Oxford History: Mayors & Lord Mayors


John of Barford (d. 1361)

Mayor of Oxford

John of Barford (or Johanne de Bereford/Beresford Berforde) kept the Swyndlestock Tavern on the south-west corner of Carfax. In the aulnage accounts of 1354–5, 16 men in Oxford paid on 102 cloths, with John of Barford paying on exactly a quarter of them. His apprentice, Richard Garston or Mercer, was also to become Mayor.

The family owned Berford Hall (also known as Corner Hall or Charlton’s Inn), standing on the corner where All Souls is now; Anthony Wood says that it “seems to have bin inhabited by schollers not long after the Norman Conquest”.

Barford married twice, and both wives were called Agnes. His first wife was the daughter of John Bost, and his second the daughter of John le Peyntour.

John of Barford was elected Member of Parliament for Oxford in 1348, and again in 1351, 1353, and 1361.

He was elected Mayor of Oxford in four consecutive years: 1348/9, 1349/50, 1350/1, 1351/2, and 1354/5. He was also chosen as one of the four Alderman in 1348 and in 1352.

His fifth and final term of office was in 1354/5. On Tuesday 10 February 1355 (which happened to be St Scholastica’s Day), some students and priests complained about the quality of Barford’s wine. He retorted with “stubborn and saucy language”; a student threw a quart pot at his head, and so began Oxford’s worst ever Town & Gown riots. After the riots, Barford was sent to prison in the Tower, and a writ was issued by Edward III on 6  May 1355 to the citizens to elect a new Mayor.

† John of Barford died in 1361.

In his will he devised a shop and rents for a temporary chantry at All Saints’ Church, providing for six priests for one year, four for a second, and two for a third. Anthony Wood describes his monument, which was in the aisle that joined the body of the former All Saints’ Church on the south side:

On a marble lying on the ground, are the pictures of a man and his wife engraven on brasse plates, with this inscription under them:–

John de Bereford et Agnes sa premier feme gycent icy, dieu de lour almes eit mercy: qui pour l’alme de dit John priera vic xx jours de pardon aura.

In English thus:–

John de Bereford and Agnes his first wife lye here, God on their soules have mercy: Hee that shall pray for the soule of the said John, shall have 620 days of pardon.

You may see by this what care was taken for the saving of the soul of the said John de Bereford, alderman, the prime promoter of, and captaine in, the great conflict [St Scholastica’s Day], and therfore the occasion that so many lives were unjustly taken away therein, as you may see more at large in the first book [published as Historia et Antiquitates Univ. Oxon] under the yeares 1354 and 1355 &c. …. His second wife was Agnes also, the daughter of John le Peyntour, of Oxon, living 4 Rich. II [1380]; but whether shee was buried here I know not.

He also gave to the city a property at the present 40 Cornmarket Street, and on 15 September 1581 when praise was given to God for the benefactors to the City, and Barford was thus lauded:

For John Berforde, Mayer in the tyme of the conflicte, who gave one tenement to the bodye of this Cytie lieng in St Mychaells paryshe at the northe gate.

Barford also gave the following to All Saints’ Church:

  • the revenues of a house in St Mary-the-Virgin parish;
  • 8s. 6d. yearly (arising out of some tenements in St Martin’s) for finding vestments for the church and chantry (3)  6 marks
  • 3s. 4d. (arising out of messuages in St Martin’s, St Peter-le-Bailey, All Saints, and St Giles parishes) for the maintenance of a chaplain who would pray daily for him and all faithful deceased.

His widow Agnes Barford remarried twice: first Alderman John of Bedford, and then Henry Castell, a wealthy scholar.

See also:

  • Oxford City Documents 1268–1665, p. 251 (Barford’s imprisonment)
  • Bodleian MS Top. Oxon. c 443 f. 60 (his chantry)
  • Biography not yet available on the History of Parliament website

©Stephanie Jenkins

Last updated: 16 November, 2020

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