Oxford History: Mayors & Lord Mayors


Richard Atkinson (d. 1574)

Mayor of Oxford 1548/9, 1549/50, 1553/4, 1559/60, and 1567/8

Richard Atkinson (or Atkynson/Atkenson) was an Oxford draper.

On 25 July 1526 he took on as his apprentice James Norrys of Derby.

He was admitted on to the Common Council on 29 September 1530. He was elected Chamberlain in 1533 and Bailiff in 1539.

The following ordinance is recorded concerning Atkinson

At a Counsell holden the xvij day of January, in the xxxijth yere of the reigne of Kyng Henry the viij, at the same Counsell it is condyssented by the hole Counsell, that the Towne of Oxford shall bere Richard Atkynson in all things as shall pertayne to a Baylyffe for the honor of the Towne, and Richard Atkynson at the same Counsell promysithe to bere his parte of the ffeuferme [feu-farm], and to goe to London wt Edward Glynton to make the accompts for the office of the Baylyffe, at the fest [of] Purificacion next ensuing, and ther to stonde to his accompts and ther to dyscharge the Towne.

The next month Atkinson was appointed one of the City Arbitrators in disputes between the City and University, and on 19 June 1543 he was one of a pair of men chosen from the North East Ward to assess all the inhabitants of that ward and collect a tax from them to cleanse the streets.

Not long before 16 September 1546, Atkinson was elected an Alderman:

Md … that Master Rychard Atkynson, beyng late elected oon of thaldermen of thys Cytye, uppon whyche eleccion heretofore yt hathe ben accustomed that when so ever any Alderman ys elected, should make to the Mayar, thaldermen, Baylyes, Chamberleyns, Burgeses, and Comynalte oon brekefast, shall paye iijli vjs viijd sterlyng, and shall be dyscharged for makeyng the seyd brekefast, provydyd allwey that thys acte be not prejudycyall hereafter to the seyd custome, but onely for thys present yere.

On 15 November 1547 Alderman Atkinson appeared before the Vice-Chancellor in his room in Durham College and was warned about the oath to observe the privileges of the University, which he then took.

In September 1548 Atkinson was elected Mayor of Oxford for the first time (for 1548/9), and was re-elected the following September (for 1549/50). During his term of office, he was also appointed Coroner in May 1549, and on 11 November 1549 he exercised the Mayor’s privilege of getting his son (Robert) admitted as free as a Hanaster for a gilt penny:

Robertus Atkynson filius Ric’i Atkynson supradicit intravit libertatem xjmo die Novembris anno tercio D’ni Regis supradicti per unum denarium argenti et deaurat’ per consuetudinem dicte Civitatis et in presentia consilii predict’ civitatis solut’ tamen jurament’ ejus non adhuc accipit pro ut moris et quia predict’ Robert tempore predict’ se infra etatem, &c.

In 1550 Atkinson took on as his apprentice William Freeman of Evesham, who had spent the first four years of his apprenticeship with the tailor Thomas Mall.

In September 1553, Atkinson began a third term as Mayor (for 1553/4). He was thus Mayor at the time of the Coronation of Queen Mary on 1 October 1553, but it is not clear whether he attended the Coronation or performed the Oxford mayor’s traditional role of butler at the Coronation feast.

Atkinson was elected Mayor a fourth time in September 1559 (for 1559/60).

On 12 January 1560/61 his son Robert came on to the Council:

At a Counsaill holden the xijth day of January, ao dni 1560, it was agreed by Mr Mayre and the Counsaill of the Citie that Robert Atkinson the sonne of Rychard Atkynson, Alderman, studyent yn the Temple shall have yerely of the body of this Citie one anuytie or annuall rent of fyftie thre shillings and fourpence of currant Englyshe money, [and] to be of the Counsaill of the body of the same Citie.

In October 1562 Atkinson was elected one of the five Mill Masters, and in September 1566 his son Robert was appointed Recorder of the City.

In September 1567 Atkinson was elected Mayor a fifth time (for 1567/8). The following April money was gathered for the lottery, and Atkinson gave five shillings, with his address listed as “The Suburbs” (which meant that he lived just outside the city wall).

Atkinson’s first wife, Agnes, was buried at St Peter-in-the-East Church on 18 May 1569.

On 3 September 1570 at St Peter-in-the-East Church, Richard Atkinson married his second wife Joan Barton.

In total, Atkinson had five sons and six daughters by his two wives.

† Richard Atkinson died on 31 May 1574 and was buried at St Peter-in-the-East Church on 2 June, “quinta majoritate functus”. Anthony Wood describes his monument there as being:

built of cours marble, brest high, having thereon the proportion of a man in his gowne, between his two wives, curiouslie engraven on brass plates. And at his feet are the proportions also of his five sons and 6 daughters engraven on the same mettall.

That monument (below) can still be seen in the church, which is now the library of St Edmund Hall.

Richard Atkinson

The text between the image of Richard and his two wives at the top and his eleven children below reads:

Here lyeth the bodie of Richard Atkinson, late Alderman of Oxon, who hath borne the
office of the Mayoralty fyve times, and was both Justice of ye peace & quorum, and so dep’ted
out of this transytory lyfe in the faith of Christ, the last of May in ye year of our Lorde
God M CCCCC LXXIIII, Together with his late Wife Agnes Atkinson.

His son Robert Atkinson married a Roman Catholic and although he ceased acting as Recorder from 1580, he avoided being deprived of office and nominally continued as Recorder to 1607.

See also:

  • PCC Will PROB 11/56/281 (Will of Richard Atkinson or Atkinsonne, Alderman and Draper of Oxford, proved 2 June 1574)
  • Brass rubbing at the Ashmolean Museum (made in 1915) of the 1574 monumental brass shown above dedicated to Richard Atkinson, his two wives, and eleven children at St Peter-in-the-East Church (ref. Oxford 3/323: not on display)
  • (on Richard’s son, Robert Atkinson) A. Davidson, “Robert Atkinson, a famous lawyer”, Essex Recusant, xii: 91–8

©Stephanie Jenkins

Last updated: 22 September, 2018

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