William KIRTLAND (1786–1864)
St Paul section: Row 6, Grave A14 [St Paul ref. K3]

William Kirtland



Memory of

William Kirtland

Many Years

Under Keeper of the

Ashmolean Museum

Who departed this life

August ix Mdccclxiv

Aged lxxviii




The footstone (placed behind the headstone) reads W.K. 1864

William Kirtland (or Kertland) was born in Oxford in 1786 and baptised at St Peter-in-the-East Church on 19 May. He was the son of Samuel Kirtland, a grocer & chinaman at the north-east end of Oxford’s High Street, and Ann Cock, who were married at St Peter-le-Bailey Church on 7 April 1774. Seven of William’s siblings were also baptised at St Peter-in-the-East Church: Samuel (1775), John (1779), George (1782), Elizabeth (1783), William (1786), Marianne (1889), and Jane (1791).

William’s eldest brother, Samuel Kirtland junior, was taken on by their father as his apprentice in 1788.

In 1809 William’s father gave up his business and moved up to Headington. The following advertisement in Jackson’s Oxford Journal on 6 August that year gives a good description of the shop and house where William lived, and which had evidently been recently rebuilt:

OXFORD. Freehold Dwelling House, Household Furniture, Stock in Trace, &c. &c.
TO be SOLD by AUCTION, by Mr. ADAMS, (unless previously disposed of by private contract,) at the Angel Inn, in the City of Oxford on Monday the 22d day of August, 1808,—All that newly-erected FREEHOLD DWELLING HOUSE and PREMISES, in a most eligible and desirable situation (either for Trade, or the residence of a genteel Family), nearly opposite the Angel Inn, in the High-street, Oxford, Late in the occupation of the proprietor, Mr. Samuel Kirtland, grocer and chinaman, who has left Oxford. The whole of the freehold is in most excellent repair, the Land-Tax redeemed; and consists of 9 bed chambers, with convenient closets, 2 very excellent dining rooms, a large parlour, 2 kitchens and a most capital shop in front, good and convenient cellaring, and a very spacious outlet; together with a Freehold Tenement in the Yard.

It evidently did not sell, as Jackson’s Oxford Journal on 28 January 1809 advertised the same premises to let, this time for trade only, adding that “Mr. Kirtland, of Headington, will shew the premises, if applied to.”

Later in 1809 his father advertised land to let in St Giles’s Field and Burgess’s Mead.

It appears that the family then moved to St Giles, and William became a singing-man at St John’s College in 1816 (and continued in this post to 1853).

William’s father Samuel Kirtland died at the age of 75 in 1821 and was buried in St Giles’s churchyard on 23 July.

His mother Ann Kirtland died at the age of 76 in 1826 and was buried with her husband: the burial register stated that she lived “near the church”. Jackson’s Oxford Journal reported on 15 February 1826: “On Monday last, died in St Giles, in consequence of a paralytic seizure, in the 76th year of her age, Mrs Kirtland, relict of the late Mr Kirtland, formerly a grocer in this city.”

Later the same year, on 20 September 1826 at St Martin’s Church, Carfax, William Kirtland, who was now aged 40, married Sophia Joyce: he was then described as being of St Giles’s parish, and she of St Martin’s. They had the following children:

  • William Latchmore Kirtland (born at Peer’s Row in 1827 and privately baptised at St Giles’s Church on 4 October; received at the church on 27 December)
  • Sophia Joyce Kirtland (born at Peer’s Row in 1828 and baptised at St Giles’s Church on 24 December)
  • Mary Elizabeth Kirtland (born at St John’s Street in 1831 and baptised at St Mary Magdalen Church on 9 September; died at St John Street at the age of about six months on 14 March 1832 and buried at St Giles’s Church on 18 March)

William and Sophia Kirtland evidently began their married life in St Giles, but between 1829 and 1831 they moved to the south end of St John Street, which fell in St Mary Magdalen parish: their house was probably No. 10, but the number is not given until 1851.

By the 1820s, Kirtland was appointed Under-keeper at the Ashmolean Museum, then still in its original building in Broad Street (now the Museum of the History of Science). The Keeper from 1823 to 1829 was John Shute Duncan, who rearranged and expanded the collections and left much of the routine conduct of the museum to Kirtland, who was described as loyal and able. Kirtland’s exact status is thus hard to define: he is described as a gentleman at the time of his son’s baptism, as a servant in the 1841 census, and as a plebeian at the time of his son’s matriculation.

From 1829 until his retirement, Kirtland continued to work at the Ashmolean Museum under Philip Bury Duncan, brother of the previous keeper.

William Kirtland’s wife Sophia Kirtland died at St John Street on 13 October 1832 at the age of 38, and was buried in St Giles’s churchyard on 19 October. William remained a widower for the rest of his life.

At the time of the 1841 census he was still living at St John Street with his two surviving children William (13) and Sophia (12), plus an independent lady aged about 90 called Elizabeth Burton, and a servant.

In 1845 the Ashmolean Museum moved to its new building on its present site in Beaumont Street, which was nearer to Kirtland’s home.

On 6 February 1845 his only son William Latchmore Kirtland, who had been a chorister at Magdalen College School, was matriculated at the University of Oxford from Magdalen College, aged 17. He died at Salisbury on 24 July 1849 when he was nearly 22.

The 1851 census shows William Kirtland living at 10 St John Street: he was then aged 64 and described as the Under Keeper of the Ashmolean Museum. His two children were no longer at home, and living with him were his sister-in-law Mrs Mary Latchmore (57), his niece Sophia Kirtland (35), and a servant.

His daughter was married in 1853:

  • On 15 January 1853 at St Mary Magdalen Church, Oxford, Sophia Joyce Kirtland (24) married George Reeves (36), a linen draper of 17 Bridge Street, Paddington.

At the time of the 1861 census William Kirtland (74) was retired from his post and was living at 8 Walton Street in St Paul’s district chapelry. His unmarried niece Sophia Kirtland (48) was still acting as his housekeeper, and he also had a lodger and a servant. His eldest granddaughter Mary Reeves (5) was paying a visit.

William’s sister Miss Elizabeth Kirtland, who was Matron of the Radcliffe Infirmary from 1831 to 1849, died in 1855, and he acted as her executor.

William Kirtland died in 1864:

† William Kirtland died at 8 Walton Street at the age of 78 on 9 August 1864 and was buried at St Sepulchre’s Cemetery on 15 August (burial recorded in the register of St Paul’s Church).

His death notice in Jackson’s Oxford Journal read simply: “August 9, at his residence, 8 Walton-street, in this city, Mr. William Kirtland, in the 79th year of his age; much respected.”

His effects came to nearly £1,000. His executors were his son-in-law George Reeves of Edmonton, and James Adey, a tailor of De Beauvoir Town, Middlesex.

William Kirtland’s only surviving child

Sophia Joyce Kirtland, Mrs Reeves (born 1828) was living at Fore Street, Edmonton in 1861 with her husband George and their two young daughters, Sophia (3) and Louisa (1): their eldest daughter Mary (5) was staying with her grandfather. In 1871 she and her husband were living at High Street, Fordingbridge with Sophia (13), Louisa (11), Edward (9), and George (6). Sophia died at Fordingbridge at the age of 50 in 1879.



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