Oxford History: Mayors & Lord Mayors


William Frere (d. 1546)

Mayor of Oxford 1530/1, 1531/2, 1534/5, 1535/6, 1536/7, 1541/2, and 1542/3

William Frere (or Fryer/Fryar/Fryur/Friar/Freurs/Frerys/Fruers/Frewyn/Freer) was the son of Thomas Frere, a saddler from High Wycombe who himself had been created an Alderman of Oxford in 1525.

Twyne says, “This William Frere was sometime servant to John Lundon, then fellowe of Newe Coll, (afterward head of New Coll.)”. He was also one of Cardinal Wolsey’s chief local agents in the building of Christ Church, and Wood states that he was collector of rents of the lands of St. Frideswide’s and Cardinal College.

By 1519, Frere had ceased to be a privileged person of the University and had obtained his freedom of the city. He was a tanner, mercer, and vintner, and first came on the the Common Council on 10 October 1519. On 1 December 1519 it was

“graunted vnto Will’m Frere for the somme of iiijli paide in hand to the chamber of the Town that he shalbe dischargied for evermore of the office of the Chamberleyn of the Town of Oxford”.

Accordingly on 29 September 1520 he was elected a Bailiff without having first served as Chamberlain. On 6 October 1522 he was elected a Supervisor.

In 1524 Frere was one of the two people appointed as Collectors of the Lay Subsidy from both Privileged Persons of the University and ordinary townsfolk; he himself now fell into the latter category, and had to pay thirty shillings in All Saints Parish.

On 29 September 1528 Frere was elected an Alderman, and on 29 September 1530 Mayor of Oxford for the first time (for 1530/1). During his year of office his home was attacked by members of the University: in a list of offences drawn up by the City, it is reported that on 16 August 1531:

at nyght, aboutts on of the clocke, certen persons unknowen cast stonys at William Fryars wyndosse, oon of the Aldermen of the Towne of Oxford, and the sayd William askyd them why they dyd soe, and uppon that on shotte a sheffe arrowe at hym which stacke faste in the wyndowe.

William Frere continued as Mayor of Oxford for a second year for 1531/2.

Frere started a third term as Mayor on 29 September 1534 (for 1534/5). The following March it was agreed that “Mr Mayre for the yere being” should be allowed to keep four beasts in Port Meadow. He was elected Mayor again for 1535/6 and 1536/7.

In September 1540 Frere was appointed one of the two Coroners. In that year, together with John Pye, he leased part of the site of the Franciscan Friary in St Ebbe’s and of the Greyfriars.

In February 1541 Frere was elected as one of the seven Arbitrators to act in disputes between the City and the University. He was elected Mayor again for 1541/2, and 1542/3, making seven terms in all.

On 4 November 1543 Frere paid a subsidy of 44s. in the Suburbs of Oxford on goods worth C. marks.

In 1543 the Privy Council restored the University’s privileges, reprimanding Frere as “a great stirrer of this garboil”.

Anthony Wood reports that soon after 1544 the Blackfriars site was bought by William Frere and his wife Agnes “who, to make the best advantage of it as they could, pulled downe the church and most part of the house; and sold the stones, lead, glass, bells, &c., at cheap rates”.

In April 1545 a settlement of differences between Frere and William Tilcock and Maurice Vaughan is recorded: the three of them agreed to be “lovers andfrends accordying to the custom of thys Towne”.

In September 1545 Frere paid four shillings’ rent to the council for a tenement in All Saints and empty ground under the town wall against Laurence Hall, leased to Edward Frere.

Anthony Wood records how in about 1545 Richard Kent sold Kemp Hall (“with the stone house opposite to it where the judges reside at their comming to Oxon”) to Frere.

† William Frere died on 16 July 1546 and was buried at the earlier All Saints’ Church, and his widow Anne was buried with him on 4 August 1565. Anthony Wood describes their monument:

On a marble fastned to the said south wall at the upper end is the effigies of a man kneeling in armour, engraven on a brass plate, with two sons kneeling behind him, and out of his mouth goes a scroule, wherin is this engraven:– O swete Jesu, take me to thy mercy. Opposite to him is a woman with two daughters behind her kneeling, and out of her mouth comes this:– O blessed Trynitie, have mercy on us. Underneath all is this inscription:–

Under this tombe lyeth William Freurs and Agnes [Annes according to Hutton and Dingley] his wiff, they being thus covered by Edward Freurs theyr sone, who did this worke neither for any vaine glory but to have their sowles ever yn perpetuall memory that every man or woman that this doth reed over, wyll pray to Jesu for to take their sowles to the eternall glory. Amen.

Under the said marble is an altar-monument of the same and upon the verge thereof is this written:–

William Freurs, justyce of peas of the cytye of Oxford and for the shyre, and eight times mayor of the same cytye, and departed to almighty god xvi day of July an. dom. MDXLVI.

Armes on it engraven in brass, and somtimes coloured (but woren out), were these:– ‘or, an eare of barley between 2 humets gules in pale, two flaunches of the second each charged with an eare of barley of the first’, granted to the said William, or at least to his son Edward, meerly upon the account (as I am perswaded) that both of them (as also the father of William) drove the trade of brewing and malting.

The brasses of All Saints’ Church (weighing 112lbs) were torn away during the Commonwealth and sold to a Mr Payne for £2. 1s.

William Frere’s sons

Edward Frere

Edward Frere married Anne Bustard of Adderbury and their son William Frere was elected Member of Parliament for Oxford in 1547. William Frere junior came on to the Mayor’s Council in 1574.

William Frere

Anthony Wood writes:

The said William, by his wife Agnes Reve of Staunton S. John neare Oxon (buried here
also 1558 or therabouts, tempore Mariae reginae) had issue Henry (who died without issue);
Edward (who married and had issue …); Frideswyde (the wife of William Jennet of Talton, gent.);
Anne; and Elizabeth.

See also:

  • Wood MS. F 33 fol. 203 (pedigree of the Frere family)
  • Wood’s City of Oxford, Vol. III, pp. 153–6 (details of many of Frere’s descendants)

©Stephanie Jenkins

Last updated: 30 September, 2018

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