Oxford History: Mayors & Lord Mayors


Henry Southam (c.1584–1659)

Mayor of Oxford 1629/30 and 1637/8

Henry Southam (or Sowtham) was born in c.1584, the son of Henry Southam, a wool-winder of Burford.

On 1 May 1798 Henry was apprenticed for seven years to the Oxford glover Ralph Tomlinson, with the promise of double apparel at the end of the term. He was admitted free on 4 October 1605, and had a glover’s shop on the site of 120 High Street (now the eastern side of the former NatWest bank) in All Saints parish.

On 28 June 1607 at St Giles's Church, Henry Southam married his first wife Margaret Turnore. They had the following children:

  • Alice Southam I (baptised on 13 February 1607/8 at All Saints’ Church,
    buried there on 18 November 1608)
  • Alice Southam II (baptised on 14 April 1609 at All Saints’ Church,
    and probably the Alice Southam who was buried there on 3 April 1627)
  • Possibly Elizabeth Southam
    (someone of that name was buried at All Saints’ Church on 7 October 1612).
  • Anne Southam (baptised at All Saints’ Church on 18 March 1612)
  • Possibly Margaret Southam
    (someone of that name was buried at all Saints’ Church on 25 April 1627).

Southam was elected on to the Common Council in September 1612, and was made a Chamberlain one year later.

On 3  June 1616 a meeting was held at the Town Clerk’s house at Carfax of the Mayor and four of his inner council about a “controversie between Mr Henry Southam, Master of the Company of the Glovers, and Mr William Bland, a brother of the said Company, concerning some outrage in words by the said Mr Southam during the tyme of his Maistership”. Bland was sent to the Bocardo prison until he should acknowledge his offence and agree to the fine imposed by the Company of Glovers.

On 12 August 1616 Southam was awarded a Bailiff’s place on the Council, paying 50s., and just a month later on 16 September he was appointed Senior Bailiff. On 11 October 1619 he was appointed one of the two fair-masters.

On 10  September 1622 Southam’s apprentice, William Talley, was admitted free.

On 9 December 1626 his first wife, Margaret Southam, died and was buried at All Saints’ Church on 12 December. She was described in the register as “wife of Henry”

On 12 October 1626 Southam was appointed one of the two money-masters for two years and on 14 June 1627 was admitted on to the Mayor’s Council “by a farr major part of voices”, taking his oath and paying his £5 fine.

On 14 September 1629 Southam was elected Mayor of Oxford for the first time (for 1629/30), selecting John Smith as his child.

On 20 February 1630/1 at St Cross Church, his daughter Anne Southam married William Wright the younger, son of Martin Wright and the future Recorder of Oxford: both parties were described as being of All Saints parish.

In September 1631 Southam was chosen as one of the four people appointed to see that tools and instruments of punishment for the idle were provided at the City’s charge at the house of correction. By this time he is described as a “gentleman”, and held the lease of various city properties including one on part of the site now occupied by the Sheldonian Theatre.

In January 1634 Southam was made a Commissioner of the barges and in April 1637 was elected Alderman (for the North West ward), paying £10.

In September 1637 the person elected Mayor was too infirm to serve and Southam was elected for a second term (for 1637/8), choosing William Gough as his Chamberlain.

On 8 January 1641 Southam was granted one of the three city wine licences, and he became the innholder at the Bear Inn.

In August 1643 he was elected Coroner, and in that year he gave £10 to the city towards the £520 presented to King Charles I after the Battle of Edgehill.

Henry Southam’s second wife was also called Margaret, and her age at her death indicates that she was born in 1612 (making her about 28 years younger than Southam).

On 14  September 1646 his apprentice Richard Harbert was admitted free.

In 1648 Southam paid 9s. 6d. subsidy on a property in All Saints parish, namely the Bear Inn at 123–5 High Street, as well as seven shillings on a property in St Thomas’s.

On 3 November 1652 his second wife, Margaret Southam, died (at the age of 50, according to Anthony Wood): the burial register of All Saints for 1652 reads: “Margaret, wife of Henry, alderman, in the Church on 4 November”.

Henry Southam then married his third wife, Jane.

On 10 October 1656 Southam’s servant William Gibbins was admitted free.

† Henry Southam died on 16 March 1658/9 and was buried at All Saints’ Church (the register for this year is missing). Anthony Wood records the following inscriptions to Henry and his three wives on four brass plates that were fixed to a large, breast-high freestone monument that was joined to the north side of the steeple of the former All Saints’ Church:

Here lyeth the body of Henry Southam, alderman and twice mayor of this city,
who departed this life the 10 of March an. 1659.
Wood adds: “This is put down false, for he dyed 16 March 1658 [1658/9].
Armes are 'sable, 3 arrows with their points downward argent.' ”

Here lyeth the body of Margaret Southam, wife of Henry Southam, who departed this life
the 9 Decemb. an. dom. 1626, aet. 50.

Here lyeth the body of Margaret Southam, wife of Henry Southam, who departed this life
the 3 of Novemb. in the yeare of our Lord 1652.

Neare adjacent lyeth the body of Jane Southam, the third wife and widdow of the said Henry Southam,
who departed this life 28 of Decemb. an. d. 1664.

Southam was survived by his third wife, Jane, and just one child: Mrs Anne Wright. In his will of 1657 he left the Bear Inn to his friends Richard Harris of South Stoke, William Barber of South Stoke, Richard Croke of Oxford, and William Wright the younger. He also left 18s. 4d. a year for prayers and a sermon at All Saints’ Church on Trinity Monday (the election and feast day of the glovers’ company): this “Glovers’ Sermon” was still preached in 1844. He also gave £40, the interest to provide 6s. 4d. for the poor of All Saints parish and other sums for church purposes.

His third wife Jane Southam died on 28 December 1664 and was buried on 30 December at All Saints’ Church with her husband and his two earlier wives. She left £8 to All Saints to provide money for charity.

The burial register of All Saints records the benefactions of the Southams:

The names of ye benefactors to ye Parish of All Saints in ye City of Oxford before ye Church fel down
in ye year 1699 as it was taken out of the table of benefactions yt was then hanging on ye Church are
as follows, viz. … Mr Henry Southam Alderman £40.0.0, Mrs Jane Southam £8.0.0.

See also:

  • PCC Will PROB 11/301/297 (Will of Henry Sowtham, Alderman of Oxford, proved 28 August 1660)

Another Henry Southam in St Michael's parish

On 8 June 1635 at St Michael-at-the-Northgate Church, a man called Henry Southam married Ann Matthews and they had one child:

  • Mary Southam (baptised at St Michael's Church on 21 April 1639).

(There was also a Robert Southam, likely to be this Henry's brother, who was married in the same church in the same year and had children in that parish.)

©Stephanie Jenkins

Last updated: 2 October, 2018

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