Oxford History: Mayors & Lord Mayors


Philip Ward (c.1709–1783)

Mayor of Oxford 1756/7 and 1765/6

Philip Ward was born in c.1709, the son of the yeoman Charles Ward of Croughton, Northants. His father was already dead when on 4 September 1723 Philip was apprenticed for seven years to the Oxford upholsterer Sophionia West.

90 High Street



After his apprenticeship, Ward started his own business in Oxford’s High Street, opposite All Souls College in the parish of St Mary the Virgin.

His shop was probably at 90 High Street (left)

On 9 February 1737/8 at St Ebbe’s Church, Philip Ward married Martha Manaton. They had three children:

  • Charles Ward (baptised on 2 February 1738/9 at St Mary-the-Virgin Church)
  • Henry Ward (baptised on 18 Feburary 1739/40 at St Mary-the-Virgin Church)
  • Mary Ward (baptised on 13 May 1741) at St Mary-the-Virgin Church>.

It looks as though Ward’s wife Martha died soon after the birth of their daughter, and their son Henry died at the same time.

Ward was first selected to serve on the city council in September 1740. He was appointed Keykeeper in 1744; Mayor’s Chamberlain under Thomas Lawrence in 1745, and Senior Bailiff in 1749. In October 1755 he was elected one of the Mayor’s eight Assistants.

In January 1756 Ward took on another apprentice, William Bush, and in September that year he was elected Mayor of Oxford for the first time (for 1756/7), naming John Herbert as his Chamberlain and William Mellichip as his Child.

Parson Woodforde frequently made use of Ward’s services when he was an undergraduate (1758–1763), and his diary gives an insight into the work of an upholsterer at this time, which seems to have included all aspects of interior design as well as giving valuations, supplying wallpaper, and hiring out furniture to students. On 22 December 1759 Woodforde wrote, “Had my Study paper’d by Ward the Upholsterer”, and on 25 February 1860, “Had of Mr Ward the Upholsterer, a Round Table, & Picture of Our Founder [William of Wykeham, who founded New College], and a Sett of Chairs. He lent me a large looking Glass.” On 24 December 1761 he wrote, “Had Part of my new Study, paper’d by Ward my Upholsterer.”

On 1 August 1763, when Woodforde started to make preparations for going down from New College: “Mr Ward the Upholsterer set a Value upon some of my Goods, 8.15.6 which Mr Collins is to have, if he thinks proper.” Then on 6 September 1763 there is a longer entry:

Mr Ward the Upholsterer spent the afternoon with me in my Room. Mr Collins spent Part of the Afternoon with us. Mr Ward came to value some Goods of mine that Mr Collins is to have, in Mr Collins’s Presence. The Things that Mr Collins is to have of me, being valued by Mr Ward are these: 7 Matted Chairs 1. 9. 0. One two flapped Oak Table 0. 16. 0. One Piller Cherry Tree Table 0. 8. 6. One Mohogany writing Table 1. 1. 0. A Feather Bed, Bolster, Pillow, Quilt, and three Blankets 3. 3. 0. Two Pr of Sheets & two Pillow Cases 0. 11. 0. Shovel, Tongs, Poker, Bellows & Brush 0. 5. 0. A Pr of Brass Candlesticks 0. 3. 6. The whole that Mr Collins is to have amounts by Mr Wards Valuation to 7. 17. 0. Mr Ward brought me in a Bill of 6. 12. 10 and in it he charged for valuing the above Goods 0. 5. 0. For the Hire of an Old Fashioned Glass for three Years at 2s. 0d Per Quarter 1. 4. 0. For the Hire of a Bedsted & Curtains and likewise for a small broken Glass for two years at 1s 6d per Quarter 0. 12. 0. For Papering a Room, and divers others things had of him from 1759: 4. 12. 10.

Ward continued as one of the Mayor’s Assistants after his year of office, and when in 1761 the Recorder was too ill to attend the Mayor at the Coronation of George III in London, Ward went in his place.

In March 1764, Ward broke his leg while alighting from his horse.

In September 1765 Ward was elected Mayor a second time (for 1765/6), naming Francis Guiden as his Child.

In 1766 the City got into such debt that the council tried to sell its two parliamentary seats. As a result, the Mayor and ten councillors (including Philip Ward) 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.

A lease of 16 December 1768 of a parish house by St Peter-in-the-East parish to the Warden of All Souls describes “Philip Ward, upholder” as being to the east (in a house demolished to build the present Warden’s house); and the 1772 Survey of Oxford shows Ward here, in a house with a frontage of 12 yd 2 ft 8 in.

On 1 September 1772 Ward was made an Alderman.

On a visit back to Oxford in 1772, Woodforde ordered five pieces of wallpaper and bordering from Ward to be sent to his brother John for his parlour. On another visit early in 1774 he must have purchased furniture, for he records on 29 January: “I paid Mr Ward this evening who is an Upholsterer in High Street, in part of a Bill for Furniture 21. 0. 0.”

When Woodforde left Oxford the second time in 1776, he again used the services of Ward, writing on 17 May, “Mr Ward the Upholsterer spent the Afternoon with us; he appraised all my Goods in my Rooms at 39. 11. 0.”

Ward retired from the upholstery business in 1782 at the age of 71. James Adams took over his shop in April that year, and in September Ward sold all his furniture and stock from his High Street home.

Philip Ward died on 5 March 1783, and was buried at St Mary-the-Virgin Church five days later.

Ward’s family
  • Ward’s only surviving son Charles appears to have died at the age of 29 in c.1767
  • On 16 April 1776 Ward’s only surviving daughte, Mary (then aged 35) married James Russell of Bloxham at St Mary-the-Virgin Church. and went to live at Bloxham.

©Stephanie Jenkins

Last updated: 3 January, 2021

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