Henry BOSWELL (1835–1897)
His sister Miss Mary Ann BOSWELL (1846–1879)
St Michael section: Row 37, Grave L48½

Henry Boswell



BORN APRIL 16, 1846
DIED OCT 19, 1879




DIED FEB. 4, 1897



Henry Boswell and his youngest sister Mary Anne Boswell were born in Oxford in 1835 and 1846 respectively. Their parents were Francis Boswell (born in Oxford in 1802/3) and Jane Duncan Lee (born in London on 24 December 1804 and baptised at Shoreditch on 21 March 1805, the daughter of Joseph & Sarah Lee). They had the following six children in all:

  • Henry Boswell (born in St Thomas’s parish in west Oxford on 27 January 1835 and baptised at St Thomas’s Church on 22 March)
  • Edward Boswell (born in Oxford in 1837/8)
  • Jane Duncan Boswell (born at 50 Cornmarket Street in 1841 and baptised at St Michael’s Church on 24 March)
  • Eliza Laetitia Boswell (born at 50 Cornmarket Street in 1843 and baptised at St Michael’s Church on 8 March)
  • Francis or Frank Boswell (born at 50 Cornmarket Street in 1844 and baptised at St Michael’s Church on 10 November)
  • Mary Ann Boswell (born at 50 Cornmarket on 16 April 1846 and baptised at St Michael’s Church on 17 May).

Henry’s father Francis was described as a carpenter when his first two children were baptised in 1835 and 1841. In the census of 1841 Henry (6) and his siblings Edward (3) and Jane (four months) were home at 50 Cornmarket Street in St Michael’s parish with their mother Jane Boswell and a servant. This shop had already been occupied by a Mr Boswell at the time of the 1772 Survey of Oxford, and in 1798 Henry Boswell senior had set up business as a trunk and packing-case maker there. Henry Boswell died in 1842, and Francis Boswell then took over his business: he is described as a trunk maker at his children’s baptisms from 1843 onwards, and is listed as the proprietor of the portmanteau business at 30 Cornmarket Street in Hunt’s 1846 Directory.

In the 1851 census Francis Boswell was described as a portmanteau maker employing five men, and was home at 50 Cornmarket Street with his wife and six children. Henry (16) was now his father’s assistant; Edward (13), Jane (10), Eliza Laetitia (8), and Frank (6) were all still at school; and Mary Anne (4) was the baby.

Henry Boswell became very interested in botany in the 1850s, and in 1860 his first article on “Oxfordshire Mosses” appeared in the Journal of Botany. His herbarium is now at the Oxford Botanic Garden, and his letters are at the Natural History Museum in London.

At the time of the 1861 census Henry’s father Francis (58), still described as a portmanteau maker, was now employing four men and five boys and was living over his shop at 30 Cornmarket Street with his wife Jane (54) and their six children: Henry himself (26) was a trunk maker; Edward (23) was a cabinet maker; Jane (20) and Eliza (18) were shopwomen; Frank (16) was a portmanteau maker’s assistant; and Mary Ann (13) was still at school.

In 1862 Henry’s father Francis Boswell died, and Henry took over his business.

On 16 April 1868 in London, Henry Boswell married the twice-widowed Mrs Catherine Martha Lucy, née Jennings, formerly Mrs Lillingston, who was the stepmother of William Lucy of the Eagle Ironworks and age. The marriage was announced thus in Jackson’s Oxford Journal: “April 16, at St. Martin’s in-the-Fields, London, by the Rev. A. E. Northey, Mr. Henry Boswell, of the Corn Market, to Catharine Martha, relict of Mr. William Castle Lucy, of 3, Park-place, St. Giles’s.” Boswell was aged 35 and Catherine 55 at the time of the wedding. Henry Boswell went to live with Catherine at Langholme, 109 Woodstock Road, on which she had taken out the first lease when a widow in 1866.

JOJ 30 May 1868

The advertisement on the right appeared in Jackson’s Oxford Journal on 30 May 1868 and shows that Henry Boswell had just opened a second shop at 49 Cornmarket Street next door to his first, where he sold hats, hosiery, and shirts: this was the first move towards Boswell’s becoming the department store that it is today.

At the time of the 1871 census Henry Boswell (37) still described himself as a trunk manufacturer and was living at 109 Woodstock Road with Catherine (with her age rounded down seven years to 50) and their servant. By 1872 he was described in directories as both a trunk maker & hosier.

At the beginning of 1872 Henry Boswell’s book The Mosses of Oxfordshire and the Neighbourhood of Oxford was published.

Henry’s sister Mary Ann Boswell (24) never married. She was living over her brother’s shop at 50 Cornmarket Street at the time of the 1871 census with her unmarried sister Jane (30). She died there in 1879:

† Miss Mary Ann Boswell died at 50 Cornmarket Street at the age of 32 on 19 October 1879 and was buried at St Sepulchre’s Cemetery on 22 October (burial recorded in the parish register of St Michael’s Church).

Her effects came to under £100, and Henry was her executor.

47-51 CornmarketI


In 1874 Henry Boswell rebuilt the group of five shops at 47 to 51 Cornmarket. The photograph on the left shows No. 51 nearest the camera, then Boswell’s own shops at Nos. 50 and 49 (the latter to the north has a sign for Long’s Registry upstairs).

In 1881 Henry Boswell (48), now employing just four men) was living at 109 Woodstock Road with his wife Catherine (55) and one servant.

Henry Boswell was created a Master of Arts by the University of Oxford on 23 November 1886.

In 1888 Henry’s wife Mrs Catherine Martha Boswell died, with her age recorded as 68, but she was in fact 75. Her burial on 14 August 1888 was listed in the parish registers of both St Giles’s Church and Ss Philip & James’s Church, and she was buried in the grave of her mother and her second husband, William Castle Lucy, in St Sepulchre’s Cemetery. Her effects came to £3,944.

In 1890 Boswell sold his business to Arthur Pearson, although it still continued to be called H. Boswell & Co.

Jackson’s Oxford Journal reports that on 21 February 1891 Henry Boswell, M.A. gave a lecture on “Mosses” at Witney in connection with the Natural History Society.

At the time of the 1891 census Henry Boswell, a widower of 56 who still described himself as a portmanteau maker, was living alone at 109 Woodstock Road with two servants. By 1897 he had been admitted to the Warneford Asylum in Headington.

Henry Boswell died at the Warneford Asylum in 1897 and was buried with his sister:

† Henry Boswell died at the Warneford Asylum at the age of 62 on 4 February 1897 and was buried at St Sepulchre’s Cemetery on 9 February (burial recorded in the parish register of St Michael’s Church).

His effects came to £1,535.


Arthur Pearson, who had bought the shop at 30 Cornmarket Street before Henry Boswell’s death, continued to run it there until 1929, when he moved it into the newly built Boswell House on the corner of Cornmarket and Broad Street.

This went through to Pearson’s other shop, the Oxford Drug Company at the north-east end of Cornmarket, and both still operate as Boswells of Oxford today (right).



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