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William Jackson (1724–1795)


William Jackson (1724–1795) originated from Leeds in Yorkshire, and his brother Joshua Jackson and sister Mrs Sarah Grimshaw were both still living there in 1775 (at Park Lane and Well Close House respectively).

By 1746 William had moved to Oxford, and he was to spend the rest of his life there and in nearby Headington. In that year, when he was only 22, together with William Walker of London, he started publishing the Oxford Flying Weekly Journal and Cirencester Gazette. This was published first in St Clement’s (then outside the city), and then in Oxford's High Street: it only survived for two years.

In 1753 Jackson started to publish another weekly newspaper, originally to promote the Tory cause in the county election that year. It was called News, Boys, News, or the Electioneering Journal, and later became Jackson’s Oxford Journal.*

As well as being a newspaper proprietor, Jackson was a printer, and in 1768 he was put in charge of commissioning and printing the University Almanacks. In 1780 he joined with the University of Oxford and Archibald Hamilton in a partnership for conducting the Oxford Bible Press (an administrative division of the Clarendon Press), and much of the credit for the Bible business during its first fifteen years was due to Jackson, who looked after its affairs in London, while Hamilton was the London partner. From 1782 to 1793 Jackson was lessee of the Wolvercote paper mill. He was also one of the founders of Oxford’s Old Bank.

There are a number of references to Jackson in Parson Woodforde’s diaries. Woodforde purchased Jackson’s Oxford Journal regularly from its office in the High Street, and also religious works. Also on 21 February 1761 Woodforde wrote: “For a Bottle of Doctor Hill’s Water-Dock at Jackson’s the Printer 0.3.0”. The city of Oxford records of 1746–7 confirm that Jackson had this additional string to his bow, stating that “William Jackson of All Saints” was licensed to sign the words “Office and Medicinal Warehouse”. From 1777 he advertises in his own newspaper a long list of medicines that he sold.

A staunch Conservative, he became a leading member of the Paving Commission established in 1771 and received an honorary bailiff’s place and the freedom of the city in 1786, although he took no part in council affairs.

In 1770 Jackson bought Nos. 10 & 11 High Street, Oxford for £375. The following year he bought the former King’s Head pub at 12 High Street next door for £650, and this became his printing office:
see history of 10–12 High Street.

On 16 October 1786 Jackson was given his freedom and a bailiff’s place on Oxford City Council.

The building of the new turnpike London Road through the fields of Headington facilitated the creation of country estates on land that had previously only been accessible via the fieldpaths from Marston and the top of Headington Hill. As soon as the road was started in 1775, Jackson bought land beside it and built his country mansion, Headington House, which was finished by 1783. He became even more entrenched in Headington when in 1786 he bought the Lordship of the Manor of Heddington [sic – not to be confused with the Manor of Headington] from George Foot and Mary Coxhead, the current absentee Lord and Lady. Headington House was thereafter deemed to be the mansion house of Heddington Manor, and the rolls show Jackson presiding over many Courts.

It appears that Jackson rented the house out towards the end of his life, as in the Game Duty lists of 1791 and 1792 the address of Sackville Francis Lloyd is given as “Heddington House”. This is probably Francis Sackville Lloyd, who changed his name to Francis-Sackville Lloyd-Wheate after inheriting Glympton Park in Woodstock from his uncle.

William Jackson died in 1795 and was buried on 28 April at All Saints Church in Oxford. His disappointingly short obituary appeared in a box with black borders on page 3 of Jackson’s Oxford Journal for Saturday 25 April 1795:

Died on Wednesday Morning last, aged upwards of Seventy, William Jackson, Esq. Proprietor & Publisher of this Journal ever since its first Establishment – In his publick Characterisation his Loss will be long felt – In private Life he was warm in his Attachments, and sincere in his Friendships.

His will was proved on 5 June 1795, and he left all his estate in Headington, including Headington House, to “Mary Jones of the parish of All Saints in the City of Oxford daughter of the late Thomas Jones of the same place fishmonger”: thus the person who had worked for him in his business from girlhood became a wealthy woman and Lady of the Manor of Heddington. In addition his sister Sarah, who had inherited his premises in the High Street, passed them straight on to Mary.

The very last issue of Jackson’s Oxford Journal on 2 October 1909 published the following note about its founder:

Mr W. Jackson was a man of considerable business aptitude and of good position in the City of Oxford. We have still in our possession the silver-gilt box with the City arms upon it which was presented to him with the Freedom of the City of Oxford. He was a banker as well as a printer, and was lessee of the Oxford Bible Press. He died on 22 April 1795 aged 70 so that when he started the “Oxford Journal” in 1753 he was a young man of 28.


* Until 1806 Jackson's Oxford Journal was Oxford’s only newspaper, and even after that date it had a high circulation, reaching 57,000 in the period from April to September 1839. In 1899 it was bought by the Oxford Times Company and its last issue was in 1909, when it was renamed the Oxford Journal Illustrated (which itself disappeared in 1928, when the Oxford Evening Times, also owned by the Oxford Times Company, started to produce a weekly supplement instead).

See Nichols’s, Literary Anecdotes, iii, 398, 679 for Jackson and the election of 1754.

© Stephanie Jenkins

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