Oxford History: Mayors & Lord Mayors


John Austen (fl. 1525)

Mayor of Oxford 1524/5

John Austen (or Awsten or Austin) was, according to Twyne, “first manciple of Magdalen Coll., and marrienge a draper’s widdowe, became free of the towne, and was a draper and alderman”. Anthony Wood adds, “John Austen kept the Cross Inn”.

On 24 June 1516 Austen took on John Hill of Stafford as an apprentice draper. Two months later, on 29 September 1516, Austen was elected a Bailiff on the Council. He and the other bailiff were proceeded against the following December of empanelling privileged persons upon the Jury for the University Leat.

On 8 October 1518 Austen was elected one of the four Keepers of Dame Margaret Northern’s Chest.

On 25 March 1519 he and his wife took on as an apprentice draper Edmund Faller of Oxford.

John Austen was elected an Alderman 6 October 1522. In 1523 an item in the council accounts reads, “paid to John Austen for xxv yards of playne whyt, vijd the yarde”, in his capacity as a mercer. That year Austen submitted a massive list to the council of his “expenses to London when I shuld make answere for the towne to my lorde Cardenall for the last Commyssyon that was delyvered by Maister Harcourt & Maister Chamburleyn”. The list fills over seven printed pages of the book Selections from the Records of the City of Oxford, and includes all the food for himself, “horsemet” for his horse, 8d for the barber and laundry, 1d for paper, and numerous “costs and charges paid to ower lernyd Cownsell”.

In about September 1523 Alderman Austen took on another apprentice draper, Thomas Peryn of Oxford.

On 29 September 1524 John Austen was chosen Mayor (for 1524/5). For the lay subsidy of 1524, “Johanne Austen Maiore” is listed as paying the sum of three pounds in the parish of St Martin.

There were many complaints of offences by the University in 1530/1, including one involving Austen and his servant, Harry Walton:

Item, that on Richard Ewar depute to oon Water Boucler, Proctor of the Unyversite dyd attache oon Harry Walton, servaunt to John Avsten, Alderman of the Towne of Oxford, for fornicacion doon by the sayde Harry at Wytneye, ix miles out of Oxford, wt a woman which he was sure unto, and soe wold have pout hym in prison onles he wolde geve hym vjs viiid for a bribe. And he had not on peny to geve hym. And than he wolde have hym fynde hym surtye to paye hym vjs  viiid. And theruppon the sayde Richard Ewer sent hys servaunt wt the sayd Harry Walton to hys master, and shewyd hym that he was callyd before the proctor for vjs  viiid, that he was indetted to a certen person. And theruppon the sayde John Avsten becam surtye for the payment of the foresayd vjs viiid to be payd by a certen daye, at which daye the sayde Ricahrd Ewer cam to the foreseid John Avsten for the vjs  viiid, and soe he payde hym.

On 9 July 1532 it was agreed that John Austen, William Archer, and the two Chamberlains for the year should have the oversight of the waters

from Prynses Weres vnto Scisseter and Cherwell, wt all the crekys, dyches therto belongyng, and that they shall make lauffull deputies in eny place where they thynke most convenyent.

On 6 December 1533 Austen, together with the Mayor, Aldermen, and other citizens, was discommoned by the University, meaning that “no schollar nor none of their servants should by nor sell wth none of them, neither eat nor drink in their houses”.

On 3 October 1547 he made a donation of forty shillings to Dame Margaret Northern’s coffer.

† John Austen died after 1547.

©Stephanie Jenkins

Last updated: 25 September, 2018

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