James Wyatt (1774–1853)
Mayor of Oxford 1842/3
James Wyatt was born on 14 March 1774 and was baptised at the Church of St Mary the Virgin three days later. He was the fourth son of the Oxford baker Thomas Wyatt, who was baptised at the Church of St Mary the Virgin on 17 August 1738 (the son of John Wyatt junior and his wife Mary).
James's father Thomas Wyatt had married Anne Clanfield at Hanborough on 11 August 1765. (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: Mary (born 26 December 1765 and baptised 24 January 1766), Anne (born 7 August and baptised 31 August 1767 but died in infancy), John (born 14 August and baptised 23 August 1768), Walter William (born 23 August and baptised 20 September 1770), and Thomas (born 19 October and baptised 17 November 1771).
On his fifteenth birthday (14 March 1789) 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.
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.
On 13 February 1806 Wyatt married Mary Cooke of St Peter-in-the-East at her parish church. They had four children:
- Ann Wyatt (baptised at All Saints Church on 1 January 1807)
- Elizabeth Wyatt (baptised at All Saints Church on 11 June 1809)
- James Wyatt junior (born 19 November, baptised at All Saints Church on 25 December 1810)
- Sarah Wyatt (baptised at All Saints Church on 6 March 1817).
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 was married to Eliza Moorman, and they continued to live in their father’s home at 115 High Street. The 1841 census shows Wyatt (aged 67 and described as a gilder) is shown 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, Wyatt’s wife Mary died at the age of 78, and was buried at the Church of St Mary the Virgin 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).
Wyatt died at 115 High Street at the age of 79 on 23 March 1853.
Left: James Wyatt junior in a portrait by Millais
- 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 (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