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Richard Browne (c.1528–1607)

Mayor of Oxford 1591/2, 1596/7, and 1602/3


Richard Browne (or Broune / Brown) was an Oxford “brown-baker” who was admitted free as a Hanaster in the mayoral year1549–50. On 13 February 1565/6 he married Margaret Gorton at All Saints' Church.

Browne came on to the Common Council on 29 September 1566, and was appointed a Chamberlain in 1568 and a Bailiff in 1576.

On 29 October 1575 Margaret Browne, “wife of Richard”, was buried at All Saints' Church.

He probably married his second wife, Eleanor, soon afterwards, as an Alice Browne, “daughter of Richard” was baptised at that church on 10 January 1578.

On 9 July 1578 Brown was admitted by the Vice-Chancellor in his court to the right of making and selling bread. His business must have been large, as he took on many apprentice bakers over the years: Robert Jennings of Woodstock (29 September 1556); John Lucas of Woodstock (14 May 1570); Henry Southwood of Lancashire (11 April 1574); Thomas Leyster of Woodeaton (29 September 1577); Robert Nicholls of Cheltenham (25 July 1578); George Myles of Worcester (25 December 1583); Roger Cawther of Worcestershire (29 September 1586); Marcus Ildbury of Oxford (25 December 1587); Robert Collins of Abingdon (1 November 1588); Thomas Scott of Wendlebury (25 March 1590); John Williams of Great Rollright (1 May 1595); Percival Payne of Merton (25 March 1595); and John Willis of Oxford (25 December 1599).

On 14 December 1587 Browne was one of the twelve bakers bound in a bond of £20 each to sell “thirteen of bread to the dozen within the University.” He was also one of the bakers found faulty for not observing the size appointed by the Vice-Chancellor and the Clerks of the Market, and was fined a dozen loaves of bread, to be distributed among the poor.

In 1588 Browne was elected on to the Mayor’s Council of Thirteen, and appointed Millmaster for the year.

In September 1591 Browne was appointed Mayor of Oxford for the first time (for 1591/2). During his term of office he travelled to London to give the Lord Chamberlain (the new Steward elect) with a piece of plate and some gloves and his patent sealed with the Common Seal of the City of Oxford. Queen Elizabeth I also visited the city during his mayoralty: on Friday 22 September 1592, after being attended by the Vice-Chancellor on behalf of the University,

Hir Majestie, with the Nobility, and the rest of hir royal traine, going towards the city, was, within half a mile, received by the Maior of Oxford and his brethren, with a short speech delivered by their recorder.

In September 1596 Browne was elected Mayor of Oxford for a second time (for 1596/7), and because in his first mayoralty he had not used the privilege of making a man free, the following March he was able to appoint a bailiff:

“Hit is agreed that Richard Morgan, taylor, shall have the roome of a bayliffe gratis at the request of Mr Mayor in respect that Mr Mayor did not make any man free for his gilt peny in the first tyme of his mayoraltie.”

He was made an Alderman after his second term as Mayor.

Richard Browne was elected Mayor a third time in September 1602 (for 1602/3). King James I, the first Stuart monarch, succeeded to the throne the following March, and at the council meeting on 4 May 1603:

It is agreed that where by our charters Mr. Mayor and some other citizens are to serve the king’s Majestie in his buttrye at the feast of his Coronacion; These parties, viz. Mr. Alderman Goode, Mr. Alderman Bartholmewe, Mr. Thomas Harrys, Mr. Thomas Stone and Mr. William Dennington, baylliffs, and Mr. Henry Niccolls shall goe upp with Mr. Maior as citizens to serve in the place at the chardge of this cytie….

In the event, however, they did not go, as James I issued a proclamation forbidding all persons except the Lord Mayor, aldermen, and twelve principal citizens of London to attend the ceremony for fear of spreading the plague, and the King and court went to Winchester the morning after the coronation.

Richard Browne's wife Eleanor Browne (described in the register as “wife of Mr. Richard, Mayor of Oxford”) died in mid-1603 before the coronation and was buried at All Saints’ Church on 20 July. Five days later the Coronation went ahead without the presence of anyone from Oxford.

† Alderman Richard Browne died in mid-1607 and was buried in All Saints’ Church on 10 July.

©Stephanie Jenkins

Last updated: 21 September, 2018

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