Oxford History: Mayors & Lord Mayors


Francis Harris (1600–c.1666)

Mayor of Oxford 1633/4

Francis Harris junior was baptised at St Martin’s Church at Carfax on 4 August 1600. He was the second son of Francis Harris senior and his wife Katherine. His father, who had held the licence of the Swindlestock Tavern at Carfax since 1592, was a Bailiff on the Council at the time of Francis’s birth.

Francis junior and his brothers and sisters were baptised in the following order:

  • Joan Harris (baptised on 8 September 1593 at St Martin’s Church)
  • Thomas Harris (baptised on 13 July 1595 at St Martin’s Church)
  • Anne Harris I (baptised on 15 February 1596/7 at St Martin’s Church; buried there on 3 October 1598)
  • Francis Harris (baptised on 4 August 1600 at St Martin’s Church)
  • Anne Harris II (baptised on 30 May 1602 at St Martin’s Church)
  • Lettice Harris (baptised on 23 December 1604 at St Martin’s Church)
  • Lewis Harris (baptised on 17 April 1606 at St Martin’s Church)
  • John Harris (baptised on 16 June 1607 at St Martin’s Church)
  • Richard Harris (baptised on 4 April 1611 at St Martin’s Church; buried there on 19 February 1611/12).

Francis Harris's father, Francis Harris senior, died in 1617 and was buried at St Martin’s Church on 8 June. On 14 September 1620 his licence of the Swindlestock Tavern was granted by the city jointly to Francis Harris junior, who was then aged 20, and his mother Katherine Harris:

“A licence to sell wines within the city is graunted to Mrs. Katharyne Harris, widow, and to Frauncis her son, to exercise the same during the good liking of the Mayor, Bailiffs, and Comminalty of the City. And it is the meaning of this house that they keep but one Tavern, viz. the corner house where Mrs Harris lives. Fine £5.”

Just eleven days later, on 25 September 1620, Mrs Harris and her son Francis surrendered to the University the licence that had been granted to them by the city.

Around the time he came of age in 1621, Francis Harris married a woman called Elizabeth, and over the following twenty years they had at least 15 children (including two pairs of twins). The following baptisms and/or burials are recorded in the St Martin’s Church register:

  • Francis Harris I (died in infancy and buried at St Martin's Church on 14 November 1622)
  • John Harris and his unnamed twin brother (died in infancy and both buried at St Martin's Church on 22 June 1623)
  • Martin Harris (baptised at St Martin’s Church on 28 August 1624, first surviving son, still alive in 1646)
  • Francis Harris II (“second son”, admitted free on 26 September 1646)
  • Katherine Harris (baptised baptised at St Martin’s Church on 7 September 1627)
  • Elizabeth Harris (baptised baptised at St Martin’s Church on 20 April 1629)
  • Margaret Harris (baptised baptised at St Martin’s Church on 28 August 1630, but must have died before 1641)
  • Edward Harris (baptised at St Martin’s Church on 10 November 1631)
  • Michael Harris (baptised at St Martin’s Church on 4 August 1633)
  • Joan Harris (baptised at St Martin’s Church on 4 March 1634)
  • Thomas Harris (baptised at St Martin’s Church on 22 April 1638, buried there on 31 May 1638)
  • Ann Harris (baptised at St Martin’s Church on 20 August 1639, buried there on 3 July 1645)
  • Lacy and Margaret Harris (twins, baptised at St Martin’s Church on 14 March 1641
    Margaret was buried on 13 June 1644)

On 20 August 1622 Francis Harris was admitted on to the council.

His mother Katherine Harris died the following year, and was buried at St Martin's Church on 23 September 1623. The very next day Harris was granted a Bailiff’s place on the council, and at the same time the council allowed him a renewal for £5 10s. 0d. of the lease of the “Swynstock” Tavern that he had previously held jointly with his mother. On 5 October 1623 Harris and his wife Elizabeth were granted a licence by the University to sell wine.

On 23 January 1626 Harris’s apprentice vintner Humphrey Boddicott (whom he had inherited from his father) was admitted free.

On 6 October 1628 Harris was appointed a Moneymaster on the council.

On 7 September 1633 five different people were consecutively elected Mayor, and all refused to serve. Having exhausted the pool of eligible persons, the next day the Council elected Harris as one of the eight Assistants and precipitated him immediately into the position of Mayor (for 1633/4) at the age of only 33. He appointed his former apprentice Boddicott as his Chamberlain.

In June 1634, during his year of office, Harris rode to London with the eight assistants to present a petition on behalf of the city, and on 2 September 1634 when he “rode the franchises” he provided a feast of venison, given to the city by the Steward.

On 29 August 1636 Harris was in the group that rode out dressed in scarlet and footcloths to meet King Charles, I.

On 5 September 1636 Harris’s apprentice vintner, Gilbert King, was admitted free. Within a few years, Harris ceased to work as a vintner himself but appointed a deputy to use his wine licence. The last evidence of Harris living in St Martin’s parish is in 1641.

In 1642 Harris gave £5 to the city towards the sum of £520 presented to King Charles I after the Battle of Edgehill.

On 5 March 1645 Harris was elected an Alderman (for the South East Ward), releasing the city of £10 (part of the money owed to him). He was also appointed one of the City Coroners around this time. On 2 July 1646 he and thirteen other members were fined 4d. each for coming to a council meeting in their cloaks and not observing the act “made for their decent comeing in theire gownes as conformable citizens ought to doe”.

On 30 September 1651 a petition was presented to the Council that Alderman Harris was no longer fit to be an Alderman, alleging (1) that he had not “subscribed the engagement”, (2) that he did of his own accord swear Mr Boddicott [his former apprentice] Mayor, and (3) that he had not for the last three or four years attended any meetings for the welfare of the City. It was agreed that he should be dismissed from his position as Assistant and Alderman.

In 1653 Harris’s wine licence for the Swindlestock tavern was transferred by the University to John Whicker, who was already living there. Whicker was given an official lease by the council in 1654, and by January 1664 John Whicker Moreton and Anthony Hall jointly held Harris’s wine licence.

On 17 September 1660, the 1651 Act was annulled (which suggests that both Harris and Boddicott were of royalist tendencies) and Harris was restored as an Alderman, this time for the North-East ward. It is possible that he was living in Holywell parish by this time.

Harris was chosen as one of the six citizens to attend the Mayor at the Coronation of Charles II in London on 23 April 1661. The following August, when the new King visited Oxford, Harris and four other Alderman, dressed in scarlet gowns and tippets with footmen and footclothes, went out to meet him with the Mayor.

On 23 April 1662 Harris was restored to his position as Coroner.

On 8 January 1663, an Act was made by the council that twenty nobles were to be disbursed by the city at the funeral of Alderman Francis Harris’s wife Elizabeth. In the absence of Harris, who was out of town, eight councillors were designated to carry the coffin to the church. She was buried at St Cross Church on 10 January 1662/3.

On 4 July 1664 the City bestowed on Harris for the rest of his lifetime all the rents and profits of the wine licence then granted to Mr Morrell, in return for his faithfulness in expending considerable sums for the honour of the City in the time of his mayoralty and at other times of his prosperity.

On 7 October 1664 Harris took the oath of obedience and supremacy.

On 2 January 1665 the Mayor brought to the council meeting the resignation of Alderman Francis Harris of his place as alderman and coroner and of all his other offices, presumably through illness. Because he had freely surrendered all his offices which formerly cost him large sums of money, the Council gave him £15 out of the city treasure as a token of their love for him.

There appears to be no record of Francis Harris’s death in Oxford. It seems likely that he would have been buried at Holywell with his wife, but unfortunately no burials were recorded at that church in 1666, and only one in 1667.

Other members of Francis Harris’s family

Francis Harris’s father, Francis Harris senior (c.1570–1617)

Francis Harris senior was probably born around 1570. He had been an apprentice of Garbrand Harks, a bookseller who on 20 June 1566 had also been granted a licence to sell wine. Presumably Francis had learnt about the wine trade, because as soon as he was admitted a freeman on 13 October 1592 he was given the wine licence formerly held by William Noble and took over the Swindlestock Tavern at Carfax in the parish of St Martin’s; he would also have got married around this time. He came on to the council in 1595 and was elected a Chamberlain almost immediately, and the following autumn was appointed one of the three keepers of Dame Margaret Northern’s Chest. He was elected Bailiff in 1598, but never progressed further. He was buried at St Martin’s Church on 8 June 1617.

Francis Harris’s eldest brother Thomas (1595–1614)

Thomas Harris was very briefly a Fellow of Wadham College. The site of the college was city property until 1610 when (according to the wishes of King James I) the city sold it for £600 to provide a site for the college, and in return the college promised that in the foundation of the college the city could nominate a fellow and two scholars. Francis Harris’s son Thomas had matriculated from Exeter College on 14 December 1610 when he was only 15, and just before his matriculation, on 11 December 1610, his destiny was agreed: “Thomas Harris, sonne of Francis Harris, citizen of this cyttie, is elected by scrutinie to bee fellowe of Wadham College”. Thomas obtained his BA at the age of 18 on 4 May 1612, and in 1613 at the age of 19 duly took up his Wadham fellowship. Unfortunately he died just a year later on 5 June 1614 at the age of 20, and the parish register of St Martin’s reads: “Thomas, sonne of Francis Harris, buried at Woddom Colledge”. The inscription below is on the wall of the ante-chapel of the college:

Memorial to Thomas Harris


Doct.mi Religios.miq Ivvenis THOMÆ HARRIS
Artivm Bacchalavrei, & hvivs Coll. Socii,
Inter Primos ab ipso condito electi.
Hæc Ivvenem tenet Vrna, brevis Qvi tempora Vitæ
Tam bene Percvrrit, qvam cito: Dignus erat
Inter nos Vixisse div, nisi qvod mage Dignus
Inter foelices Vivere Coelicolas
Obiit 5o Ivnii. 1614.

of the most learned and religious young man THOMAS HARRIS
Bachelor of Arts, & Fellow of this College,
among the first group selected following its foundation.
This tomb holds that young man, who passed through the period
of his short life as swiftly as he did successfully; he was worthy
to have lived among us for a long time, but all the more worthy
to live among the happy dwellers of heaven.
He died 5 June 1614.

Francis Harris’s younger brother Lewis (1606–?1640)

Lewis Harris (described as a “gent. of St Martin’s”) married Alice Holloway of St Michael’s parish by licence at St Michael-at-the-Northgate Church on 5 September 1630. Lewis was admitted free on 22 February 1631 and the Mayor, Thomas Cooper, immediately selected him as his Child and granted him a Bailiff’s place. The following three children (all recorded as daughters of a Lewis Harris) are likely to have been his: Joan (baptised at St Michael-at-the-Northgate Church on 20 October 1631, buried at St Martin’s on 19 May 1634), and Elizabeth and Katherine (baptised in 1635 and 1636 respectively at All Saints). Lewis never rose any higher than Bailiff on the council, and disappears from the Oxford records in 1640. He may possibly be the “Lewce Harris” who was buried at Charlton on Otmoor on 21 October 1640 (Will at ORO, W.I. 201.19; 32/1/44): this man had one surviving daughter (Elizabeth) who was married to Thomas Pangbourne.

Francis Harris’s younger brother John (1607–1660)

John Harris was the subject of a paper by Professor Michael Mendle of the University of Alabama entitled “The Oxford army press of 1647”, given at the conference “Royalist capital and Commonwealth melting-pot: Oxford in the 1640s and 1650s”, held at St Anne’s College, Oxford on 21–23 July 2006. He described how John Harris, a one-time actor also known as “Oxford Jack”, became a publisher, printer, and writer in Leveller causes in London. John returned briefly to Oxford in the summer of 1647, staying in Pennyfarthing (now Pembroke) Street. In 1660 he was hanged after conning a troop of soldiers into following his orders to break into a house, which he promptly looted.

Francis Harris’s sisters

  • Joan Harris (baptised 1593) married John Wood at St Martin’s Church on 24 September 1610
  • Anne Harris (baptised 30 May 1602): someone of this name married John Pattricke of Woodstock at St Martin’s Church on 2 October 1625.
  • Lettice Harris (baptised 23 December 1604) married William Stubbs at South Hinksey church on 20 February 1619/20.

See also:

  • PCC Will PROB 11/142/623 (Will of Katherine Harris, Widow of Oxford, proved 28 November 1623) (Harris’s mother)

©Stephanie Jenkins

Last updated: 29 September, 2018

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