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David Oliver (1878–1954)

Mayor of Oxford 1945/6


David Oliver was born in Oxford in 1879 (reg. second quarter). He was the youngest child of John Oliver (born in Wallingford in 1842) and Sarah Ann (born in Gosford in 1846). His six older siblings were John Frank Oliver (b.1867), Florence Oliver (b.1869), Alice Oliver (b.1871), Agnes Oliver (b.1872), Clara (b. 1875), and Albert Oliver (b.1877).

His parents lived in Botley (then in Berkshire) between 1867 and 1872, although their second child Florence was born in Leominster in Hereford in 1869. The family came to Oxford in 1874, four years before David's birth and his father John Oliver established a printing business in George Street. This was near the south-west end (No. 47 under the old-style consecutive numbering of that street) and fell in St Mary Magdalen parish.

John’s father was described in a directory of 1875 as a “printer, publisher, and book binder, and publisher of the Oxford Weekly Messenger”.

At the time of the 1881 census David (2) was living at the former 47 George Street (later numbered 60, and demolished to make way for Chain Alley) with his father John (38), who was described as a printer employing one boy, his mother Sarah Ann (34), and his siblings John (13), Florence (11), Alice (9), Agnes (8), Clara (5), and Albert (3).

David was educated at the Central School, which was then over the stables in Gloucester Green.

In 1888 the Oliver family moved to the north-west side of the street, three doors to the east of Chain Alley (No. 55 under the old-style numbering, renumbered 62 in about 1895). In 1890 the business expanded to include a second set of premises at 44 St Ebbe’s Street, where John Oliver was described as a stationer, newsagent, and tobacconist. The family moved from their George Street home to live over their shop in St Ebbe’s Street (St Peter-le-Bailey parish). They can be found there at the time of the 1891 census, when five of their children, including David (aged 12 and still at school) were living at home.

David joined his father’s firm on leaving school in about 1893. He was a well-known local footballer when young.

In about 1900 the Olivers closed the St Ebbe’s side of the business, but continued to live upstairs at 44 St Ebbe’s Street for a few more years.

At the time of the 1901 census only David himself (22), described as a printer, and his sister Clara (25) were at home with their parents.

In 1903 David Oliver married Violet Lilian Ives, and they had three children:

  • Hubert David Oliver (born at 35 Abbey Road, Oxford on 6 April 1908 and baptised at St Thomas's Church on 3 May)
  • Gwendoline Violet Oliver (born at 35 Abbey Road, Oxford and baptised at St Thomas's Church on 24 July 1910)
  • Kenneth Leslie Oliver (born at 35 Abbey Road, Oxford and baptised at St Thomas's Church on 18 May 1913).

Soon after his marriage David Oliver was made a full partner in the family business, which from 1907 is listed in directories as Oliver & Son.

The 1911 census shows David Oliver (32), described as a letterpress printer, living at 35 Abbey Road with his wife Violet (33) and their first two children: Hubert (3) and Gwendoline (ten months). His widower father John (68), also described as a letterpress printer, was living with them, as well as David’s unmarried sister Clara (35) and his married sister Alice (39) with her two Bristol-born children.

Their third and last child Kenneth was born near the beginning of 1913.

David Oliver served with the Royal Army Medical Corps during the First World War: he worked in a field ambulance unit, and reached the rank of Corporal.

In 1919, when his father John Oliver died, David Oliver took over the family firm, which became known as David Oliver, printers.

His elder son Hubert David Oliver was educated at the City of Oxford High School and at Mansfield College, Oxford.

David Oliver ran his business at the north-west end of George Street until 1931, when the area to the west of Chain Alley was redeveloped and the present JobCentre built on the site. He then moved across the road to the south side at the present No. 73, just a few doors down from where he had been born.

Oliver was first elected to the City Council in 1933 as the Conservative representative for the West Ward. He served on various committees, and took a special interest in the blind and the elderly.

David Oliver's younger son Kenneth Oliver joined him in the family business in about 1940, when it reverted back to the old name of Oliver & Son.

Oliver was elected Sheriff of Oxford for 1942/3 and in 1945 was elected Mayor of Oxford (for 1945/6). During his mayoralty he welcomed George VI and Queen Elizabeth to Oxford when they came to open the New Bodleian Library.

† David Oliver died at the Radcliffe Infirmary on 7 March 1954. His funeral was at All Saints’ Church (then still the City Church), and he was buried in Botley Cemetery.

Oliver & Son, George Street

The business remained there until 2003, when it moved to 11a West Way, Botley. (The old building was converted to the Yo Sushi restaurant. in 2007.) His grandson Graham Oliver and great-grandson Paul Oliver are still involved in the business.

David Oliver's other two children

Hubert David Oliver, M.A. became a minister in the United Reformed Church. He held student pastorates at Great Haseley from 1928 to 1930 and at Benson Free Church from 1931 to 1933. He was ordained at Kenilworth 1933–5 and then served at Park Church, Reading from 1935 to 1941. He was an ardent Pacifist and took up war work at Rest Centres under L.C C. (Ruby Street, Old Kent Road, S. E.) from 1941 to 1943. He was at Junction Road, Upper Holloway, Middlesex (the Church of the Growing Light) from 1943 to 1967, and in charge of Camden Road, Holloway in 950. He was a keen member and leader in Union of Modern Free Churchmen, of which he was Chairman in 1958. He died on 2 March, 1967.

Gwendoline Violet Oliver never married. She died in Oxford at the age of 53 in 1963.


See also:

  • Oxford Monthly, July 1935, p. 38 (brief description of the printing business of Oliver & Son)
  • Oxford Mail, 8 March 1954, p. 1f (obituary)
  • Oxford Times, 12 March 1954, p. 7a (obituary and funeral)
  • Oxford Mail of 12 March 1954, p. 3g (funeral)
  • 1881 Census: Oxford (St Mary Magdalen), 1502/35
  • 1891 Census: Oxford (St Peter-le-Bailey), 1168/20
  • 1901 Census: Oxford (St Peter-le-Bailey), 1385/45
  • Website of Oliver & Son (Oxford) Ltd

©Stephanie Jenkins

Last updated: 23 October, 2018

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