James PRICKETT (1793–1881)
His wife Mrs Elizabeth PRICKETT, née Hitchings (1797–1875)
St Giles’s [Ss Philip & James] section: Row 31a, Grave J25

Prickett grave



James Prickett was born in Oxford on 24 January 1793 and baptised at St Michael’s Church three days later. He was the son of Loder Prickett (baptised at Thame on 22 February 1766, the son of Giles Prickett and Mary Crews, who were married at Thame on 20 April 1759) and Martha Langford (baptised at St Michael’s Church on 7 October 1757, the daughter of Thomas Langford, an ale draper, and Margaret Ives, who were married in Balliol College Chapel on 14 February 1746, with the marriage recorded in the register of St Michael’s Church).

James’s father Loder Prickett had moved to Oxford to work as an attorney, and was living in Holywell parish when he married Martha Langford at St Michael’s Church on 1790: it must have been a stylish marriage, as it was announced in The Lady’s Magazine. James’s younger brother Loder Prickett junior was born on 5 March 1800 and baptised at St Michael’s Church on 2 April. Loder Prickett senior went bankrupt in 1806, when James was 13, but in 1810 was sworn before the Official Principal of the Archdeaconry Court of the Diocese of Oxford as Proctor to practise in the said court. Loder died at Ship Street at the age of 57 in November 1822 and was buried at St Michael’s Church.

Elizabeth Hitchings was born in Oxford in 1797 and baptised at St Aldate’s Church on 9 July: she was the daughter of the tailor Edward Hitchings and Elizabeth Benwell, who were married at St Aldate’s Church on 7 November 1775. For more on Elizabeth’s family, including her ten siblings, see this biography of her father, who served three times as Mayor of Oxford and was knighted in 1812. She may have met James Prickett through her father, as both he and his brother Loder had served as Chamberlains on the council: but her father died on 21 November 1825, at the age of 76, the year before her wedding.

On 25 September 1826 at St Mary Magdalen Church, Oxford, James Prickett, who was living in St Michael’s parish, married Elizabeth Hitchings, who was living with her family at 14 St Giles’s Street. They had ten children, four of whom died in infancy:

  • George Benwell Prickett (born in St Michael’s parish, Oxford on 20 December 1827 and baptised at St Michael’s Church on 29 January 1828)
  • Frederick James Prickett (born in Holywell, Oxford in 1829 and baptised at St Cross Church on 30 October);
    died aged six months and buried at St Cross Church on 4 January 1830
  • James Prickett (born in Holywell, Oxford on 8 December 1830 and baptised at St Cross Church on 13 January 1831; but his was omitted from the register, and so he was rebaptised at St Clement’s Church in 1832 with his next sister Mary)
  • Mary Prickett (born at Cowley Road on 3 January 1832 and baptised at St Clement’s Church on 29 January 1832)
  • Charles Prickett (born at Beaumont Street in 1833 and baptised at St Mary Magdalen Church on 13 July)
  • Martha Sindry Prickett (born at Beaumont Street on 21 September 1834 and baptised at St Mary Magdalen Church on 3 December); died at Beaumont Street aged three and buried in St Cross churchyard on 9 March 1835
  • Ann Harriet Prickett (born at Beaumont Street in 1836 and baptised at St Mary Magdalen Church on 16 November); died aged five months on 20 February 1837 and buried in St Cross churchyard on 24 February
  • Elizabeth Ann Prickett (born at Beaumont Street on 17 September 1837 and baptised at St Mary Magdalen Church on 13 October)
  • Emily Prickett (born at Beaumont Street on 10 January 1839 and baptised at St Mary Magdalen Church on 22 March);
    died at Beaumont Street aged three, and buried in St Cross churchyard on 12 February 1842)
  • Frederick Prickett (born at Beaumont Street, Oxford on 18 July 1842 and baptised at St Mary Magdalen Church on 12 August)

James and his wife began their married life in St Michael’s parish, where James had been living before the wedding, and at their first son’s baptism in 1828 he was described as a wine merchant there. By October 1829 they were living in Holywell parish, and James described himself as a gentleman.

By 1832 they had moved again and were living at the St Clement’s end of the Cowley Road.

By mid-1833 they were living in Beaumont Street, and between 1833 and 1836 James Prickett was still describing himself as a gentleman at his children’s baptisms; but from 1837 he stated that he was the Butler at Trinity College.

The 1841 census shows James’s aged mother Martha Prickett as the head of the household at Beaumont Street, with James (48) simply described as a college servant. He and his wife Elizabeth were at home with George (13), James (11), Mary (9), Charles (8), Elizabeth (4), and Emily (2). The family had three female servants. James’s mother Martha died at Beaumont Street two years later at the age of 85, and was buried in St Mary Magdalen churchyard on 6 June 1843.

In 1841 James’s younger brother Loder, who had been admitted as a freeman of Oxford on 14 June 1826, was a man of independent means living in Wolvercote with his wife Sarah.

In 1851 James Prickett (58) was still the Butler of Trinity College and now lived at St Giles’s Road (the name given to the southern end of both the present Woodstock and Banbury Roads) with his wife Elizabeth (recorded as being aged 51, but in fact 53: her age is always two years out in the censuses) and their son James (20), who was a chemist’s assistant, and their daughters Mary (19) and Elizabeth (13). They had one servant. Their eldest son George (24) was an assistant surgeon in 1851, living with the surgeon Edward Payne and his family in Wallingford: he may have been influenced in his choice of career by his mother’s brother George Hitchings, who was surgeon to the Radcliffe Infirmary from 1811 to his death in 1851. Their son Charles (28) was in the Royal Navy and spent census night on HMS Mutine, of which he was the Master; and their youngest son Frederick (8) was a chorister at New College School in 1851, lodging with the other young choristers at 29 Holywell Street with Stephen Elvey, their music teacher.

The Red Queen and Alice

On 7 June 1855 Henry George Liddell became Dean of Christ Church, and James’s daughter Mary Prickett was appointed governess to his young children, including the famous Alice.

Charles Dodgson (Lewis Carroll) recorded in his diary on 3 November 1856 his first meeting with Miss Prickett; and in 1857 he arranged with her for Harry Liddell to come to him to learn sums. She was later in attendance on some occasions when he took out the three Liddell girls.

At the time of the 1861 census Mary Prickett (28) was on holiday with the family in Llandudno but was presumably still giving lessons to the children.

The Red Queen in Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking Glass and what Alice Found There (right), is thought to have been modelled on Miss Prickett. It was published in 1871, when she had just left the Liddell family's service to be married. Carroll said of the Red Queen: “She must be formal and strict, yet not unkindly; pedantic to the 10th degree, the concentrated essence of all governesses!”

For more on Mary Prickett and her family, see Mark J. Davies, Alice in Waterland: Lewis Carroll and the River Thames in Oxford (Signal Books, 2010)

James Prickett’s younger brother Loder died at Wolvercote at the age of 61 in March 1861. At the time of the 1861 census, taken early the next month, James still described himself as the butler at Trinity College, but he was now living at 12 Floyd’s Row in St Aldate’s with his wife and his daughter Elizabeth (23) and son Frederick (18). They had one servant.

Their eldest son George Benwell Pricket was admitted a member of the Royal College of Surgeons in November 1861, and was married in the spring of the following year, with the following announcement appearing in Jackson’s Oxford Journal on 26 April 1862:

  • April 17, at Christ Church, West Bromwich, by the Rev. Mr. Bradshaw, George Benwell Prickett, Esq. surgeon, Bampton, to Mary Bond [Morris], eldest daughter of the late James Morris, Esq., of Dudley.

By 1864 James Prickett had moved with his family to St Aldate’s parish, and was still recorded as being a butler by profession when his daughter Elizabeth was married there in March that year:

  • On 17 March 1864 at St Aldate’s Church, Oxford, Elizabeth Anne Prickett of that parish married John Thomas Foster, a tailor of All Saints parish and the son of the tailor Charles Foster, and the marriage was announced in Jackson’s Oxford Journal.

The Pricketts’ son George Benwell Prickett (born 1827) had three children baptised at Bampton Church in the 1860s: George Frederick Prickett (1 November 1863), Mary Emily Prickett (4 January 1865) and Frances Maud Prickett (5 July 1867). Sadly he did not live to see his youngest child born: he died intestate at Bampton at the age of 39 on 8 March 1867 and was buried at St Cross Church on 12 March.

In early 1871 their daughter Mary Prickett, who had hitherto been the governess of the Liddell children at Christ Church, became the second wife of a prosperous draper a widower 24 years her senior:

  • On 22 March 1871 at St Aldate’s Church, Oxford, Mary Prickett, married Charles Foster junior, the father of her sister Elizabeth’s husband John.

At the time of the 1871 census James Prickett (78), described as an annuitant, was living at 12 Floyd’s Row in St Aldate’s with his wife Elizabeth (recorded as 71 but actually 73) and their youngest son Frederick (28), who was a librarian, plus one servant. Frederick married a third sibling of the Foster family two years later:

  • On 16 April 1873 at St Aldate's Church, Oxford, Frederick Prickett, a librarian, married Anne Rebecca Foster, who was the sister of John Foster (the husband of his sister Elizabeth) and the daughter of Charles Foster (the husband of his sister Mary).

Their third son Charles Prickett remained in the Royal Navy, and spent census night of 1871 moored off Plymouth in the Brig Sealark, of which he was Officer Commander. He died at Stoke Damerel in Devonport at the age of 41 in 1874. His effects came to under £2,000, and his father was his executor. The address of James was now Wychbourn in the Woodstock Road.

James and Elizabeth Prickett appear to have moved to Park Town Terrace by the time of Mrs Prickett’s death in 1875:

† Mrs Elizabeth Prickett, née Hitchings died at Park Town Terrace at the age of 78 in April 1875 and was buried at St Sepulchre’s Cemetery on 28 April (burial recorded in the parish register of both Ss Philip & James’s and St Giles’s Church).

James Prickett appears to have moved out of Wychbourne around the time his daughter Elizabeth Ann married her second husband, Samuel Patey Spiers, on 12 July 1877, and the couple moved in there.

He was living at 1 Turl Street at the time of his death in 1881:

† James Prickett died at 1 Turl Street at the age of 88 on 16 March 1881 and was buried at St Sepulchre’s Cemetery on 19 March (burial recorded in the parish register of St Giles’s Church).

His death notice in Jackson’s Oxford Journal on 19 March 1881 read simply: “March 16, Mr. James Prickett, of this city, in his 89th year”. His personal estate came to £996 2s., and his son Frederick was his executor. Both his recent addresses were given in his probate record.

The four surviving children of James and Elizabeth Prickett
  • James Prickett junior (born 1830) was a chemist’s assistant living at home in 1851. He married a woman called Eliza, who was born in Warwick (a likely marriage is that of a James Prickett to Eliza Welch in Buckingham in 1856). They are hard to find in the 1861 and 1871 censuses, but in 1881 he and Eliza (both aged 50) were living in Leamington Priors with one servant, and James gave his occupation as “house property”. In 1891 James had taken up the trade of a coal merchant, and was living at Leamington Spa with Eliza and one servant; the situation was the same in 1901. James died in Warwick on 19 July 1903, and probate was granted to his brother Frederick Prickett. His effects came to £2,262 17s. 8d.
  • Mary Prickett, Mrs Foster (born 1832) moved immediately after her wedding to Charles Foster into 86 High Street (in St Peter-in-the-East parish) to run a wine business with him: Charles (63) and Mary (39) can be seen there in the 1871 census just over a week after their wedding. By the time of the 1881 census they had taken over the Mitre Hotel in the High Street. Mary died at the Mitre at the age of 88 on 28 November 1920, and her effects came to £9,264 12s.
  • Elizabeth Ann Prickett, Mrs Foster (born 1837) lived over the draper’s shop at 123 High Street with her husband John Thomas Foster, who had taken over his family’s prosperous business. They had five children: Beatrice Foster (1866), Frank Stuart Foster (1867), Duncan Harry Foster (1868), Charles Herbert Foster (1869), and Frederick Lionel Foster (1872). On Saturday 1 August 1873, Elizabeth and her husband were on their way to Scotland by rail, and John was thrown out of the window during an accident at Wigan and he died two days later. She married her second husband Samuel Patey Spiers on 12 July 1877 at St Andrew’s Church in Headington: Samuel was aged 37 and Elizabeth was 39. At the time of the 1881 census she was living in the Woodstock Road with her husband, who was a stationer and china & hardware dealer employing 18 hands, and their baby twin sons Richard and Hubert Spiers. Her daughter Beatrice Foster (15) from her first marriage was still living with her, and they had three servants. At the time of the 1881 census Elizabeth and Samuel were living at the Mitre with Samuel’s widowed sister-in-law Mrs Mary Foster: three children from Elizabeth’s first marriage and the twins were still living with them. Samuel Patey Spiers died from influenza at Bournemouth at the age 51 on 27 November 1891 and was buried at St Sepulchre’s Cemetery in the grave of his father, Richard James Spiers. In 1911 Elizabeth was living at 63 Iffley Road with her unmarried daughter Beatrice Kate Foster (45) and two servants. Elizabeth Ann Spiers died there on 13 April 1914. Her personal estate came to £215 1s. 5d.
  • Frederick Prickett (born 1842) and his wife Anne had four children: Frederick Charles Prickett (1874), Reginald John Suttaby Prickett (1875), Lionel Harry Prickett (1876), and Algernon James Prickett (1877). After his marriage he ceased to be a librarian and was a wine merchant’s manager. He and his wife were living at 51 St John Street in 1881 with their four sons, and by 1891 had moved to 10 Botley Road. Their address was given as 8 Botley Road in 1901, and two of Frederick’s sons, Lionel and Algernon, were working with him as wine merchants. His wife died in 1904, and he died on 26 January 1907 at Withyeot near Osney Bridge. His effects came to £385 11s. 7d.



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