John GODFREY (1799–1872)
His wife Mrs Elizabeth Williamson GODFREY, née Saunders (c.1806–1874)
Their son James Alfred GODFREY (1835–1869)
St Paul section: Row 3, Grave A19 [St Paul ref O.2]

John Godfrey

IN MEMORY OF JOHN GODFREY, M.R.C.S., L.S.A. / WHO DIED APRIL 23RD, 1872 / AGED 72 YEARS
ALSO OF ELIZABETH WIFE OF THE ABOVE / WHO DIED APRIL 4TH, 1874 / AGED 69 YEARS

Other side:
IN MEMORY OF JAMES ALFRED GODFREY / CAPTAIN, ROYAL MARINE LIGHT INFANTRY
ENTERED INTO REST JANUARY [4TH], 1869 / AGED 34

John Godfrey

John Godfrey (right) was born in Oxford in 1799 and baptised at St Ebbe’s Church on 3 June. He was the son of Thomas Godfrey (1762–1822) and Ann Chillingworth (1768–1840), who were married in Marston on 6 June 1788, and also the brother or Richard Chillingworth Godfrey, who was Mayor of Oxford in 1847/8. He was for five years pupil and assistant to Frederick Symonds at the Oxford Medical Dispensary before moving to Charlbury to practise medicine, probably with Samuel Saunders.

Elizabeth Godfrey

Elizabeth Williamson Saunders (left) was born in Charlbury in 1805 and baptised there on 18 May. She was the daughter of the surgeon Samuel Saunders and Sarah Williamson, who were married at Charlbury on 27 April 1803. Her four younger siblings also baptised there: James Arthur Saunders on 31 December 1806; Ellin Sarah Saunders on 21 May 1809; William Deacle Saunders on 18 February 1812; and Frances Georgiana Saunders on 3 January 1816.

On 4 September 1821 at St George’s Church in London, John Godfrey married Elizabeth Williamson Saunders, and the marriage was announced in Jackson’s Oxford Journal on 8 September. The marriage was also recorded in the register of St Giles’s Church in Oxford: John was described as being of Charlbury and Elizabeth as being late of Charlbury but currently of St Giles’s parish. Elizabeth was only 15 years old when she was married, but she had the consent of her parents, who were the witnesses.

John & Elizabeth Godfrey had the following children:

  • John Godfrey junior (born in Oxfordshire in c.1823)
  • Henry Godfrey (born in Oxfordshire in c.1826)
  • James Alfred Godfrey (born in Charlbury in 1835 and baptised there on 21 April)
  • Ellen Godfrey (born in Charlbury in 1840 and baptised there on 26 August).

At the time of the 1841 census John Godfrey was working as a surgeon in Charlbury, and he and his wife Elizabeth were living at Thames Street there with three of their children: John (17), James (6), and Ellen (ten months). They had one male servant and two female ones. Elizabeth’s parents, the surgeon Samuel Saunders and his wife Sarah, are listed immediately after them in the Charlbury census; living with them was their granddaughter Matilda Silver (6), born in the East Indies, the daughter of Ellen Sarah Silver, née Saunders.

It appears that in 1848 Dr John Godfrey was making plans to move his practice to Oxford, as on 6 May that year his Charlbury home was advertised thus in Jackson’s Oxford Journal:

TO be SOLD or LET, with immediate possession,— A large, very convenient, and substantial DWELLING HOUSE, with good Garden and Field adjoining, suitable for the residence of a gentleman’s family, or for business, late in the occupation of John Godfrey, Esq. surgeon. The House consists of 17 rooms and offices, excellent stable, saddle room, and carriage houses.— Apply to Mr. Godfrey, on the premises.

The house did not sell immediately, and the advertisement was repeated in September.


John Godfrey junior

John Godfrey junior, eldest son, and his wife Phillis

The eldest son of John & Elizabeth Godfrey was married in 1849:

  • On 24 December 1849 at Spelsbury, John Godfrey junior, described as a tradesman of Oxford, married Phillis Harris alias Smith, the illegitimate daughter of the farmer Robert Harris.

The couple emigrated to New Zealand soon after their marriage: see more at the foot of this page

Right: John Godfrey junior, when older. All the family photographs on this page have
been supplied by his New Zealand-born great-great-granddaughter Maureen O’Connor


By 1850 Dr John Godfrey had moved from Charlbury to Oxford, and was listed as a Surgeon at 37 Beaumont Street in Slatter’s Oxfordshire Directory that year. On 7 December 1850 he inserted a notice in Jackson’s Oxford Journal, giving that address and offering himself as a candidate as Surgeon to the Oxford Medical Dispensary, following the resignation of Frederick Symonds; but he was elected on this occasion.

By the time of the 1851 census Dr Godfrey (51), described as a General Practitioner (M.R.C.S, L.A.S.), was practising in Oxford at 37 Beaumont Street in St Mary Magdalen parish. He is listed there with his wife Elizabeth (45) and their daughter Ellen (10), his niece Katherine E. S. Silver (19), described as an officer’s daughter E.T.C.S., and one servant. His son James (14) was boarding at St Mary’s College in New Shoreham, Sussex.

On 2 May 1852 John Godfrey was the surgeon summoned to Cardigan Street in Jericho to see Charlotte Noon (whom he had attended in her confinement ten months previously). Her husband, who summoned him, had inflicted a wound from which she subsequently died.


Henry Godfrey, second son, and his wife Eliza

Henry Godfrey (born c.1826), the second son of John & Elizabeth Godfrey, emigrated to New Zealand and raised racehorses and farmed crops: he is credited with the introduction of systematic farming and the importing of the first water-driven flour mill in the area. 

In 1852 in New Zealand he married Eliza Jane Harley, and they had five children.

Sadly Henry Godfrey and the middle three of his children (Ellen, Alfred, and Alice) all died of diphtheria within a few weeks of each other in August 1868. Henry, who died on 22 August 1868 at the age of 42, was buried in New Zealand. His youngest child Ethel was born at Woodburn, Wairau Plains, New Zealand eight months after the death of her father.

The eldest son of Henry and Eliza Godfrey, Henry Charles Godfrey. married and had a large family.


19 Beaumont Street

On 2 January 1858 Dr John Godfrey inserted an advertisement in Jackson’s Oxford Journal again presenting himself as a candidate for the office of Medical Attendant to the Oxford Medical Dispensary and Lying-in Charity, and this time he was duly elected. He held the position for six years, resigning in January 1867.

By 1861 Godfrey, described as a surgeon, was living at 19 Beaumont Street (left) with his wife and their daughter Ellen. An assistant surgeon was also living in the house, and they now had three servants.

Their son James Alfred Godfrey was married in 1866 (see more below)


Ellen Godfrey, youngest child and only daughter

Ellen was married in 1867:

  • On 21 February 1867 at St Mary Magdalen Church, Ellen Godfrey married William Allin Thompson, a surgeon of St Aldate’s and the son of Alderman William Thompson.

Ellen died at the age of 27 on 11 December 1867 after just eleven months of marriage and was buried at St Sepulchre’s Cemetery: see adjoining grave.


James Alfred Godfrey

James Alfred Godfrey, third son

James Alfred Godfrey (right), the third son of Dr John Godfrey and his wife Elizabeth, was matriculated as a Servitor at Christ Church at the age of 19 on 18 October 1854

He evidently soon gave up his course, however, as in November 1855 he was appointed a Second Lieutenant in the Royal Marines, and in May 1859 Second Lieutenant; and in October 1861 Ensign by purchase.

He was married in 1866:

  • On 3 May 1866 on the Isle of Wight James Alfred Godfrey married Matilda Tilbury.

His marriage notice in Jackson’s Oxford Journal read: “May 3, at Holy Trinity Church, Ryde, Isle of Wight, by the Rev. E. C. Adams, M.A., Fellow of Worcester College, Oxford, James Alfred Godfrey, Esq., youngest son of John Godfrey, Esq., of Beaumont-street, Oxford, to Matilda, youngest daughter of the late James Tilbury, Esq., of Acre-lane, Brixton, and High-street, Marylebone, London.”

James was appointed Captain in the Royal Marine Light Infantry in November 1867.

He died on the Isle of Wight at the beginning of 1869. His home was then at 1 St Mark’s Place, Anglesey, Hampshire.

James’s body was brought to Oxford for burial in St Sepulchre’s Cemetery.

† James Alfred Godfrey died at St John’s Park, Ryde, Isle of Wight at the age of 34 on 4 January 1869 and was buried at St Sepulchre’s Cemetery on 12 January (burial recorded in the parish register of St Paul’s Church).

There is no indication that James Alfred Godfrey ever lived in St Paul’s parish, but his parents had probably purchased this family plot the preceding year when they buried his married sister Ellen in the adjacent space. The time between his death and burial (eight days) was unusually long, and cannot be explained just by the distance the body had to travel; it may be that it was an unexpected death and the vault had not yet been built.

His effects came to under £450, and on 27 September 1869 probate was granted to his widow Matilda, who had moved in with her parents-in-law at 19 Beaumont Street.


Hence by 1868 three of the four children of John & Elizabeth Godfrey were dead, and the fourth was in New Zealand.

At the time of the 1871 census John (71), described as a surgeon who was no longer practising, was living at 19 Beaumont Street with his wife Elizabeth (65) and his widowed daughter-in-law Matilda Godfrey (James’s wife) and two servants.

John Godfrey died the following year, and was buried in the vault of his daughter Mrs Thompson:

† John Godfrey died at 19 Beaumont Street at the age of 72 on 23 April 1872 and was buried at St Sepulchre’s Cemetery on 1 May (burial recorded in the parish register of St Paul’s Church).

His death notice in Jackson’s Oxford Journal read:

April 23, at No. 29 [sic: should be 19] Beaumont-street, John Godfrey, Esq., in the 73rd year of his age. Mr. Godfrey succeeded Mr. Wood as medical officer to the Dispensary in January 1858; and in January 1867 he resigned that office, which he had filled to the entire satisfaction of the patients and subscribers.

His effects came to under £4,000.

His widow died two years later, and was buried with her daughter and husband:

† Mrs Elizabeth Williamson Godfrey née Saunders died at 19 Beaumont Street at the age of 69 on 4 April 1874 and was buried at St Sepulchre’s Cemetery on 11 April (burial recorded in the parish register of St Paul’s Church).

Her death notice in Jackson’s Oxford Journal read, “April 4, at her residence, Beaumont-street, Oxford, Elizabeth Williamson, widow of John Godfrey, Esq., in the 89th [sic: should be 69th] year of her age.” Her effects came to under £4,000.

On 10 June 1880 at St Mary Magdalen Church Mrs Miranda Godfrey, the widow of their son James who had been living with her parents-in-law, married her second husband Arthur Edward Patrick Voules, a gentleman of St Giles’s parish.


Phillis Godfrey and sons

The only surviving child of John and Elizabeth Godfrey

John Godfrey junior (born c.1823) who had emigrated to New Zealand with his wife Phillis, was living at Wairu in 1853. He became well known in early New Zealand as a local politician, newspaper editor, and publican. 

He and Phillis had three children in New Zealand:

  • Charles Alfred Godfrey (1854)
  • Alfred James Godfrey (1856). The New Zealand author Janet Patterson Frame was descended from him.
  • Francis Robert Godfrey (1863).

John Godfrey junior died at Picton, Marlborough, New Zealand at the age of 68 on 5 July 1891.

A tiny roadside museum in a town called Renwick in the Wairau region of New Zealand’s South Island contains relics from the families of the two sons of Dr John Godfrey who were instrumental in shaping this part of early New Zealand.

Right: Mrs Phillis Godfrey and her three sons

The Godfrey vault shown at the top of this page was invisible before the ivy was cleared away on 20 May 2014Godfrey grave


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