Oxford History: Mayors & Lord Mayors


William Folker (1761–1831)

Mayor of Oxford 1802/3 and 1816/17

William Folker was born in 1761, the son of Ambrose Folker (1731–1803) and his wife Mary Cowley (d.1788), who had married in Fairford in Gloucestershire on 28 January 1759.

Folker was apprenticed to William Coxeter of New Inn Hall Street in Oxford, but his master went bankrupt after suffering a devastating fire on 21 October 1776.

William Folker continued to run an upholstery and cabinet business in Coxeter’s premises in New Inn Hall Street, then moved to Old Butcher Row (Queen Street) in St Peter-le-Bailey parish at the end of 1781, taking on the shop opposite the Post Office formerly occupied by a Thomas Jones.

Folker was admitted free for a fine of 20 guineas and the usual fees on 11 August 1783, and on 11 November 1784 was selected as Mayor’s Child by the new Mayor, John Treacher, taking up his Chamberlain’s place immediately.

On 25 May 1785 at St Giles' Church William Folker married Mary Burrows. She was the eldest child of the maltster Thomas Burrows (originally of St Peter-le-Bailey parish) and his wife Mary Eaton, who had themselves been married at St Giles' Church on 9 July 1756. They had four children, but only one survived:

  • Mary Burrows Folker (baptised on 11 October 1786 at St Martin's Church; buried there 21 November 1789)
  • Sarah Folker (baptised on 18 November 1787 at St Martin’s Church)
  • Betsey or Betty Folker (baptised on 5 December 1788 at St Martin’s Church; buried there 17 June 1789)
  • William Cowley Folker (baptised on 7 November 1794 at St Martin’s Church; buried there on 5 June 1795).

At the time of his marriage in 1785, Folker was described as being of St Peter-le-Bailey parish, as he still lived in Queen Street. The following April, Folker took over a shop at the south end of Cornmarket Street formerly belonging to the mercer Peter Rowbotham, and. the couple moved to live over that shop, which was in St Martin’s parish, but his father and mother continued to live in St Peter-le-Bailey parish.

On 4 August 1787 the city granted Folker a 40-year lease of Shoe Lane and a coach house in the lane (in St Martin’s parish) for a rent of 16d. and a fine of £15. This brand-new lease marks an expansion of his upholder’s business, and on 18 August 1787, Folker, describing himself as “of Cornmarket”, advertised for two journeyman carpenters needed immediately at his cabinet and upholstery manufactory (specifying that only those with their own tools need apply).

The death of Mrs Mary Folker, William’s mother, “after a lingering illness”, was announced in Jackson’s Oxford Journal. She was probably buried at St Martin’s Church, but there is some confusion in the burial register.

Folker took on Richard Gee as an apprentice in 1787 and Thomas Buswell in 1789.

In September 1796 Folker was elected Senior Bailiff, and in October 1800 one of the eight Assistants. He was elected Mayor in 1802 (for 1802/3).

The death of Folker’s father, Ambrose was also reported in Jackson’s Oxford Journal, on Saturday 4 June 1803:

On Wednesday evening died, most sincerely lamented by his family and friends, aged 72, Mr. Folker sen. of St. Peter’s le Bailey, in this city.

Ambrose Folker was buried at St Martin’s Church on 7 June 1803, described as being “ex-parochial”.

In 1805 Folker gave up the cabinet-making side of his business to his partner and former apprentice Richard Gee. He inserted the following advertisement in Jackson’s Oxford Journal of 11 May 1805:

William Folker, Upholder, Cabinet Maker, Appraiser, and Auctioneer in the Corn Market, Oxford respectfully informs his numerous Friends that he has declined his Share of the Cabinet and Upholstery business in Favour of Mr Richard Gee, his partner…. Appraisements and Auction Sales of every Description will be continued as usual by Mr. Folker….

The lease relating to Shoe Lane granted to Folker in 1787 was given to Messrs Gee & Wharton upholders on 1 May 1815, and was renewed by them on 1 December 1829.

Folker was elected as Mayor a second time in 1816 (for 1816/17).

In 1818 the City granted Folker a lease on a house in New Inn Hall Street with a rental of 10s. 8d. and another in George Street with a rental of 5s. 4d., both in the parish of St Michael.

On 19 July 1821 Folker was one of the party from Oxford in attendance at the Coronation of George III.

His wife Mary Folker died at the age of 69 in 1827 and was buried at St Giles’ Church (where she had got married) on 3 May 1827. She was described in the burial register as being of St Michael’s parish, which suggests that the couple had moved to one of the properties leased in 1818.

† William Folker died on 27 May 1831, also at the age of 69, “after a severe illness”, and he was buried with his wife at St Giles' Church four days later. He was then described as living in St Mary Magdalen parish, opposite St John’s College in St Giles’ Street.

William Folker’s family

His only surviving child Sarah Folker married Richard Ferdinand Cox on 24 August 1812 at St Michael-at-the-Northgate Church. Their daughter, Louisa Sarah Cox was baptised at All Saints’ Church on 31 July 1813.

Susannah Thorp (1793–1895), the daughter of John Wise Thorp, married a Samuel Shepherd Folker (born 1789) of North Street, Brighton on 13 January 1821. He was the son of Samuel Folker and Sarah Shepherd, and may be a relation. Samuel  Shepherd Folker died at the age of 47 in Summertown on 8 April 1837.

See also:

  • Malcolm Graham, Oxford City Apprentices 1697–1800, entries numbered 2804 and 2886
  • Jackson’s Oxford Journal, 28 May 1831: Announcement of Folker’s death
  • MS Wills Oxon BD. Ren. 111.302; 283/2/22

©Stephanie Jenkins

Last updated: 20 September, 2018

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