Mayor's perambulation of the City bounds: Tuesday 25 July 1843

The following article was published in Jackson's Oxford Journal on 29 July 1843:


The good old custom of perambulating the city boundaries, which has become a triennial affair, took place on Tuesday last, and fully realised all the expectations which are wont on such occasions to be excited. The popularity of our present Chief Magistrate, the circumstance of his taking to the office although upwards of 70 years of age [The Mayor, James Wyatt, was actually aged 68], and the amusements always in store on this occasion, combined to make it doubly interesting. It has always been usual for the Mayor to invite all the Members of the Corporation, and a select few of his friends, to accompany him in his perambulation, and on this occasion we believe that upwards of 170 invitation tickets were issued. Few who were able to avail themselves of such a holiday neglected it, and it was therefore no matter of surprise to find on Tuesday morning an unusual number of “folks in their holiday clothes,” directing their steps to the Town Hall, the point from which the procession was to start. The city drummers and fifers, who are all-important personages at such times, were as usual called in requisition, and sent round early in the morning to remind by their music those whose memories were treacherous, that an ancient civic custom was about to be observed.

At nine o’clock the procession, consisting of the Mayor and Aldermen in their robes, Town Councillors, and others invited, with an immense number of freemen, &c. in the rear, proceeded down High-street, headed by the civic officers and an excellent band of music, the city bells pouring forth a merry peal; and it was admitted on all hands that the attendance was the largest ever remembered. Proceeding over Magdalen Bridge, the party halted at the Cape of Good Hope, where those “high in authority” relieved themselves of their robes, which we doubt not were very willingly dispensed with on account of the heat of the day, after which they wended their way along Marston-lane and up the back of Headington Hill across by the Lunatic Asylum to the Boundary stone on the Rose Hill road. This part it had hitherto been usual to leave till the close of the day, but the Mayor, like a good General, commenced with it, feeling assured that his party had more strength and energy for this up-hill work at the commencement than at the close. The procession then crossed the Rose Hill road, passed over Aston Eyet [= Aston's Eyot: more information here], at the extremity of which King’s large house-boat, “The Nelson,” was waiting to convey the party to the free water stone. A second large house-boat, belonging to Hall, and called “The British Queen,” was on its way to the same spot, and was devoted expressly to the ladies, who were on the deck lending their magic influence towards the brilliancy of the scene, and testifying their respect to the worthy Chief Magistrate, who very kindly and gallantly conceived that they were entitled to some share of the day’s enjoyment. The band stationed on the Mayor’s boat played some lively airs, and the banks of the river were thronged with persons interested in the scene, who had resolved to encounter perils by land and water to see all that is usual and observable on such occasions. On reaching the Free Water Stone the two large boats became stationary, while the customary formalities were duly attended to; for behind the stone was arrayed in his scarlet robes and crown the venerable King of the Sclavonians, who on this day holds his Court at this spot, and claims the right of pledging in a bumper of wine to “The Mayor and Prosperity to the City.” The band then played the National Anthem, and the populace raised three hearty cheers out of respect to the Mayor, after which the party returned in their boats. On the way back a country dance was kept up in good style and spirit on the ladies’ boat, where a few of the more gallant of the sterner sex had contrived to make their appearance. That nothing should be wanting that could add to the enjoyment, the Sheriff had so arranged that there was no lack of champagne and cake on the ladies’ boat, and sherry and biscuits on the other. With such resources, a blue sky above, and bright eyes below, it is not to be wondered at that this portion of the day was considered not the least delightful; and if joyous countenances were to be held as proofs, it was so undeniably.

On reaching the meadow the procession proceeded on its route, passing under Bell Founder’s Arch, near Grandpont House, and traversing the meadows until they reached North Hincksey; here, as according to ancient custom and for some trifling encroachment, there is furnished by certain parties a supply of beer and eatables for such as choose to partake of them — and, as my be naturally expected, there never is a lack of applicants. After a little delay at this spot the civic party wended their way to Botley, where the Sheriff has the privilege of providing rolls and cheese for his hungry fellow freemen, who, whether out of compliment to that functionary or not, never permit any portion of it to remain untasted. The next movement was in boats up Seacourt water, which is a stream not only interesting from its many historical associations, but possessing attractions that are not sufficiently known or appreciated. As usual, this part of the voyage was attended with some ludicrous adventures, such as the sinking of boats and the immersion of their occupants, who appeared to take it as a matter of course, and as a privilege to which, as freemen, they had, to say the least of it, the most undoubted right. Leaving Seacourt, the party proceeded through the rod eyot, near Binsey, direct to Godstow House, where a large number of persons who were invited to take a part in the day’s proceedings were anxiously awaiting the arrival of his Worship and suite, in order to proceed to dinner.

The dinner took place in the spacious skittle alley at Godstow House, which had been fitted up and decorated with good taste for the occasion, and though the ornamental part of the entertainment had been duly attended to, the more substantial matters had not been lost sight of, for the tables bent beneath the hospitable fare which presented itself in the shape of joints, pastry, wine, and all that was necessary to invigorate and gladden “the inner man.” In short, great credit is due to Mr. Lipscomb, for the very comfortable and satisfactory manner in which he had provided for the accommodation of so large a party. The number that sat down to dinner, which took place about half-past three, was upwards of 150, and the excellence and bounty of the dinner and wines was the subject of general commendation from one end of the banquet-room to the other. His Worship, who was in high spirits and delighted to find himself so well surrounded, was supported on his right by J. H. Langston, Esq. and Donald Maclean Esq. the Members for the City. Among the company we noticed the present and late Sheriffs, Alderman R. Dry, Alderman Mallam, Alderman Butler, Alderman Thorp, Alderman L. Wyatt, the Town Clerk, Rev. Mr. Symonds, B. Carter, Esq. Chairman of the Greenwich Union, Captain Robins, Mr. Doak, &c. &c. &c. Grace was said both before and after dinner by the Rev. Mr. Symonds of Ensham

[The ladies had now departed, and lengthy toasts took place and are recorded in full]

The Mayor and his friends then resumed their perambulation, and went round the northern extremities of Port Meadow and the city liberties to King’s Mill [new 1843 stone with Wyatt's name] on to Marston-lane. On reaching St. Clement’s the Mayor, Sheriff, and Aldermen resumed their robes, and accompanied by a procession that had materially increased in length, proceeded up the High-street. At the Mayor’s residence [115 High Street], the procession stopped, while the band played the National Anthem, and the populace gave three cheers. On reaching the Town Hall the business of the day was concluded, and the company testified their respect for the Mayor by giving several cheers before they parted. The city bells were ringing a merry peal, and the streets presented a most animated and joyful appearance. The day was an exceedingly fine one — everything appeared to be in its favour, and we doubt not that this perambulation, the amusement attending it, and the hospitality by which it was characterised, will live long in the remembrance of all those who had the good fortune to participate in it.

We must not omit to mention that the Workhouse boys, who had a holiday on this occasion and went a part of the boundaries, were entertained at Godstow, by the Mayor, with a good dinner. Several casks of beer and hampers of bread and cheese were also supplied to the worthies at the same place.

Stephanie Jenkins