Oxford History: Mayors & Lord Mayors


William Charles Walker (1882–1966)

Mayor of Oxford 1952/3

William Walker
Reproduced by kind permission of Peter Naish,
great-nephew of William Walker

William Charles Walker was born at Wolverhampton on 30 July 1882 and baptised at St Andrew's Church there on 27 August.

His parents were also born at Wolverhampton: his father Charles Walker in 1853, and his mother Mary in 1852.

At the time of the 1901 census William (18) was a builder’s clerk living at 316 Hordern Road, Wolverhampton with his father William (43), who was a temporary school board visiting officer, his mother Mary (48), and his brothers Bernard (13), who was a telegraph messenger, and Rowland (9).

Walker left school at 14 and went to work in the office of a local building firm, attending evening classes in building construction.

In 1903, when he was 21, Walker was sent to a job at Salisbury Plain. The living quarters there, however, could not accommodate wives, so as he planned to marry he moved on to Oxford to work for the building and civil engineers Benfield & Loxley. He was living at 43 Princes Street in east Oxford when the banns for his marriage were called at Cowley St John Church in July and August 1904.

In 1904 at St Andrew's Church in Wolverhampton, William Charles Walker married Clara Gertrude Loveday Pike, who was born in Ibstock, Leicestershire on 23 April 1883.

William Walker and his wife settled at first in a rented house at 80 Fairacres Road, east Oxford.

At the time of the 1911 census and by the time of the 1911 census William (28), described as a builder's clerk, was living at 161 Divinity Road with his wife Gertrude (27). Their only child was born the following year:

  • Violet Gertrude Avery Walker (born at 161 Divinity Roadon 8 February 1912 and baptised at All Saints’ Church, Highfield on 10 March).

In the baptismal register William Walker was described as a builder’s labourer. He soon came up in the world, however,, becoming first a partner, then one of the first three directors, of Benfield & Loxley.

In 1922 he built 46 Hill Top Road for himself in the style of a Georgian manor.

46 Hill Top Road46 Hill Top Road, photographed in January 2017

In the 1939 register William described himself as a Managing Director and was living at 46 Hill Top Road with his wife Clara and their daughter Violet, plus an incapitated lady called Sarah Petre (born in 1861) and one domestic servant.

Walker was to stay with Benfield & Loxley for the rest of his life, eventually becoming joint governing director.

Just after the First World War Walker became a friend of William Morris, who commissioned him to buy “a lot of land at Cowley” for his new car factory. Walker cycled out to Cowley with his co-director on a Sunday morning and got an option on the land. Benfield & Loxley also built the car works, and Morris said to Walker, “No other firm shall lay a single brick at Cowley as long as I have anything to do with it.”

Benfield & Loxley was also involved in the building of Headington School and the Churchill Hospital, and also the main new university buildings around this time: the Radcliffe Science Library, the New Bodleian Library, and Nuffield College.

Walker was awarded the OBE for his work during the Second World War.

In 1942 in Oxford Walker’s daughter Violet Gertrude Loveday Walker married Ronald W. Avery.

He was first elected to the City Council in 1946 as a Conservative member for the North Ward. He was elected Sheriff of Oxford for 1950/1, and in 1952 was elected an Alderman and also Mayor of Oxford (for 1952/3).

Walker resigned from the Council in 1958.

† William Charles Walker, OBE died at 46 Hill Top Road on 11 August 1966 at the age of 84.

His effects came to £34,328, and his executors were his widow and his chartered accountant.

See also:

  • W.C. Walker, Some Reminiscences of an Oxford Builder (privately printed autobiography, 1960)
  • Oxford Times, 12 August 1966, p. 28e–f
  • 1901 Census: Wolverhampton (St Andrew), 2677/91

©Stephanie Jenkins

Last updated: 6 December, 2018

Oxford Mayors home Small Shark Oxford History home