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Thomas Hardy (1753–1829)

Mayor of Oxford 1798/9


Thomas Hardy was born in 1753. He came to Oxford from London in about 1779 to set up as a mercer. He described his start in business when nearly half a century later he was a witness at an Oxford Assizes, and it was reported thus in Jackson’s Oxford Journal of 4 August 1827:

Mr. Hardy examined by Mr. Taunton.—Forty-seven years ago I came and set up the business of a mercer in this City. I was not a freeman, and I was immediately applied to by the City Authorities to take up my freedom, which I did. I afterwards went into business with another Gentleman who was not a freeman. That was the present Mr. Alderman Cox. I was called upon to name my partner, because I had only put up “Hardy & Co.” When I named Mr. Cox, he was compelled to take up his freedom. I should think he paid for his freedom twenty guineas, besides the fees of office. After that I continued to carry on business for about thirty years.

On 3 October 1779 at St Giles’ Church, Oxford, Thomas Hardy (described as being of St Mary Aldermanbury in London) married Elizabeth Gingell of St Giles' parish. They had eleven children, five of whom died in infancy:

  • Elizabeth Hardy (baptised on 20 February 1781 at St Martin’s Church)
  • John Hardy (baptised on 23 October 1782 at St Martin’s Church)
  • William Thomas Hardy (baptised on 6 April 1784 at St Martin’s Church)
  • Robert Hardy I (baptised on 2 February 1786/7 at St Martin’s Church;
    died aged fifteen months on 30 January 1786/7 and buried there on 2 February 1786/7)
  • Robert Hardy II (baptised on 26 August 1789 at St Martin’s Church)
  • Thomas Hardy I (baptised on 16 September 1790 at St Martin’s Church;
    died on 29 September 1790 and buried there on 2 October 1790)
  • Mary Hardy I (baptised on 22 June 1792 at St Martin’s Church;
    died aged four months on 19 October 1792, buried there on 4 October 1792)
    [Either the death inscription or the burial register date must be wrong]
  • Mary Hardy II (baptised on 24 July 1793 at St Martin’s Church)
  • Catherine Hardy (born in September 1795;
    died aged two weeks on 4 October 1795 and buried at St Martin’s Church on 29 September 1795)
  • Thomas Hardy II (baptised on 26 March 1797 at St Martin’s Church;
    died aged nine months on 21 December 1797 and buried there on 27 December 1797)
  • Thomas Hardy III (baptised on 19 February 1799 at St Martin’s Church).

Hardy was admitted free in March 1780, and on 26 September 1780 an advertisement for Hardy & Co appeared in Jackson’s Oxford Journal.

As soon as Hardy gained his freedom he applied to the Mayor, John Phillips, to become his Child. Unfortunately Phillips forgot to mention this fact, but in compensation Hardy was given a Chamberlain’s place in November 1780. He was appointed a Keykeeper in 1783.

By 22 September 1781 Hardy had gone into partnership with Richard Cox (another future Mayor), as an advertisement for T. Hardy & Cox, drapers, appeared in Jackson’s Oxford Journal on that date. Two years later the edition of 4 October 1783 announced that this partnership had been dissolved by mutual consent, and that the business would be continued by Hardy at the old shop. On 22 November 1783, however, Thomas Hardy, Mercer and Draper at the corner of High Street and Carfax, inserted an advertisement which included an attack on his nominal partner, Mr Cox, for making false representations to disparage his character.

On 8 May 1784 Hardy took out an advertisement stating that he had just returned from London with new patterns of striped chintz and calico.

There was a monument in St Martin’s Church (demolished 1896) to the memory of the five children who died in infancy that read as follows:

Thomas Hardy died the 21 Dec. 1797, aged 9 months. Rob. Hardy ob. 30 Jan. 1787, aged 1 year and 3 months. Thos. Hardy died 29 Sept. 1790. Mary Hardy died 19 Oct. 1792, aged 4 months. Catherine Hardy died 4 Oct 1795, aged 14 days

In 1782 Hardy took on William Westall as an apprentice mercer, and in January 1785 John Gee, who had been apprenticed to the mercer John Peck in 1780, was transferred to him. Hardy took on another apprentice, John Cecil, in 1787.

On 26 January 1788 Hardy announced in Jackson's Oxford Journal :

T. HARDY, Mercer, &c. thinks it a Duty he owes to his Friends and Customers at large respectfully to inform them that he has this week purchased in London an immense Quantity of printed Callicoes, from 14d. per Yard upwards; some Ell-wide entirely new, and purposely adapted for Ladies Great Coats, &c, He has also added largely to his Stock of Muslins, French Lawns, Cambricks, and the best manufactured Irish Linens &c. which will be sold Wholesale and Retail, on as advantageous Terms to the Buyer, as at any Shop in Town or Country.

N.B. A large Stock of Yard-wide black Modes, white and black 3-qrs wide Lustrings on Hand, purchased before the last Advance of Silk; a Quantity of Ribbons, at the old Prices; and exceeding good white Crape Gauze at 1s. per Yard.

☛ FUNERALS Furnished.

Hardy was chosen as Junior Bailiff in 1789.

Hardy took on his two surviving sons, John and William Thomas, as apprentices in September 1796 and April 1799 respectively.

In April 1798 Hardy was chosen to be one of the Mayor’s eight Assistants, and in September 1798 was elected Mayor of Oxford (for 1798/9).

Hardy served on a number of committees, including until 1794 one to inquire into people who were not free but were carrying on trades, and the Market Committee from 1800.

On 26 August 1800 (with Hardy’s permission as she was only 19), his eldest daughter Elizabeth Hardy married Charles Agor Hunt of St Mary the Virgin parish at St Martin’s Church.

Hardy appears to have retired to Eynsham, and his wife Elizabeth died there at the age of 43 in April 1810. She was buried at St Martin’s Church in Oxford.

† Thomas Hardy died at Eynsham in 1829 at the age of 75, and was buried at Eynsham church on 21 June that year.


See also:

  • Malcolm Graham, Oxford City Apprentices 1697–1800, entries numbered 2623, 2710, 2805, 3099, and 3154
  • Jackson’s Oxford Journal, 20 June 1829: Announcement of Hardy’s death

©Stephanie Jenkins

Last updated: 28 February, 2021

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