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Frederick William Ansell (1840–1932)

Mayor of Oxford 1891–2 and 1907–8


Frederick William Ansell was born in Burford on 11 October 1840 and baptised there on 4 November. His father was Edward Ansell, a currier of Shipton-under-Wychwood (baptised at on 22 February 1809), and his mother was Elizabeth Brooks, who was then living in Burford: she was born in c.1811, and may be the Elizabeth Brooks who was baptised at Witney on 8 March that year. .

His parents were married at Burford Church on 31 October 1832, and they had five other children baptised there: James Ansell  (22 April 1835), John Jordan Ansell (16 January 1837), Elizabeth Sarah Ansell (9 January 1839), and James and Thomas Ansell (30 September 1847).

At the time of the 1841 census Frederick, a one-year-old baby, was living in Burford’s High Street with his father Edward, , his mother Elizabeth, and his older siblings Edward (7), John (4), and Elizabeth (2).

His mother Elizabeth Ansell died of typhoid at the age of 36 in 1847 when he was just seven years old and his youngest brother was under a year. She was buried in Burford churchyard 5 December.

At the time of the 1851 census Frederick (10) was still at school and living with his father Edward (42) and his siblings John (14), Elizabeth (12), James (6), and Thomas (4), plus one servant. His brother John was now working as a currier with his father.

Ansell attended Burford Grammar School and then the College Home Academy in Southgate.

At the time of the 1861 census Frederick (20) was living in Oxford at 135 High Street as an apprentice upholsterer to Richard Embling. His father Edward (52) was still working as a currier and living in Burford's High Street with his youngest son Thomas (14).

On 2 November 1861 at Fisherton Auger Church in Wiltshire, his father Edward Ansell, described as a farmer of Burford rather than a currier, married his second wife Miss Ann Moray Bench.

Soon after completing his apprenticeship Frederick Ansell started up his own business on the other side of the road, and directories from 1866 list Frederick W. Ansell as an “Upholsterer, cabinet maker, & paper hanger” at 44 High Street (now rebuilt).

At the time of the 1871 census Frederick Ansell (30) described himself as an upholsterer employing six men and three boys. He was living at 29 Pembroke Street in St Clements (now renamed Rectory Road): the house was demolished to make way for the Rectory Road Centre. His aunt, Miss Anne Ansell (63), was away on census night, and only a servant was at home with him.

Meanwhile in 1871 his father Edward Ansell (62), who described himself as a retired farmer rather than a currier, was living at 1 James Street in east Oxford with his second wife Ann (63) and their servant girl. His wife Ann Moray Ansell (reg. as Ann Mory Ansell) died soon after the census, with her age given as 65. .

Around this this time Frederick Ansell became a City Councillor for the East Ward.

In the late 1870s Ansell took over the shop next door at 45 High Street as well, and continued his business from the double shop at 44/45 for another ten years.

In 1881 Frederick Ansell (40), described as an upholsterer employing two men and one boy and two apprentices, was still living at 29 Rectory Road with his aunt Miss Anne Ansell (73) and one servant. His father Edward, who continued to describe himself as a retired farmer, was living on his own at 81 James Street, Oxford, with a servant girl.

Frederick Ansell was elected Sheriff of Oxford for 1883/4. He was a Liberal, and at one time was on the executive council of the City Liberal Association. He was also a director of the Oxford Gas Company.

On 31 December 1883 his father Edward Ansell died at 81 James Street at the age of 74. His personal estate came to 3998 3s., and Frederick was one of his two executors.

In 1888 Frederick Ansell abandoned cabinet making for print-selling and publishing, and he and two partners took over the business of Russell & Co., music sellers at 120 High Street.

Horse-drawn delivery for Russell’s music shop
Above: horse-drawn delivery for Russell’s music shop when Ansell was proprietor

Ansell is listed as the householder in the St Clement’s house until 1890, the year before his aunt’s death, and thereafter at Lilford Lodge, a much grander house at 99 Banbury Road. This is now the Voltaire Foundation / Europaeum, on the corner of St Margaret’s Road (below).

99 Banbury Road

At the time of the 1891 census Frederick Ansell (50), described as a printseller & publisher, was living on his own at 99 Banbury Road with two servants (a cook and a housemaid)

Boundary stone

Later in 1891 Ansell was elected Mayor of Oxford (for 1891/2).

On 17 August 1892 Ansell rode the franchise. The journey was a catalogue of disasters, with Ansell ending up in water up to his breast in the Cherwell and the city’s precious 1660 mace at the bottom of the River Cherwell at Marston.

The Mayor's punt capsized in the Cherwell

Although it was in 1889 that the boundary of the city of Oxford had been extended as far as the Boundary Brook to match that of the parliamentary borough, it was only Ansell’s mayoralty that the new boundary stones were set up. The one on the left stands in Woodlands Road, Headington, and shows the city crest, with “1892 F.W. ANSELL MAYOR” underneath. There are other boundary stones bearing his name at Sunnymead, on the Godstow Road bridge, opposite Headley Way, and probably on two more illegible stones at Barracks Lane south and the Woodstock Road.

Arms of Ansell

Right: Ansell’s arms in stained glass in the Town Hall Council Chamber

Below: Because Ansell was on the Municipal Buildings Committee when the new Town Hall was opened in 1897, his head is carved in stone in the Council Chamber corridor

Frederick Ansell

On 27 March 1894 at St Philip & St James Church Frederick William Ansell (53) married Annie Eliza Downing, (30), who was born at Hinksey and was the daughter of Robert Downing, a gentleman of 11 Park Crescent (now 34 Park Town). After his marriage, Ansell was described as a “gentleman”. They had seven children:

  • Annie Janet Ansell (born at Lilford Lodge, Banbury Road on 7 March 1895 and baptised at St Philip and St James Church on 30 October)
  • Frederick William Robert [”Derrick”] Ansell (baptised at St Philip and St James Church on 30 October 1896)
  • Edward Roy Ansell (born in Oxford in 1897/8)
  • Gertrude Elizabeth Dorothy [”Geda”] Ansell (born in Oxford in 1899/1900)
  • George Richard Downing Ansell (born in Oxford in 1901)
  • Walter Philip [”Phil”] Ansell (born in Oxford in 1902).
  • Humphrey Sylvester Jordan Ansell (born in Oxford in 1905).

When Oxford was made a county borough in 1899, Ansell was again returned for the East Ward. He was chairman of the Sanitary Committee, and was largely responsible for the provision of an isolation hospital when Oxford was threatened with a severe outbreak of smallpox.

Ansell was a prominent Freemason who served as Master of the Alfred Lodge and was the first Master of the Alfred Mark Lodge. He travelled extensively in Europe.

At the time of the 1901 census, Frederick Ansell (60) described himself as a retired printseller & publisher and was home at 99 Banbury Road with his wife Annie (36) and their first five children: Annie (6), Frederick (4), Edward (2), Gertrude (1), and George (one month). They employed a cook, housemaid, and two nurses.

Ansell had retired by the time of the 1901 census, when he was 60. Looking after the family at 99 Banbury Road (there were now five children, including new one-month-old baby) were four domestic servants: a cook, a housemaid, and two nurses.

Ansell family
Mrs Ansell with her seven children in 1909

Ansell continued to represent the East Ward until 1905, when he was defeated in an election. He was however elected an Alderman and so remained on the council. In 1907 he was elected Mayor of Oxford a second time (for 1907/8).

At the time of the 1911 census Frederick (70) and Annie (46) were home at 99 Banbury Road (which they stated had 14 rooms). They had a nurse, housemaid, and cook and all seven children were at home and still at school: Annie (16), Frederick (14), Edward (13), Gertrude (11), George (10), Walter (9), and Sylvester (5).

In about 1919 Frederick’s youngest son, Walter Philip Ansell, known as Philip, joined him in the music business. In October 1920 his son Frederick William Robert Ansell (known as Derrick) died of phthisis. He too was a “piano and music dealer’s assistant”, and his illness was believed to have been the result of injuries received in the First World War.

Russell loudspeaker system
The Russell mobile loudspeaker system at Oxford cricket

In 1921 Ansell added the Treble bell to All Saints’ Church, which was then the City Church. It is inscribed:

THE GIFT OF
ALDERMAN F.  W. ANSELL, J.P.
EX-MAYOR OF OXFORD.
M. & S. London, 1927.

(M. & S. stands for Mears & Stainbank, the Whitechapel Foundry. Another former mayor, G. Claridge Druce, presented the Second bell at the same time.)

His wife Annie Eliza Ansell died in 1930 at the age of 66 and was buried in Wolvercote Cemetery on 12 December.

† Frederick William Ansell died of influenza and chronic bronchitis at Lilford Lodge, 99 Banbury Road on 25 March 1932 at the age of 91. His funeral was held at the City Church (All Saints). The Mayor and High Sheriff headed the Corporation procession. Family mourners included his four surviving sons (Humphrey, Roy, George, and Philip), his daughter Miss Geda Ansell, and his brother-in-law R. Downing.

He was buried at Wolvercote Cemetery with his wife Annie on 29 March 1932 (Grave H1/187).

His effects came to £43,380 14s. 6d., and his executors were his youngest son Humphrey Sylvester Jordan Ansell, who was a music seller, the architect and surveyor William Henry Castle, and Roy Charman Downing.


Ansell’s six surviving children
  • Annie Janet Ansell in 1919 married Norman Fisher Newton (a Canadian Army officer wounded in the First World War and convalescing in Oxford). She went to Canada with him in the spring of 1920 and lived in Parkhill, Ontario where her sons Derek and Ross were born. (There was also another son who died in infancy.) Janet and Norman moved to London, Ontario in 1924 where she lived until her death in the spring of 1946.
  • George Richard Ansell and his brother Walter Philip Ansell (known as Phil) both remained bachelors and shared a house. George served in Burma during the Second World War, while Phil spent most of his working life at MG car works in Abingdon.
  • Miss Gertrude Elizabeth Dorothy Ansell (known as Geda from her initials) shared a house with her bachelor brother Edward Roy Ansell (always known as Roy) until he died in 1960s. Geda died on 20 January 1999, aged 99 (described as a retired secretary living in Botley)
  • Humphrey Sylvester Jordan Ansell (known as Hump) took over the family music business after Frederick’s death in 1920. He married Barbara Joan Warburton and they had three children (Russell, Graham and Janet) and lived on Cumnor Hill. He worked up to a month before his death at the age 93 on 9 May 1998.

The music shop Russell & Co remained with the Ansell family, later merging with Sydney Acott at 124 High Street. In 1988 Graham Ansell moved out of the old shop at 124 High Street into new premises on the ring road


See also:

  • Oxford Journal Illustrated, 20 October 1920, p. 9d (photograph of the Mayor’s son, Derrick Ansell, and short report of his death)
  • Oxford Mail, 26 March 1932, p. 1d–e (obituary)
  • Oxford Mail, 29 March 1932, p. 1d (report of funeral)
  • Susan Wollenberg, “Pianos and pianists in Nineteenth-century Oxford” in Bennett Zon (ed.), Nineteenth-Century Music Review, Volume 2, Issue 1
  • 1841 Census: Oxford (Burford) H0107/0872/017/05
  • 1851 Census: Oxford (Burford) H0107/1731/741
  • 1861 Census: Oxford (All Saints) RG9/0893/062
  • 1871 census: Oxford (Cowley) RG10/1435/007
  • 1881 Census: Oxford (Cowley) 1497/91
  • 1891 Census: Oxford (Cowley) RG11/1497/091
  • 1901 Census: Oxford (St Giles) RG12/1166/066

Margaret and Kathryn Ansell have added details that they have discovered whilst researching their family tree

©Stephanie Jenkins

Last updated: 18 October, 2020

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