James Thorley HEMMINGS (1842–1929)
His wife Sarah Ann HEMMINGS, née Ball (1840–1925)
St Mary Magdalen section: Row 41, Grave N61

James Thorley Hemmings was born in St Ebbe’s, Oxford on 1 June 1842, the son of William Hemmings, a cordwainer, and his second wife Lydia Gosling.

He should not be confused with his son, James John Thorley Hemmings (not buried in this cemetery), who was imprisoned for the manslaughter of his wife Eliza.

Hemmings grave




DIED NOV. 30TH 1925


DIED NOV. 9TH 1929,


Background: William Hemmings (James Thorley Hemmings’s father) and his three wives

William Hemmings was born in Oxford on 16 July 1803, and later took his mother’s main name, Thorley, as his middle name. In 1825 he was admitted as Freeman of the City of Oxford, with his trade being that of cordwainer or shoemaker.

Wife 1: William Hemmings married his first wife Mary Anne Jacob at Cowley St James Church on 31 December 1827 and they had one child:

  • Julia Hannah or Anna Thorley Hemmings (born at Cowley Place, Oxford in 1828 and baptised (as Julianna) at Cowley St James Church – which then included east Oxford – on 21 September 1828).

William was described as a cordwainer when his daughter was baptised.

William’s first wife, Mrs Mary Hemmings, must have died between 1828 and 1830, and is probably the woman of that name who died in 1829 at the age of 35 and was buried at St Andrew’s Church in Headington on 10 May.

Wife 2: William Hemmings married his second wife, the widow Mrs Lydia Pickett, on 21 May 1830 at Cowley St James Church: both were described as being of that parish. His wife was born Lydia Gosling, to an unmarried mother in Cowley also called Lydia Gosling who had her daughter baptised at St Clement’s Church on 4 March 1805.

William and Lydia had the the following children:

  • William Frederick Thorley Hemmings (baptised at St Mary Magdalen Church on 9 October 1831)
  • Thomas Thorley Hemmings (born in London and baptised at St Mary Magdalen Church on 18 August 1833)
  • John Thorley Hemmings (born in Oxford in 1835/6)
  • George William Thorley Hemmings (born in Oxford on 14 October 1838, but not baptised at St Mary Magdalen Church until 3 March 1848, when he was nine); he was originally George William King Hemmings (King being the surname of his mother Lydia’s stepfather), but he appears to have changed it to Hemmings after his mother’s death
  • James Thorley Hemmings (born in St Ebbe’s Street, Oxford on 1 June 1842, but not baptised at St Mary Magdalen Church until 3 March 1848, when he was six)
  • Joseph Thorley Hemmings (born at St Ebbe’s Street, Oxford on 14 August 1844 and baptised at St Ebbe’s Church on 21 August; died aged two weeks on 30 August 1844 and buried at St Ebbe’s Church on 2 September)

William and his second wife appear to have gone to London in the early 1830s, but soon came back to live in St Mary Magdalen parish, with their address given as Red Lion Square in 1831 and 1833.

By the time of the 1841 census the family had moved to St Ebbe’s Street. William, still working as a shoemaker, was living there with Lydia and their children Thomas (7), John (5), and George (3), plus Julia (12) from his first marriage, and William Pickett (13) and Charlotte Pickett (11) from his wife’s first marriage.

By 1844 they had moved to St Ebbe’s Street. William’s second wife Mrs Lydia Hemmings died there of pneumonia at the age of 39 on 19 August 1844, just five days after giving birth to her last baby, and was buried at St Ebbe’s Church on 21 September. Her baby only survived another eleven days.

William Hemmings had George and James baptised in March 1848, four years after their mother’s death, and he was then living in Bown’s Yard at St Mary Magdalen parish. The 1851 census shows William Hemmings as a widower, still living in Bown’s Yard and working as a cordwainer, with five of his children: Julia (22), who was working as a domestic; William (19), who was a fruit hawker; John (17), who was an errand boy; George (13); and James (10), who was at school. A grandson, John Thorley Hemmings (4) was also living with him: this was Julia Hannah Hemmings’s illegitimate son, born at St Ebbe’s Street on 11 December 1846 when Julia was 18, and described in the parish register as “base” when he was baptised at St Ebbe’s Church on 2 February 1847. He was registered as John William Hemmings.

Wife 3: William Hemmings married his third wife, Anne Elizabeth Smith, at the Registry Office in Oxford on 24 August 1858: she was aged 26 and he was 54. The 1861 census shows William (57) and Ann (29) living at 6 Nelson Street, Jericho with William’s son Thomas T. Hemmings, an unmarried carpenter of 30.

In 1861 James Thorley Hemmings (20) was living with his sister Julia and her husband Thomas Beath at 2 Nelson Street, Jericho.

On 20 April 1862 at St Paul's Church, Oxford, James Thorley Hemmings (20) married Sarah Ann Ball (born Highworth, Wiltshire in 1841).. Neither could read or write, and both were living in Nelson Place at the time of the wedding. They had twelve children (three of whom were dead by 1911), including the following:

  • James John Thorley Hemmings junior (born in Clarendon Street, Jericho, Oxford on 7 October 1862 and baptised at St Paul’s Church on 20 February)
  • Julia Hemmings (born in Paddington, London on 18 June 1865)
  • Sarah Ann Thorley Hemmings (born in Avenue Place, Cowley or east Oxford in 1866/7 and baptised at Cowley St James Church on 30 March 1867)
  • William Thorley Hemmings (born at the brickfield, Cowley or east Oxford on 2 August 1868 and baptised at Cowley St James Church on 1 November)
  • Frank Thorley Hemmings (born in east Oxford on 30 March 1871 and baptised at Ss Mary & John Church on 7 April)
  • Tom Thorley Hemmings (born at Bown’s Yard, Oxford on 13 February 1873 and baptised at St Mary Magdalen Church on 23 March)
  • Ada Elizabeth Thorley Hemmings (born at Gloucester Street, Oxford on 5 February 1875 and baptised at St Mary Magdalen Church on 28 March)
  • George Thorley Hemmings (born in Oxford on 17 October 1876 and baptised at St Mary Magdalen Church on 6 December)
  • Harry Thorley Hemmings (born in Oxford on 14 May 1878 and baptised at St Mary Magdalen Church on 4 August)
  • Frederick Thorley Hemmings (born in Oxford on 14 February 1880 and baptised at St Ebbe’s Church on 8 March)
  • Edward Hemmings (born on 17 October 1882 and baptised at St Ebbe’s Church on 11 February 1883).

The couple started off their married life in Clarendon Street, Jericho, where their first child was born, and then appear to have gone to London for a short while.

They then moved to the Cowley area, probably in fact east Oxford, which until 1870 was in the parish of Cowley St James, and thereafter in the parish of Cowley St John.

At the time of the 1871 census, James Thorley Hemmings (30), described as a bricklayer and beer retailer, was living at The Crown in the Cowley Road with his wife Sarah Ann (29) and children James (8), Julia (5), William (2), and Frank (four days, as yet unnamed); and there was also a nurse looking after the mother and baby.

By 1873 they were back in St Mary Magdalen parish, and then in St Ebbe’s again by 1880.

James Thorley Hemmings’s father William Hemmings was admitted to Littlemore Lunatic Asylum with dementia on 14 September 1878. He died there, from bronchitis and senile decay, with his age given as 81, on 8 March 1884 and was buried in the asylum burial ground on 12 March.

By 1881 the family was living at 9 Dover’s Row in east Oxford. Their eldest son James (18) was a bricklayer, and the seven youngest children were all still at school. Julia (15) had left home to go into service at 27 New Inn Hall Street, Oxford (now 17 St Michael's Street).

Their son James was married in 1882:

  • On 29 May 1882 at St Aldate’s Church, Oxford, James John Thorley Hemmings (20) married Eliza Freeman, by whom he had five children before causing her death and going to prison for manslaughter in 1894
    (for more on this family, see separate grave).

In 1890 James Thorley Hemmings and his wife Sarah Ann took over the George & Dragon pub in George Street. (This was variously numbered 50 or 52 under the old numbering system, and was on the opposite corner of Chain Alley to the Welsh Pony. It was demolished to make way for the present Job Centre building.)

Hemmings family outside George & DragonPhotograph of the wedding of Harry Thorley Hemmings (son of James Thorley Hemmings) and Rachel Alice Owen
on 26 December 1904 outside the George & Dragon in George Street: Chain Alley is behind them on the right.

Only the bride and groom in the centre can be identified with certainty, but the following seem likely:
Seated, L to R: ?Sarah Ann Hemmings (née Ball), Daisy Bryant (child),
Harry Thorley Hemmings and his bride Rachel, Ivy Bryant (child), Ada Maria Thorley Hemmings.
Standing L to R: Unknown female, Edward Thorley Hemmings, ?Anne Elizabeth Hemmings,
Ada Elizabeth Thorley Hemmings, ?James Thorley Hemmings, Unknown female, Unknown female.

James also worked as a bricklayer at the same time as running the pub, so it was probably no more than an evening beerhouse. At the time of the 1891 census he and his wife were living at the George & Dragon with five of their children: Ada (16), who was a domestic servant; and George (15), Harry (13), Frederick (11), and Edward (7), who were still at school.

At the time of the 1901 census James Thorley Hemmings and his wife were at the George & Dragon with only one son, Edward (a bricklayer of 19). at home. Also living with them were Ivy Bryant (6) and Daisy Bryant (2) (described as their nieces, but actually their granddaughters, children of their daughter Ada), and their granddaughter Annie Hemmings (16, one of the children whose mother had been killed by their father) who was working as a dressmaker. They also had one lodger and three boarders.

From 1905 James Thorley Hemmings is listed in directories as a private resident at 50 (or 52) George Street, which was no longer a beerhouse. In 1911 when he was 70 he was still working as bricklayer and living there with his wife, their granddaughter Annie (26), who was still working as a dressmaker, and their grandson Fred (10), who was at school. They had two boarders.

Sarah died in 1925:

† Mrs Sarah Ann Hemmings, née Ball died at 50 George Street on 30 November 1925 at the age of 85 and was buried at St Sepulchre’s Cemetery on 5 December (burial recorded in the parish register of St Mary Magdalen Church).

James died four years later in 1929:

† James Thorley Hemmings died at 50 George Street on 9 November 1929 at the age of 87 and was buried in St Sepulchre’s Cemetery on 14 November (burial recorded in the parish register of St Mary Magdalen Church).

More on the Hemmings family tree

The photographs and some of the information above was provided by
Rob Hemmings, a great- great-grandson of James Thorley Hemmings



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