Oxford History: Mayors & Lord Mayors


William of Bicester (d. 1341)

Mayor of Oxford 1311/12, 1312/13, 1313/14, 1314/15, 1317/18, 1325/6,
1329/30, 1330/1, 1331/2, 1332/3, 1333/4, 1334/5, and 1339/40

William of Bicester (or de Burcestre/Burchester/Berencestre/Burnchester/Byrcestre) was also known as de Bourgh/de Burgo or as le Katour/Chatur/Achatour. He was the son of a man of the same name and an Oxford merchant.

Anthony Wood mentions that William of Bicester owned a tenement in the High Street immediately to the west of Spicer’s Hall (which in turn was to the west of Alfred Street) in the parish of All Saints.

Bicester was elected Junior Bailiff in 1303, and Senior Bailiff in 1304, 1307, and 1309.

He e was elected Mayor four years in succession from 1311/12 to 1314/15, and again for 1317/18.

William of Bicester married Mrs Eleanor Worminghall, the widow of Philip Worminghall (Mayor in 1310/11). He inherited a great deal of property via his wife, including part of Holywell Mill and the Mitre Inn.

In 1319 he was summoned to London with other merchants to make ordinances for the staple.

In 1322 Bicester was appointed with two others to deliver the gaol, and in 1324 he was granted a licence with Adam de Brome and John de Shirbourne and the Abey of Osney to alienate 6½ acres of land for the enlargement of the House of the White Friars.

After an eight-year gap William of Bicester was elected Mayor again for 1325/6, and was an Alderman in 1327.

Bicester was exporting wool through London in 1328.

In 1331 Bicester and his wife sold his part of Holywell Mill. Anthony Wood records:

As for the other mediety; it having bin successively possest by privat persons was at length with two acres of ground called “Mill acres” conveyed to certaine clerks of [Merton] College by William Burchestre, a burgesse of Oxon, and Alienor his wife 5 Edward III.

Bicester’s daughter Alice married Richard Carey, who was himself to be elected Mayor six times. Their son Nicholas may have studied at the University, as Bicester provided him with books.

Bicester was elected Mayor again for six years in succession from 1329/30 to 1334/5, making a total of thirteen terms. Twyne records that in 1334 Bicester was accused by a butcher of carrying out his mayoral duties so badly that during his term of office the town of Oxford had declined faster than ever before.

Bicester was elected Mayor in 1339 for the thirteenth and last time (1339/40).

† William of Bicester died in 1341. He left property (including the Mitre) to found St Anne’s chapel in All Saints’ Church for himself, his family, and his friends, andhe was buried there. His will reads:

I give to my exors., two marks annual rent out of a messuage in Oxford, situated in the parish of All Saints, at the corner [the Mitre], which formerly belonged to Philip de Wormenale, which rent I lately acquired of the grant and concession of Richard de Hunsyngore, clerk, together with the reversion of the messuage aforesaid, with shops, celars, solars, and other appurtinences adjoining the said messuage, to be sold after the death of Elianore, my wife; which reversion, together with the fee of the said messuage, I lately acquired by the concession and remission of Thomas, son and heir of the said Philip; the money to be applied in the celebration of Masses and other pious uses, for the health of the souls of myself, my wife, my children, my friends and benefactors, as shall seem them good. And I will that, if it may be brought to pass, after the licence of the King has been obtained, a perpetual chantry shall be established with the money at the altar of St. Anne in the Church of All Saints for the souls aforesaid.

His executor was his son Nicholas of Bicester. William of Bicester was duly buried at the north side of the former chuch of All Saints, in a small aisle which duly became the Chapel of St Anne.

In 1349 his widow Eleanor of Bicester, died of the Black Death, followed by his son Nicholas Bicester, and his son-in-law Richard Carey.

Information about William of Bicester is held in Lincoln College Muniment Room.

See also:

  • References from VCH: Cal. Lond. Letter Bk C, 106; Cal. Close, 1327–30, 284;
    Twyne xxiv, p. 276; MS Oxon c 396, ff. 35–7; Merton College Mun. Cal. Oxon. Red. ii, p. 10–11

©Stephanie Jenkins

Last updated: 16 November, 2020

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