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Edgar Arthur Smewin (1893–1962)

Mayor of Oxford 1946/7


Edgar Arthur Smewin was born in Radley (then in Berkshire) on 18 November 1893. He was the son of John Smewin (born in Radley in 1857) and Mary Ann Boulter (born in Radley in 1858), who were married near the end of 1877.

Their first son Joseph was born in Radley in 1879 and they were still there in 1881, when Edgar's father was an agricultural labourer.

Edgar's parents were in Wolvercote in 1885, in Hemmington in 1891, and were back in Radley again by the time of Edgar's birth in 1893.

Edgar was educated at the village school in Radley. At the time of the 1901 census he was seven years old and living at "No. 28 Radley” with his parents and: five of his siblings: Maude (19); Frederick (17), who was a railway porter, William (15), who was a teamster on a farm; Cyril (9); and George (3). His father (44) was described as a shepherd on a farm.

Edgar found employment with the Great Western Railway (as did four of his brothers): he joined the GWR at Radley in 1909.

The 1911 census shows Edgar (17) as a railway porter, still living at 28 Radley with his parents and two of his six surviving siblings, namely Cyril (19) who was a horseman on a farm, and George (13), who was still at school. His father was still working as a shepherd.

Smewin went to Kingsworthy near Worcester as a signalman in 1912. He then came to Oxford in 1923 and was promoted to platform inspector in 1930, a job which he held until his retirement in 1958.

In the Abingdon registration district in 1915, Edgar Arthur Smewin married Margaret Eva Butler, and they had five children:

  • Cyril John Charles Smewin (born in the Bicester district on 25 July 1916)
  • George E. W. Smewin (born in the Eton district on 2 March 1919)
  • Joyce M. M. Smewin (born in Oxford on 28 December 1923)
  • Kenneth J. F. Smewin (born in Oxford in 1926)
  • Gwenneth M. M. Smewin (born in Oxford in 1932).

The Smewins moved to Oxford in about 1920. A keen trade unionist, in 1932 Smewin was appointed a magistrate. He made two unsuccessful attempts to get on to Oxford City Council in 1933, then in 1934 became the first Labour councillor ever elected in Oxford.

Smewin's eldest son, Cyril also became an inspector at Oxford station, and their two younger sons George and Kenneth became a ticket collector and station yard foreman.

On 18 March 1935 at St Paul's Church in Oxford, his son Cyril John Charles Smewin, a 19-year-old railway porter, married the waitress Annie Elizabeth Amy Adams.

At the time of the 1939 Register, Edgar, described as a railway signalman, was living at 1 St Barnabas Street in Jericho with his wife Margaret and son George, who was a railway office porter, and their three youngest children. His married son Cyril was living as 61 Freelands Road in south Oxford and was described as a trained railway porter.

In 1944 in Oxford, his son Kenneth J. F. Smewin married Edith C. Worsfold.

In 1946 Smewin was elected Mayor of Oxford (for 1946/7), and was Labour’s first mayor. He remained the Labour Councillor for West Ward from 1934 until 1948, when he stood down.

In 1950 Alderman Smewin officially complained to the City Council that there had been only one set of Galloping Horses to ride on at St Giles’s Fair.

Smewin resigned from the council through ill health in 1957.

† Edgar Alfred Smewin died at 3 Canal Street, Jericho in 1962 at the age of 68 and his funeral was at Oxford Crematorium on 9 January.

His wife Margaret died in Oxford at the age of 76 in 1967.


See also:

  • Who’s Who in Oxfordshire, 1936, p. 331
  • Oxford Times, 18 January 1946, p. 4g (letter in defence of railway signalmen)
  • Oxford Times, 10 August 1962, p. 20 (obituary)
  • 1881 Census: Berkshire (Radley), 1283/ 62 (Smewin’s parents)
  • 1901 Census: Berkshire (Radley), 1132/43

©Stephanie Jenkins

Last updated: 17 September, 2020

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