Oxford History: Mayors & Lord Mayors


Edward Coombes (c.1639–1693)

Mayor of Oxford 1685/6

Edward Coombes (or Combs/Combes/Coumes) was born in Oxford in c.1639. He was the grandson of Walter Coombes, a yeoman of Nuneham, and the eldest son of Thomas Coombes, a mercer of the parish of St Peter-in-the-East, and his wife Jane. He and his siblings were as follows:

  • Edward Coombes (probably born 1639)
  • [Other siblings are likely to have been born in the 1640s]
  • Thomas Coombes (baptised on 16 November 1651 at St Peter-in-the-East Church;
    probably the Thomas Coombes buried there on 3 September 1661)
  • Walter Coombes I (baptised on 1 December 1652 at St Peter-in-the-East Church
    and died in infancy)
  • Richard Coombes (dead by 1668)
  • David Coombes (baptised on 1 March 1654/5 at St Peter-in-the-East Church)
  • William Coombes (baptised on 9 March 1656/7 at St Peter-in-the-East Church
    and buried there on 6 December 1662)
  • Walter Coombes II (baptised on 16 July 1660 at St Peter-in-the-East Church);.

In 1653 Edward was taken on by his father as an apprentice mercer.

Edward's father Thomas Coombes had been elected on to the city council in 1652, but he did not live long enough to reach high office on the council, as he died on 2 September 1661, just after Edward had finished his apprenticeship. Anthony Wood records the following monumental inscription in St Peter-in-the-East Church to Edward's parents and siblings:

Here lyeth the body of Thomas Combes of this parish, mercer, who deceased the 2d of Sept. 1661,
and of Jane his wife, who deceased the 12 of Nov. 1668 and of their 5 children, Thomas, Walter,
Richard, David, and William.

It appears that in 1661 Edward Coombes took over his father’s mercer's shop (which was on the site of the present Eastgate Hotel) jointly with his brother Walter, who was also a mercer. In 1665 Coombes paid tax on three hearths on a property in that area.

Edward Coombes must have married by 1664, possibly to a woman called Catherine, and they had the following three children:

  • Walter Coombes (baptised on 16 September 1664 at St Peter-in-the-East Church)
  • Mary Coombes (baptised on 4 April 1666 at St Peter-in-the-East Church;
    appears to have died in infancy)
  • Catherine Coombes (baptised on 28 April 1671 at St Peter-in-the-East church).

Coombes was assessed as follows for poll tax in St Peter-in-the-East parish in March 1667:

  • For himself, his wife, and his two children: one shilling each
  • For his apprentice Edward Morice: poll tax of one shilling each

His widowed mother Jane was separately assessed at one shilling each for herself, her son Walter, and Constance Betts.

On 12 November 1668 Edward’s mother Jane Coombes (or Joan, according to the burial register) died.

Edward Coombes was first elected on to the Common Council on 30 September 1670. He came in and swore his oaths on 10 October, paying a £4 fine for not having first served as Constable. On 30 September 1674 he was elected City Chamberlain, and on 15 September 1679 Senior Bailiff.

Two of his apprentices were admitted free in the 1680s: Benjamin Bottendon on 19 July 1680 and Bernard Day on 9 September 1687.

On 30 July 1683 Coombes was elected one of the eight Mayor’s Assistants, but refused to assume the office or take the oaths, and was fined £100. On 7 August, however, he came in and took his oaths, and the council remitted the huge fine imposed at the previous Council.

On 14 September 1685 Edward Coombes was elected Mayor of Oxford (for 1685/6), and chose John Pead as his Chamberlain.

On 11 May 1691 a lease of his father’s old shop near the East Gate was renewed to Edward Coombes for a fine of £22. This fine was set low because he civilly treated the Mayor and his attendants each year at the renewing of reparations.

† Edward Coombes died (“of the stone”, according to Anthony Wood) on 14 October 1693. He was buried inside St Peter-in-the-East Church three days later. He left legacies to his second wife and their surviving children Walter and Catherine, and his brother, Francis Coombes of Nuneham, was his executor.

In his will he mentions his wife, and his two surviving children Walter and Catherine Coombes.

In 1696 a Mrs Coombes paid tax on twenty windows in one property and on two windows in another in the parish of in St Peter-in-the-East.

Coombes' last apprentice Bernard Day was admitted free on 9 September 1687.

The Walter Coombes who was described as a mercer and was buried at St Peter-in-the-East church on 5 February 1710/11 was probably his brother rather than his son of that name.

The widow Catherine Coombes who was buried at St Peter-in-the-East Church on 12 May 1712 was probably Edward's wife.

See also:

  • PCC Will PROB 11/420/79 (Will of Edward Combes, Mercer of Oxford, proved 9 May 1694)
  • (on Coombes’s father): H. E. Salter, Surveys and Tokens, pp. 396–7, and tokens numbered 35–38 with “THOMAS COOMBES NEARE” around an image of the Grocers’ Arms on the obverse, and “THE EAST GATE IN OXON” around the initials T.C.

©Stephanie Jenkins

Last updated: 3 September, 2019

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