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Miss Mary Jones (1741–1815)


Mary Jones (1741–1815), the daughter of an Oxford fishmonger, became the Lady of the Manor of Heddington [sic] and the biggest landowner in Headington in 1795 after receiving an extremely generous legacy from her employer, William Jackson.

When Jackson (who was the founder of Jackson’s Oxford Journal) died in 1795, he left Headington House and the manor attached to it to his employee and friend, Miss Jones. The Headington Enclosure Act of 1801 states:

Henry Mayne Whorwood, Esquire, is Lord of the Manor of Headington; and Mary Jones, Spinster, is Lady of the Manor of Heddington, in the said Parish of Headington.

Under this Enclosure Act, Mary was awarded over 110 acres of land in Headington in her own right and another 92 acres or so as a lessee of Magdalen College. She also owned Headington House, not to mention Jackson’s Oxford Journal itself.

Mary Jones was baptised at All Saints Church, Oxford, on 27 April 1741, the sixth of eight children of Thomas Jones of All Saints Parish who had married Elizabeth Cary of Kidlington in the same church on 20 August 1732. Her parents were fishmongers at 15 High Street, Oxford, but her father died in 1747 when she was only six.

Of the seven surviving children, Thomas and William married and had families, but all five sisters (Anne, Margaret, Elizabeth, Jane, and Mary) remained spinsters. The four older sisters helped their mother to run the fish shop and continued to do so for a long time after her death in 1773: Jackson’s Oxford Journal of 1788 reports the death of the eldest sister Anne, “by whom in partnership with three sisters the business has been carried on, and is intended to be continued by the survivors”.

Mary, the youngest sister, was presumably not needed in the fish shop, and worked in his High Street office of William Jackson, the founder of Jackson’s Oxford Journal. It is likely that she was Jackson’s maid Mary, referred to by Parson Woodforde in his diaries in 1763, who reserved copies of the Journal for him twice when he was away.

It is unclear why William Jackson cared for Mary so very much that he made her his heir. His sister, Mrs Sarah Grimshaw, despite the fact that she lived far away in Yorkshire, also seemed to be extremely fond of her: as soon as she inherited Nos. 10–12 High Street from her brother William she immediately conveyed them to Mary.

Despite her new wealth, after Jackson’s will was proved on 3 June 1795 Mary continued to remain in charge of sales in the Journal office, and was described simply as a stationer when she died on 8 August 1815, “at her home in the High Street … after a short illness, much respected by a numerous circle of friends”. She was buried in All Saints Church on 15 August 1815, and left all her property and land to her niece Mrs Elizabeth Latimer (the daughter of her younger brother William) and her husband Edward Latimer.

Edward and Elizabeth Latimer seemed close to their rich Aunt Mary: they had married in 1799 in St Andrew’s Church in Mary Jones’ parish; they named their eldest daughter Elizabeth Mary Jones Latimer in 1800; and Edward’s wine shop occupied her property at 10–12 High Street. They moved with their twelve surviving children into Headington House soon after 1815 and lived in style as Lord and Lady of the Manor of Heddington, all thanks to the legacy left twenty years earlier by William Jackson to a fishmonger’s daughter.

© Stephanie Jenkins

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