Mayor's perambulation of the City bounds: Tuesday 14 July 1840

The following article was published in Jackson's Oxford Journal on 18 July 1840:


The perambulating of the boundaries of our city is an event that has always been looked forward to with great interest, and in the time of the old Corporation was of frequent occurrence, inasmuch as every gentleman, on his first appointment as Chief Magistrate, was required to perform that ceremony. Since the passing of the Municipal Act [of 1836], however, a different arrangement has been entered into, and the ceremony has become a triennial one, and this circumstance has necessarily given it additional interest. The hopes and expectations which this event naturally excited in former years were, therefore, considerably augmented on Tuesday last, and the day was anticipated as a day of rejoicing, and as a renewal of the pleasures of by-gone days. Soon after eight o’clock in the morning the city drummer and his comrade, the fifer, made their progress through the city, and reminded the busy citizens that an old and ancient custom was about to be observed; and shortly after might be seen hurrying towards the Town Hall those who were invited to assist in the ceremony. The merry bells of Carfax sent forth a gladdening peal, and life and animation prevailed in all parts of the city, for there was not a street that did not yield its share to the bustling multitude. At nine o’clock the city band struck up the national anthem, and immediately after the Mayor, Aldermen, Town Magistrates, and Councillors, in their robes of office, preceded by the city beadles and officers, started from the Town Hall, accompanied by an unusually large number of the most respectable inhabitants of the city, all of whom were anxious to testify, by their presence, the high esteem they entertained for their excellent Chief Magistrate, Thomas Mallam Esq.

Proceeding along the High-street and over Magdalen Bridge, the procession halted at the Cape of Good Hope Inn while the Mayor and Aldermen took off their robes. A short distance beyond is the first boundary stone, on reaching which the mace and city flag were placed upon it, while the populace gave three loud cheers, the band playing the national anthem. The throng then crossed the Rose Hill road [= Iffley Road], and proceeded over Aston Eyet [= Aston's Eyot: more information here], at the extremity of which house-boats and punts were stationed to convey them to the free water stone, which is the southern boundary. All the boats were filled in a few minutes, and were soon put in motion. A house-boat, containing the Mayoress, her family, and a large party of ladies, headed the procession, and was followed by another, with the Mayor, Corporation, and friends. The band was stationed in a boat on one side, and played some lively airs up the river. On reaching the free water stone, the procession halted while the Mayor and his officers alighted and performed the usual ceremony of placing the mace upon it. At this point an old freeman, upon whom has been conferred the title of King of the Sclavonians, made his appearance, attired in a scarlet robe, and with a gilt crown on his head, and, according to ancient custom, greeted his Worship on his arrival The wine cup was handed round, and the band played the national anthem, on the conclusion of which three cheers were given for the Mayoress and Ladies. The procession returned in the same order to Grandpont, when the Mayor, Sheriff, and several others passed in punts through the arch under Grandpont House, and the Bell Founder’s Arch, which is a short distance beyond. The whole party having re-assembled, moved forwards along the Hincksey meadows, until they reached Hogacre Ditch, where the representative of his Majesty, the King of the Sclavonians, put in his claim for toll, previous to passing over. A silver coin was exacted from all who were competent to pay, and the amount, we understand, was for the benefit of old and decayed freemen.

The next point of interest was the Hope Stone, which marks the western boundary, and is stationed between Hincksey and Botley. The stone itself is in a very dilapidated and Imperfect condition, and should be replaced by a new one, commemorating the present Mayoralty and Shrievality. Nothing particular occurred until reaching Godstow, except a few duckings and a little floundering in the mud on the part of some of our cits, who were desirous for some memorial of the occasion. At that place a large number of elderly gentlemen, who were unable to perambulate the boundaries, were waiting to greet his Worship, and partake of his hospitality; and in the middle of the river were stationed two house-boats — one laid out for 70 to dine, and the other containing provisions, &c. to cheer the inner man! About two o’clock the company were conveyed by boats to the dining room, and in a few minutes every nook and corner were occupied with guests. His Worship, the Mayor, took the chair, and was supported on his right and left by the Aldermen, while the Sheriff presided at the adjoining table. As there was not sufficient accommodation for all the party inside, a number betook themselves to the top of the house-boats, where, being well provided with good cheer, they felt no lack of enjoyment. The tables above and below were literally covered with all the substantials and minor dishes procurable and in season at this time of the year, and some delicious wine of the choicest vintage, and iced to the very point of perfection, gave an additional zest and relish to the whole. The company having done justice to the sumptuous repast, and the customary grace “May God preserve the Church and State, and prosper the City of Oxford,” having been said by the Town Clerk, the Mayor proposed the first toast, “Church and Queen” the band playing God save the Queen; afterwards “Prince Albert,” the “Queen Dowager and the rest of the Royal Family.”

Mr. Alderman Sadler called on the company to fill a bumper and to drink with all the honour they could show the health of one who, by his industry, his perseverance, and upright conduct, had raised himself to the highest office his native city could confer upon him. He alluded to their worthy Chief Magistrate, Mr. Alderman Mallam — (loud cheers) — than whom a worthier man or a better citizen their city could not boast of (Loud cheers). He could boast of an acquaintance with that individual for upwards of 30 years, and he doubted not that there were many around him who had enjoyed the same gratification, and who would feel with him that every year served but to increase the esteem and respect they entertained for him both in his private and public capacity. — (Great cheering).

The Mayor then rose, amid loud cheering, and observed that on taking that honourable office which his fellow citizens had conferred upon him, he did so with a determination and pledge to act impartially, independently, and conscientiously. — (Cheers). That had been his ambition and his aim; and he could not but consider the large attendance of his fellow citizens on the present occasion, and the manner in which his name had been received, as some assurance that he had acted in conformity with his professions. He had no other desire than to promote the welfare of his fellow citizens, and to maintain the dignity of his native city, and if he succeded in that, he should feel that he was amply repaid for whatever sacrifices he had made. (Loud cheering). – The Mayor the prposed “The health of an old citizen, the present Sheriff.” (Loud cheers).

Mr. Sheriff Wyatt returned thanks, and assured the company that though he had taken office later in life than many of his predecessors, still he would yield to none in desire to promote the honour of his native city, and to defend the rights of his brother freemen. After some further observations relative to encroachments on Port Meadow, to which he said he should call their attention when he came to them, the Sheriff proposed “The Commons of Oxford,” and sat down, amid loud cheering.

The Mayor then proposed the healths of those Gentlemen who had rendered him essential assistance, and to whom he felt greatly indebted. He alluded to the Aldermen and Magistrates of the City. – (Cheers.)

Mr. Alderman Butler returned thanks.

Mr. Alderman Browning begged to propose, “The Mayoress,” which was drank [sic] in the most enthusiastic manner.

The Mayor returned thanks in a very appropriate speech.

The Mayor proposed “the health of the Town Clerk,” which Mr. Hester acknowledged.

Mr Brunner proposed “The Coroner for the City and County, Mr. G. Cecil.”

Mr. G. Cecil returned thanks in a long speech for the honor [sic] conferred upon him and his brother commoners.

Mr. W. Thorp proposed, as a parting toast, “The Ladies,” which was very gallantly responded to.

The company then left the boat and proceeded on their way around the remainder of the boundaries.

We must not omit to mention that the worthies, or poorer class of freemen, were most liberally entertained by the Mayor, in Godstow Meadow, with bread and cheese and strong ale.

On reaching the top of Port Meadow over Godstow Bridge, near which the north boundary stone is placed, the Sheriff pointed out the encroachment by a person of the name of Ladson, who has not only built a cottage on part of the Meadow, but also enclosed a piece of ground as a garden! To show how far the freemens’ [sic] rights extended, the Sheriff read extracts from a deed by a Mr. Owen, who was formerly lord of the manor, and who has very minutely described the boundary. Mr. Wyatt also pointed out the remains of a cross, adjoining the boundary stone, called Rosamond’s Cross and erected to the memory of this unfortunate lady. In these researches the Sheriff was indebted to the valuable assistance of Mr. W. Joy, whose antiquarian zeal and knowledge have repeatedly been very serviceable to this city. The north stone is in a very bad state, and, for the dignity of the city, should be replaced forthwith by a new one, and the encroachments upon the Meadow should be effectually put a stop to by some decisive measure, otherwise further infringements will be made, particularly when there are person dishonest enough to encourage and justify such invasions. The corporate body and party concluded their day’s labours by crossing the Canal, Summer Town road, and river, and reaching the eastern boundary stone on the Rose Hill road. An immense number of persons were waiting her to join the procession, and in marching up the High-street, the band playing and colours flying, it had more the appearance of a chairing after an election. There could not have been less than a thousand persons in the procession, and the cheering and saluting the Mayor as he passed was most enthusiastic. On reaching the Sheriff’s and afterwards the Mayor’s houses [115 High Street and 126 High Street respectively], the whole party stopped and gave three hearty cheers, while the band played the National Anthem. At the Town Hall the Mayor again thanked his friends for the way they had attended and supported him, and the immense assemblage then departed. In conclusion, we cannot refrain from expressing our admiration of the very judicious arrangements of the day, and the unbounded liberality and hospitality of the Mayor. The day was one of the most perfect enjoyment to all present, and could not fail to be highly gratifying to the Mayor, who was supported in a manner and by such a number of respectable citizens as was never excelled even in the olden times.

Only one of the three boundary stones put up in the Wolvercote area to mark the 1840 perambulation (marked with the names of Mallam and Wyatt) is mentioned in this article. The three stones are:

Stephanie Jenkins