Oxford History: Mayors & Lord Mayors


John Austin (c.1706–1775)

Mayor of Oxford 1742/3, 1761/2, and 1771/2

John Austin or Austen was born in c.1706, the son of Jarvis Austin, a maltster of Cirencester, Gloucestershire.

John's father was already dead when on 1 November 1720 he was apprenticed for seven years to the Oxford mercer Henry Wise (who had himself already been Mayor twice and would serve a third term in 1730). Austin’s older brother James was already in Oxford, apprenticed to a chandler.

Austin was chosen Mayor’s Child by the new Mayor, Sir Oliver Greenway, in September 1729, and paid the usual fine of 3s. 4d. for not serving as Constable. He took up his place as Chamberlain immediately, and was appointed a Cloth Searcher, an appropriate duty for a mercer.

John Austin and his first wife Ann had five children:

  • Mary Ann Austin (born on 12 November 1731 and baptised at St Martin’s Church on 30 November 1731)
  • Anna Austin (baptised on 14 January 1732/3 at St Martin’s Church; buried there on 11 March 1732/3)
  • William Austin (baptised on 9 December 1733 at St Martin’s Church;
    buried there two days later on 11 December 1733)
  • Elizabeth Austin (baptised privately on 2 December 1734, with record in register of St Martin’s Church;
    buried there eight days later on 10 December 1734)
  • John William Austin (baptised privately on 15 June 1736 and admitted to St Martin’s Church on 6 July 1736).

Austin’s first wife Ann Austin died on 19 December 1738, and she was buried at St Martin’s Church on 21 December 1738.

In September 1736 Austin was appointed Junior Bailiff, and in April 1741 was elected one of the Mayor’s eight Assistants. In September 1742 he was elected Mayor of Oxford (for 1742/3), choosing Thomas Day as his Child. In the January of his term of office he took on John Smith as his apprentice.

John Austin married his second wife, also called Ann, in the early 1740s and they had two children, the son Jarvis presumably named after his paternal grandfather:

  • Elizabeth Austin (baptised in 1744 at St Martin’s Church)
  • Jarvis Austin (baptised on 5 November 1745 at St Martin’s Church; buried there on 10 April 1746).

On 7 November 1747 Austin’s second wife called Ann also died, and was buried in St Martin’s Church on 10 November 1747.

On 1 June 1752 Austin took on as an apprentice his only surviving son, John William.

After serving eighteen years as Mayor’s Assistant, in 1761 Austin was elected Mayor a second time (for 1761/2), choosing Henry Smith as his Child.

James Woodforde records many purchases at Austin’s shop when he was an undergraduate: for instance six plain white handkerchiefs at three shillings each in 1760, and two cravats “upon tick” and four pairs of ribbed thread stocking at five shillings a pair in 1761.

On 27 January 1763 Austin was chosen Alderman, and was also made a Justice of the Peace. Woodforde was aware that he was now an Alderman, as on 9 September 1763 he wrote:

Had of Mr. Austin this Morning two Pair black Silk Stockings – value 1. 12. 0. Had likewise of him a Piece of wove Silk for Breeches, and for that I owe him 1. 6. 0. I had of him besides a Pair of Common black worsted Stockings, for them I owe him 0. 5 0. I owe the Alderman now in the whole just 30. 0 0.

On 2 December 1764 Austin’s oldest surviving son, John William Austin, who was living in Cirencester, married a Miss Masters there.

Woodforde continued to make purchases at Austin’s shop on subsequent visits to Oxford. On 28 April 1767 he wrote, “I paid Mr Austin my Mercer this Evening 16.4.0. I am now entirely clear with him.” The bill started to mount up again, however: in September 1769 he bought a gown of crape, five six handkerchiefs at 4s 6d each, and one of linen; in October 1771 a piece of Holland, two pairs of silk stockings, nine coloured and six white handkerchiefs; and in October 1773 a dozen purple handkerchiefs at three shillings each. Only after Austin’s death in May 1775 did Woodforde finally settle his bill: on 3 January 1776 he wrote, “Paid Mr Austins Executors Clarke & Castle a Bill of 14: 16: 9.”

In September 1771 when man who had been elected Mayor chose to pay a fine of £50 rather than serve, Alderman Austin was elected Mayor a third time (for 1771/2), selecting Adam Couldrey as his Chamberlain.

In 1772 a survey of every house in the city was taken in consequence of the Mileways Act of 1771. According to H. E. Salter, Alderman Austin was then living at 3 Cornmarket, which until 1750 had been the Crown Tavern.

† Alderman John Austin died on 14 May 1775 and was buried at St Martin’s Church at Carfax on 18 May.

Memorial to John Austin

The memorial tablet (left) was put up in memory of Austin. It reads:

Near this Place
Resteth the Remains
of John Austin, Esq.,
Alderman and three times Mayor of this City,
Who departed this Life
the 14 day of May, 1775,
Aged 69.
Also of Ann his first Wife
Who departed this life
Dec. 19, 1738
And Ann his second Wife
Who departed this Life
Nov. 7, 1747.

When St Martin’s Church was demolished in 1896, the tablet was refixed on the west wall of the new City Church, All Saints, above the gallery.

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.

On 23 September 1775 his son-in-law and successor in business James Clarke announced in Jackson's Oxford Journal that there would be a sale of Alderman Austin's stock in trade, valued at over £4,000, held at his “late shop in the Corn-Market”, includng superfine shalloons, the best broad dimity, the finest forest cloths, yard-wide plains and kerseys, basket and death-head buttons, printed linens and cottons, silks, Irish and Bromsgrove sheetings, Irishes, lawns, muslins, table linen, hose (silk, cotton, thread, and worsted), mercery and drapery goods, women's scarlet cardinals, and black flowered modes for cloaks.

John Austin’s two surviving children
  • John William Austin (born 1736) died at the age of 72 in Cirencester, and his death was announced in Jackson’s Oxford Journal on 22 April 1809
  • Mary Anne Austin (born 1731) married the mercer Henry Smith at St Martin's Church on 15 May 1759. On 5 August 1756 she married her second husband James Clarke (a partner of Mr Castle, mercers & drapers).

See also:

  • Malcolm Graham, Oxford City Apprentices 1697–1800, entries numbered 1071, 1803, and 2054
  • PCC Will PROB 11/1010/281 (Will of John Austin, Alderman of Oxford, proved 22 August 1775)

©Stephanie Jenkins

Last updated: 23 May, 2021

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