Oxford History: Mayors & Lord Mayors


William Wright I (c.1561–1635)

Mayor of Oxford 1614/15

William Wright was born in Oxford in c.1561. He was the son of Robert Wright, an Oxford tailor.

On 25 March 1576 he was apprenticed to the goldsmith Thomas Gower for seven years, with the promise of double apparel at the end of his term.

He served as Constable in the year 1585/6, and received his freedom on 14 November 1586.

He took on at least five apprentice goldsmiths between 1589 and 1617: George Carye of Somerset (25 March 1589); Thomas Crumpton of London (24 June 1595); another in c.1603; his own son Martin in c.1609; and another in 1617.

His first wife was Joane Winter, but she appears to have died as a result of childbirth and was buried at St Martin’s Church on 14 October 1594. Their son, however, survived:

  • Martin Wright (baptised on 24 November 1594 at St Martin's Church).

Wright married again and had another three children:

  • Margaret Wright (baptised on 18 December 1598 at St Martin's Church;
    buried there on 14 February 1613/14)
  • William Wright (baptised on 15 April 1606 at St Martin’s Church)
  • John Wright (baptised on 6 August 1610 at St Martin’s Church).

Wright was elected on to the Common Council in October 1596 and made a Chamberlain in 1598. In 1600 he was elected Senior Bailiff.

In November 1602 Wright was granted a 41-year lease by the council of a garden in the town ditch towards Balliol College, for a fine of 40s, and in 1606 he was granted a lease by Oriel College of 143 High Street, on the south-east corner of Carfax.

In September 1608 Wright was chosen one of the eight Associates, paying £5 to the use of the City. In June 1610 he is still described as a goldsmith.

In September 1614 Wright was elected Mayor of Oxford (for 1614/15).

Wright, who had been a goldsmith until at least 1608, was described as “afterwards baker”, and he took on apprentice bakers in 1615, 1618, 1621, and 1631. His family ground corn at the Castle Mill, and in 1615 he was admitted Whitebaker to the University.

On 2 January 1618 Alderman Bartholomew, because of his age and infirmity, was allowed to nominate William Wright to be his deputy; but just 17 days later Wright was elected a full alderman, paying £10 to the City and “a purse and twenty shillings to the Mayor’s chief serjeant”.

In May 1628 Wright was chosen Coroner, and in 1633 he was elected Mayor a second time, but refused to serve, paying a £10 fine.

William Wright I right died on 26 February 1635/6, and was buried two days later in the chancel of St Martin’s Church. In the transcription of the burial of Alderman Wright, Anthony Wood first put “goldsmith” and then substituted “baker”.

In 1896 St Martin's Church was demolished (apart from its tower), and all bones uncovered were transferred to an unknown communal grave in Holywell Cemetery.

See also:

  • Martin Wright, Mayor 1635 and 1655 (his son)
  • William Wright II, Mayor 1656 and 1667 (his grandson)
  • Fletcher, Carteret J. H., A History of the Church and Parish of St Martin (Carfax), Oxford (B. H. Blackwell, 1896), “Appendix VI: Monumental Inscriptions, baptisms, and burials of the Wright family”
  • Ann Natalie Hansen, Oxford Goldsmiths before 1800 (At the Sign of the Cock, 1996), pp. 111–118
  • PCC Will PROB 11/170/313 (Will of William Wright, Alderman of Oxford, proved 16 March 1636)

©Stephanie Jenkins

Last updated: 28 September, 2018

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