Oxford History: Mayors & Lord Mayors


Tobias Browne (1621–1697)

Mayor of Oxford 1675/6 and 1693/4

Tobias Browne (or Brown) was baptised at All Saints’ Church on 1 October 1621. He was the son of Richard Browne, and his siblings were also baptised there: Richard (1618), Elizabeth (1620), Stephen (1622), and a second Richard (1623).

Tobias Browne became a hatter in All Saints parish, and he and his wife Elizabeth had the following children:

  • Frances Browne (baptised on 12 October 1645 at All Saints’ Church)
  • Elizabeth Browne (baptised on 27 August 1648 at All Saints’ Church)
  • Tobias Browne junior (baptised on 23 April 1651 at All Saints’ Church).

Browne served his year as Constable for the South East Ward in 1645/6. In October 1649 he was elected on to the Common Council, but the following year he intimated that for various reasons he was currently unable to serve as Chamberlain, and asked for a Bailiff’s place instead, which was granted for a fee of £10. In September 1659 he was elected Junior Bailiff.

Tobias Browne’s shop and home were on part of the site of the former NatWest Bank building at 120–122 High Street in All Saints parish. He paid tax on three hearths here in 1665, and was assessed as follows for poll tax at this address in March 1667:

  • For himself: £3 1s. 0d. (poll tax of one shilling, and £3 tax on his money). This indicates that his personal wealth was £300, as the tax on personal estate was £1 per £100.
  • For his wife: poll tax of one shilling
  • For his two daughters: poll tax of one shilling
  • For his apprentice Philip Wild: poll tax of one shilling each
  • For his maid Joan: three shillings (i.e. one shilling in the pound on her yearly wages of £2, plus poll tax of a shilling)

In 1667 Browne paid the following in poll tax: £3 1s. 0d. for himself; three shillings for his wife and two daughters; one shilling for his apprentice Philip Wilde; and three shillings for Joan his maid (whose wages were £2). Wilde was admitted free on 30 July 1669.

Anthony Wood records in his diary that in April 1663 he paid Browne 18s 6d for “a rough demy castor” (a short hat made of beaver’s fur). In April 1664 he bought from him “a new hat flat-croun’d” for 7s 6d, and other hats for 14s in March 1668, for 16s in June 1675, and for 16s 6d in June 1677. The last hat he purchased from Browne (in July 1679) was at one guinea the most expensive and was described as a “diner castor”.

On 4 December 1670 at St Clement’s Church, his daughter Frances Browne married William Phipps of St Mary Magdalen parish

Tobias Browne’s council career progressed slowly, and it was only in August 1674 that he was chosen to be one of the Mayor’s eight Assistants. In September 1675 he was elected Mayor of Oxford (for 1675/6), proposing Thomas Piddington as his Child and James Pinnell as Mayor’s Chamberlain.

In June 1686 his apprentice William Phillips was admitted free.

On 14 March 1688 the council was informed that King James II had written ordering that Richard Carter should be elected Alderman. In obedience to this, an election took place between Browne and Richard Carter: the former won, but refused to accept the position against His Majesty’s pleasure. Egbert van Heemskerk the younger produced a painting of this event entitled “The election in the Guildhall in Oxford”.

In June 1693 Browne's apprentice Amyas Blower was admitted free.

Tobias Browne was elected Mayor a second time in September 1693 (for 1683/4), choosing Francis Wise as his Child and William Bodeley as his Chamberlain.

Browne appears to have retired to 105 St Aldate’s Street, as in 1696 he paid tax on ten windows there but on none at All Saints.

† Tobias Browne died in the autumn of 1697 and was buried at All Saints’ Church on 29 October that year. The burial register records that he was “of St Aldate’s”, and the death was sworn by Sarah Robinson of All Saints. The burial register of St Aldate's Church, however, states that he was buried at All Saints on 27 rather than 29 October.

Browne’s daughter Frances

His daughter Mrs Frances Phipps died on 26 March 1684 and was buried in All Saints’ Church. A memorial to her and her husband was transferred to the new church (now Lincoln College Library):

Here lyeth the body of
Ffrances the Wife of William
Phipps the Daughter of Mr Tobias
Browne of this Parish who
departed this life March the 26
An. Do. 1684 and of her age 39

Underneath this are the words “Short was her stay ye longer is her rest / God oft times takes away whom he loves best”, and then the following words about her husband, who died 17 years after Frances: “Here also lyeth ye body of the said Mr William Phipps who departed this life Ian. ye 8th 1701 aged 69 years”

See also:

  • PCC Will PROB 11/441/507 (Will of Tobias Browne, Gentleman and one of the Eight Assistants of Oxford, proved 26 November 1697)
  • Painting of Egbert van Heemskerk the Younger (1634/5–1705) entitled “The election in the Guildhall in Oxford”, on public view in the Museum of Oxford. This painting was produced shortly after the election of 1644, and shows Toby Browne and Richard Carter.
  • Harold S. Rogers, “An Oxford City Election in 1687[/8] as depicted by Egbert Van Heemskerk”,
    vol. VIII-IX (1943), pp. 54ff.

©Stephanie Jenkins

Last updated: 27 September, 2018

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