Oxford History: Mayors & Lord Mayors

Back
Forwards

Henry Bosworth (1578–1634)

Mayor of Oxford 1625/6


Henry Bosworth was born in 1578. He was described by Anthony Wood as a “maltster (afterwards brewer)”, and was “subscribed” as a privileged member of the University of Oxford when he was matriculated on 13 July 1610. Hence he appears in a list of persons admitted by the University to brew on 26 September 1610 and again on 10 December 1618.

Although the brewery was in St Thomas’s parish in Oxford, Henry Bosworth and his wife Alice Martin may have lived in St Giles's parish. They had three children (the first given his mother's maiden name as his forename), but only one survived infancy:

  • Martin Bosworth (baptised at St Giles's Church on 30 January 1608/9;
    buried there on 21 January 1611/12)
  • Elizabeth Bosworth (baptised at St Giles's Church on1 January 1611/12)
  • Alice Bosworth (baptised at St Giles's Church on 30 June 1615;
    buried there on 26 November 1616).

Henry Bosworth with his wife Alice and their children are shown at prayer in a monument in St Giles’ Church (below, put up by Alice after her husband’s death in 1683). Henry (in his red aldermanic robes) and his wife Alice are kneeling in the background, with their three children in front. The child on the left wears a cloak and is evidently a boy, so this is Martin. Baby Alice is in the middle, and the older girl on the right is Elizabeth, the only one of the children who survived.

Bosworth Memorial in St Giles’s Church

Bosworth was admitted as a Freeman of Oxford on 23 September 1614 when he was 35 years old, and was immediately granted a bailiff’s place on the council. On 16 September 1616 he was elected Junior Bailiff, and on 25 April 1622 he was chosen one of the “Thirteen” of the Mayor’s inner council, paying £5.

On 19 September 1625 the man chosen to be Mayor was unwilling to serve, so “this howse went to a newe election and after a perfecte scrutany taken Mr. Henry Bosworth was elected Mayor of this Cittie for this year next ensueing from Michellmas nexte”. He duly took up his post as Mayor (for 1625/6) at the end of September 1625, and at his request his servant Robert Tapping was admitted free.

There was plague in Oxford at the beginning of Bosworth’s mayoral year, and on 16 November 1625 it was agreed that he should be repaid £19 14s. 6d. which he had already disbursed for the relief of the infected and that there should be a taxation of the sick. The money was slow in coming, however, and Bosworth was forced to pay another £15 16s. 6d. out of his purse or else the infected persons “must of necessitie breake owt and come amongst the sound”.

Bosworth was mayor in a Coronation year. In early in January 1626 the council learned that the Charles I was likely to be crowned a month later on Candlemas Day (2 February). The outbreak of plague would have made a large gathering inadvisable, and doubt had evidently been expressed as to whether the Coronation Banquet (where according to tradition the Mayor of Oxford had the honour of serving as the King’s butler) would take place. On 5 January 1626 the council sent George Box, one of their chamberlains who happened to be an attorney, up to London not only to put forward the city’s usual claim but also to ascertain this time whether the banquet would be held at all:

As touching the claime that is to be made on the behalfe of this Citty attending the King’s Majestie at his feast of Coronacion which is thought to be held on Candlemas day next, this whole howse doe thincke and therupon order and soe enact that the clayme or petition in that nature shalbe drawne with the privitie and advise of Mr. Whistler and shall then be ingrossed in parchment and sealed with the City seal, and Mr. George Boxe shalbe imployed to ride up to the court, acquainting our Recorder with it by the way and afterwards to present yt to such nobleman as shalbe appointed Highe Steward of England for that tyme and to take his approbacion thereof and then cause the same to be entred in the Exchequer and soe retorne home with certen relation of his proceedings and advertisement, whether the feast doe hold or not.

The answer appears to have been “not”; but the city of Oxford did not let the matter rest there. On 23 January 1626, just eight days before the Coronation, it was agreed that Bosworth and six others should go to London “with all possible speed by reason of the shortness of tyme” to enter “the claime of this City to be graunted for the Maior of this Citty to attend his Majestie at the feast of his coronacion”. The City borrowed the huge sum of £100 to cover all the costs of this expedition, including the liveries of the attendants (Bosworth was to have two men to attend him, and the others one), “for that this is a worke tending to the honour of the Citty and redeeming of that which hath lien longe asleepe and bene almost lost”. (No Mayor of Oxford had served at a Coronation Feast since Elizabeth was crowned in 1559, as the feast had also been cancelled because of plague at the Coronation of James I in 1603.)

Although the Coronation duly took place at Westminster on 2 February 1626, it appears that the feast (as well as the coronation entry into London) was postponed. At the next council meeting on 24 April it was announced that the city’s claim that Bosworth have the honour of serving as butler had been successful, but that the feast would be postponed until early May. It is unclear, however, whether the feast ever took place, and Bosworth was not knighted.

On 14 October 1627 at St Aldate's Church, his only surviving child Elizabeth Bosworth (who was then only aged fifteen) married John Smith, the son of Alderman Oliver Smith (both of whom were themselves Mayors of Oxford), thus uniting two brewing families.

Bosworth continued to serve as a Mayor’s Assistant, taking on the duty of Keykeeper in October 1629. On 12 March 1630 he was elected an Alderman: he had 67 votes, and the other contender a mere 16.

He was “sick in bodie” on 17 December 1633 when he made his will, and he died just three weeks later.

† Henry Bosworth died on 8 January at the age of 54. The death is recorded in the register of St Thomas’s Church with the words: “Mr Henry Bosworth, buried in S. Giles church”. (There is a useful note added by Anthony Wood explaining that Bosworth “lived by the Castle mills”, which was in the brewing area of the city.) His death was announced at the council meeting of 10 January, and another alderman was elected in his place.

The parish register of St Giles’ Church shows that he was buried there on 14 January 1633/4. A transcription (originally made by Matthew Hutton and used by Anthony Wood) of the text on the monument put up by his widow in 1635 gives the date of his death as 30 January, but this is wrong and may be a misreading for 8o (i.e. octavo) January.

In his will, Henry Bosworth left to his wife Alice his inn at Wheatley for her life, to go after her death to his daughter Elizabeth Smith’s unborn child (that child, Henry, unfortunately only survived a few weeks); similarly his land in Osney Mead leased from Magdalen College. Alice also received the lease of his lands in Garsington owned by Magdalen College, to go afterwards to the only grandchild he had at this time, Christian.

His widow Alice Bosworth appears in a list of brewers of ale and beer on 6 August 1635. In that year she put up the monument pictured above. It was originally at the upper end of the north aisle of St Giles's Church, against the east wall. The inscription that stood over it no longer survives, but it was transcribed in the seventeenth century, and read as follows:

FELICI MEMORIAE
 
HENRICI BOSWORTH
 
HUJUS URBIS NUPER
SENATORIS SUPERIORIS
ORDINIS QUI ANNUM
AGENS 55 TANDEM POST
TRES LIBEROS NATOS,
ET DUOS EORUM HOC
IN TEMPLO SEPULTOS
8o DIE JAN. ANNO DOM. 1633
VITAM FRAGILEM
FINIVIT IN TERRIS,
UT BEATIOR AETERNAM
VIVERET IN COELIS
 
HOC MONUMENTUM
ALICIA VIDUA IPSIUS
ADHUC SUPERSTES
MOERENS POSUIT
ANNO DOM. 1635

To the happy memory of Henry Bosworth, until recently a councillor of the higher rank of this town — who on reaching his 55th year of age and after having three children born to him (two of whom are buried in this church) came to the end of this fragile life on earth on 8 January 1633 so that he might be more blessed and live an eternal life in heaven — his grieving widow Alice, as yet surviving, put up this monument in 1635

PARUM VIATOR
REPRIMAS GRADUS TUOS
ET HUIC SEPULCHRO
LUMINA UDA CONJICE.

SITUS QUI INTRA
QUALIBUSQUE MORIBUS
NOVISSE GESTIS?
PARVUS HIC NARRAT LAPIS.

PIUS BENIGNUS,
PROVIDENS, AMANS FUIT,
DEO, PROPINQUO,
LIBERIS ET CONJUGI:
AMICUS, HOSTIS
JUSTUS, EXPANSA MANU,
PROBI, IMPROBI,
NEGOTIIS ET PAUPERI.


ITA EST MORATUS,
PROLE QUI CUM DUPLICI
HAC SACRA IN URNA
DORMIENS RECONDITUR

O passing Traveller, check your steps a while and cast your moist eyes on this tomb. This small stone tells of the man lying inside and of his high character. He was pious, kind, prudent, and loving to God, his neighbour, his children, and his wife: he was a just friend and foe, with an open hand for the good man and the bad, for business and for the poor. Of such a nature was he who lies sleeping with his two children in this sacred tomb

His widow Alice Bosworth died in c.1653, leaving her property to her son-in-law John Smith and her only surviving daughter Elizabeth Smith. She requested that she be buried with her husband, but the entries for 1653 to 1660 in the St Giles Church burial register are missing.


Bosworth’s descendants

Bosworth’s only surviving daughter, Mrs Elizabeth Smith, died at her home in St Mary Magdalen parish on 5 September 1673 and was buried at St Aldate’s Church. At least five of their children survived to adulthood:

  • Christian Smith (c.1629–1656), who married William Wright (mayor of Oxford in 1656 and 1667) St Aldate’s Church in 1646. She was the mother of Alice (1647–1694), Christian (1649–1650), and William (1652–1721). Alice married Charles Harris, son of John Harris (mayor in 1663), while William became the Recorder of Oxford: he had seven surviving children when he died.
  • Henry Smith (b.1638) became a Canon at Christ Church in February 1676.
  • John Smith, of Kennington in Berkshire. He married Katherine, daughter of Thomas Blagrave of St Ebbe’s parish, and they had just one daughter, Elizabeth (d.1669). He died in his house near Bullock’s (Bulwark’s) Lane, Oxford on 16 December 1671.
  • Alice Smith (1642–1672) married Richard Holloway of St Aldate’s parish. Their children were John (1661), Richard (1663–1681, student of Christ Church, buried in the cathedral); Mary (1664, died same year); Henry (1666); Mary (1668, died the same year; Peter (1669); and Elizabeth (1671). Mrs Alice Holloway died on 7 September 1672
  • Mary Smith (baptism not recorded) married William Turner, D.D. (a Fellow of Trinity who lived in St Giles’) on 12 February 1676/7 at Christ Church

At the time of the lay subsidy of 1648, fourteen years after Henry Bosworth’s death, a Mr Bosworth was assessed for 3s. 6d. in St Thomas’s parish, suggesting that Henry may have had a nephew who was still involved in his brewing business.


See also:

  • PCC Will PROB 11/165/216 (Will of Henrie Bosworth, Alderman of Oxford, proved 20 February 1634)
  • PCC Will PROB 11/243/152 (Will of Alice Bosworth, Widow of Oxford, proved 17 January 1655)
  • Bodleian MS Raw. 397, fol. 49, 50 (transcription of the monument to Bosworth made by Matthew Hutton)

©Stephanie Jenkins

Last updated: 25 September, 2018

Oxford Mayors home Small Shark Oxford History home