Oxford History: Mayors & Lord Mayors


Thomas Hunsdon (1642–1701)

Mayor of Oxford 1686/7 and 1697/8

Thomas Hunsdon (or Hunsden) was baptised at Sparsholt (then in Berkshire) on 18 September 1642. He was the son of Thomas Hunsdon, a yeoman of Sparsholt, and his wife Alice.

It appears that Hunsdon’s father was already dead when on 3 May 1657 Thomas was apprenticed at the age of about fifteen to the Oxford chandler John Hunsdon, who was likely to have been a relation.

In 1662 a Thomas Hunsdon paid tax on one hearth in the parish of St Mary the Virgin, possibly in Oriel Street

Hunsdon was granted his freedom on 6 May 1664, and served as Constable for the South-East Ward in 1666/7.

In February 1667 a Thomas Hunsden paid a shilling in poll tax for himself, for Anne Cheyny, and his apprentice John Rusley, probably when living at 103 High Street.

Around this time Thomas Hunsdon married his first wife, Elizabeth, and they had the following children:

  • Elizabeth Hunsdon (baptised on 12 March 1667/8 at St Mary-the-Virgin Church)
  • Amy Hunsdon (baptised on 28 September 1670 at St Mary-the-Virgin Church,
    buried there on 12 October 1670)
  • Thomas Hunsdon (baptised on 10 March 1671/2 at St Mary-the-Virgin Church,
    buried there on 15 March 1671/2)
  • John Hunsdon (baptised on 18 May 1673 at St Mary-the-Virgin Church)
  • Ann Hunsdon (baptised on 7 May 1676 at St Mary-the-Virgin Church).

Hunsdon was elected on to the Common Council in October 1669, paying £4 rather than the £4 3s. 4d. that was paid by the other three new members: this was because of the group, only he had served as Constable.

On 9 September 1670 his apprentice chandler Joshua Rushley was admitted free.

Hunsdon was chosen as Mayor’s Chamberlain by the new Mayor, William Cornish, on 30 September 1672, and he named Sampson White as his surety.

On 18 September 1676 Hunsdon was chosen as Junior Bailiff, and the previous holder of the office delivered to him the City treasure and leather purse. The next month, on 13 October 1676, he was also appointed Moneymaster.

On 19 September 1679 his apprentice chandler William Cheney was admitted free.

In the year 1679/80 Hunsdon was paid four shillings by the council for “links to light the Duke” (James Duke of Monmouth, who was given the freedom of the City and a bailiff’s place on 18 September 1679).

On 9 March 1682/3 his first wife Elizabeth Hunsdon died when their youngest child was only eight, and she was buried at St Mary-the-Virgin Church four days later.

In 1683 two more of his apprentice chandlers were admitted free: Robert Aldworth on 29 April and William Barnes on 4 May.

On 6 October 1684 Hunsdon was elected one of the Mayor’s Assistants, and on 20 September 1686 he was elected Mayor of Oxford (for 1686/7). He selected John Quelch to have a Bailiff’s place as his Child, and Nathaniel New was made Mayor’s Chamberlain.

On 14 March 1688 the council was informed that King James II had written ordering that Richard Carter should be elected Alderman. An election took place between Richard Carter and Tobias Browne: the latter won, but refused to accept the position against His Majesty’s pleasure. A second election then took place between Richard Carter and Hunsdon, and this time Hunsdon won, but he also refused so Carter was then elected. Egbert van Heemskerk the Younger did a contemporary painting of this event entitled “The election in the Guildhall in Oxford”.

On 19 February 1690 and again on 23 October 1695 Thomas Hunsdon was appointed with two others to oversee the scrutators at the election for two new Members of Parliament for Oxford.

On 29 September 1691 he was appointed Keykeeper for a year. In 1696 and 1697 he was one of a group appointed to assess and then superintend the repairs of the middle arch of the South Bridge.

His only surviving son John Hunsdon, who had been apprenticed to him as a chandler, was admitted free on 16 July 1694.

On 5 January 1695/6 at St John-the-Baptist Church (the same building as Merton Chapel), his youngest daughter Ann Hunsdon (20) married Henry Combes. Anthony Wood wrote this entry in the register:

Henry Combes eldest son of Walter Combes ye barber in St Peters in ye East, & Ann Hunsdon dau. of Thomas Hunsdon a chandler in St. Maries par. were marr. in Mert. Chap. Jan. ye 5th.

Henry Combes, son of Walter Combes of Oxford, had been matriculated at the University of Oxford by Christ Church on 31 March 1691 at the age of 15.

In 1696 Hunsdon paid window tax on twenty windows at 103 High Street in St Mary the Virgin parish.

On 20 September 1697 Hunsdon was elected Mayor a second time (for 1697/8), choosing John Wilkins as his Child and John Cleyton as his Chamberlain.

Hunsdon must have remarried following the death of his first wife in March 1682/3, and his second wife, Ann, is (unusually) mentioned in the council minutes of 26 September 1698, when in his capacity as Mayor he appointed a new bellman: the appointment was “by the consent and approbation of the Mayoress”, and both Thomas and Ann Hunsdon signed a document to this effect. Hunsdon had at least one son, Charles, by his second wife.

During his mayoralty, in May 1698, Hunsdon took on Henry Brinde of Wiltshire as an apprentice chandler.

In September 1699 Hunsdon was again appointed Keykeeper for the year, and on 9 November 1699 was chosen as Alderman, taking the usual oaths and paying £10 and £10 for entertainment and giving the macebearer a broad piece of gold and a purse.

In 1700 it is noted that a freeman bringing foreigners’ goods into the city was not liable to pay wheelage (a tax on incoming goods), and that this applied to Alderman Hunsdon.

† Thomas Hunsdon died on 3 April 1701 at the age of 60 and was buried the next day at St Mary-the-Virgin Church.

In his will he left bequests to his son John Hunsdon and his daughter Mrs Ann Combes, and also to his son-in-law Henry Combes of the University of Oxford. (Henry Combes may be the man of that name buried at St Peter-in-the-East Church on 15 May 1704: in any event he must have died, as Mrs Ann Combes née Hunsdon had become Mrs Stephen Kiblewhite by the time of her own death.)

Hunsdon memorial

There is a monumental slab to Thomas Hunsdon, his first wife Elizabeth, and his daughter Ann (above) in the south-west corner of St Mary-the-Virgin Church. It reads as follows:

ALDERMAN of this [City]
who was MAIOR in ye Year 1687
and in ye Year 1697.
He died April ye 3rd A:Dni: 1701
in ye 61 year of his Age.

Also here Lyeth Interr’d
ELIZ: his first wife who Died ye
9th of March A:Dni: 1682.

Also here lyeth ye body of ANN ye
& Daughter of Alderman HUNSDON

[rest hidden under a platform]

Hunsdon left 30s. to the poor of the parish of St Mary-the-Virgin and 10s. to those of Sparsholt where he was born. Besides the lease of his own house and an adjoining one leased from a widow called Mrs Davenport, at the time of his death he held two leaseholds in Little Chesterton; land called “Pryres Meadows” near Wheatley or Cuddesdon; copyhold land in Chalgrove; and two tenements in Wantage.

His last apprentice Thomas Lawrence was admitted free on 14 December 1702.

On 16 February 1710/11 it was agreed that an encroachment in front of Alderman Hunsdon’s former shop (now occupied by the bookseller Mr Peisley) should be demolished by the chamberlains, the macebearer, and the city carpenter, but that a chimney encoraching on St Mary’s Hall Lane could remain.

See also:

  • Malcolm Graham, Oxford City Apprentices 1697–1800, entry numbered 51
  • H. E. Salter, Surveys and Tokens, pp. 410–12, and tokens numbered 55 and 56, with “THOMAS HVNSDON” around an image of the weavers’ arms on the obverse, and “IN OXON 1666” around the initials T.H. on the reverse
  • PCC Will PROB 11/460/91 (Will of Thomas Hunsdon, Alderman of Oxford, proved 25 April 1701)
  • 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 Hunsdon.
  • Harold S. Rogers, “An Oxford City Election in 1687[/8] as depicted by Egbert Van Heemskerk”, Oxoniensia vol. VIII-IX (1943), pp. 54ff.

©Stephanie Jenkins

Last updated: 3 September, 2019

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