Oxford History: Mayors & Lord Mayors


James Wyatt (1774–1853)

Mayor of Oxford 1842/3

James Wyatt

James Wyatt was born in Oxford on 14 March 1774 and baptised at St Mary-the-Virgin Church three days later. He was the fourth son of Thomas Wyatt and Anne Clanfield, who were married at Hanborough on 11 August 1765

James's father Thomas Wyatt, who was baptised at St Mary-the-Virgin Church on 17 August 1738, was an Oxford baker who sat on the council for many years from 1771. (He should not be confused with another Thomas Wyatt who served as Mayor in 1830/1.)

James had five older siblings, all baptised at St Mary-the-Virgin Church: Mary (born on 26 December 1765 and baptised on 24 January 1766), Anne (born on 7 August and baptised on 31 August 1767 but died in infancy), John (born on 14 August and baptised on 23 August 1768), Walter William (born on 23 August and baptised on 20 September 1770), and Thomas (born on 19 October and baptised on 17 November 1771).

Right: Portrait of James Wyatt in the Town Hall depicting the instruments and tools of his trade as a picture framer

Memorial to John Wyatt in St Mary the Virgin Church






James's paternal grandparents were John Wyatt and Mary Dennett.


A commemorative diamond-shaped stone (left) in the floor of St Mary-the-Virgin Church commemorates his grandfather. It reads “JOHN WYATT died April the 21st 1771, AGED 66”.


On his fifteenth birthday (14 March 1789) James Wyatt was apprenticed to the carver and gilder Robert Archer who had a shop elsewhere in the High Street, and was duly admitted free seven years later on 13 May 1796. On 15 May 1802 Jackson's Oxford Journal reported as follows:


R. ARCHER, Carver, Gilder, Looking Glass and Picture Frame Manufacturer, High Street, Oxford, returns his grateful Thanks to the Nobility, Gentry, and the Public, for the many favours he has experienced, and begs Permission to inform them that he has, owing to the Increase of Business, taken into Partnership his late Apprentice, Mr. JAMES WYATT, and embraces this Opportunity to acquaint them, that the strictest Attention will be paid to the Execution and Dispatch of their future Orders, and flatters himself that it will merit a Continuance of their Favours and Support, which will ever be gratefully acknowledged.

115 High Street

It was announced in Jackson's Oxford Journal on 15 January 1806 that on that day the partnership between Archer and Wyatt was dissolved by mutual consent, and Wyatt announced that he was fitting up a shop opposite All Saints' Church. This shop was 115 High Street (right).

He also announced that he would be opening up in a few days and would offer the following for sale:

Colours, and every Article for Drawing.—Paintings, Prints, and Needle Work, neatly framed and glazed.—Carving in all Kinds of Wood, Stone &c.—Concave and Convex Mirrors, Looking Glass Plates of all Sizes, with or without Frames, Girandoles, Sconces and Bordering for Rooms. Old Frames new gilt, in Oil or burnished Gold

In fact the work on the shop must have taken two months rather than a few days, as it did not open until 22 March 1806. He inserted another advertisement in Jackson's Oxford Journal on 5 April 1806, adding that Gentlemen would be waited on at their country seats.

He continued to live over this shop until his death in 1853, with his son James Wyatt junior running the business in the latter years.

On 13 February 1806 at St Peter-in-the-East Church, James Wyatt married Mary Cooke of that parish, and their marriage was announced in Jackson's Oxford Journal. They had six children:

  • Mary Wyatt (baptised on 1 January 1807 at All Saints’ Church)
  • Ann Wyatt (baptised on 8 May 1808 at All Saints’ Church)
  • Elizabeth Wyatt (baptised on 11 July 1809 at All Saints’ Church)
  • James Wyatt junior (born on 19 November 1810 and baptised at All Saints’ Church on 25 December)
  • George Wyatt (baptised on 9 July 1815 at All Saints’ Church)
  • Sarah Wyatt (baptised on 6 March 1817 at All Saints’ Church).

Wyatt commissioned an oil painting of the High Street from J. M. W. Turner at a cost of 100 guineas. On 30 June 1810 Wyatt announced in Jackson's Oxford Journal that the painting was being exhibited in his shop, and that Messrs Middiman and Pye would be making an engraving of it, with prints to be sold at £1 11s. 6d. each.

James Wyatt should not be confused with the shoemaker of the same name who had a shop very near until 1816; but he obviously was at the time, as this announcement in Jackson's Oxford Journal of 3 February 1816 indicates:

JAMES WYATT, Carver and Gilder, High-street, Oxford, has just seen a Circular Letter, from Mr. T. Sadler, which states that Mr. Sadler “intends shortly to recommence the trade of Chemist and Druggist, in the premises now occupied by Mr. James Wyatt, opposite All Saints' Church.” It is very probable it may be imagined that J. Wyatt, Carver and Gilder, is about to relinquish his business, or to remove to other premises; he therefore takes this early opportunity of acquainting his Friends and the Public, that Mr. Sadler is going to the house now occupied by MR. WYATT THE SHOEMAKER, and J. Wyatt, Carver and Gilder hopes for a long continuance of the favours of the University and City, in the house he now occupies.
High-street, Oxford, Feb. 2d, 1816.

In 1823 James Wyatt the elder was listed in Pigot’s Directory as being a printseller in the High Street.

James Wyatt was a prominent figure in Oxford’s public life for 38 years. He was elected on to the old Corporation in 1815, and on to the new one in 1837. He was elected Sheriff of Oxford for 1839/40, and took part in the perambulation of the city at the end of his shrievalty, so his name as Sheriff appears on three boundary stones in the Wolvercote area.

On 29 August 1837 at St Mary's Church in Portsea, James Wyatt’s son James Wyatt junior was married to Eliza Moorman (born 21 December 1814), and he continued to live with his wife in his father’s home at 115 High Street in the parish of All Saints.

James Wyatt senior was elected Sheriff of Oxford for 1839/40, and accompanied the Mayor on his perambulation of the city bounds on 14 July 1840 .

The 1841 census shows James Wyatt senior (67), described as a gilder, living at 115 High Street with his wife Mary; his son James Wyatt junior and his son's wife Eliza; and his two grown-up daughters Ann and Elizabeth, plus two female servants.

Later that year James Wyatt senior's wife Mary Wyatt died at the age of 78 and was buried at St Mary-the-Virgin Church on 9 September 1841.

Wyatt was made an Alderman in 1841, and the following year was elected Mayor of Oxford (for 1842/3). The triennial perambulation of the city bounds fell again at the end of his mayoralty, and this duly took place on 25 July 1843:

James Wyatt had a great interest in the history and antiquities of Oxford, and was curator of pictures at Blenheim Palace.

In 1846 the elderly James Wyatt met the young John Everett Millais (1829–96), who returned to Oxford as his guest frequently between 1846 and 1849, when he painted a picture of James Wyatt with his granddaughter Mary Sarah Bridges Wyatt:

The 1851 census shows Wyatt, now a widower of 77, living at 115 High Street with his spinster daughters Ann and Elizabeth. Also living in the house were his son James Wyatt junior (39), his son's wife Eliza (36), and their two young daughters Mary Sarah Bridges Wyatt (b. 31 August 1845), and Sarah Wyatt (b. 17 January 1849).

† Alderman James Wyatt died at 115 High Street at the age of 79 on 23 March 1853, and his funeral was held at All Saints’ Church on 29 March.

On 26 September 1861 at Holywell Church James Wyatt's third daughter Elizabeth Wyatt  (aged 52) married the widower Thomas Robert. Roberts, an accountant of Whitchurch, Glamorganshire.

On 11 July 1862 his second daughter Ann Wyatt died at 98 Holywell Street at the age of 62.


James Wyatt's son James Wyatt junior (1810–1882) and his two daughters

James Wyatt junior by Millais

James Wyatt junior, who had brought his wife Eliza Moorman to live with his parents over their shop at 115 High Street after their marriage in 1837 and remained in his father's business. They had two daughters:

He served as a Conservative councillor for the central ward from 1845 to 1857.

On 9 August 1866 at All Saints' Church, his elder daughter Mary Sarah Bridges Wyatt married the High Street tailor and mercer Joseph Henry Standen

Right: James Wyatt junior in a portrait by Millais.

James Wyatt junior died on 8 August 1882 at the age of 71 and was buried in Holywell Cemetery. He left a personal estate of over £6,968. The following obituary appeared in Jackson's Oxford Journal on 12 August 1882, and the addendum on 19 August 1882

Obituary James Wyatt

James Wyatt junior obituary

On 31 May 1884 at All Saints Church Sarah Wyatt married Arthur Thomas, a cotton spinner from Blackburn and the son of a gentleman.

James Wyatt junior's wife Eliza Wyatt died on 28 February 1885.

See also:

  • Pictures of (1) James Wyatt by John Bridges, and (2) his son James Wyatt junior by Sir John Everett Millais, both in the St Aldate’s Room in the Town Hall
  • Jackson’s Oxford Journal, 15 February 1806: Announcement of Wyatt’s marriage
  • Jackson’s Oxford Journal, 26 March 1853, p. 3cd: Wyatt’s obituary
  • Oxford Times, 10 October 1986, p. 4 (article about his portrait, to be centrepiece of a London exhibition)
  • Malcolm Graham, Oxford City Apprentices 1697–1800, entries numbered 1092, 2887
  • PCC Will PROB 11/2179/24 (Will of James Wyatt, Carver and Gilder, Widower of All Saints in the City of Oxford, proved 29 September 1853)
  • 1841 Census: Oxford (All Saints), 891/02/8
  • 1851 Census: Oxford (All Saints), 1728/80

©Stephanie Jenkins

Last updated: 28 November, 2021

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