John FARMER (1835–1901)
His wife Mary Elizabeth FARMER, née Stahel (1840–1914)
St Mary Magdalen section: Row 4, Grave 58

John Farmer







SEP 19, 1840






See also the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography entry for John Farmer, musician, and organist at Balliol College, Oxford

John Farmer was born in Nottingham on 16 August 1835, the eldest child of John Farmer and Mary Blackshaw, who were married at St Nicholas's Church, Nottingham on 10 November 1834.

At the time of the 1841 census John (5) was living in Nottingham at St James Street with his parents and his sisters Mary (4), Sarah Ann (2), and Catherine (11 months). His father was then a butcher and his mother a milliner, and they had two servants.

Farmer came from a very musical family, and learned to play the piano, violin, and harp when young. He was apprenticed to his uncle Henry Farmer, an organist, composer, and music teacher who had a music and musical instrument business in Nottingham. At the age of 14 he was sent to be taught at the Leipzig Conservatory, and then after three years he studied under Andreas Spaeth in Coburg for a year.

His mother’s millinery business must have been successful, because by 1851 his father was no longer a butcher but was described as a wholesale milliner. The census in the spring of that year shows the family living at Long Row, Nottingham. John (15), who was at home in England on census night, was described as a musician, and he now had two additional younger siblings: William (8) and Thomas (7). Three female assistants and a male apprentice also lived in the house, plus a cook and general servant.

In 1853 Farmer returned to live in England and took a job in the London branch of his father’s lace business. Following his mother’s death in 1856, he went to Zürich, and supported himself by music teaching.

Mary Elizabeth Stahel, known as Elise or Elizabeth, was born in Turbenthal, Zurich on 19 September 1840. She was the daughter of Johannes Stahel, a Zürich schoolmaster.

On 25 October 1859 in Bern, Switzerland, John Farmer (24) married Mary Elizabeth Stahel, and they had seven children:

  • Mary Farmer (born at Zurich in Switzerland on 15 July 1860)
  • John Stahel Farmer (born at Upper Norwood on 26 May 1862)
  • Gabriel William Stahel Farmer (born in Harrow on 26 May 1865 and baptised at St Mary’s Church there on 11 October)
  • Felix Stahel Farmer (born in Harrow on 13 May 1866; died aged two on 23 August 1868)
  • Henry Theodore Stahel Farmer (born in Harrow on 28 August 1869 and baptised there on 10 November)
  • Elizabeth Stahel Farmer, known as Elise (born in Harrow on 4 September 1871 and baptised there on 27 December)
  • Charles Rudolf Stahel Farmer (born in Harrow on 22 December 1877 and baptised there on 8 May 1878).

In 1861 Farmer returned to England again, and in 1864 he joined the staff of Harrow School as music master.

At the time of the 1871 census John Farmer and his wife Mary were living at the High Street in Harrow with four of their children: Mary (10), John (8), Gabriel (6), and Henry (1). They employed a governess and two servants.

In 1881 they were at Byron Hill, Harrow with Mary (20), Henry (11), Elizabeth (9), and Charles (5), plus three servants.

Farmer left Harrow in 1885 after 21 years. Benjamin Jowett, the Master of Balliol College, Oxford, invited him (not for the first time) to become Organist at the college and stimulate musical activities there, and this time he accepted. Despite sabbatarian protests, Farmer initiated the Sunday evening concerts in the college hall which have survived into the twenty-first century.

Two of Farmer's sons who had been educated at Harrow School were admitted to Balliol College: Gabriel to read Natural Sciences in 1885, and Theodore to read History in 1887. Gabriel was awarded a 1st Class Honours degree in Natural Sciences (Physics) in 1888, and Theodore a 2nd Class Honours degree in History in 1891.

His eldest son John Stahel Farmer died in Chicago on 22 August 1887 at the age of 25 and was buried at St James's churchyard in that city.

At the time of the 1891 census the family was living at 21 Beaumont Street, Oxford. Mrs Farmer was at home there with three of their children — Henry (21), who was a student; Elise (19); and Charles (13), who was at school — plus a cook and a housemaid. John Farmer himself was a visitor in the home of the Headmaster of Clifton College.

In 1894 their son Charles was admitted to the University of St Andrews. Also in 1894 their son Gabriel was appointed Radcliffe Travelling Fellow. He gained his M.Ch. in 1895, and was appointed the Litchfield Lecturer in Surgery.

Three of their children were married in the 1890s.:

  • On 26 April 1894 at Merton College Chapel, Oxford by special licence from the Archbishop of Canterbury (but recorded in the parish register of St Peter-in-the-East Church), Mary Farmer married John Burnet (born in Scotland in 1863) who was a Professor of Greek at St Andrew’s University;
  • On 2 July 1895 at St Mary's Church, Finchley, Gabriel William Stahel Farmer, described a surgeon of Oxford, married Adele Martin of Lansdowne Road, Finchley, the daughter of the painter Russell Martin;;
  • In the second quarter of 1899 at Hampstead (with his banns called in St Mary Magdalen Church on 4 June), Henry Theodore Stahel Farmer married Annie Louise Aumonier of Belsize Park in Hampstead

In 1900 Farmer had a disabling stroke, and a deputy organist was appointed at Balliol. At the time of the 1901 census, when he was 65, he was living at 21 Beaumont Street with his wife and his daughter Elise (29), plus a cook and housemaid. Two hospital nurses were also living with them, described as boarders rather than servants.

Farmer died a few months after the 1901 census:

† John Farmer died at 21 Beaumont Street at the age of 65 on 17 July 1901 and was buried at St Sepulchre’s Cemetery on 20 July (burial recorded in the parish register of St Mary Magdalen Church).

The following obituary appeared in Jackson’s Oxford Journal on 27 July 1901:


The funeral of the late Mr. John Farmer, organist of Balliol College, whose death occurred at his residence, 21, Beaumont-street, in this city, on the 17th inst., took place on Saturday afternoon, and the numerous attendance at the ceremony testified to the great respect in which he was held. The first part of the service was said in the chapel of Balliol, whither the body was conveyed shortly after two o’clock on Saturday, from Beaumont-street, the coffin being covered with a number of beautiful wreaths.

The mourners were Mrs. Farmer (the widow), Professor and Mrs. Burnet, Mr. and Mrs. Gabriel Farmer, Miss Farmer, Mr. and Mrs Henry Farmer, Mr. Charles Farmer, Mrs. Bowman Hart, Mrs. Sidney Stevenson, Mr. Albert Farmer, Mr. Arthur Barlow, Mrs. Welsford, Mr. W. P. Farmer, Nurse Harre, and Mr William Aumenier. There were also present in the chapel, the Master of Balliol and Mrs. Caird, the Rector of Lincoln, the Principal of Brasenose, the Principal of Jesus, Sir William Markby, the Warden of Radley (Rev. J. Field), Professor J. Cook Wilson, Major Adair, Miss Leahy (Headmistress of the Oxford High School for Girls), Dr. Roberts (organist of Magdalen College), Mr. P. E. and Mrs Matheson, Rev. F. Hicks, Mr. W. R. Cave (Harrow School), Mr. Florian Williams, Mr. G. Arkwright, Mr. Reginald Carter (Lincoln), Mr. and Mrs. A. L. Smith, Mr. H. T. Gerrans (Worcester College), Mr. l. Dyer, Mr. D. H. Nagel (Trinity College), Mr. J. L. Strachan-Davidson, Mrs. Welsford, Miss Howse, Miss Edith Spencer, Mr. Gibson, Mr. J. A. Smith, Mr. and Mrs Edgar Mills, Mr. C. Ballard, Mr. T. H. Rose, Dr. Collier, Mr. A. Winkfield, Mr. Tovey, Mr. C. Taphouse, Mr. R. W. Wilson, Mr. A. Higgs, Mr. W. H. Forbes, Mr. Martyn, Mr. G. H. Hallam, Mr. James Parsons, Mr. John Adams, Mr. E. M. Butley, etc.

Dr. Ernest Walker, the assistant organist of Balliol, played previously to the commencement of the service the last chorus from Bach’s “St. Matthew Passion.” The Very Rev. Dr. Butler, Master of Trinity College, Cambridge, and the Rev. E. J. Palmer, one of the chaplains of Balliol, read the service, and as the coffin was being borne from the chapel, Dr. Walker played the Funeral March from the well-known “Requiem,” one of the deceased’s publications.

The interment took place at St. Sepulchre’s Cemetery, Walton-street, the committal sentences and prayers being said by the Very Rev. Dr. Butler and the Rural Dean of Oxford, the Rev. H. E. Clayton. A large number of wreaths and other floral tributes of affection and regard were placed on the coffin, which was of polished elm with plain brass furniture, and a plate bore the following inscriptions:–

Died July 17th, 1901,
Aged 65 years.

The wreaths, etc. including the following:– From loving wife and children; with great regret and much sympathy, the Master of Balliol and Mrs. Caird and Miss Wylie; with the Headmaster’s deepest sympathy, Harrow; from the Master and Fellows of Balliol College, a token of their sincere regard; Sir William Markby; in loving memory, Florence Alvey, Elizabeth Billson, Alethea Wollaston, E. Beatrice Arthur, and Esther E. Mowbray; with sincere sympathy, Miss B. Harvey; in affectionate remembrance from some former colleagues and pupils; with sincere sympathy, Mrs. Charles Cyril Hicks; in affectionate and grateful remembrance, Rev. C. F. N. Hicks, Keble College; in loving memory, from Fanny and Mary; with deepest sympathy, from Edmund H. Hunt and Oswald A. Hunt; with Mr. and Mrs. W. Lambert’s deep sympathy; with loving sympathy, from Arthur and Maggie Harlow; in affectionate remembrance, from Mr. and Mrs Otto Peiniger; in affectionate remembrance, from E. M. Butler; in sorrow and deep affection, from our band of loving friends here, Mrs. Bryant, North London Collegiate School for Girls, Camden-road; in affectionate remembrance from John and Ethel Mews; Miss Margaret Fletcher; with much sympathy, Dr. and Mrs Edward B. Gray; with deepest sympathy, from A. Howse; with deepest sympathy, Ernest Walker; with much sympathy, from Emily and Emma; with love and sympathy, M. and R. Carter; in affectionate remembrance, from Mrs. F. E. Marshall and Miss Catherine Marshall; with deep sympathy, Mr. and Mrs. Ballard; in loving memory from Adèle; with loving prayers, from the staff, Harold Gibbs, Principal, Nottingham College of Music, 26, Regent-street, Nottingham; with sincere sympathy, Mr. and Mrs. P. E. Matheson; with sincere sympathy, Prof. And Mrs. Arthur Thomson; in affectionate memory, from the mistresses and girls of the Oxford High School; with affectionate remembrance, from Mr., Mrs. and Miss Mills; in loving memory of our dear friend, Mr. and Mrs. G. H. Hallam; in grateful and affectionate memory and with deep sympathy with his sorrowing family, from Mr. and Mrs. Arthur E. Haigh and Violet and Beatrice Haigh; with Edith Spencer’s love; with deepest sympathy, Mr. and Mrs. R. Martin and Edward F. Martin; with deepest sympathy, from Mr. and Mrs Hancock and Mr. and Mrs A. Paine; with heartfelt sympathy, from N. S. Penley; with grateful affection, from the Harrow School Musical Society; with heartfelt sympathy, Mrs. and Miss Barnet; with affectionate and grateful remembrance from Mr. and Mrs. E. W. Howson, Harrow, etc.

The arrangements were entrusted to the care of Messrs. Elliston and Cavell.

Farmer’s personal effects at death came to £2,975 5s. 10d.

His daughter Elizabeth was married in 1909:

  • On 6 January 1909 at Harrow, Elizabeth Stahel Farmer married the cotton works manager Joseph Jackson Ingham.

His widow returned to Harrow, and at the time of the 1911 census was living on her own with one servant at West Hill House there.

Her son Charles was married in 1912:

  • In the third quarter of 1912 in West Derby, Charles Rudolf Stahel Farmer married Mary Ellen Woods.

Mrs Farmer died at Harrow in 1914, and her body was brought to Oxford for burial with her husband:

† Mary Elizabeth Farmer, née Stahel (Elise) died at West Hill House, Harrow at the age of 73 on 1 February 1914. Her body was brought back to Oxford and was buried at St Sepulchre’s Cemetery on 5 February (burial recorded in the parish register of St Mary Magdalen Church).

John Farmer’s five surviving children
  • Mary Farmer, Mrs Burnet (born 1861/2) was a singer. Her husband John Burnet was a Fellow of Merton College, Oxford from 1890 to 1915 and held the chair of Greek at St Andrew's University from 1892 to 1926. Their only child Regula Burnet was born in Scotland in 1897/8. At the time of the 1901 census Mary & John Burnet were staying in a boarding house at 8 Wellington Square, Oxford with their daughter and their nurse. The 1911 census shows the family living at 5 Charlbury Road (a large 13-roomed house) with two servants. Her husband died in 1928, and Mary wrote the Preface for a collection of his writings, Essays and Addresses published after his death. Mary Burnet continued to live with her daughter at Balfour House in St Andrews, Scotland and died there in 1945. Their daughter Regula died there tragically in June 1948 as a result of a gas leak in that house.
  • Gabriel William Stahel Farmer (born 1865) and his wife Adele do not appear to have had any children. He emigrated to Australia, where he died (at Texas in Queensland) on 1 February 1929.
  • Henry Theodore Stahel Farmer (born 1869) and his wife Annie had three children: John Aumonier Farmer (1900), Henry Collingwood Farmer (1904), Joan Everard Farmer (1906), and David Stahel Farmer (1909). In 1914 he was living at 20 Somals Road, West Hampstead. He died at Hendon on 26 September 1932.
  • Elizabeth Stahel Farmer (born 1871) was living in Bolton at The Whins, Lostock (a 17-room house) in 1911 with her husband Joseph and their six-month-old baby, John Farmer Ingham and her widowed mother-in-law, plus four servants. Her husband’s occupation and that of his unmarried brother Alfred (34) was given as a cotton bleacher, and they both are described as employers. Another son, Felix J. Ingham, was born in Bolton in 1912. Elizabeth Ingham died at Engledene Nursing Home in Bolton on 26 June 1955, when her permanent address was Breeze Hill Albert Road, Bolton. Her effects came to £1,893 8s. 7d.
  • Charles Rudolf Stahel Farmer (born 1877) was living at Khargpur in India when he died at the Walker Hospital in Simla on 15 October 1920. His effects came to £346, and probate was granted to his widow.



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