Oxford History: Mayors & Lord Mayors


The Bailiffs

Bailiffs were rent collectors and treasurers, and also had the custody of offenders. On appointment each paid a fee of £5 entitling him to certain profits of the Northgate hundred.

Bailiffs were known as “praepositi” until c.1265, then “ballivi sive praepositi” for a few years, and then “ballivi”.

The “Municipal Biography of Mr William Joy, reproduced in full below, explains some of the Bailiff’s duties in the 1820s:

My grandfather, Mr. Thomas Joy, was elected a Common Councillor in 1765; my father, Mr. John Joy, was elected Common Councillor in 1786. I was elected Common Councillor in September 1813, Chamberlain in 1824, Bailiff in 1827.

As Bailiff I drove Port-Meadow 17 July 1828, impounded a Horse and Heifer, which being unclaimed, were sold by Auction in the beginning of August. I sat at the weekly Hustings court of the Mayor and Bailiffs; I had the custody of the prisoners in the city gaol, the appointment of the Grand and Petit jury at the City Sessions, and shared with my brother Bailiff the money (£9) paid by sentence of the court for Fines and Amusements, such fines and amusements having been granted by the Monarchs of England, by a long succession of Charters to the Citizens of Oxford, are part of the Fee farm held by them of the King, as Lord of the Fee; and they were given by the Council to the Bailiffs towards the expences of the office.

I remained a member of the Council until I was expelled by the Municipal Reform Bill. At the first election under that act, I was chosen a Councillor for the Central Ward, my term of office being two years; at the expiration of which time, I refused to become a candidate for re-election.

The duties of the Bailiffs were taken over by the Sheriff of Oxford following the passing of the Municipal Corporations Act of 1835.


©Stephanie Jenkins

Last updated: 29 August, 2021

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