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 he and his wife Mary had eleven daughters and three sons baptised at Woodstock between 1820 and 1844. One of them is given the middle name Scarsbrook, which may have been his mother’s maiden name.
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. They had three children:
- Sarah Ann Castle (born in Oxford in 1851, reg. Headington district second quarter)
- 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 wass given as Caroline Street, St Clement’s. A couple of months later in the 1851 census Joseph (24) and Fanny (28) were recorded as living in St Clement's with 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.
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:
TO CARPENTERS AND JOINERS
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 1958 Castle finished Headington Hill Hall and was building Park Town, and in 1860 he began work on St Philip & St James Church in North Oxford.
In the 1861 census Castle, aged 34, is listed under Cowley Road and is described as a “Builder, Brickmaker, & Farmer, employing in the 3 branches 153 men”. He and Fanny now have three children, and Fanny’s mother, Hannah Collins, is living with them. They have one servant.
In 1863 Castle built the south wing of the Radcliffe Infirmary.
Castle was Sheriff of Oxford in 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).
Castle was a Liberal, and was elected Mayor of Oxford for 1868/70.
In 1869 Castle’s firm built St Barnabas Church in Cardigan Street, Jericho.
By the time of the 1871 census, when Castle was 44, his business had expanded enormously. He is described as the employer of 127 men (as well as being an Alderman and Magistrate), and was living at 11 East Avenue off Cowley Road with his wife Fanny and three children: Sarah Ann (20), John Collins (17), and Emily (15), as well as his wife’s mother Hannah Collins (aged 74 and born at Lyneham) and 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.
Castle died on 22 October 1872. His death notice in Jackson’s Oxford Journal for 26 October 1872 read: “Oct. 22, at his residence, East Avenue, Cowley Road, Mr. Alderman Castle, aged 46.”
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.”
At the time of the 1881 census, Castle’s widow, Fanny (58) was described as a “Brick and Tile Manufacturer employing 26 Men and 3 Boys, also Slate Merchants”. She appears to have been living at 12 rather than 11 East Avenue with her unmarried daughter Sarah Ann and her son John Collins Castle, who at 27 is described as “Acting Executor for above business”, and one servant.
Ten years later in 1891, Kelly’s Directory lists Castle’s old business as “Castle Joseph (executors of), brick and tile makers (George Franklin, manager), Union Street, Cowley Road”.
- 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