Oxford History: Mayors & Lord Mayors


Thomas Williams I (d. 1579)

Mayor of Oxford 1557/8, 1565/6, and 1576/7

Thomas Williams (or Willyams/Wylliams/Wyllyams) was an Oxford vintner.

On 4 November 1543 a Thomas Williams paid a subsidy of 8s. in the North West Ward on goods worth £12.

Williams was elected Senior Bailiff on the Council on 29 September 1546. On 3 October 1547 he agreed to pay 8d. each year towards Dame Margaret Northern’s coffer.

On 26 April 1548 Williams and three others were awarded the custody of the armour:

Md that … Thomas Wyllyams shall have the custody of xxiiij payer of harnes complete, wythe xxiiij sowards and xxiiij daggers, xij bowes and xij sheffs of arrowes, wythe vj other old payer of harnes; also that the foreseyd iiij men shall have yn ther custodye all suche money as ys gathered to that use onlye, to be yn a redynes at all tymes, yf nede requyer, to set forward the Towne sowdyars. And the seyd iiij men have receyvyd yn hand the some of xvijli ixs iiijd.

On 15 August 1553 Thomas Williams was elected Member of Parliament for Oxford.

On 18 September 1554 Williams was elected one of the eight Mayor’s Assistants in the first year under the new system; in 1555 he was made a Keykeeper; and on 27 April 1557 he was elected an Alderman.

On 30 April 1557 there is a council minute:

Thomas Willyams his accompt for the Blew Bore and the bocher row, and xxli of money on Tueday nexte commyng at viij in the morninge.

On 29 September 1557 Williams was elected Mayor of Oxford (for 1557/8).

On 15 September 1558 it was agreed that Wiliams and two others should be “vyntners for the Towne of Oxforde, according to the statute in anno 7 E. VI yn that behalf had and provyded”.

Williams was again elected Mayor on 29 September 1565 (for 1565/6). Near the end of his year of office, Queen Elizabeth I visited the city. On 31 August 1566, after being welcomed by dignitaries of the University, Williams greeted her with a short speech (the Recorder being ill):

Ubi progressum est paulo ulterius et urbi propinquius, Major Oxon., cum 13 Senioribus, qui omnes purpureis amicti erant togis, una cum tipetis holosericis, obviam Reginae fiunt, si fascesque suas illi subjiciunt. Etiam Major pauca quaedam dixit, quod qui illis est in Jure consultus, Recorder dicimus, per hosce dies aegrotabat. Tandem Reginae oblatus est crater argenteus, in signifciationem obedientiae ac graditudinis.

There is a longer account in English in Nichols’ Progresses, i. 208, 266. When she was within half a mile of Oxford,

the Mayor, named Thomas Williams, with the Aldermen, and certain Burgesses to the number of thirteen, received her majesty. He then, in the first place, delivered up his mace to her, which she forthwith returned again; then he spoke an English oration, and presented in the name of the whole City a cup of silver, double-gilt, worth £10, and it it about £40 in old gold. This gift was the first in money that ever, as I can yet learn, was presented to a prince; for at the coming of any one to the University before this time, the custom was, that the Citizens should give them five oxen, as many sheep, veales, lambs, and sugar-loaves, but this numerus quinarius was now altered by Sir Francis Knollys, the City Steward, and converted into money, which yet continueth.

When the Queen left Oxford on 4 September 1566:

the Maior, with certain of his brethren to the number of 14 or 15, riding before her in their scarlets to the end of Magdalen Bridge, where their liberties ended: which being told to the Queen’s Majesty by their Steward, Sir Francis Knolles, she bid them farewell, with thanks.

On 1 April 1568 Williams paid ten shillings towards the Lottery in the South-East ward; and on 28 September 1572 he paid a shilling towards the seasement in the parish of St Martin’s.

On 19 October 1574 it was agreed that Thomas Williams should attend upon the Mayor on a visit to London in the business of Oxford before the Lords of the Privy Council.

In 1575 William Noble addressed articles of complaint to the Privy Council against Williams and three others

ffor that they have not donne their dewtyes to the Qwenes Maiesty, and to the comon welth, accordinge to the trust to them commytted by the Qwenes mats auctorytye of commyssion of her highnes peace.

The incidents in question took place in 1573/4, when various alleged felons were not punished.

On 29 September 1576 Williams was elected Mayor of Oxford for the third time (for 1576/7). On 26 May 1577, supported by three senior members of the council, he appeared before the Lords of the Privy Council in London “to answer a certaine matter obiected againste them by the Universitie”.

† Thomas Williams died in 1579.

On 15 September 1581, praise was given to God for the benefactors to the City, and Williams was thus lauded:

for Mr. Thomas Williams, late Alderman, who gave unto this Citie a paule or buring clothe of velvytt.

His wife Margaret Williams died in 1585. Anthony Wood records that “Margaret Willyams, wife of Thomas Willyams, somtimes mayor of Oxon and alderman” was buried at St Michael-at-the-Northgate Church on 8 June 1585.

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©Stephanie Jenkins

Last updated: 23 December, 2020

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