George Claridge Druce
Mayor of Oxford 1900/1
George Claridge Druce (1850–1932) was born on 23 May 1850 at Potterspury, Northamptonshire, the illegitimate son of Jane Druce, who had been born at Woughton-on-the-Green, Buckinghamshire in 1815.
When he was five 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 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.
The 1881 census shows him living over the shop with his 17-year-old assistant. He was one of the first people in Oxford to have a telephone line put in: in 1899 it had the simple number “Oxford 12”. He plays a very small part as a shopkeeper under his real name in Max Beerbohm’s Zuleika Dobson.
In 1880 Druce helped to found the Ashmolean Natural History Society of Oxfordshire, and in 1886 he published The Flora of Oxfordshire. In 1889 he was awarded the degree of honorary MA by the University of Oxford and in 1895 he was appointed Fielding Curator in the Department of Botany.
At the time of the 1881 census Druce’s mother (now 65, still unmarried, and 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. Ten years later the 1891 census shows her living with her son at 118 High Street: she is described as a widow, although she in fact never married. They had one servant, and also lodging with them over the shop were three chemist assistants.
Druce served on Oxford City Council from 1892 until his death, and was Chairman of the Public Health Committee for thirty years. He 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 (kept in the Plate Room of the Town Hall).
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.
In 1900 Druce was elected Mayor of Oxford (for 1900/1). A stone marking the boundary of Oxford at the top of Cuckoo Lane, Headington was erected during the year of Druce’s mayoralty and is engraved with his name.
In 1920 Druce was made an Alderman, and is shown in his aldermanic robes (below left) in a portrait in the Council Chamber. His arms (below right) were added to the wall of the Mayor’s Parlour when he was Chief Magistrate.
Druce was granted an MA by decree in 1919.
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 his 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 was erected on a special memorial day for him on 18 May 1996.
- Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (full entry)
- Ernest Gaskell, Oxfordshire Leaders, Social and Political (London, 1907), pp. 209–11
- Oxford Journal Illustrated, 8 September 1915, p. 9
- Oxford Journal Illustrated, 20 October 1920, p. 4
- 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)
- 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