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Richard Wootten (1765–1848)

Mayor of Oxford 1815/16 and 1834/5


Richard Wootten was born in Oxford in 1765. He was the son and grandson of two other Richard Woottens who served on Oxford city council in the eighteenth century.

His grandfather, Richard Wootten senior (c.1709–1783), was a tailor in Cornmarket and the son of William Wootten, an Oxford hempdresser: he came on to the council in 1763 and rose to Senior Bailiff; remaining on the council in 1782.

Wootten’s father, Richard Wootten (1734–1770), the son of Richard Wootten senior, was known as Richard Wootten junior. He was also a tailor and had a shop in Broad Street opposite Balliol College. He married Elizabeth West of St Mary Magdalen parish at St Michael-at-the-Northgate Church in 1763 and came on to the council in 1765. The couple had three sons:

  • Thomas West Wootten (born 28 December 1763 and baptised at St Michael's Church on 24 January 1764)
  • Richard Wootten himself (born on 30 August and baptised at St Michael's Church on 13 September 1765)
  • John Clarke Wootten (born in January and baptised at St Michael's Church on 25 February 1768).

Young Richard’s father, Richard Wootten, died at the age of 36 and was buried in the chancel of St Michael-at-the-Northgate Church on 10 March 1770; and his mother Elizabeth Wootten died at the age of 31, and was buried with her husband on 12 November 1773. Richard was thus left an orphan at the age of eight, and may have been looked after by his Wootten grandparents.

On 1 May 1780 Richard (14) was apprenticed to Thomas Castle, an Oxford mercer, with his grandfather Richard Wootten paying £105. Three years later his grandfather died at the age of 75 and was buried in St Michael-at-the-Northgate Churchyard on 12 December 1783.

Richard would have completed his apprenticeship near the beginning of 1787 and then went to London. On his return to Oxford the following year, aged only 22, he inserted an advertisement in Jackson’s Oxford Journal (22 March 1788) to say he was fitting up a shop in the High Street, boasting of the experience he had “in one of the first Houses in London”:

JOJ 22 Mar 1788

A few weeks later the shop was ready, and he inserted the following advertisement on 12 April 1788:

JOJ 12 April 1788

In May 1788 Wootten took on his first apprentice, John Smith.

Jackson’s Oxford Journal for 9 January 1790 announced the marriage of Richard Wootten, “Oxford mercer and haberdasher”, and Ann Dickinson, daughter of William Dickinson Esq of Twycross in Leicestershire. They had three children:

  • Richard Wootten junior (baptised on 5 March 1791 at St Martin’s Church)
  • William Wootten I (baptised on 8 September 1792 at St Martin’s Church, died aged one, buried 10 September 1793)
  • John Wootten I (baptised on 6 September 1793 at St Martin’s Church, died aged two)

Richard Wootten was appointed cloth searcher in September 1792 and came on to the common council in 1794, paying £3 10s and 3s 4d to avoid serving as Constable.

In February 1793 Wootten took on William Steel as his apprentice, in December 1795 Charles Moore, and November 1798 John Newell.

Richard's first wife Ann Wootton died in 1793 and was buried at St Martin's Church on 6 September, the same day that her baby son John was baptised.

On 29 January 1795 at St Helen's Church in Abingdon, Richard Wootten, described as a widower of St Martin's parish, married his second wife Mary Coleman of Abingdon, and the marriage notice in Jackson's Oxford Journal published over seven months later on 7 September 1795 described him as a woollen draper of the city. They had the following eight children:

  • Rebecca Wootten (baptised on 16 February 1797 at St Martin’s Church)
  • Mary Spicer Wootten (baptised on 19 May 1798 at St Martin’s Church)
  • John Wootten II (baptised on 4 October 1799 at St Martin’s Church);
  • William Wootten II (baptised on 20 July 1801 at St Martin’s Church)
  • Charles Wootten (baptised on 18 March 1803 at St Martin’s Church)
  • Elizabeth Wootten (baptised on 11 January 1805 at St Martin’s Church, died aged six months and buried on 29 July)
  • George Wootten and Thomas Wootten (twins, baptised on 9 July 1806 at St Martin’s Church).

Richard's second wife Mary Wootten died on 27 June 1806 at the age of 31 soon after giving birth to the twins and was buried at St Martin's Church on 3 July.

Richard Wootten was elected Senior Bailiff in 1811.

In 1815 Richard Wootten was elected Mayor of Oxford for the first time (for 1815/16).

In March 1816 his second surviving son John Wootten (16) was matriculated at the University of Oxford from Lincoln College. He migrated to Balliol College, obtaining a First in Mathematics and Physics. He was elected Physician to the Radcliffe Infirmary in 1830.

By October 1818, Richard Wootten had moved and his home was henceforth described as “Rose Hill, Iffley”. His house (now named “Wootten” after him) stands above Iffley Turn, next to the house called Beechwood. It still has large grounds, but lost some of its land when Wootten Drive was created in 1978.)

Wootten House

On 31 October 1818 at Iffley Church, his daughter Mary Spicer Wootten of Iffley (who who was not yet 21) married William Undershell, a tanner of Bermondsey, and their marriage was announced in Jackson’s Oxford Journal on 7 November 1818. They had three children: William Undershell junior, born in 1820 in London and baptised at St Martin’s Church in Oxford on 25 April 1820, and two daughters (Georgiana and Mary).

On 19 April 1820 Richard Wootten's fourth surviving son Charles Wootten (17) was matriculated at the University of Oxford from Lincoln College.

His second surviving son William Wootten died aged 20 in 1821.

In 1823 Wootten’s shop in the High Street at Carfax was still listed in Pigot’s Directory for Oxford, but in Jackson's Oxford Journal of 24 March 1827 the linen draper John Breakspear announced he would in future be carrying on his business “at this house on Carfax, late in the occupation of Richard Wootten, Esq.” He gave up his shop at the time he became a banker. He also developed some land in St Ebbe’s that he had leased from the council since 1809, and at some point also took over Wootten’s Brewery in St Clement’s. (This was in Little Brewery Street off Cherwell Street, and was taken over by Hall’s in 1896. A certain William Wootten, brewer of Oxford, had apprenticed his son, a different Richard Wootten who would have been born in about 1760, to the cordwainer James Clements on 1 May 1775, and it seems likely that the Richard Wootten who was Mayor inherited the brewery from this side of the family.)

His second daughter Mary, Mrs Undershell, died in London at the age of 27 and was buried at St Mary's Church, Newington on 9 January 1826

On 26 May 1827 his eldest daughter Rebecca Wootten married William Cole, Esq. of Launton at Iffley Church, with the marriage announcement in the newspaper describing her father as a banker.

On 24 September 1827 at St Peter-in-the-East Church, Richard Wootten, described as a widower of Iffley, married his third wife, Miss Elizabeth Smith of that parish.

His youngest son George Wootten died at the age of 21 on 12 February 1828 and was buried at Iffley Church on 17 February. Just over two months later on 25 April 1828 his third surviving son Charles Wootten died at the age of 25 after a long illness and was buried at Iffley Church on 30 April 1828. (He was described in the burial register as being of St Ebbe's.)

In October 1834 Wootten was elected Mayor a second time (for 1834/5), and this term lasted 15 months because he was the last Mayor to serve before the Municipal Corporations Act of 1835 instituted a new system and a new Mayor on 1 January 1836. William Tuckwell in his Reminiscences of Oxford (1901) describes him thus:

“The Mayor of Oxford was an old Mr. Wootten, brewer, banker, and farmer, dressed always in blue brass-buttoned coat, cords, top-boots, and powdered hair. He was told that he must pay his respects to the Queen [Queen Adelaide, who visited Oxford in 1835]; so he drove to the Angel in his wonderful one-horse-chaise, a vehicle in which Mr and Mrs Bubb might have made their historic jaunt to Brighton, and was introduced to her Majesty by the Chamberlain, Lord Howe. She held out her hand to be kissed: the Mayor shook it heartily, with the salutation: “How d’ye do, marm; how’s the king?”

Wootten retired from the council on 1 January 1836. The 1841 census shows Wootten in his 70s, still living at his house in Iffley, with his wife Elizabeth and daughter Elizabeth (in her late 20s). Also living with them are his grandson William Undershell junior, a banker’s clerk of 21, and his two granddaughters Georgiana and Mary Undershell: they were born in London, and may have moved in with the Woottens after the death of their mother.

Wootten was soon to go into partnership with his young grandson William Undershell (1819–1887), who first adopted the name Wootten-Undershell and then Wootten-Wootten.

His third wife Elizabeth Wootten died at Iffley after a long and painful illness at the age of 68 on 14 September 1843and was buried in her family’s church at St Peter-in-the-East on 19 September.

His son John Wootten, a doctor at 40/41 Broad Street, died a bachelor at the age of 47 on 26 August 1847 and was buried at Iffley Church.

On 1 July 1847 the London Gazette announced that the banking business under the name of the Bicester & Oxfordshire Bank (established in 1793), which until then was carried on at Bicester by Richard Wootten the elder, Henry Michael Tubb, and Richard Wootten the younger, in partnership with Thomas Tubb (deceased), would henceforth be carried on at Oxford by Richard Wootten the elder and Richard Wootten the younger.

Richard Wootten died in September 1848, and there was a brief announcement in Jackson’s Oxford Journal: “On Saturday the 9th inst. at Rose Hill, Iffley, aged 83, Richard Wootten, Esq. banker of this city.” He was buried at Iffley Church on 19 September 1848.

Wootten was survived by only three of his twelve children. In his will he left his property in the parish of Launton and his house in Oxford’s High Street to his only surviving son Richard Wootten, and his property at Iffley to his unmarried daughter Elizabeth Wootten.


Wootten’s three surviving children
  • Richard Wootten (born 1791) lived at Headington Hill (probably at the house now called Pullen’s Gate). In 1861 he was living alone with one servant at “Headington Gate”, and was described as a banker. He died a bachelor at the age of 77 and was buried at Iffley Church on 22 March 1867.
  • Rebecca Wootten, Mrs Cole (born 1797), was still alive in 1848
  • Elizabeth Wootten (born 1811) was still alive in 1848
Wootten’s grandson (son of his daughter Mary)
  • William Wootten Undershell (1819–1887) became a prosperous banker, and bought Headington House. He had nine children there between 1851 and 1866, all registered with the name Undershell, but on 1 July 1867 the whole family changed their surname from Undershell to Wootten. At the same time the family banking firm changed its name from W. W. & J. Undershell to Wootten & Company.

Listing of Wootten’s bank in directories:

  • Pigot’s Directory of 1823: Tubb, Wootten, & Tubb in St Aldate’s
  • Robson’s Commercial Directory of 1839: Wootten, Tubb & Co at 2 St Aldate’s (Tubb was probably the William Tubb who was Mayor in 1814)
  • Gardner’s Directory for 1852: Messrs Undershell, Wootten & Co. (drawing on Masterman, Peters & Co., London) at 3 St Aldate’s
  • Post Office Directory of 1854: Richard Wootten, banker, St Clements
  • Malcolm Graham, Oxford City Apprentices 1697–1800, entry numbered 2524 for Wootten's relation with the same name, and entries numbered 2635, 2850, 3001, 3069, and 3155 for himself
  • Jackson’s Oxford Journal, 16 September 1848, p. 4b (brief death notice)
  • PCC Will PROB 11/1113/10 (Will of Richard Wootten, Gentleman of Oxford, proved 7 January 1784) (his grandfather)
  • PCC Will PROB 11/2090/328 (Will of Richard Wootten of Oxford, proved 20 March 1849)
  • 1841 Census: Oxford (Iffley), 877/04/10

©Stephanie Jenkins

Last updated: 7 September, 2021

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