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City Lecturers at the City Church


The City Lecturers were appointed by the City Council from the 1580s to preach to the council and citizens in the City Church.

The original aim of these lectures or sermons was to oppose the Church of Rome: Antony Wood records that the measures taken by the University “for the expelling of popery … were imitated in another way by the citizens in founding their lectureship and selecting two zealous calvinists for that work”.

The earliest reference to a City Lectureship, however, is in November 1579, when the Council ordered that:

all ffreemen of this cytie shall everie Sondaye and holidaye come to the sermon at Carfoxe with theire wiefes and families or forfayte xiid. for not coming.

The order was repeated in March 1581, when it was agreed that:

on everie Sondaye and holydaye the fower Aldermen, the rest of the thirteen, the bailiffs and chamberlins, the common counsell and all other ffreemen of this cytie shall at the tyme of the ringing of the bell for the sermon come together to the pennylesse bench and staye theare until the commynge of the Mayor or his deputie, and shall from thence, everie man in his degree, orderlie apparreled, accompany the Mayor to the sermon at St Maries Churche, Christ Churche, Carfoxe, or any other place within the cytie or suburbes where the Mayor shall then go.

The reason for this order was that:

the ordinari and usual commynge to sermons of all estates and degrees within this cytie shalbe a good meane and occasion for everie christian to understande and learne their duties towards God and obeydience to all lawfull magistrates and superiors.

In the sixteenth century there was a shortage of preachers in Oxford, and Anthony Wood records that “the citzens had sermons but seldom delivered to them in their public church of St Martin”. To remedy this, in February 1583, the Council agreed that:

Mr Mayor and thaldermen shall talke with some fytt preacher for the towne to preache at Carfaxe and to have a stipend for his paynes.

In August 1585 they agred that “£10 yearely shall be disbursed out of the treasurie of this cytie towards the maintenance of a preacher or two at Carfoxe Church’, and in January 1586 that “this cytie shall give 20 marks to two preachers yearlie to make one sermon every Sundaye at Carfoxe to the citizens, and that Mr Potter and Mr Prime be appointed the said two preachers’.

That money paid for a morning sermon; but in 1617, two additional lecturers were appointed to lecture alternately on Sunday afternoons. There were henceforth four City Lecturers, and until 1778 these were paid for by a tax payable by all members of the Corporation. In that year the lectureship was endowed with £1500 (£1000 from a debt due to the City form the Earl of Litchfield, and £500 from William Wickham, Mayor in 1755/6 and 1769/7): this money was invested in canal shares, and the interest paid for the stipend of the lecturers.

The following City Lecturers were citizens of Oxford:

  • 1586: John Prime, son of Robert, a fletcher in Holywell
  • 1630: William Potter, son of Alderman Potter, draper
  • 1634: Henry Carpenter
  • 1680: William Howell, son of a tailor in St Michael’s
  • 1699: Walter Fifield, son of Thomas, gent.
  • 1702: James Mashborne, son of James, pleb.
  • 1714: Matthew Panting, son of Matthew, pleb.
  • 1722: Matthew Eaton, son of Christopher, gent.
  • 1727: Richard Vincent, son of George of All Saints’, pleb.
  • 1745: John Hopkins, son of John of St Aldate’s, pleb.
  • 1774: Thomas Robinson, son of Thomas of All Saints’, gent.
  • 1775: John Cox, son of John, pleb.
  • 1805: William West Green, son of William, pleb.
  • 1805: William Brown, son of William of Iffley, pleb.
  • 1821: George Taunton, son of William Elias, gent., afterwards knight
  • 1821: William Firth, son of Richard of St Clement’s, gent.
  • 1832: Charles Henry Cox, son of Richard, armiger
  • 1835: John Hyde, son of William, pleb.
  • 1839: John Perkins, son of John of Holywell, gent.
  • 1840: William Simcox Bricknell, son of Thomas Fox, gent.
  • 1882: Vincent William Lucas, son of William of Oxford, gent.

©Stephanie Jenkins

Last updated: 11 September, 2012

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