Oxford History: Mayors & Lord Mayors


Robert Vicaris (c.1684–1741)

Mayor of Oxford 1725/6 and 1735/6

Robert Vicaris (or Vickeris, Vickaris, or Viccaris) was born in c.1684, the son of Robert Vicaris senior, the Vicar of Heythrop.

His father,who was described as “pleb.” when he was matriculated at the University of Oxford on 2 July 1658, obtained his BA at St Alban Hall on 7 March 1661/2, and his MA in 1664. He was incorporated at the University of Cambridge in 1668, and then served as Perpetual Curate of two parishes in Buckinghamshire: at Wotton Underwood from 1668 and Ashendon and Dorton from 1671. He was then Rector of Heythrop in Oxfordshire from 1675. On 13 September 1683 in Ashford, Kent, the Revd Robert Vicaris, “minister of Heythrop, Oxon” married Mary Fenner. Robert Vicaris junior was probably their first child, but although Robert and his brothers (of whom there were at least four including William and Edward) were born while their father was at Heythrop, they do not appear in the baptismal register. Two of them who died very young (John in 1697 and Robert in 1703) are listed in the burial register and are specifically named as “sons of the Vicar”. There were also three girls: Mary, Anne, and Elizabeth.

His father was so busy prosecuting his rights in the courts that in 1691 he was fined by the bishop for neglecting the spiritual side of his duties as Vicar of Heythrop.

Robert Vicaris junior came to Oxford in March 1699 to be apprenticed to the mercer Matthew Pinnell. He was admitted free on 23 May 1707, and traded as a mercer in All Saints parish, later in partnership with his younger brother Thomas Vicaris.

Meanwhile his father Robert Vicaris senior continued as Rector of Heythrop until his death in 1703, and was buried there.

In September 1710 Robert Vicaris was appointed the Mayor’s Child by John Knibb; in 1711 Keykeeper and Chamberlain; in 1723 Senior Bailiff; and in 1724 one of the eight Mayor’s Assistants.

Vicaris was elected Mayor of Oxford for the first time in September 1725 (for 1725/6), awarding a Chamberlain’s place to Thomas Munday as his Child and selecting John Taylor as his Chamberlain. Thomas Hearne wrote on 21 September 1725:

Yesterday was elected Mayor of Oxford Mr Vicars, a Mercer in All-Hallows parish, a single Man (never yet married), about 36 or 37 Years of Age, in opposition to Mr. Brock, a Taylour in Jesus College Lane. Mr. Vicars carried it by a Majority of two hundred and twenty.

Hearne explains why at the end of his term office on 20 September 1726, he was unable to attend the election of the next Mayor:

Mr. Vicaris was not at the Election, because on Saturday Night last he had a very dangerous fall from his Horse, wch startled in Cheney Lane, as he was going toward Shottover, & he was thereby much bruized.

In September 1729 Vicaris took on Francis Burrows as his apprentice, but the apprenticeship was later cancelled by mutual consent.

On 27 February 1730/1 Hearne records the death of Vicaris’s younger brother, Thomas Vicaris, whose burial at Heythrop Church is duly recorded on 1 March 1730/1:

Also, yesterday morning, was taken up dead by Boltstock Bridge, as we go to Botley, Mr. Vicaris, the youngest brother of, and Partner with, Mr. Vicaris of Oxford (viz. All Hallows parish) mercer. He was found in the shallow water just on the other side of the Bridge, viz. on the right or north side of the first Arch beyond the Bridge, having fallen in but a little before he was taken up. It is observed that he was disordered for about 5 days before. He was a single man, & so is his Brother (who was sometime since mayor of Oxford), & had the Character of being a civil young man. NB. He was carried to Hethrop (where he was born, his Father having been minister of that place) to be buried on Monday, March 1st.

In June 1732 Vicaris took on a new apprentice, John Turner, the son of the Oxford grocer John Turner, who is likely to have been the husband of Vicaris's sister Mary.

On 3 January 1735/6 his mother Ann Vicaris, described as the wife of Robert Vicaris, “late Rector of this parish”, was buried at Heythrop.

In September 1735 Vicaris was elected Mayor of Oxford for a second time (for 1735/6), appointing Stephen Bishop as his Child and Oliver Witherington as his Chamberlain. He became ill during his mayorality, and the City Records state that in May 1736 he appointed Richard Wise as temporary Deputy-Mayor.

After his term of office, Robert Vicaris remained one of the Mayor’s Assistants until his death. He was buried at Heythrop on 17 June 1741, and is simply described in the register as the son of the late Rector.

His main heir was his niece Susannah Vicaris, but there was a proviso that if she died before the age of 21, her legacy would go to his unmarried sisters Ann and Elizabeth. He left his married sister Mary Turner 400 guineas.

The Elizabeth Vicris “of Oxon” buried at Heythrop on 21 September 1764 and the “William Vickaris” buried at All Saints’ Church on 12 November 1718 are likely to be the sister and brother of Thomas Vicaris.

See also:

  • Malcolm Graham, Oxford City Apprentices 1697–1800, entries numbered 111, 1444, and 1535
  • PCC Will PROB 11/710/395 (Will of Robert Vicaris, Mercer of Oxford, proved 15 July 1741)

©Stephanie Jenkins

Last updated: 23 September, 2018

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