Oxford History: Mayors & Lord Mayors


Christopher Yeats (1740–1810)

Mayor of Oxford 1792/3 and 1807/8

Christopher Yeats was born in 1740. He was awarded his freedom in Oxford in May 1774, and in September that year he was nominated as Mayor’s Child by Samuel Culley and immediately took up his Chamberlain’s place.

Yeats was elected Senior Bailiff in September 1782.

Yeats was a wine merchant in Cornmarket, in St Michael’s parish. Bailey’s Western & Midland Directory of 1783 lists him as “Yeates, Christopher, Wine and Brandy Merchant”.

He was chosen as one of the Mayor’s eight Assistants in October 1791, and in 1792 he was elected Mayor of Oxford for the first time (for 1792/3), choosing Thomas Bricknell as his Child.

In 1798 Yeats was appointed a Barge Commissioner and in March 1800 was made an Alderman, “paying a jacobus piece of gold to the macebearer, and £10 according to custom”.

In 1807 Yeats was elected for a second term as Mayor (for 1807/8).

On 31 August 1807 Yeats wrote his will, stipulating that his body

may be put into a leaden coffin inclosed in a wooden one covered with black Cloth and to be buried as privately as may be with decency and if I shall die at or near Oxford in a brick Grave to be made underneath my pew in the parish church of St Michael in the city of Oxford and to be carried to church on the shoulders of six poor men to each of whom I give the Sum of One Guinea and that my pall may be supported by the six senior Assistants of the city of Oxford to each of who I give a scarf a silk hatband a pair of Gloves and a Gold enamelled ring of the value of one Guinea and in case I shall happen to die in or near London I desire to be buried in a decent but private manner in the church or churchyard of the parish of Streatham.

Christopher Yeats died in Oxford on 10 April 1810 (at the age of 68 according to the local newspaper, 69 according to his memorial plaque, or 70 according to the entry in the parish register).

Memorial inscription to Christopher Yeats

He was duly buried inside St Michael-at-the-Northgate Church on 18 April 1810.

His memorial (left) on the wall of that church reads:

Near this Place
rest the remains of
Alderman, and twice Mayor
of this City.

In Office an upright Magistrate:
Through Life a sincere Friend
And benevolent Man

He died
the 10th day of April 1810,
Aged 69 years

His death notice published in Jackson’s Oxford Journal of 14 April 1810 read:

On Tuesday last died, in th 69th year of his age, Christopher Yeats, Esq. one of the Aldermen of this city. He was elected Bailiff, Michaelmas, 1782; Assistant, October, 1791, in the room of Alderman Shortland; Mayor, Michaelmas, 1792, an Alderman in March, 1800, in the room of Alderman Edward Tawney; and served the office of Mayor a second time in the year 1807. He was an upright magistrate, and sincere friend, and his death will be greatly lamnted by a large circle of his acquaintance.

Yeats had no wife of children, and gave most of his money to charity, including:

  • The vast sum of £10,000 to the Radcliffe Infirmary
  • The reversion of £1,000 stock, the dividends to be divided annually between three freemen and three widows of freemen over 60, with preference to be given to one freeman and one widow of St Michael’s parish
  • The reversion of another £1,000 stock, the income, each time it amounted to £30, to be loaned to a poor freeman for seven years

(Yeats’s legacy to the poor of St Michael’s parish became a problem for the city council in 1881, as the poor moved into the parish to become eligible for it.)

It appears that Yeats lived alone at the time of his death, as a notice in Jackson’s Oxford Journal for 12 May 1810 advertising the sale of his house by auction told people that they could view it on application to the servants. His property was described thus:

All that valuable freehold estate, situate in the Corn Market, Oxford, the residence of Mr. Alderman Yeats, deceased; consisting of a breakfast parlour, dining parlour, capital drawing room, two good kitchens, laundry, larder, china and water closets, nine bed rooms, two dressing rooms, extensive cellars, large paved court, and good garden.

Another auction for the contents of Yeats’s house, to take place six days after the auction of the house, included the following:

Mahogany four-post and other bedsteads; prime bordered goose feather beds, blankets and counterpanes, Turkey and other carpets, large pier and other glasses, mahogany side-board, dining, card, and other tables, chairs, &c. also an excellent assortment of kitchen requisites; a very large and valuable collection of prints, by Hogarth and other artists of eminence; paintings, books, and china; also a large quantity of very prime old wines, spirits, &c.

Yeats left a legacy to his cousin Elizabeth Mush, the only daughter of his uncle William, but she could not be found, and an advertisement for her to come forward was inserted in Jackson’s Oxford Journal.

See also:

  • List of legacies on the wall outside the Board Room of the Radcliffe Infirmary
  • PCC Will PROB 11/1511/32 (Will of Christopher Yeats, Alderman of Oxford, proved 2 May 1810)

©Stephanie Jenkins

Last updated: 25 September, 2018

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