Oxford History: Mayors & Lord Mayors


Alfred Wheeler (1829–1908)

Mayor of Oxford 1882/3

Alfred Wheeler was born at Langford Berkshire (now west Oxfordshire) on 21 February 1829 and baptised there on 15 March. He was the eighth child of John Wheeler (born in Great Barrington, Gloucestershire in 1784) and Mary Griffith (born at Fyfield, Berkshire (now Oxfordshire) in 1792) who were married at Langford on 24 December 1813.

Alfred's eleven brothers and sisters were also baptised at Langford Church: John (1815), Edmund (1817), William (1819), Mary Ann (1821) Jane (1822), Eliza Jane (1823), Elizabeth (1827), twins James and Harriet (1831), Emma Sophia (1833), and Amelia (1836).

The 1841 census shows Alfred (13) living at Langford with his father John, a blacksmith, and mother Mary. All seven of his older siblings had already left home, and only his three younger sisters Harriett (11), Emma (6), and Amelia (4) were in the house.

By the time of the 1851 census, Alfred (23) had already left home. Back in Langford, his father John Wheeler (66) appears to have retired from his job as a blacksmith, as he was described as a victualler.

By 1856 Alfred had set up business as a plumber and glazier in Oxford.

On 20 August 1856 at Shipton-under-Wychwood, Alfred Wheeler of St Peter-le-Bailey parish, Oxford married Emma Charlotte Spencer, who was born in Coln St Aldwyns, Gloucestershire in 1829. The following announcement was placed in Jackson’s Oxford Journal of 30 August 1856:

August 20, at Shipton-under-Wychwood, Mr. Alfred Wheeler, plumber of this city, to Emma Charlotte, second daughter of Mr. Robert Spencer, farmer and maltster, of Shipton.

Alfred lived over his business at 16 Queen Street with his wife, and they had six children:

  • Alfred John Wheeler (baptised at St Peter-le-Bailey Church on 5 July 1857;
    died aged ten months and buried there on 12 April 1858)
  • Frederick William Wheeler (baptised at St Peter-le-Bailey Church 4 April 1859;
    died aged 1 year 4 months and buried there on 5 June 1860)
  • Emma Selina Wheeler (baptised at St Peter-le-Bailey Church on 2 January 1861)
  • Matilda Caroline Wheeler (baptised at the age of two baptised at St Peter-le-Bailey Church on 19 July 1865 at the same time as her younger sister)
  • Alice Maud Wheeler (baptised at St Peter-le-Bailey Church on 19 July 1865)
  • Spencer Augustus Wheeler (baptised at St Peter-le-Bailey Church on 8 February 1871).

At the time of the 1861 census Alfred (32), described as a plumber & glazier, was living at 16 Queen Street with his wife Emma (32) and their only surviving child Emma Selina (seven months). Also living in the house was Edward Thomas, Wheeler’s 18-year-old Oxford-born nephew (also described as a plumber and glazier), and two apprentices and a house servant.

Alfred Wheeler first came on to the City Council in October 1867: he represented the South Ward.

By the time of the 1871 census, Wheeler’s last three children had been born. His business had evidently grown, as he was described as a “Plumber, painter &c employing 4 men and 2 boys”. (Wheeler was in fact a plumber, painter, decorator, lead & glass merchant, and patentee of the Oxford flushing cistern.) He was living at 16 Queen Street with his wife Emma, and of their four surviving children, only their four-month-old baby, Spencer Augustus, was living with them, and they now had two servants (a cook and a nursemaid). Their daughter Emma Selina (10) and Matilda Caroline (8) were away at boarding school, but not far away: they were at the Ladies School at 21 Beaumont Street, Oxford. Alice Maud (6) was staying with her uncle and aunt, John and Sarah Selina Crook, at 29 High Street, Eton.

At the time of the 1881 census Wheeler was described as a “Plumber & Decorator employing 7 Men & 1 Boy”. He and his wife were still living at 16 Queen Street with two of their children: Matilda (18), who was an “artist in flowers” and Alice (16) who was still at school). Their other daughter Emma Selina (20) was a teacher, lodging in Croydon, and their only son Spencer (10) was boarding at St Mark's School in New Windsor.

In the autumn of 1881 Wheeler was elected Sheriff of Oxford, and at the end of his year of office was elected Mayor of Oxford (for 1882/3).

By 1883 Wheeler had moved to Fircroft in Park Town (a detached villa, now Nos. 6–8 Park Town) and on 25 June that year he announced that he had retired and that his business “of a Builder, Contractor, Plumber, Decorator, Glass Cutter, etc.” at 16 Queen Street would be taken over by T. H. Kingerlee

From 1887 to 1899 Wheeler was listed in directories as living at Sunnymeade House, a large dwelling with 14 rooms at 354 Banbury Road.

On 21 December 1889 at St Michael & All Angels Church in Summertown, his daughter Matilda Caroline Wheeler (27) married George Lajus Kemp (25), a physician & surgeon of Worksop, Nottinghamshire. She died at Worksop at the age of 29 in 1891.

At the time of the 1891 census Alfred Wheeler seems to have been away from home, and Sunnymeade House was occupied by his wife Emma (61), his daughter Alice (36), and an errand boy.

His son Spencer Augustus Wheeler emigrated to Australia, and he was married there in 1898 to Lottie C. Dennis.

From 1900, Wheeler is listed as living at Thornbury House in Kidlington.

The 1901 census shows Alfred Wheeler (72), described as a retired builder & decorator, living at Thornbury House with his wife Emma (40) and their unmarried daughter Emma Selina (40), and two servants. Their other daughter Alice (35) was now working as a medical dispenser and lodging at 2 Gloucester Terrace, Elswick, Northumberland.

† Alfred Wheeler died at Sunnymeade House, Oxford at the age of 78 on 16 January 1908 and was buried at Langford on 21 January. His effects came to £10,454 10s. 2d., and his executor was his daughter Emma.

His wife Emma Charlotte Wheeler died in 1910 at the age of 81 and was buried with him at Langford on 14 January.

At the time of the 1911 census their two unmarried daughters Emma Selina Wheeler (50), who had no occupation, and Alice Maud Wheeler (46), a dispenser for the Chelsea Hospital for Women, were living together at Sunnymeade House in Oxford.

Their only son Spencer Augustus Wheeler divorced his first wife in 1913 and married Evangeline Barron in about 1918. He died in 1936.

See also:

  • 1841 Census: Berkshire (Langford), 18/10/7
  • 1851 Census (parents): Berkshire (Langford), 1687/227
  • 1861 Census: Oxford (St Peter-le-Bailey), 894/102; parents: Berkshire (Langford), 728/147
  • 1871 Census: Oxford (St Peter-le-Bailey, 1488/85
  • 1881 Census: Oxford (St Peter le Bailey), 1502/74
  • 1891 Census: Oxford (Summertown), 1165/76
  • 1901 Census: Oxford (Water Eaton), 1391/71

©Stephanie Jenkins

Last updated: 22 January, 2021

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