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George Tonge (1730–1803)

Mayor of Oxford 1781/2 and 1795/6


George Tonge (or Tongue/Tounge) was baptisms at St Martin's Church on 13 March 1729/30 and again on 3 April 1730. He was the son of fisherman Henry Tonge of St Martin’s parish and Hannah Vincent of All Saints parish who were married at All Saints’ Church on 2 February 1724. They had five other children baptised at St Martin's:; Hannah (20 April 1734); Anne (21 March 1735); Henry (4 July 1738, buried the next month); John (28 January 1739/40); and William (12 April 1741). It appears that Hannah, John, and William may also have died in infancy.

In May 1746 when he was 16 years old, George Tonge was apprenticed to the goldsmith John Wilkins (who himself had been Mayor in 1734 and 1744). He continued to work for Wilkins (and latterly his wife) until Edward Lock took over the business in 1759.

It was announced in Jackson’s Oxford Journal of 2 June 1759 that Tonge was opening a shop near the Bear Inn at the back of the High Street, and he was admitted free on 12 November that year.

George Tonge advertised that he offered a “good Assortment of the neatest, and most fashionable Plate of all Sorts”. In August 1762 he took his own first apprentice, William Jones, the son of the late Thomas Jones, a fishmonger of Oxford’s High Street.

Tonge first took up one of the 24 places on the Council on 30 September 1762, paying the keykeeper £3. 10s. in lieu of entertainments and the usual fine of 3s. 4d. for not serving as Constable.

Tonge supplied silver to Oxford colleges and plate to St Mary-the-Virgin Church between 1764 and 1774. Tonge’s shop was later on the north side of the High Street, in All Saints parish, and was demolished to make way for the 1774 covered market.

Jackson’s Oxford Journal of 11 May 1763 reported on the marriage of George Tonge to the eldest daughter of Mr Madge of Chilton, Buckinghamshire, which was near Thame.

On 30 September 1765 Tonge purchased a chamberlain’s place for £6 6s. 8d. In September 1770 he was elected Senior Bailiff.

George Tonge took on Richard Hickman as an apprentice in April 1766 and Thomas Turner in March 1773.

On 6 June 1781 his first wife died at Chilton after a long illness.

In December 1781 Tonge was elected one of the Mayor’s eight Assistants, and on 1 October 1781 he started his first term as Mayor (for 1781/2), naming William Wright as his Chamberlain.

During his term of office, on 10 June 1782 at Chilton, he married his second wife, Mrs Ann Madge, the widow of Oxford grocer Richard Madge (and possibly his first wife's sister-in-law). He rode the franchises on 9 September 1782.

Henceforth he was usually known as George Tonge, Esq.

Richard Tonge, who was a fishing tackle maker and cutler and likely to be George's uncle, died in 1782. Jackson’s Oxford Journal announced that on 2 October 1782 there would be a sale of the furniture and stock of the late Richad Tonge at his home near All Saints, and that the goldsmith George Tonge would deal with his accounts and carry on the fishing tackle business.

In 1783 Tonge was listed in Bailey’s Western & Midland Directory as “Tongue, George, Goldsmith and Jeweller, but by 1794 he appears to have gone into partnership with a relation of his two wives, as in the Universal Directory of Britain of that year his business was listed as “Tonge and Madge, Goldsmiths”.

Tonge continued to be one of the Mayor’s Assistants after his term of office, and on 17 March 1783 he was elected an Alderman. In September 1784 he was elected one of the Barge Commissioners, and around this time he was also Superintendent of the House of Industry.

On 30 September 1795 Tonge began his second term as Mayor (for 1769/70), choosing Simon Brown as his Chamberlain and Prince Tubb as his Child.

Tonge retired to North Hinksey (then in Berkshire) and died there at the age of 72 on 27 August 1802. His death notice in Jackson’s Oxford Journal of 28 August 1802 read:

Yesterday morning died, in the 73d year of his age, George Tonge, Esq. Senior Alderman and Father of this City.

Tonge was buried at St Lawrence's Church in North Hinksey on 3 September 1802.

His second wife Ann Tonge died in St Giles' parish at the age of 82 in 1818 and was buried with her husband on 31 March that year.


See also:

  • MS Wills Oxon Bd. Appt. of proxy 111.229; 288/1/23; 306/13/6
  • C.F.C. Beeson, Clockmaking in Oxfordshire 1400–1850 (Oxford: Museum of the History of Science, 1989), p. 145
  • Ann Natalie Hansen, Oxford Goldsmiths before 1800 (At the Sign of the Cock, 1996), pp. 89–95
  • Malcolm Graham, Oxford City Apprentices 1697–1800, entries numbered 1901, 2255, 2332, 2492
  • Jackson’s Oxford Journal, 20 March 1819: Announcement of death of Tonge’s widow

©Stephanie Jenkins

Last updated: 25 September, 2018

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