Oxford Inscriptions: Private plaque to Frank Bickerton at Iffley

Frank Bickerton plaque


Polar Medallist
Was born in this house
15 January 1889

(Erected by his Friends, 2004)

This plaque Is on the Hawkwell House Hotel in Church Way, Iffley, which was formerly a grand private house called The Elms.

It commemorates the birth here of the Antarctic explorer Frank Bickerton.


Francis Howard Bickerton (Frank) was born at The Elms, Iffley on 15 January 1889. He was the son of Joseph Jones Bickerton (born in Oxford in 1839), and the grandson of Joseph Bickerton, a tobacconist in Radcliffe Square. Frank's father was matriculated at the University of Oxford by Charlsley Hall on 23 May 1866 at the age of 26, obtaining his BA in 1870: he worked as a solicitor, and also served as Liberal councillor for the East Ward of Oxford until 1880, and thereafter as Town Clerk of Oxford.

Frank's father was described as a widower of Iffley when on 6 March 1884 in Marylebone he married his second wife Eliza Frances Fox, and both of their children were baptised at Iffley church: Dorothea on 17 November 1884 and Frank himself on 10 March 1889.

Baby Frank did not remain in Iffley for very long, as at the time of the 1891 census, taken just after his second birthday, he was living at the former Charsley Hall in Parks Road, North Oxford with his father Joseph (51), his mother Eliza (41), and his sister Dorothea (6), plus the family's four servants.

In August 1894 the Bickerton family went on holiday to Torcross in Devon, and when one of the children dropped a spade in the sea at Slapton Sands, Joseph Jones Bickerton went back into the water to pick it up. He appears to have been seized with cramp and drowned.

Frank's widowed mother Eliza then moved with her two children to Bideford, but she died there just over two years later on 22 October 1896, leaving seven-year-old Frank an orphan. He was then brought up in Plymouth by the neurologist Dr Edward Lawrence Fox.

For information about Frank's subsequent career, see:

  • Wikipedia: Frank Bickerton
  • Stephen Haddelsey, Born Adventurer: The Life of Frank Bickerton, Antarctic Pioneer (Stroud: Sutton Publishing, 2005)

Bickerton Road in Oxford was named after Frank's father, Joseph Jones Bickerton, who had purchased land in the Bickerton and Stapleton Road area when the lands of Highfield Farm were put up for sale.

Stephanie Jenkins