Oxford History: Mayors & Lord Mayors


Joseph Castle (1826–1872)

Mayor of Oxford 1868/9

Joseph Castle was born in Woodstock and baptised there on 7 June 1826. His father was George Castle, a carpenter, and his mother was called Mary, and they are likely to be the George Castle and Mary Kilby who were married at Woodstock on 27 April 1820.

Joseph's parents had eleven daughters and three sons baptised at Woodstock between 1820 and 1844.

Joseph became a carpenter like his father.

In the third quarter of 1848 in the Headington registration district, Joseph Castle married Fanny Collins, who was born in Bladon in c.1822. They had three children:

  • Sarah Ann Castle (born in St Clement's, Oxford in early 1851)
  • John Collins Castle (born at Caroline Street, Oxford in 1853 and baptised at St Clement's Church on 21 August)
  • Emily Castle (born at the Cowley Road in 1855 and baptised at St Clement's Church on 14 October).

The first mention of Castle in Jackson’s Oxford Journal is on 20 October 1850, with a report on his speech at the “Public Meeting of the Working Classes in aid of the Great Exhibition of 1851” (held in the Town Hall on the evening of 20 April 1850).

On 1  February 1851 the same paper published a letter from Castle about the National Freehold Land Society, and his address was given as Caroline Street, St Clement’s.

At the time of the 1851 census Joseph (24) was living in St Clement's with his wife Fanny (28) and their one-month-old daughter Sarah. Castle was described as a carpenter and joiner, but in Gardner’s Directory for 1852 he was listed as a builder. Emma's widowed mother Hannah Collins (52), who was born at Lyneham near Bladon, was paying them a visit.

On 24 August 1852 Castle spoke at the Town Hall in favour of a public library and reading room for Oxford.

By 1856 Castle had moved to the Cowley Road. In that year he was chosen to build the Italianate mansion Headington Hill Hall for James Morrell junior, a project that was to make his name; and he put the following advertisement in Jackson’s Oxford Journal for 30 August 1856:

Wanted immediately,—20 Workmen of the above trades. Good wages will be given.— Apply to Messrs Joseph Castle & Co., builders, Cowley-road, Oxford.

On 14 April 1857 Castle was appointed Commissioner for St Clement’s Parish, and on 2 November that year Councillor for the East Ward.

In 1858 Castle finished building Headington Hill Hall and was building Park Town. In 1859 he built the gymnasium in Alfred Street, and in 1860 he began work on S Philip & James Church in North Oxford.

At the time of the 1861 census Joseph Castle (34), described as a “Builder, Brickmaker, & Farmer, employing in the 3 branches 153 men”, was living on (or near) the Cowley Road with his wife Fanny (38), and their three children Sarah (10), John (7), and Emily (5). Fanny’s mother, Hannah Collins (63) had now moved in with them permanently. They had one servant.

Castle was elected Sheriff of Oxford for 1865/6.

In the 1860s Castle repaired and restored the chancel of New College, and in 1863 he built the south wing of the Radcliffe Infirmary.

Castle was Sheriff of Oxford for 1866/7. Hunt’s Directory for that year lists him as “Joseph Castle & Co., builders, Cowley Road (Alma Terrace), Joseph Castle, Sheriff of the City”. His home was then on the north side of the Cowley Road at 6 Alma Terrace (the house on the east corner of Alma Place).

Joseph Castle, who was a Liberal, was elected Mayor of Oxford for 1868/9. By this time he was living in the large house at the north-east end of East Avenue (which was then not built up and shorter than it is today). His home is marked as East Avenue House on this map of 1900.

In 1869 Castle was elected an Alderman. In that year his firm built St Barnabas Church in Jericho, Oxford.

At the time of the 1871 census Joseph Castle (44), described as the employer of 127 men (as well as being an Alderman and Magistrate), was still living at his East Avenue home (with his house now numbered 11). With him were his wife Fanny and their three children Sarah Ann (20), John (17), and Emily (10). Fanny's mother Hannah Collins (74) was still living with them, and they had one servant.

In 1871 Castle built Cowley St John Boys’ School.

At the time of the School Board elections of 1871, Castle was a “Birmingham League” candidate, who supported the idea that local authorities should provide schools that were free of religious dogma and supported by rates and taxes.

† Joseph Castle died at home at East Avenue, Cowley Road on 22 October 1872 at the age of 46, and his death was announced in Jackson’s Oxford Journal. He was buried at St James's Church in Cowley on 26 October. The funeral cortege consisted of “a hearse, three mourning coaches, about a dozen carriages conveying the Mayor, many members of the Corporation, and other friends, and about fifty of the employés of the deceased on foot”.

His effects came to under £7,000, and his executors were his son John and two of his brothers.

One of the last things Castle did before his death was to design New Headington Infant School. Jackson’s Oxford Journal for 24 October 1874 (p. 7c) states: “A new infant school has recently been built at Headington by Messrs. Castle, Cowley-road, from designs prepared by the late Ald.  Castle.”

In 1891, Kelly’s Directory listed Castle’s old business as “Castle Joseph (executors of), brick and tile makers (George Franklin, manager), Union Street, Cowley Road”.

Castle's wife
  • At the time of the 1881 census Fanny Castle (58), described as a “Brick and Tile Manufacturer employing 26 Men and 3 Boys, also Slate Merchants”, was still living at Avenue House in East Avenue with her daughter Sarah Ann (30) and her son John Collins Castle (27), who was described as “Acting Executor for above business”, and one servant. She died at 101 Iffley Road at the age of 65 on 6 August 1888, and her death was announced in Jackson's Oxford Journal.
Castle's children
  • Sarah Ann Castle (born 1851) never married. She lived with her brother John and his family after their mother's death. He died in 1896, and in 1901 Sarah Ann Castle (50) was living on her own with one servant at 79 Woodstock Road. She was still there in 1911, now with two servants. She died there at the age of 67 on 12 April 1918 and was buried at St James's Church in Cowley on 16 April. Her effects came to £17,418 18s. 11d., and her executor was the railway cashier Henry Ernest Owen.
  • John Collins Castle (born 1853) married Annie Laurie Owen in the Headington registration district near the end of 1886. At the time of the 1891 census he was aged 37 and described as a brick and tile merchant, and was living on the Iffley Road with his wife Annie (26) and their three-year-old son Edward. Also living with them was Joseph's unmarried daughter Sarah Ann Castle (40) and one servant. John Collins Castle died at 101 Iffley Road at the age of 43 on 8 September 1896 and was buried in Rose Hill Cemetery on 11 September. His effects came to £702 14s. 11d., and his executor was Eliza Jane Hutton
  • Emily Castle (born 1855) married the widower William Henry White (36) at St Clement's Church on 10 October 1879, and an announcement was placed in Jackson's Oxford Journal. Her husband was Engineer to the Oxford Local Board and the son of the hotel-keeper Henry White. In 1881 they became the first leaseholders of 8 St Margaret's Road, a large house designed by Wilkinson & Moore. At the time of the 1891 census Emily (35) was living at 8 St Margaret's Road with her husband William (47), her stepdaughter Mary (15), and her children Charles (10) and Frederick (9). They employed two servants. The family is hard to find after 1901.

See also:

  • Jackson's Oxford Journal, 26 April 1872, p. 5f: Obituary
  • 1851 Census: Oxford (St Clement), 1727/332
  • 1861 Census: Oxford (Cowley), 891/20
  • 1871 Census: Oxford (St Clement), 1435/88
  • 1881 Census: Oxford (St Clement), 1498/76

©Stephanie Jenkins

Last updated: 18 August, 2022

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