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William Chillingworth (c.1577–1653)

Mayor of Oxford 1644/5


William Chillingworth (or Shillingworth) was born in c.1577, the son of John Chillingworth, a yeoman of Headington.

William’s father was already dead when on 29 June 1591 he was apprenticed for seven years to the Oxford mercer Thomas Chillingworth, with the promise of double apparel at the end of the term.

On 4 February 1600 Chillingworth was admitted free, and on 17 September that year he and a young cordwainer were jointly awarded the use of £20 that had been left by Doctor Case to the city, to be returned after six years.

On 19 June 1600 at St Andrew’s Church in Headington (just four months after setting up business on his own), William Chillingworth married Jane Penn (also known as Joan) Their children included:

  • Anne Chillingworth (baptised on 25 March 1600/1 at St Martin’s Church;
    buried there on 25 August 1601)
  • William Chilllingworth (baptised on 31 October 1602 at St Martin’s Church)
  • Joan Chillingworth (baptised on 14 July 1605 at St Martin’s Church;
    buried there on 20 June 1605)
  • John Chillingworth (baptised on 7 April 1609 at St Martin’s Church;
    buried there on 17 August 1608)
  • Maria Chillingworth (died in infancy).

Wood records that the Chillingworth family lived “in a little house on the north side of the conduit at Quatervois” (Carfax), which would have been at the south end of Cornmarket in St Martin’s parish.

William Chillingworth may have had literary or theological interests, as Willlam Laud (then a Fellow of St John’s College, Oxford, who became President of the college in 1611, Chancellor of the University in 1630, and Archbishop of Canterbury in 1633) was his friend and godfather to his eldest son William.

On 29 June 1601 took on Ralph Smith of Harwick as his apprentice, and he was admitted free in August 1609.

On 6 October 1606 Willialm Chillingworth was elected on to the Common Council.

In 1609 and 1610 Chillingworth served as Churchwarden at St Martin’s Church at Carfax. In the latter year his second apprentice, Thomas Davies, was admitted free.

On 28 September 1613 it was agreed that Chillingworth should have a bailiff’s place gratis at the request of the outgoing Mayor, Ralph Flexney.

Chillingworth’s third apprentice (Thomas Cooper) was admitted free in October 1614, and his fourth (John Spencer) in December 1618.

In September 1618 the council agreed that Chillingworth could set out a chimney at Paradise House, paying 6d. as a languable.

On 15 October 1619 his son William Chillingworth, who had attended a grammar school, was admitted as a Scholar of Trinity College, Oxford and matriculated by them at the University.

In October 1626 Chillingworth agreed to be one of the two council money-masters for Dame Margaret Northern’s money, and he held this post each year until 1643, when he was elected one of the eight Assistants.

By 1631 Chillingworth was the occupant of Paradise House in St Ebbe’s, suggesting that he had retired from being a High Street mercer. Certainly in March 1633, when he was granted a 40-year lease by the Council of the Jews’ Mount in St Peter-le-Bailey parish, he was described as a gentleman.

In 1642 Chillingworth contributed £4 towards a gift to King Charles I when he came to Oxford after the Battle of Edgehill.

In September 1644 William Chillingworth and Alderman William Charles were sent by the house to the Commons as candidates for the Mayoralty, and Chillingworth was at last elected Mayor of Oxford (for 1644/5) after 38 years on the council. At his request the mercer John Hunt, who was on the common council, was given a bailiff’s place, and he chose John Lambe as Mayor’s Chamberlain.

On 15 July 1645 his wife Joan (Jane) Chillingworth was buried at St Ebbe’s Church.

In November 1647 Chillingworth and one other councillor were given permission to come to council meetings in their cloaks.

In December 1651 it is recorded that Chillingworth had suffered great damage because the Jews Mounts, which he leased from the City, were “laid levill by reason of the fortificacions of the Castle”, and it was agreed that he could renew the lease without paying a fine.

In June 1651 Chillingworth lent the City £18 towards the payment of a new Mace.

† William Chillingworth died in the autumn of 1652 and was buried at St Ebbe’s Church on 31 October. He left the city a legacy of £40 to repair the stairs to the Council Chamber, and £20 to be lent interest-free to two young freemen, a mercer and a shoemaker (the latter exactly reflecting the loan that had given him and his companion such a good start in life 53 years before).


William Chillingworth junior

Chillingworth’s son William (1602–1644) became a Fellow of Trinity College, Oxford in 1623. He had a short and chequered career, but in the 1630s became a moderately eminent Laudian clergyman, royalist, and controversialist. He too left a bequest in his will to help young tradesmen:

I give to the Maior and Corporation of Oxford four hundred Pounds to be payd by fiftie pounds a year in eight years. And as it is payd I would have it lent to poore young Tradesmen by fiftie Pounds a piece for Tenne yeares, they giving good securitie to repay it at Tenne yeares….


See also:

  • PCC Will PROB 11/229/251 (Will of William Chillingworth, Gentleman, proved 11 June 1653)
  • Oxford Dictionary of National Biography entry on his son William Chillingworth junior
  • C.J. H. Fletcher, Carfax Church, Oxford, pp. 57–9, on his son William Chillingworth junior

©Stephanie Jenkins

Last updated: 29 September, 2018

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