Oxford History: Mayors & Lord Mayors


James Wyatt (1774–1853)

Mayor of Oxford 1842/3

James Wyatt

James Wyatt was born on 14 March 1774 and was baptised at St Mary-the-Virgin Church three days later. He was the fourth son of the Oxford baker Thomas Wyatt and Anne Clanfield who were married at Hanborough on 11 August 1765

James's father Thomas, who was baptised at St Mary-the-Virgin Church on 17 August 1738, was in turn the son of John Wyatt junior and his wife Mary. Although his father sat on the council for many years from 1771, he should not be confused with the Thomas Wyatt who became Mayor in 1830: this was James’s cousin.

James had five older siblings, all baptised at St Mary-the-Virgin Church: Mary (born on 26 December 1765 and baptised on 24 January 1766), Anne (born on 7 August and baptised on 31 August 1767 but died in infancy), John (born on 14 August and baptised on 23 August 1768), Walter William (born on 23 August and baptised on 20 September 1770), and Thomas (born on 19 October and baptised on 17 November 1771).

On his fifteenth birthday (14 March 1789) James Wyatt was apprenticed to the carver and gilder Robert Archer, and followed this trade for the rest of his life. The frame of his portrait in the Town Hall (right) depicts his trade: it is decorated with the instruments and tools used by picture framers.

115 High Street

Wyatt was admitted free on 13 May 1796, and in 1805 set up his own business as a carver and gilder at 115 High Street (left).

By 1811 he had begun to deal in pictures and prints, and by 1823 he is listed in Pigot’s Directory as a printseller. He lived over the shop from 1805 until his death in 1853, latterly with his son (another James) and his family.

The shop was a favourite haunt of the pre-Raphaelites: Sir John Everett Millais (1829–96) once stayed here, and in 1849 painted a well-known picture of James Wyatt with his granddaughter Mary.

James Wyatt junior by Millais

On 13 February 1806 at St Peter-in-the-East Church, James Wyatt married Mary Cooke of that parish. They had four children:

  • Ann Wyatt (baptised on 1 January 1807 at All Saints Church)
  • Elizabeth Wyatt (baptised on 11 June 1809 at All Saints Church)
  • James Wyatt junior (born on 19 November 1810 and baptised at All Saints Church on 25 December)
  • Sarah Wyatt (baptised on 6 March 1817 at All Saints Church).


Right: His son James Wyatt junior in a portrait by Millais

James Wyatt was a prominent figure in Oxford’s public life for 38 years. He was elected on to the old Corporation in 1815, and on to the new one in 1837. He was elected Sheriff of Oxford for 1839/40.

On 29 August 1837 Wyatt’s son James Wyatt junior was married to Eliza Moorman, and they continued to live in their father’s home at 115 High Street in All Saints parish.

The 1841 census shows Wyatt (67), described as a gilder, living at 115 High Street with his wife Mary and James junior and his wife Eliza, and his two grown-up daughters Ann and Elizabeth, plus two female servants. Later that year,his wife Mary Wyatt died at the age of 78, and was buried at St Mary-the-Virgin Church on 9 September 1841.

Wyatt was made an Alderman in 1841, and the following year was elected Mayor of Oxford (for 1842/3). During his mayoralty, a boundary stone inscribed with his name was put up outside King’s Mill House near the Marston Road.

Wyatt had a great interest in the history and antiquities of Oxford, and was curator of pictures at Blenheim Palace.

The 1851 census shows Wyatt, now a widower of 77, living at 115 High Street with his spinster daughters Ann and Elizabeth, and his son James junior (39) with his wife Eliza (36) and their two young daughters Mary (b. 31 August 1845), and Sarah (b. 17 January 1849).

† Alderman James Wyatt died at 115 High Street at the age of 79 on 23 March 1853, and his funeral was at All Saints Church on 29 March.

See also:

  • Pictures of (1) James Wyatt by John Bridges, and (2) his son James Wyatt junior by Sir John Everett Millais, both in the St Aldate’s Room in the Town Hall
  • Jackson’s Oxford Journal, 15 February 1806: Announcement of Wyatt’s marriage
  • Jackson’s Oxford Journal, 26 March 1853, p. 3cd: Wyatt’s obituary
  • Oxford Times, 10 October 1986, p. 4 (article about his portrait, to be centrepiece of a London exhibition)
  • Malcolm Graham, Oxford City Apprentices 1697–1800, entries numbered 1092, 2887
  • Thomas Wyatt, Mayor in 1830 (his cousin)
  • PCC Will PROB 11/2179/24 (Will of James Wyatt, Carver and Gilder, Widower of All Saints in the City of Oxford, proved 29 September 1853)
  • 1841 Census: Oxford (All Saints), 891/02/8
  • 1851 Census: Oxford (All Saints), 1728/80

©Stephanie Jenkins

Last updated: 19 October, 2018

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