Oxford History: Mayors & Lord Mayors


Sir William Walker (c.1614–1695)

Mayor of Oxford 1674/5, 1683/4, and 1684/5

William Walker may be the child of that name baptised at St Martin’s Church, Oxford on 2 June 1612, the son of John Walker, who lived just to the south of the Swindlestock Tavern.

Walker was granted his freedom on 20 March 1637, and traded as a mercer. On 13 April 1648 he enrolled an apprentice and on 24 August that year he was granted a licence to hang out a sign of the Bird in Hand at his shop in St Martin’s parish (the Roebuck, on the corner of Market Street).

Walker came straight on to the Council into a Bailiff’s place on 14 March 1651, paying £14. On 30 September 1654 he was appointed a Cloth Searcher, and on 17 September 1660 Senior Bailiff. On 23 April 1661 he was chosen to attend the Mayor at the Coronation of King Charles I; and in August 1661 he went out with the Mayor and senior councillors in a scarlet gown with footclothes and footmen to meet the King in his visit to the city.

On 6 May 1664 his apprentice mercer Richard Broome was admitted free.

The following appear to be his children:

  • William Walker junior
  • A newborn female child of Mr William Walker” (buried at St Martin’s Church on 17 December 1651)
  • Grace Walker, “daughter of Mr William Walker” (baptised at St Martin’s Church on 11 January 1652/3)
  • Anne Walker
  • John Walker (baptised at St Martin's Church on 31 August 1668)
  • Mary Walker.

To confuse matters, there were two other William Walkers in Oxford at this time, the second of whom is probably his son:

  • William Walker, married to the widow Mrs Mary Edwards, also lived in St Martin’s parish (at the Roebuck in Cornmarket)
  • William Walker who lived in All Saints parish and who is probably the man of that name who married Ann(e) Cornish of St Ebbe’s at St Mary Magdalen Church on 16 July 1663.

In March 1667 Walker (listed as a gentleman and assessor, and definitely the future Mayor) was assessed as follows for Poll Tax in St Martin’s parish:

  • For himself: £4 1s. 0d. (£1 for his title, poll tax of one shilling, and £3 tax on his money)
  • For his wife Mrs Anne Walker: poll tax of one shilling
  • For his daughters Grace and Anne Walker: poll tax of one shilling each
  • For Susanna Bigg and Thomas Garbrand: poll tax of one shilling each

This indicates that Walker’s personal wealth was £300, as the tax on personal estate was £1 per £100.

On 30 April 1666 Walker was elected one of the eight Mayor’s Assistants but was out of town, so did not take the oaths until the next council meeting on 4 May, subscribing the declaration, paying £5 according to custom, and giving entertainment to the whole Council Chamber.

Anthony Wood records that on 10 September 1672 Francis Fitzherbert, lately a commoner of Lincoln College, “died in Mr Walker’s house (a draper living in S. Martin’s parish)”.

On 14 September 1674 Walker was elected Mayor of Oxford (for 1674/5). He chose Robert Harrison as his Child and Edmund Thurston as his Chamberlain. In 1678 his eldest son William came on to the Council.

On 9 August 1675 his son William Walker junior who had been apprenticed to him as a mercer was admitted free.

On 30 May 1681 Walker was one of the group chosen to present an address to King Charles II; similarly on 13 July 1683 he went in the group to present another address “for to congratulate his Majesty and his Royall Brothers wonderful deliverie from the late damnable plott contrived against their lives”.

On 15 May 1683 his apprentice Benjamin Savage was admitted free.

On 30 July 1683 Walker was elected Alderman, initially for the North-West ward: he was sworn on the Chequer Table and gave the Macebearer four crown pieces and a purse and took the usual oaths, paying £10 to one of the keykeepers.

On 17 September 1683 William Walker was again elected Mayor of Oxford (for 1683/4). He asked that Timothy Bourne should have a Bailiff’s plae as his Child, and proposed Joseph Stacy as his Chamberlain, and both requests were granted. In addition Walker’s eldest son William was awarded a Bailiff’s place.

On 2 October 1684 (following a writ of quo warranto that had been brought against the City, and a surrender to King Charles II of several offices), a new charter granted to the city by the King was read out, in which Walker was nominated Mayor of Oxford for the following year as well (for 1684/5). He promptly took the oaths before the two commissioners named in the charter. He proposed Adrian Roberts as his Chamberlain, but this was refused by the Commons. Wood (III:112) describes how Walker paraded to the East Gate of Oxford in all his finery to receive the new city charter from James Bertie, Earl of Abingdon, as well as the other events of that day.

On 11 February 1684/5 Walker proclaimed James II King. Anthony Wood records it thus:

About 12 of the clock, Mr. William Walker (the mayor), aldermen, thirteen, those of the house and common counsell, mounted their horses in the Gild hall yard and with their officers and attendance drew up to the conduit at Carfax, where meeting them the Lord leivtenant of the countie and gentlemen, proclaimed the duke of York, on the south side of the conduit, by the mouth of the macebearer (Richard Pratt), with great shouts and acclamations, the conduit running claret all the while.

They then rode along the High Street, Walker (wearing scarlet, with a stole or tippet over it, and a footcloth) and his entourage on the south side, and the Lord Lieutenant and his entourage on the north side, to St Mary-the-Virgin Church, where they met the Bishop of Oxford and the Vice-Chancellor of the University, with the Doctors, Proctors, and Masters of Arts in their gowns. There were then trumpets and drums as there had been at Carfax. They then did the same at the East Gate and the South Gate, and passed along Pennyfarthing Street to the West Gate, and then to the North Gate. Back at the Guildhall they were entertaned with wine and cake in the Council Chamber, and eight of the Lord Lieutenant’s retinue were made freemen.

A week later Walker was knighted. Wood wrote: “William Walker, mayor, was knighted by his majesty, Wed., Feb. 18, 1684/5 when he and some of his brethren delivered the city address to the new king James II.”

On 16 March 1685 Sir William was invited (together with the aldermen, the thirteen, and all the gownmen of the house) to Rycote by James Bertie, Earl of Abingdon. Wood (III:135) records that they were “splendidly entertain’d, came home most of them drunk and fell off their horses”.

On 23 April 1685 Sir William attended the Coronation of King James II with six attendants in livery, and served as butler at the coronation feast in Westminster Hall. On 26 June 1685 he urged the Council to raise men for His Majesty’s service.

On 30 September 1685, Sir William Walker returned to his position as Alderman, this time for the South-East ward.

On 16 February 1688 the Mayor read produced a letter from King James II and his Council naming a number of people, including Walker and his son, who were to be removed and displaced from their office. Sir William Walker left the council building immediately. He was reinstated in September under his Majesty’s new charter to the City.

Sir William Walker moved to St Michael’s parish when he was about 70, probably handing over his shop to his son. On 20 November 1688 he was granted a new lease by the council of his several houses in Ship Street for a fine of £24 (adding one more pullet yearly to be paid by the Mayor): it is explained that the fine is so moderate because he had recently paid out for considerable repairs to the premises. In 1693 he paid half a crown rent to the council for a tenement at the Town Wall near the Turl; a shilling for other tenements there; and a shilling for a post standing before the Cross Inn.

When he wrote his will on 5 November 1693, he referred to one of his tenements in St Michael’s parish as the place “where I now live”.

† Sir William Walker died on 17 January 1695 at the age of 80, and was buried four days later in St Michael-at-the-Northgate Church (in the minister’s chancel, according to Wood III: 477). He gave £20 and a scarlet cloak for the use of the city.

His wife Anne Walker survived him.

William Walker’s children
  • William Walker junior: Anthony Wood records that he married the only child of the former mayor Roger Griffin. William Walker junior had two children baptised at St Martin’s: Barbara (15 June 1679, buried six months later), and Charles (11 February 1681/2). He also buried another child (recorded variously as Griffin and Roger and evidently named after his grandfather) on 9 April 1681.
  • John Walker went up to the University of Oxford and was known as Dr John Walker, M.A.
  • Grace Walker became Mrs Waldoe, and is named in her father’s will
  • Mary Walker married Dr John Willes, the Rector of Bishop’s Itchington and Canon of Lichfield, and was the mother of the Judge and politician Sir John Willes (1685–1761). She is named in her father’s will.

See also:

  • PCC Will PROB 11/424/205 (Will of Sir William Walker of Oxford, proved 4 February 1695)
  • H. E. Salter, Surveys and Tokens, pp. 447–9, and tokens numbered 103 and 104. The first has
    WILL. WALKER AT THE” around an image of a gloved hand holding a bird on the obverse, and
    BVRD AND HAND IN OXON” around the initials W.W. on the reverse.
    The second has “WILLIAM” around an image of a hand issuing from a cloud and holding a bird on the obverse,
    and “MERCER IN OXFORD” around the initials W.W. on the reverse

©Stephanie Jenkins

Last updated: 3 September, 2019

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