Oxford History: Mayors & Lord Mayors


James Adams (1760–1829)

Mayor of Oxford 1804/5 and 1819/20

James Adams was born in Oxford in 1760, the son of Thomas Adams, a cook of the University of Oxford. His father was already dead when on 6 June 1774 James was apprenticed for seven years to Richard Holloway, an Oxford upholsterer.

On 12 February 1782 at Chipping Norton, James Adams, described as being of St Mary the Virgin parish in Oxford, married Sarah Day of Tything, Over Norton.

90 High Street


Jackson’s Oxford Journal reports that in 1782 James Adams, “upholder, appraiser, and auctioneer” took on the shop and business of Philip Ward in Oxford’s High Street, opposite All Souls College in the parish of St Mary the Virgin (probably 90 High Street, left).

The following September Adams sold off Alderman Ward’s furniture and stock.

Adams was selected as Mayor’s Child by the new Mayor, William Fletcher, on 30 September 1782, and he immediately took up his Chamberlain’s place on the Council. On 9 October that year he took on Daniel Evans as an apprentice (a man to achieve fame as a builder rather than an upholsterer).

Adams and his wife Sarah had the following children:

  • Charles Adams (born on 10 April 1786 and baptised on 18 April 1786 at St Mary-the-Virgin Church)
  • Sarah Adams I (born on 10 January 1897 and baptised on 15 January 1789 at St Mary-the-Virgin Church;
    died aged six months)
  • Harriet Adams (born on 14 March 1790 and baptised on 16 March 1790 at St Mary-the-Virgin Church)
  • Sarah Adams II (born on 25 March 1792 and baptised on 1 April 1792 at St Mary-the-Virgin Church)
  • Eliza Adams (born on 14 March 1797 and baptised on 20 March 1797 at St Mary-the-Virgin Church;
    died aged two weeks)
  • Elizabeth Adams (born on 7 December 1798 and baptised on 16 December 1798 at St Mary-the-Virgin Church;
    died aged two months).

Stone in memory of Sarah Adams



Left: diamond-shaped floor stone in St Mary-the-Virgin Church in memory of Sarah, daughter of James and Sarah Adams, who died at the age of six months in 1789

Adams took on John Horn as an apprentice in 1789 and William Strainge in 1795.

In September 1795 Adams was elected Senior Bailiff.

He was elected Mayor of Oxford (for 1804/5).

Adams was highly esteemed by his fellow freemen, and in December 1817 was presented with plate inscribed as follows:

Presented to James Adams, Esq by the independent Freemen of the City of Oxford, to testify their personal attachment to him, and to communicate their gratitude for his constant exertions to maintain the rights & privileges of his fellow citizens.”

In 1819 Adams was elected a second time as Mayor (for 1819/20).

On 19 July 1821 Adams was one of the party from Oxford in attendance at the Coronation of George III. He was made an Alderman in 1825, and by 1829 was the Senior Member of the Corporation.

Alderman James Adams died on 17 September 1829 at the age of 71 “after a lingering and most painful illness”. He was buried at St Mary-the-Virgin Church on 26 September 1829.

His wife Sarah Adams remained in their High Street home where she died at the age of 83. She was buried with him on 20 April 1838.

James Adams’s children
  • Robson’s Commercial Directory of 1839 lists C. J. Adams (probably his son Charles Adams (born 1786) as an Upholsterer & Auctioneer at 90 High Street
  • His daighter Harriet Adams (born 1790) married Charles Thorpe, Esq. of Buckland on 18 April 1815 at St Mary-the-Virgin Church

See also:

  • Malcolm Graham, Oxford City Apprentices 1697–1800, entries numbered 2506, 2732, 2864, and 3051
  • Jackson’s Oxford Journal, 19 September 1829, p. 3b: Announcement of Adams’s death with short obituary
  • PCC Will PROB 11/1770/405 (Will of James Adams, Alderman of Oxford, proved 20 May 1830)

©Stephanie Jenkins

Last updated: 19 May, 2020

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