Oxford History: Mayors & Lord Mayors


William Levins (c.1530–1616)

Mayor of Oxford 1572/3, 1579/80, 1586/7, 1594/5, and 1601

William Levins (or Levens/Levinz/Levins/Levyns/Allevens) was the second son of William Levins of Croke in the parish of Kendall in Westmoreland, and the grandson of Laurence Levins of Levins Hall in Westmoreland.

On 25 December 1544 Levins was apprenticed for seven years to the apothecary Nicholas Todd, with 40s. and double apparel at the end of his term. (This implies that he was not in fact 100 when he died, as is stated on his tomb, and is likely to have been born in 1530 rather than 1516.)

William Levins was duly admitted free as a Hanaster in the mayoral year 1551–2, and took on four apprentices between 1555 and 1568: Alex Mors of Taunton (2 June 1555); Laurence Penyngton of his native Croke in Westmoreland (2 June 1555); Bartholomew Barnard of Oxford (29 December 1568); and William Atkins of Haddenham (24 June 1569, later cancelled).

William Levins married Ursula Whittington, the daughter of Richard Whittington (Mayor in 1558/9 and 1566/7). They lived in All Saints parish and had five sons and six daughters. The baptisms of their first six children do not appear in the register of All Saints’ Church, which only starts in 1561; but the names of three of the missing children are supplied by Anthony Wood:

  • Henry Levins
  • Ellen Levins
  • Eulalia Levins
  • Mary Levins (buried at All Saints’ Church on 17 May 1570)
  • Anne Levins (baptised on 13 July 1560 at All Saints’ Church)
  • Richard Levins (baptised on 7 September 1563 at All Saints’ Church, buried there on 23 June 1571)
  • William Levins I (baptised on 6 October 1567 at All Saints’ Church, buried there two days later on 8 October 1567)
  • Humphrey Levins (baptised on 24 September 1568 at All Saints’ Church)
  • William Levins II (baptised on 20 August 1570 at All Saints’ Church)
  • Martha Levins (baptised on 27 September 1572 at All Saints’ Church).

Levins came on to the Common Council on 29 September 1556 and was elected Chamberlain in 1557 and Bailiff in 1559. In 1562 he was elected one of the Thirteen Associates and also appointed a Mill Master.

In April 1568 he is listed under the North East Ward as paying a contribution of ten shillings to the Lottery, and when he pays the much larger second instalment of £15, his”poisye” is recorded as: “Aliis dat aliis [?alia] aufert fortuna”.

In September 1572 Levins started his first term as Mayor, and during his mayoral year his daughter Eulalia married George Roy, M.A. At the end of the following year, 1573, his wife Ursula died at the age of 43, and was buried at All Saints’ Church on 21 December. He was to remain a widower for 43 years.

Effigy of William Levins

By 1579 Levins had been chosen as an Alderman, and the above picture shows the effigy of Levins on his tomb, dressed in armour with his red Alderman’s robe on top.

In the summer of 1579 the Mayor, Richard Williams, died just before completing his term of office, and William Levins was chosen for the remainder of that year, and for a full second term the year following (1579/80).

On 14 December 1579 it was agreed by the Council that Levins should surrender to the use of the City his lease of the Castle ditch and the Town ditch towards Balliol College, and that the Town should from the previous Michaelmas have all the rents and profits thereof.

Anthony Wood states that Levins owned Billing Hall, “an antient stone building burnt downe in 1644”, which stood in Queen Street opposite St Peter-le-Bailey Church.

On 19 September 1586 Levins was elected Mayor a third time (for 1586/7). During his mayoral year, on 28 July 1587, he and others entered into discussions with the Vice-Chancellor and others of the University “to growe to ende of the controversies betwene the Cytie and the Universitie”.

On 14 September 1594 Levins was elected Mayor of Oxford for the fourth time (for 1594/5).

In 1600 Thomas Smith was elected Mayor, but he died at the beginning of July 1601, and William Levins was elected Mayor of Oxford for a fifth time (for July to September 1601).

† Alderman William Levins died on 12 April 1616, allegedly at the age of 100 (but in fact probably 86). He was buried inside the original All Saints’ Church on 18 April 1616, with a black marble altar tomb with his effigy on top (shown below). This was evidently salvaged when the old church was demolished and put back in the current building in 1720, and was rediscovered there when it was restored in 1865. The tomb is inscribed as follows:

What others singly wish, Age, Wisdome, Wealthe,
Children to propagate our Name and Blood
Chiefe Place in Citty oft unphysickt Health,
And (that which seasons all) the Name of Good
In Levins weare all mixt yet all are gon
Onlie the Good name lasts, that look upon

In hope of ye Resurrection
Heer lyes ye bodye of Wm
Levins Alderman & 5
times Maior of y City
Obiit Apr: 12. 1616
Aetat: 100

With whome lyes enterd
his beloved wife Ursula
by whome he had issue
5 sonnes & 6 daughters
Obiit 1573 Aetat 43.



Willialm Levins is wearing armour under his red aldermanic robe, and on the hilt of his sword are his arms, namely “argent, on a bend sable, 3 escallops of the first”.

Anthony Wood give information about some of William Levins’s children:

  • Humphrey Levins settled in Emley near Brackley in Northamptonshire, and was the grandfather of Sir Crewswell Levinz (attorney general to King Charles II); Dr William Levins (President of St John’s College); Sir Cresswell Levins (attorney general); and Baptist Levins (Bishop of the Isle of Man)
  • Martha Levins married Henry Nicolls of Southam in Warwickshire
  • Ellen Levins married Matthew Harrison, who himself became Mayor of Oxford in 1611
  • Eulalia Levins married George Roy, M.A.
  • William Levins junior married Elizabeth Brent of Little Wolford in Warwickshire, and they lived in Botley. They in turn had three children: Robert (M.A. of Lincoln College and a captain in the King’s army) who married the daughter of Sir Peregrine Bertie and was executed in 1650 at the age of 35; Richard; and a daughter who married a chandler called Spencer. William Levins junior was buried in All Saints’ Church on 14 November 1643.

See also:

  • Pedigree of the Levins family in Anthony Wood’s diaries, Volume III, p. 416
  • MS Wills Oxon W. I. 195.259; 41/2/41

©Stephanie Jenkins

Last updated: 20 November, 2020

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