George Claridge Druce (1850–1932)
Mayor of Oxford 1900/1
Portrait of Druce in his aldermanic robes
(on wall of Council Chamber in Oxford's Town Hall)
George Claridge Druce was born at Potterspury, Northamptonshire on 23 May 1850, the illegitimate son of Jane Druce (who was born at Woughton-on-the-Green, Buckinghamshire in 1815). His father is unknown, but his surname is likely to be Claridge.
When he was five years old, his mother took a situation in Yardley Gobion, the next village, where Druce attended school. Two ministers of the independent chapel at Potterspury helped the boy in his education.
At the age of 16 Druce was apprenticed to P. Jeyes & Co., a pharmaceutical firm in Northampton, and in 1872 he passed his pharmaceutical examinations and became a retail chemist.
His real interest, however, was botany, and in 1876 he helped to found the Northampton Natural History Society.
In June 1879 Druce, who had signed an undertaking with his employer not to set up in competition within a radius of 30 miles, made a new start in life in Oxford, investing his savings of about £400 in a chemist’s shop at 118 High Street (left), where Druce & Co. continued until his death in 1932.
In 1880 Druce helped to found the
Ashmolean Natural History Society of Oxfordshire
The 1881 census shows Druce living over his shop with a 17-year-old assistant. Meanwhile his mother Jane Druce (65), who was described as a housekeeper) was visiting Yardley Gobion, staying at the residence of the Master of the Union Workhouse there. Her permanent home, however, may already have been with Druce in Oxford.
In 1886 Druce published The Flora of Oxfordshire, and in 1889 he was awarded the degree of honorary MA by the University of Oxford.
By the time of the 1891 census Jane Druce was living was with her son at 118 High Street: she was described as a widow, although in fact she never married. They had one servant, and also lodging with them over the shop were three assistant chemists.
Druce was one of the first people in Oxford to have a telephone line installed: in 1899 it had the simple number “Oxford 12”.
Druce served on Oxford City Council from 1892 until his death, and was Chairman of the Public Health Committee for thirty years.
In 1895 he was appointed Fielding Curator in the Department of Botany.
Druce served as Sheriff of Oxford in 1896/7, and to commemorate Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee that year, he presented the City with the Sheriff’s gold chain and badge.
In 1900 he was elected Mayor of Oxford (for 1900/1). A stone marking the boundary of Oxford at Pullen's Lane, Headington was erected during the year of Druce’s mayoralty and is engraved with his name (right).
In 1909 Druce moved into 9 Crick Road (above). He named his house “Yardley”, presumably after Yardley Gobion in Northamptonshire, the village in which he grew up.
He is hard to locate in the 1911 census, and may have been abroad. He plays a very small part as a shopkeeper under his real name in Max Beerbohm’s Zuleika Dobson, which was published that year.
Druce was granted an MA by decree in 1919.
In 1920 Druce was made an Alderman, and his arms (right) were added to the wall of the Mayor’s Parlour when he was Chief Magistrate.
In 1921 Druce added the Second bell to All Saints Church, which was then the City Church. It is inscribed:
THE GIFT OF
ALDERMAN G. CLARIDGE DRUCE, J.P., D.Sc., LL.D.,
EX-MAYOR OF OXFORD,
CHAIRMAN OF THE FEOFFEES OF ALL SAINTS.
MAY 23, 1926.
MEARS & STAINBANK, FOUNDERS, LONDON, 1927.
(Another former mayor, Frederick Ansell, presented the Treble bell at the same time.)
Druce died at home at Yardley Lodge, 9 Crick Road, Oxford at the age of 82 on 29 February 1932, and was buried in Holywell Cemetery (Plot E.332).
A new gravestone (left) was erected on a special memorial day for him on 18 May 1996. It reads simply:
His effects came to £92,477 8s., and his bank acted as his executor. His bequests included £100 to the Botanical Society of Edinburgh; £100 to the Acland District Nurses, Oxford, and £100 to the Nazareth Home, Oxford; and £100 to the Benevolent Fund of the Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain.
He left £100 to All Saints' Church, Oxford, for a stained-glass window or windows with the inscription “Bequeathed in memory of his mother, Jane Druce, who with George Claridge Druce, D.Sc., LL.D., F.R.S., once Mayor of this City, resided in this parish for many years”; and £250 to the Mayor and Aldermen of Oxford for a piece of English silver plate, to be inscribed, “Bequeathed by Ald. George Claridge Druce, D.Sc., LL.D., F.R.C.S., J.P., sometime a Sheriff and Mayor, and for many years a representative of the South Ward on the City Council”.
He left £12,000, his residence, with his herbaria, library and furniture not otherwise bequeathed, to the Chancellor, masters, and scholars of Oxford University, to be kept as an example of a dwelling house of the twentieth century.
Druce Way in Oxford was named after him in 1967.
- Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (full entry)
- The Times, 1 March 1932, p. 21: Obituary
- Ernest Gaskell, Oxfordshire Leaders, Social and Political (London, 1907), pp. 209–11
- Oxford Journal Illustrated, 8 September 1915, p. 9: Photograph of Councillor Druce
- Oxford Journal Illustrated, 20 October 1920, p. 4: Photograph of Alderman Druce
- Transactions of the Oxfordshire Archaeological Society, 76 (1931), 354–6
- Oxford Times, 29 May 1931, p. 17b (81st birthday)
- Oxford Times, 26 June 1931, p. 24d (82nd birthday)
- Oxford Magazine, 1931–2, p. 562 (obituary)
- Oxford Monthly, March 1932, p. 7
- Oxford Times, 19 January 1934, pp. 27 and 32 (inquest)
- The Times, 30 June 1934, p. 17: “Dr. G. C. Druce's Estate”
- Portrait of George Claridge Druce in the Council Chamber of the Town Hall
- 1881 Census: Oxford (All Saints), 1501/60
- 1891 Census: Oxford (All Saints), 1167/73