Oxford History: Mayors & Lord Mayors


Humphrey Whistler (c.1584–1660)

Mayor of Oxford 1640/1, 1658/9

Humphrey Whistler was born in c.1584, and according to Anthony Wood he came from the same family of Whistlers as those who lived in Whitchurch, Oxfordshire in the mid-seventeenth century.

Whistler served as the apprentice of the white baker John Poole.

On 25 June 1615 at St Peter-le-Bailey Church in Oxford, Humphrey Whistler married his first wife Isabel Hickes, and six weeks after his marriage he was admitted free.

The couple lived in St Thomas’s parish, probably over his baker’s shop. Wood tells us that they had three children, all of whom died young; but there are no registers of St Thomas’s Church surviving from this period.

On 7 October 1625 Whistler was awarded a Bailiff’s place on the Council, paying £6 and the officers’ fees.

By this time Whistler's wife Isabel was evidently dead, as on 30 November 1625 at St Giles's Church, Humphrey Whistler of St Thomas's parish married his second wife, Mrs Joan Tillyard, who was the widow of Arthur Tillyard, of St Mary-the-Virgin parish.

In September 1627 Whistler was appointed one of the five keykeepers and on 28 September 1629 Senior Bailiff. In September 1634 he was one of the seven people appointed to supervise the “clensing and scoweringe of the rivers”, which were “muche flundered”.

On 9 April 1638 Whistler was appointed one of the Mayor’s eight Assistants and on 15 September 1640 was elected Mayor of Oxford (for 1640/1), naming George Bainger as his Child. On 16 August 1641 Whistler stated to the council that John Hunt, a member of the house, had been abusing him, and it was agreed to suspend Hunt; but Whistler and Hunt had made peace by 15 March 1642, and Hunt was restored to his position. (In April 1648, however, Hunt was again in trouble for abusing Whistler, and this time he does not appear to have been reinstated after his suspension.)

After the Battle of Edgehill, King Charles I came to Oxford (“the only city of England that he could say was entirely at his devotion”) on 29 October 1642, and Whistler contributed £5 towards the money presented by the City to the King.

In 1644 Whistler, Alderman Martin Wright, and Thomas Dennis were imprisoned by Charles I’s government, but were released in December. They were reimbursed by the Council for the money they were forced to pay out as a result of their imprisonment, as they had suffered for the City.

On 1 May 1646 Whistler was elected an Alderman (for the North West ward), paying £10, and was also elected Commissioner for Barges. On 25 May 1646, he was fined 4d. for coming to a council meeting in his cloak rather than his aldermannic gown.

At the time of the 1648 subsidy Whistler paid ten shillings in St Giles’ parish and another 4s. 6d. on a property in St Mary-the-Virgin parish.

Whistler appears to have continued working as a baker, as on 6 May 1650 his apprentice Thomas Griffin was admitted free.

On 20 September 1658 Whistler was elected Mayor of Oxford for the second time (for 1658/9). At the council meeting when he should have taken his mayoral oath on 30 September, a letter from the Council of State was read out, stating that Whistler had aided and assisted in the war against the late Parliament and was formerly sequestered and thereby ineligible to hold any office or place of public trust. The Council agreed to sign a petition vouching for the integrity of Whister and his “good affeccon” to the present government. Whistler immediately took this letter personally to Westminster, accompanied by the Recorder, the Town Clerk, and six others, and Lord Fleetwood was able to satisfy the Lords of the Council. He was able to take his oath as Mayor at the council meeting on 8 October.

Whistler selected Robert Pawling as his Child and William Potter as his Chamberlain. On 26 October it was agreed that Whistler and twelve others should present a letter of congratulation to the Lord Protector and present, the expenses of their journey to be paid by the city.

At a meeting on 20 January 1660 it transpired that a scarlet cloak which was given to the City for the use of the Junior Alderman had been stolen from Whistler (together with various of his own possessions of great value) when the city was a garrison, and it was agreed that Whistler should make good the loss. (This may explain why he came to a council meeting in his cloak instead of his aldermanic robe back in 1646.)

† Alderman Humphrey Whistler died on 12 September 1660, and according to Anthony Wood (I: 332) was buried in St Thomas’s churchyard next to his first wife Isabel and their three children. This parish register does not survive, but the burial register of St Mary-the-Virgin Church mentions on a flysheet that he was buried on 13 September 1660. Anthony Wood adds, “He died without (I thinke) issue.”

See also:

  • Shield of the Whistler family above the panelling in the Judges’ Room in the Town Hall. (Wood describes the Whistler arms as being “gules, 5 mascles conjoined in a bend between 2 hounds passant argent; crest, a hound’s head couped argent”.)
  • PCC Will PROB 11/309/41 (Will of Humfry Whistler, Alderman of Oxon, proved 19 August 1662)

©Stephanie Jenkins

Last updated: 3 October, 2018

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