Headington history: People

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Miss Mary Jones (1741–1815)

In 1795 Mary Jones, the 54 year-old unmarried daughter of an Oxford fishmonger, became the biggest landowner in Headington on the death of her employer and friend William Jackson, who was the founder of Jackson’s Oxford Journal and the Lord of the Manor of Heddington [sic, not to be confused with the Manor of Headington].

William Jackson left both Headington House and the Manor attached to it to Miss Jones, and six years later the Headington Enclosure Act of 1801 stated:

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 about 700 acres of land in Headington in her own right and over 225 acres as a lessee of Magdalen College. She also owned Headington House, not to mention Jackson’s Oxford Journal itself.


Mary Jones was born in Oxford in 1741 and baptised at All Saints Church in the High Street on 27 April. She was 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 and had a shop opposite All Saints' Church in the High Street.

Mary's father Thomas Jones died in 1747 when Mary was was only six, and her mother continued to run the fish shop. Jackson's Oxford Journal of 19 April 1766 advertises the Oxford Post Coaches, which ran at 8am on Monday to Saturday from outside Mrs Jones' fish shop to Holborn, and she ran the coach office for this service from the shop.

Of the seven surviving children, Thomas and William married and had families, but all five sisters (Anne, Margaret, Elizabeth, Jane, and Mary) remained spinsters. Mary's four older sisters helped their mother to run the shop.

Mary, the youngest sister, worked in the High Street office of William Jackson, the founder of Jackson’s Oxford Journal: after 1774 this was described as being near the new (Covered) Market. 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.

Mary's mother died in 1773, and Anne, Margaret, Elizabeth, and Jane Jones continued to run the fish shop. Soon after this their brother William, who was a goldsmith, took over 15 High Street, Oxford, a brand-new shop in front of the new Covered Market, on their behalf. On 7 January 1775 Jones fishmongers announced in Jackson's Oxford Journal:

JONES'S, Fishmongers, in OXFORD,
BEG Leave to inform their Friends and the Publick that they are removed from their late Shop to the Front of the New Market in the High-Street, where they humbly request a Continuance of the Favours they have so long experienced; and which from Duty as well as Inclination thus most gratefully acknowledge. They also take this Opportunity of assuring the Nobility and Gentry, that it will be their constant Care to have the earliest Supply, according to the Season, in the various Articles of the Fishmongery; and that all Orders will be attended to with the utmost Punctuality.
N.B. Places are taken for the POST-COACH, as usual, which sets out for London every Morning at Eight o'Clock.

Jackson’s Oxford Journal of 7 November 1788 reported:

Died, after a short illness Mrs [sic] Anne Jones, eldest daughter of the late Mrs Elizabeth Jones of Oxford, fishmonger, by whom in partnership with three sisters the business has been carried on, and is intended to be continued by the survivors.

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”.

William Jackson had no children, and obviously cared and trusted Mary very much to make 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 Jackson's Oxford Journal office, and this line “Printed by and for J. GROSVENOR, and W. HALL, and sold by Mrs. Jones, at the Printing Offices, near the New Market, High Street, OXFORD” thereafter appear across the top of the front page of each edition, giving Miss Mary Jones the courtesy title of “Mrs”. She also continued to sell medical products from the newspaper office as William Jackson had done before her, and this advertisement appeared in that newspaper on 1 May 1802

Mrs. Jones, at the Printing Office, High Street, Oxford, has lately procured another small parcel of that most invaluable and justly celebrated preparation, Dr. Taylor's Remedy for Deafness. One bottle (which is exceedingly small) cures the most obstinate degree of that complaint, as well as those persons who are troubled with temporary Deafness, with the most perfect ease and safety, and there is nothing unpleasant in its application.—This estimable specific has performed, in the course of a very few months, cures which have excited the utmost astonishment; and it is to be observed that indisputable proof has been given, that it will cure, but cannot injure.

This is followed by cases of people throughout the country whose hearing had been restored, and instructions that the preparation could be obtained by giving orders to the agents and newsmen of the newspaper.

Miss Mary Jones 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 at All Saints Church in Oxford 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 had been particularly close to their wealthy 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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