Oxford History: Mayors & Lord Mayors


Richard Carter (c.1633–1700)

Mayor of Oxford 1688 and 1690/1

Richard Carter was born in Oxford in c.1633. He was the eldest son of Richard Carter senior, an ale-brewer who himself was a bailiff on the council until his death in 1672. His father appears also to have been known as Thomas Carter, as Anthony Wood refers to him as “Richard (alibi Thomas) Carter”.

Richard followed his father into the ale-brewing trade and was admitted free on 17 September 1655. He served as Constable for the North-West ward in 1656/7.

Richard Carter was elected on to the Common Council ten years later on 1 October 1666, taking the oaths and paid £4 for entertainment on 29 October.

At the time of the poll tax assessment of March 1667, Richard Carter junior and his wife appear to be living with his parents at 19 Pembroke Street in St Ebbe’s parish. His father paid tax on a personal wealth of £100, and a shilling each for William Young, Elizabeth Cogbill, Leticia and Sarah Staniford, and Joseph True, and three shillings on the £2 wages of Elizabeth Hatchin. Richard Carter junior only paid the basic poll tax for himself and his wife, and as they had no children, it suggests they may have just got married.

Of the following children, only the first can be said with certainty to be Richard Carter’s, as the register states that she was the “daughter of Richard Carter the younger, brewer”, but the others seem likely. His wife when he died was called Lucretia:

  • Mary Carter I (baptised on 26 September 1669 at St Ebbe’s Church)
  • Mary Carter II (baptised on 18 April 1671 at St Ebbe’s Church).
    A Mary Carter, daughter of “Mr Richard Carter”) was buried at St Aldate’s Church on 19 June 1681.
  • Ann Carter (baptised on 19 October 1676 at St Ebbe’s Church).
  • John Carter, “son of Richard Carter, gent.” (baptised at St Aldate’s Church on 15 June 1678).

The above baptisms, if correct, would suggest that Carter moved from his parents’ home in St Ebbe’s to St Aldate’s between 1676 and 1678, and this would fit with the reference by Anthony Wood to a Mr Carter “at the sign of the Black Bull near Carfax” in 1678.

On 30 September 1672 Carter was elected Junior Chamberlain. On 14 September 1674 he was elected Senior Bailiff, but was unwilling to serve, preferring to pay a fine of £5. Four years later, on 18 September 1676, he was again elected Senior Bailiff, and this time he took up the post.

On 9 August 1680 Richard Carter again showed reluctance to advance on the council when he was elected one of the eight Mayor’s Assistants: he refused to accept the position (contrary to his oath to the City), and was penalized by an enormous fine of £100 (to be levied by distress or otherwise). A week later, however, his election was held to be void, as he had not taken the sacrament within the preceding year, and his fine was reduced to £30, which he paid immediately.

Seven years later James II sought support for the repeal of the Test Act, and Carter, being a dissenter, was an ideal candidate to advance to a high position on the council. An order of the king dated 21 January 1687/8 required the city to make him one of the Mayor’s Assistants. This the council did, refunding to him the £30 he had paid as a fine when he had refused before.

Carter served as an Assistant for less than two months, however, because another letter from King James II dated 14 March 1688 demanded that Carter should be elected as an Alderman and Justice of the Peace. In obedience to this, an election took place between Toby Browne and Richard Carter: the former won, but refused to accept the position against His Majesty’s pleasure. Egbert van Heemskerk, the younger did a painting of this event entitled “The election in the Guildhall in Oxford”. Thomas Hunsdon was then put up against Carter, and he too won but refused to stand. Eventually on 19 March 1688 the council submitted to the King’s will and elected Carter as an Alderman.

On 16 September 1688 there would normally have been an election for the Mayor of Oxford for the following year, but the city’s charter and been annulled and the council was regulated by commission, so it did not take place. The King’s new Charter nominated Richard Carter as the new Mayor (for 1688/9), and it was publicly read out in the Guildhall on 25 September 1688. Carter took the various oaths that very day, thus starting his term as Mayor a few days earlier than usual.

The King, however issued another proclamation restoring the status quo, and at the next council meeting (just three days later on 28 September) the City set aside the King’s nominations and elected new officers, including Robert Harrison as Mayor.

In all, Carter’s first term as Mayor lasted less than a month, and Anthony Wood records that on Monday 22 October 1688:

The mayor, Richard Carter, and John Weller and John Philipps, baylives, with severall of the aldermen and others, went from the Gild hall to Penniless bench in their gownes; and there about 5 in the afternoon, the mayor did openly read the king’s proclamation (vide Gazet) whereby all corporations that had not surrendered their charters, as also all those that had surrendered and not taken and entred upon record, were to enjoy their old privileges, and that the corporation be ruled and in being as it was before. Which proclamaition being read the mayor (Carter) and baylives put off their gownes and went to their homes.

Richard Carter thus lost both the mayoralty and his aldermanship. On 29 October 1688, however, the Council agreed that he should have a Bailiff’s place because he had been displaced from his position as one of the Mayor’s eight Assistants.

Anthony Wood records a vision that Carter claimed to have seen on 30 October 1688, just after he ceased to be Mayor:

Tuesday night, a cleer moon-shine night, men fighting in the air seen by some in Oxford circa horas
12 et 1 in nocte: by Richard Carter (brewer, late mayor) and others.

On 27 September 1689 Carter was again chosen as one of the Mayor’s eight Assistants, and on 15 September 1690 he was elected Mayor of Oxford for the second time (for 1690/1). On 30 September he paid £5 and took the oaths, choosing John Moulden as his Child, and John Phillips, a corn-chandler, as his chamberlain. (Phillips had been nominated Bailiff in the King’s charter read out on 25 September 1688.)

On 21 November 1690 it was agreed that Carter as Mayor should lead a group to London to manage the affairs of the City. They were to take with them two blank parchments, one to present an address to King William & Queen Mary if they thought fit when they got to London, and the other to petition Parliament.

On 28 January 1695 Carter was elected a Barge Commissioner.

A Balliol College lease of 20 March 1690/1 mentions Richard Carter, brewer, as the next-door neighbour of a a beer-brewer in Brewer Street, and in 1696 a “Mr Carter” paid tax on sixteen windows in St Aldate’s, and ten in St Ebbe’s.

† Richard Carter died in mid-1700 and was buried at St Aldate’s Church on 11 July that year.

Ann Carter, daughter of “Richard Carter Esq” was buried at St Aldate’s Church on 5 May 1705.

Lucretia Carter, “wife of Richard Carter Esq”, was buried at St Aldate’s Church on 14 February 1708/9.

See also:

  • H. E. Salter, Surveys and Tokens, pp. 395–6, and token numbered 34 with “RICHARD CARTER” around an image of the Mercers’ Arms on the obverse, and “BRVER IN OXON” around the initials R.C. and a triple flowering knot on the reverse
  • 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. Sir Geoffrey Callender wrote of the picture: “But at least we can be sure that the tall gentleman, mopping his brow and jeered and jibed at by the demonstrators, is Mr. Richard Carter, the King’s nominee, whose only serious handicap on 14 March [1688] would appear to have been his popularity with the King. He is entitled to the benefit of the doubt, and at least it should be said on his behalf that he probably resented the royal interference with local government as much as any one.”
  • 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: 3 September, 2019

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