Oxford History: Mayors & Lord Mayors


Herbert Parsons (1762–1839)

Mayor of Oxford 1810/11 and 1820/1

Herbert Parsons was baptised at St John the Baptist Church on 6 July 1762. He was the son of Isaac Parsons, the butler of Corpus Christi College, who was matriculated at the University of Oxford as a privileged person on 19 May 1759, and Alice Janes, who were married at St John the Baptist Church on 23 October 1760.

Their elder son John Parsons was born on 6 July 1761. He was matriculated at the University of Oxford by Wadham College in 1777 at the age of 15, and was to become Master of Balliol (1798–1819), Vice-Chancellor of the University (1807 to 1810), and Bishop of Peterborough (1813–1819).

Herbert, however, was destined to stay in the family business, and in 1782 at the age of 19 he started to work at the Old Bank at 93 High Street, Oxford for his cousin John Parsons (Mayor in 1788 and 1808). He was awarded his freedom for 20 guineas in May 1790, and was chosen as one of the 24 members of the Common Council on 1 October 1792. In 1793 he was appointed a Cloth Searcher.

On 1 September 1795 at St Mary-the-Virgin Church, Herbert Parsons of St Peter-in-the-East Parish married Ann Weston, the daughter of Richard Weston who had the lease of 91 High Street.

In 1797 Parsons was named as the Mayor’s Chamberlain by the new Mayor, Edward Tawney.

In 1798 his cousin John extended the bank, building another five bays on the site of 93 High Street. Herbert and Ann were given the upstairs residence which was in the parish of St Mary the Virgin, just opposite the church. They had the following children there:

  • John Parsons (born on 1 June 1799 and baptised the same day at St Mary-the-Virgin Church)
  • Herbert Parsons junior (born on 26 June 1800 and baptised at St Mary-the-Virgin Church the next day; buried there two months later)
  • Ann Parsons (died in infancy in 1804).

In 1803 Parsons was elected Senior Bailiff; and in 1810 Mayor of Oxford for the first time (for 1810/11).

In 1816 Richard Weston died and left the lease of 91 High Street to his daughter Ann, Parsons’s wife.

In 1820 Herbert Parsons was elected Mayor a second time (for 1820/1). During his year of office, on 23 October 1820, he laid the foundation stone of the new St Martin’s Church at Carfax; and on 19 July 1821, together with the Lord Mayor of London, he performed the traditional right of serving as butler at the Coronation Banquet of George IV; he declined, however, the offer of a baronetcy that was pressed upon him at the time of the coronation.

In 1827 he was elected an Alderman.

Herbert’s wife Ann Parsons died on 24 December 1833 at the age of 69 and was buried inside St Mary-the-Virgin Church.

Herbert Parsons himself died at 93 High Street on 18 January 1839 at the age of 69 and was buried in the same vault as his wife. A tablet on the inside of the south wall of the church reads as follows:

In a Vault
Beneath lies buried
Ann the Wife of Herbert Parsons Esqr.
of this City
She died Decr. 24th 1833
Aged 69 years

Also the Remains of
Herbert Parsons Esqr.
who died Janry 18th 1839
Aged 75 years

Herbert Parsons’ surviving son

Herbert’s son John Parsons (born 1799) continued in the family business, getting five children baptised at St Mary-the-Virgin Church with his two wives Eliza and Elizabeth.

Herbert's grandson, Herbert Parsons (1822–1911) went up to Balliol in 1838. He later leased Elsfield Manor House from Lord North, and bought out the co-proprietors of Forest Farm, buying the whole estate from the Norths in 1886. It remained in the possession of his family until 1919, when Christ Church bought it.

See also:

  • John Parsons, Mayor in 1788 and 1809 (his cousin)
  • Richard Weston, Mayor in 1786/7 and 1801/2, (his father-in-law)
  • L.F. Bradburn, The Old Bank (92 and 93 High Street) Oxford (Oxford, 1977)
  • In the Plate Room of the Town Hall: Coronation cup and cover of George IV presented to Parsons
  • “Bill of costs of … London agent to the Mayor of Oxford for the coronation of George IV, 1821”, in Collecteana (4th series) (Oxford Historical Society, 1905)
  • Jackson’s Oxford Journal, 19January 1839: Announcement of Parsons’ death
  • PCC Will PROB 11/1907/143 (Will of Herbert Parsons, Alderman of Oxford, proved 25 February 1839)

©Stephanie Jenkins

Last updated: 13 July, 2020

Oxford Mayors home Small Shark Oxford History home