John Charles Richard FREEBORN (1853–1932)
His wife Mrs Emily Sarah FREEBORN, née Lawton (1837–1929)
St Mary Magdalen section: Row 41, Grave N53½

John & Emily Freeborn



M.A. M.R.C.S. L.R.C.P


John Charles Richard Freeborn was born at 38/39 Broad Street in 1853 and baptised at St Mary Magdalen Church on 28 June. He was the son of Richard Fernandez Freeborn and Clara Eliza Corbett, who were married at Kennington, London on 17 July 1849. His five siblings were also baptised at St Mary Magdalen Church: Clara Corbet Freeborn (1850), Charlotte Emily Freeborn (1851), Mary Frances Lloyd Freeborn (1855), Henry Spenser Richard Freeborn (1858), and Albert Corsellis Freeborn (1860).

By 1861 John’s father Richard, who was a surgeon, had taken over the family medical practice at 38/39 Broad Street from his own father, the apothecary/doctor John James Sims Freeborn (died 1873). The 1861 census shows young John (7) living over the two houses with his parents and five of his siblings, plus an assistant surgeon, cook, housemaid, upper nurse, under nurse, and footman.

In 1871 John was 17 and boarding at Ruthin Grammar School in Denbighshire.

John’s father had been granted the status of a privileged person by the University of Oxford and was matriculated as a “chirurgus” on 15 October 1847; but John himself read for a proper degree there, being matriculated by Exeter College on 11 October 1872 at the age of 19 and obtaining his B.A. in 1877. His next two brothers followed him to Oxford: Henry was matriculated as a non-collegiate student on 23 November 1876, and Albert was matriculated from Christ Church on 13 October 1877. John and Henry both became doctors, while their brother Albert entered the church.

By the time of the 1881 census John’s family was occupying the accommodation over just one of the two houses that formed the surgery, 38 Broad Street. John (27), described as a graduate of Exeter College, Oxford as well as a student of medicine at London, was still living with his parents and three of his siblings. Their staff was reduced to a cook, an indoor main servant, a housemaid, and an under-housemaid.

Richard Fernandez Freeborn died at 38 Broad Street on 20 April 1884, and John took over his practice.

Emily Sarah Lawton was born at York on 8 February 1837 and baptised at St Saviour’s Church there the same day. She was the daughter of George Lawton, Proctor of York, and his wife Eliza Corsellis (born in Caister, Norfolk in 1812 and baptised there on 27 December) who were married at Ewelme, Oxfordshire on 22 January 1834. Emily had eight younger siblings: Nicholas Caesar Corsellis Lawton (1840), George Lawton (1842), Charles Henry John Victor Lawton (1843), S. Lawton (1845), Caroline Corsellis Lawton (1846), Ellen Marian Ermingarde Lawton (1848), Arthur Herbert Lawton (1850), and Beatrice Sybil Leila Lawton (1853)

At the time of the 1841 census Emily was four years old, living with her parents and her brother Nicholas (1) at Grove Terrace, St Maurice, York. In 1851 she was with her parents and six siblings at 25 Marygate, York, and the family now had three servants. She was still there in 1861, aged 24, with her widowed mother and all seven siblings. In 1871 she and five of her siblings were at home at 21 De Gray Street, Bootham, York without their parents. She is hard to find in 1881.

On 10 September 1884 at St Olave’s Church in York, John Charles Richard Freeborn married Emily Sarah Lawton, and their marriage was announced in both Jackson’s Oxford Journal and the Morning Post. She was aged 47 at the time of her marriage (sixteen years older than her husband), and they had no children.

At the time of the 1891 census John, described as a physician, and his wife Emily were living at 38 Broad Street with just two servants (a housemaid and a cook). The situation was much the same in 1901 and 1911.

During the First World War Dr Freeborn worked at the 3rd Southern General Hospital in the Examination Schools (below).

Examination Schools as hospital

The couple continued to live at 38 Broad Street, and Mrs Freeborn died there in 1929:

† Mrs Emily Freeborn née Lawton died at 38 Broad Street at the age of 92 on 11 January 1929 and was buried at St Sepulchre’s Cemetery on 15 January (burial recorded in the parish register of St Mary Magdalen Church).

Her age at death was wrongly recorded in the burial register and on her death certificate as 83, but it was regularly wrong in the censuses, and it is possible that her husband himself was unaware of how much older she was than himself. Her effects came to £8,224 3s. 3d.

Dr Freeborn retired and moved out of 38 Broad Street in about 1929, and went to live at 229 Woodstock Road. This was his address in 1932, but his death that year took place when he was paying a visit to a house on Cumnor Hill:

† John Charles Richard Freeborn died at Clanfield, Cumnor Hill at the age of 79 on 11 December 1932 and was buried at St Sepulchre’s Cemetery on 15 December (burial recorded in the parish register of St Mary Magdalen Church).

His effects came to £18,380 4s. 10d.

The following obituary appeared in the Oxford Times on 16 December 1932 (p.25d):


The death occurred suddenly on Sunday of Dr. John C. H. Freeborn, aged 79. Dr. Freeborn, who retired only about two years ago, had lived most of his life in Oxford, and, until his retirement, he was one of the most popular doctors in the City. On Sunday Dr. Freeborn called on Mrs. Bryant at Clanfield, Cumnor Hill, and was taken ill and died in a few minutes.

Among his other activities, he was closely associated with the Oxford St. John Ambulance Brigade for between 25 and 30 years, and was Corps Superintendent for many years. He worked untiringly to assist the brigade and to promote its work, and it was with a view to encouraging its members that he presented the Freeborn Challenge Cup for annual competition. Dr. Freeborn was a prominent member of the Oxfordshire branch of the British Medical Association, and was a great favourite with his fellow practitioners. He displayed a keen interest in the G.W.R. ambulance classes.

In his medical work Dr. Freeborn continued a long Oxford tradition in his family, and his father, grandfather and great-grandfather had practices in the City before him, there being seven generations who had practised. He was a brother of the late Vicar of Kidlington. Dr Freeborn, whose wife died some years ago, leaves no family. He first took over his father’s practice at the age of 30, after being educated at Exeter College and spending some time in London. During the War, as he was too old to go abroad, he worked in the Southern General Hospital in the Examination Schools.

The Funeral.

Members of the St. John Ambulance Brigade formed a guard of honour at the Church of St. Mary Magdalene [sic] on Thursday, when the funeral took place. The interment was at St. Sepulchre’s Cemetery. The service was conducted by the Rev. B. S. Hack, and the lesson was read by the Rev. T. O. Floyd.

The family mourners were Dr. Henry Freeborn (brother), Mrs. Freeborn (sister-in-law), Mrs. A. C. R. Harrison (sister-in-law), Dr. John Harrison (brother-in-law), Capt. J. H. R. Freeborn, Mr. C. R. Freeborn and Mr. Edward Saunders (nephews), Mrs. Johns, Mrs. Middings, Miss Katherine Saunders, Miss Gwen Freeborn and Mrs. Cooper (Birchington) (nieces), Dr. Coventon, Mrs. Bryant and Miss Donvin.

Others present included Mr. and Mrs. Tollemache (Bradfield), Dr. Gibson, Dr. Waterhouse, Mrs. E. H. Gray, Miss Fowles, Mrs. Cowley, Dr. Eccles Williams, Lady Furley, Miss Haithwaite, Mr. G. D. Collier and Miss Collier, Mr. F. T. Dallin and Miss Dallin, Miss L. Richards, the Rev. C. W. Farrer (Stanton Harcourt), Dr. F. Gower Gardner (County Director, British Red Cross Society), Mrs. Richardson (assistant County Director) and members of the local V.A.D., Miss Goundrey, Mrs. and Miss Warwick, Mrs. Leech, Mrs. Mattock, Mr. C. E. Venables, Dr. Ormerod, and the old family servants. Wreaths were sent by Mrs. Freeborn, Mrs. A. C. R. Freeborn, Mrs. Bryant and Dr. Coventon.

His old surgery at 38/39 Broad Street, where his family had practised for about a hundred years, was demolished by the University in 1937.



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