William Waters HARRISON (1827–1891)
St Michael section: Row 24, Grave G46

William Watkins Harrison





BORN APRIL 16 1827

DIED MARCH 2, 1891



William Waters Harrison was born in Chester on 16 April 1827 and baptised at St Olave's Church there on 4 May. He was the eldest son of the Revd William Harrison (who had come up to Brasenose from Chester in 1799) and Anne Collins Harrison (maiden surname unknown).

On 6 June 1844 at the age of 17, William was matriculated at the University of Oxford from Brasenose College, obtaining his B.A. in 1848. Just afterwards, when he was only 21, he was appointed Esquire Bedel in Law. G. V. Cox wrote in his Reminiscences of Oxford that when the Esquire Bedel in Law, William Miller of New College, died on 11 November 1848, he was “succeeded in his office by W. W. Harrison, B.A., of Brasenose College, who will be distinguished, after my death or resignation [as Esquire Bedel in Medicine & Arts], as the last of the old Triumvirate of Esquire Bedels.” (Cox died in 1875, so Harrison was indeed the last Esquire Bedel of the University of Oxford.)

At the time of the 1851 census William (23), described as an M.A. of Brasenose College and Esquire Bedel, was lodging in Oxford at the home of the tailor John Minty at 31 Broad Street (one of the houses demolished to make way for the Indian Institute).

When in April 1857 Henry Forster, the Esquire Bedel in Divinity, died, Cox records that he left no successor (his office having expired with him by a recent enactment), and this “made Mr. Harrison (by virtue of the prospective Statute De Bedellis, passed in 1856) Esquire Bedel in Divinity as well as Law”. (Cox adds a footnote to say this was only a temporary arrangement until the new set of Bedels and Sub-Bedels were appointed according to the 1856 Statute.)

At the time of the 1861 census Harrison (33) described himself as an Esquire Beadle and was lodging at 31 Broad Street with the Payne family. He was still lodging with them in 1871.

In 1881 Harrison (53), who described himself as being of independent means, was boarding at a private hotel at 31 Arundel Street, Westminster.

The following entry from A Dictionary of the University of Oxford (1884) explains the duties of the Esquire and Yeoman Bedels, and also mentions that Harrison was still the Esquire Bedel:

Bedels. — There are an Esquire Bedel and three Sub-Bedels. The Esquire Bedel is appointed by the Curators of the University Chest and the Pro-Vice-Chancellors, subject to the approval of Convocation. He receives £200 per annum, and his duties are to register matriculations, to give due notice to those who are to preach before the University, to escort such preachers from their College or Hall to the University Church and back, to act as private secretary to the Vice-Chancellor, and give his whole time to the service of the University. The office of Esquire Bedel will cease with the present holder. There will then be four Bedels: one junior appointed by the Vice-Chancellor, and in constant attendance upon him, at a salary of £120, rising to £130 after five years; and three senior Bedels appointed by the Vice-Chancellor and Proctors at a salary of £40 each. They will be in attendance at all University Sermons, at Congregations, the admission of Proctors, and all State occasions. When in attendance on the Chancellor or Vice-Chancellor, the three senior Bedels shall carry gold staves, and the junior a silver staff, all wearing the usual gown and round cap. They are to be constantly resident in the University, and hold office subject only to dismissal by the Vice-Chancellor and Proctors for incapacity, neglect of duty, or scandalous conduct. At the Encaenia, and on special occasions, the Vice-Chancellor may appoint an extraordinary Bedel and Sub-Bedel. The esquire Bedel is William Walters Harrison, M.A., Brasenose.

Harrison was living at 2 Ship Street in St Michael's parish, Oxford at the time of his death in early 1891, but his death occurred at 37 Wellington Square:

† William Waters Harrison died at 38 Wellington Square at the age of 63 on 2 March 1891 and was buried at St Sepulchre’s Cemetery on 7 March (burial recorded in the parish register of St Michael's Church).

His death notice in Jackson's Oxford Journal read simply: “March 2, at 38 Wellington Square, Oxford, William Waters Harrison, M.A., Brasenose College, aged 63.” A similar brief announcement appeared in The Times, and the fact that the office of Esquire Bedel at the University of Oxford had died with him was not mentioned.

His personal estate came to £576 6s. 7d., and his executor was his sister Miss Frances Ann Harrison of 11 Chichester Street, Chester.



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