Oxford History: Mayors & Lord Mayors


Henry White (1648–1724)

Mayor of Oxford 1691/2

Henry White was baptised at St Peter-in-the-East Church on 29 December 1648. He was the second son of the mercer Sampson White (Mayor in 1660 and 1665) and Mary Soper. He grew up first in a house to the east of University College, and then in about 1660 moved with his family to a house on the other side of the High, on the site of the present Warden’s Lodgings of All Souls College.

He had three brothers who survived to adulthood, and all of them studied at the University of Oxford, but Henry was fated to remain in his father’s house and carry on the family business. He was admitted free on 30 October 1674.

In about 1680, when he was 32, Henry White married Catherine Wright, the 18-year-old daughter of William Wright, and they had the following children:

  • Sampson Wright I (baptised on 13 August 1682 at St Mary-the-Virgin Church), given the name of his paternal grandfather, probably died by 1689
  • William Wright (baptised on 22 July 1683 at St Mary-the-Virgin Church), given the name of his maternal grandfather
  • Mary Wright I (baptised on 3 August 1684 at St Mary-the-Virgin Church), given the name shared by her paternal and maternal grandmothers
  • Catherine Wright I (baptised on 8 August 1685 at St Mary-the-Virgin Church), given the name of her mother
  • Henry Wright I (buried at St Mary-the-Virgin Church on 16 September 1688 at St Mary-the-Virgin Church), given the name of his father
  • Mary Wright II (baptised on 7 August 1687 at St Mary-the-Virgin Church)
  • Henry Wright II (baptised on 2 December 1688 at St Mary-the-Virgin Church, buried there on 3 January 1691/2)
  • Sampson Wright II (baptised on 2 March 1689 at St Mary-the-Virgin Church, buried there on 11 April 1690)
  • Charles Wright (baptised on 18 June 1694 at St Mary-the-Virgin Church)
  • Jane Wright (baptised on 19 June 1695 at St Mary-the-Virgin Church)
  • Henry Wright Wright III (born on 19 November 1696, baptised on 23 November 1696 at St Mary-the-Virgin Church)
  • Francis Wright (born on 24 April 1698, baptised on 8 May 1698 at St Mary-the-Virgin Church, probably buried there in 1690)
  • Catherine Wright II (born on 19 March 1702 and baptised on 25 March at St Mary-the-Virgin Church)

The register notes that Catherine II was the daughter of Henry (“worth £600”) and Catherine.

Henry White was elected on to the Common Council in September 1676, paying the usual fine of 3s. 4d. for not serving as Constable. In 1676 he was appointed a Chamberlain, and in 1680 Senior Bailiff. He appears to have been known as “Squire White” to distinguish him from his father.

In 1683 White was appointed one of the Leather Searchersm and in October 1684 he was elected one of the Mayor’s eight Assistants, but chose to pay a fine of £20 rather than serve.

In 1688 White was appointed a Keykeeper. In August 1689 he was fined £1 for not attending a council meeting, but this was remitted in September after he assured the house that he would in future conform to its rules.

In February 1690 White stood as Member of Parliament for Oxford, but only received one vote (compared with 597 votes obtained by the winner).

In May 1690 Henry White was again elected one of the eight Assistants, and this time accepted and took his oaths, paying £5. In September 1691 he was elected Mayor of Oxford (for 1691/2), selecting Joseph Mayow as his Child and Michael Ackland as his Chamberlain. On 26 November of his mayoral year there was a thanksgiving day for the taking of Limerick and the reduction of Ireland, and Anthony Wood, describing the lavish illuminations in Oxford, says, “The Mayor (Henry White) against Univ. Coll. had no illuminations, as ’twas said”.

In January 1695 White was elected Alderman for the North-West ward, and on 23 October he again stood for Parliament and again failed to get in. In November 1698 he was one of the group chosen to go to London with the Mayor to present King William with a congratulatory address.

On 1 August 1698 he took on his son, William White, as an apprentice mercer for seven years.

In November 1701 White again stood for Parliament, and yet again only got one vote.

On 12 March 1702 the council celebrated the accession of Queen Anne, and as an Alderman White rode in his scarlet gown at the head of a procession led by the Mayor. He was also one of the six persons chosen to attend the Mayor at the Coronation at Westminster on 23 April. But in October that year White and three others were discommoned by the University in a quarrel over precedence in the procession following Queen Anne’s visit, and the city agreed to stand by and defend them at its expense. After some lengthy correspondence the University resolved that “the persons discommoned be not restored before the Citty hath given satisfaction to the University, by owning yt the University hath the right of precedence in all publick processions”. They were eventually reinstated in November.

In 1716, in evidence given in the Jacobite riots, it is stated that some of the officers went on towards East Gate, “haveing their naked Swords in their hands the greatest part of the time. But when they came to Alderman White’s doore they stayed there under a pretence of Serenadeing his Daughter” (presumably Catherine, now 14).

In March 1718 the council agreed that Alderman White should have a new lease of his tenement on Mount Pelion [Pelham] Hill for 40 years for £17. He also leased the Three Goats Heads in the North-West ward and a tenement in the Holloway from the Council.

Henry White memorial

† Alderman Henry White died on 5 December 1724 at the age of 76 after serving as an Alderman for thirty years. Thomas Hearne described him as “a very honest, faithfull, just and charitable Man”.

He was buried at St Mary-the-Virgin Church on 11 December 1724, and there is a diamond-shaped memorial to him (left) in what is now the church shop, reading:

Here Lyeth ye Body of HENRY WHITE, late Aldmn
of this City Who died Dec: ye 5th 1724 Aged 76

Catherine White memorial



His wife Catherine lived for another 17 years. Immediately beneath the memorial to Henry White is one to his wife Catherine. It reads:
“Here Lyeth ye Body of CATHERINE Wife of HENRY WHITE
Who died Dec. ye 20 1741 Aged 79”.

Memorial to the Whites

The memorial to Henry's father Sir Sampson White and his sons (above) is high on the wall of what is now the church shop.The left-hand side is dedicated to Henry and his brother Francis, and is inscribed thus:

Prope Parentum exuvias jacent
Henricus & Franciscus WHITE
Ille Civitatis Oxon Prætor & Senator,
Hic S. T. B. & Coll: Bal Socius:
Vterq’ ob vitam verè Christianam
Ab omnibus Bonis in honore Habiti,
Deo & Patriæ semper Fidelissimi,
Propinquis & Pauperibus Amicissimi,
Omnibus Hospitales & Benigni:
Ille ex unicâ Uxore Catharinâ
Non modo numerosæ sobolis Pater,
Sed et Religiosus Educator:
Hic Cælebs, & sine Prole,
Sed non minora ob pignora memorandus,
Miram sc. ingenij amænitatem,
Et tamen gravem concionandi facultatem,
Singularem Munificentiam, & largas Eleemosynas;
Quippe qui MCC libras integrâ ætate & valetudine
Patrueles inter, & in pios usus distribuerit,
Et porrò moriens CCCXL.
Franciscus obijt A. D ni. 1714 Ætatis 62.
Henricus 1724 Ætatis 76

Here near the earthly remains of their parents lie Henry and Francis White, the former Mayor and councillor of the city of Oxford, the latter S.T.B. [Sacrae Theologiae Baccalaureus, or Bachelor of Divinity] and Fellow of Balliol College, both held in honour by all men on account of a truly Christian life, always most faithful to God and to their native land, the best of friends to their neighbours and the poor, and hospitable and kind to all.

The former was not only the father of numerous offspring by his unparalleled wife Catharine, but also their religious teacher; the latter was a bachelor and childless, but worthy of remembrance for no lesser productions, namely a wondrous delight of the intellect and an important ability of preaching sermons, an extraordinary munificence, and bountiful alms: for when his age and health were still unimpaired he distributed among his cousins, and for good causes, £1200, and another £340 on his death.

Francis died AD 1714 at the age of 62; Henry in 1724 at the age of 76.

See also:

  • Sampson White, Mayor of Oxford 1660/1 and 1665/6 (his father)
  • Malcolm Graham, Oxford City Apprentices 1697–1800, entry numbered 155
  • PCC Will PROB 11/601/30 (Will of Henry White, One of the Alderman of the City of Oxford, proved 4 January 1725).

©Stephanie Jenkins

Last updated: 29 September, 2018

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