elected to the City Council as Liberal representative of the South Ward.

The 1901 census shows him at the age of 41, described as a grocer and city councillor, living at 2 St Michael Street with Emily and his two sons Sydney (10) and Charles (6), plus a cook and housemaid.

203 Woodstock Road


In 1905 the family moved into a newly-built house at 203 Woodstock Road (right).

Underhill’s two sons Sydney and Charles both won scholarships to Winchester, and Sydney won a scholarship to Brasenose College, Oxford in 1909.

Underhill was elected Sheriff of Oxford for 1909/10. The following year he was elected Mayor of Oxford (for 1910/11). George V was crowned during his mayoral year on 22 June 1911.

The 1911 census shows Sydney Underhill (51) described as a grocer and wine merchant and living at 203 Woodstock Road with his wife Emily (53) and their son Sydney William Francis (20), then a medical student. They had two servants. Their other son, Charles (16), was boarding at Winchester on census night. Sydney won a scholarship to Balliol College, Oxford in 1913.

Underhill moved out of 203 Woodstock Road in 1920 and went to live in Middlesex.

† Sydney Francis Underhill died at his home at Rathgar, Newcombe Park, Mill Hill, Middlesex on 3 July 1934 at the age of 74, and was buried in St Paul’s Churchyard at Mill Hill. His effects came to £10,457 15s. 1d., and his executors were his widow Emily and his two sons: Sydney was now a medical practitioner and Charles a solicitor.

His wife Emily Matilda Underhilll died at 7 Newcombe Park, Mill Hill at the age of 84 on 11 Janary 1942.

See also:

  • Charles Underhill, Mayor 1887 (his father)
  • Oxford Journal Illustrated, 15 September 1915, p. 8 (”Who’s Who in Oxford”)
  • Oxford Times, 20 July 1934, p. 17a (obituary)
  • 1861 Census: Oxford (St Giles), 891/93
  • 1871 Census: Oxford (St Paul), 1436/113
  • 1881 Census: Oxford (St Giles), 1500/5
  • 1891 Census: Not in index
  • 1901 Census: Oxford (St Michael), 1385/31

©Stephanie Jenkins

Last updated: 3 January, 2021

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