Oxford History: Mayors & Lord Mayors


John Phillips (1725–1786)

Mayor of Oxford 1757/8, 1766/7, and 1779/80

John Phillips was born in 1725, the son of Thomas Phillips of Worminghall in Buckinghamshire. He was apprenticed to the Oxford grocer William Clutterbuck for seven years from 21 December 1738. Less than seven years later, in March 1745, Phillips took on an apprentice of his own, Ralph Kirby.

On 21 April 1746 Phillips was admitted free for the fine of two guineas. On 30 September that year he was chosen as Mayor’s Child by Thomas Wise, and paid the usual fine of 3s. 4d. for not serving as Constable.

Phillips took up his Chamberlain’s place in September 1747 and was appointed a Cloth Searcher, and in September 1750 he was chosen as Senior Bailiff.

On 1 March 1756 he was sworn in as one of the Mayor’s Assistants, and the subsequent report in Jackson’s Oxford Journal describes him as a former grocer at the age of just 31.

In September 1757 Phillips was elected Mayor of Oxford (for 1757/8), nominating Richard Tawney as his child.

He continued as an Assistant after his year as Mayor, and in September 1761 it was agreed that he should be the attendant of the Mayor of Oxford at the Coronation of George III.

In September 1766 Phillips was elected Mayor a second time (for 1766/7), this time nominating Richard’s younger brother, Edward Tawney, as his child.

Once again he continued as an Assistant after his year in office. In 1766 the City had got into such debt that they tried to sell its two parliamentary seats. As a result, the Mayor and ten councillors (including John Phillips) were committed to Newgate Prison in London for four days: they were discharged with a reprimand from the Speaker of the House of Commons on 10 February 1768.

In September 1779 (when Alderman Treacher declined to serve as Mayor) Phillips was chosen to serve a third term (for 1779/80). He forgot to mention that Thomas Hardy had applied to him to be his Child, and so he had none this time.

John Phillips continued to serve as Mayor’s Assistant until February 1786, when he “resigned his gown” and left the City of Oxford. He retired to Addington in Buckinghamshire, but died on 14 October the same year at the age of 61.

See also:

  • Malcolm Graham, Oxford City Apprentices 1697–1800, entries numbered 1711 and 1905

©Stephanie Jenkins

Last updated: 24 September, 2018

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