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John Henry Salter (1853–1930)

Mayor of Oxford 1902/3


John Henry Salter was born in Wandsworth, Surrey in 1853, the eldest son of the boat-builder John Salter (b. Fulham 1826) and Harriet Yates (b. Wandsworth 1833).

In 1858, when John Henry was four years old, his father and his uncle, Stephen Salter, moved to Oxford to take over Isaac King’s boat-building firm at Folly Bridge, marking the beginning of the Salters’ Steamers firm which still survives today.

At the time of the 1861 census John Henry was 7 and living at 45 St Aldate’s Street with his parents and his four younger siblings: Thomas A. (5), James Edward (4), George S. (2), and an unnamed baby girl who does not appear to have survived. Also living with the family were Mrs Harriet Salter’s younger sisters, Jane and Elizabeth Yates.

Some time after 1864 John Henry’s mother died. At the time of the 1871 census his father John (45), helped by a housekeeper and a domestic servant, was still living at 45 St Aldate’s Street with his six children. John Henry himself (17), Thomas (15) and James (14) were already boatbuilders, while George (12), Kate (8), and Fanny (6) were still at school.

On 10 August 1876 at St Mary Magdalen Church, Oxford, John Henry Salter married Alice Louisa Millin, the daughter of an Oxford draper. They do not appear to have had any children

The 1881 census shows John and Alice living at Folly Bridge Wharf.

Salter’s uncle Stephen Salter retired from the boat-building business and his father John Salter died in Oxford at the age of 64 in January 1890, and John Henry Salter took over the family business with his two younger brothers James and George. Its name was changed from J. & S. Salter to Salter Brothers, and in 1888 they launched their own steamboat service between Oxford and Kingston on the Alaska. The Salter family were strict Wesleyan Methodists, and originally boats were not let or operated on a Sunday, and alcohol was not served on board.

Oxford to Kingston steamer

Salter was elected on to the council as a Liberal representing the South Ward in the early 1880s, and remained a councillor for nearly 50 years until his death.

In 1891 Salter is listed in the census as living with his wife at the Toll House, and in 1901 at No. 5 Abingdon Road (latterly with three servants (a cook, housemaid, and gardener).

In 1902 Salter was elected Mayor of Oxford (for 1902/3).

At about this time Salter moved to Foxcombe Hill, where he can be seen in the 1911 census, described as a boat builder and living with his wife Alice and his sister, Miss Fanny Salter (46). They had two servants.

In 1915 John Henry Salter moved back into the city, and spent the rest of his life at Mayfield, 55 Banbury Road. He died there on 16 October 1900. His effects came to £22,632.


See also:

  • James Edward Salter, Mayor 1909 (his younger brother)
  • Oxford Times, 17 October 1930, p. 13a
  • 1861 Census: Oxford (St Aldate), 893/38
  • 1871 Census: Oxford (St Aldate), 1437/8
  • 1881 Census: Oxford (St Aldate), 1501/24
  • 1891 Census: Oxford (St Aldate), 1167/19
  • 1901 Census: Oxford (St Aldate), 1384/35
  • Salter’s Steamers website
  • Oxoniensia LXXI (2006), “Salters’ of Oxford: a history of a Thames boating firm over a century of evolution (1858—c.1960)”, 111–143

©Stephanie Jenkins

Last updated: 19 October, 2016

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