James RAY (1826–1894)
His wife Mrs Susan RAY, née Sheldon (1832–1902)
Their daughter Alice Mary RAY (1863–1918)
St Mary Magdalen section: Row 18, Grave D64½

James Ray










James Ray was born in Forest Hill in Oxfordshire in 1826 and baptised there on 26 October 1826. He was the son of the saddler or collar-maker Joseph Ray and Mary Becketts, who were married at Stanton St John on 23 December 1822. His brothers William and John were also baptised at that church in 1824 and 1828 respectively.

Britannia Inn


By the time of the 1841 census James (15) and his younger brother John (12) had already left home, and both were working as servants at the Britannia Inn in Headington (left), which was still a thriving coaching inn; but three years later the first railway came to Oxford and its days were numbered. By 1851 James (24) was a college servant at St Edmund Hall, and he was still there in 1861. Im 1862 he was living in St Mary Magdalen parish.

Susan (or Susanna) Sheldon was born at Shotover in 1832 and baptised at Forest Hill on 18 March. She was the daughter of Joseph Sheldon (born in Stanton St John and baptised there on 5 January 1790) and Mary Harding (born in Headington in 1794/5), who were married at St Aldate’s Church on 3 November 1816. Susan’s eight siblings were also baptised at Forest Hill: William (1826), Charles (1827), Elizabeth (1829), Henry (1830), Emma (1834), Samuel (1835), James (1838), and Edwin (1840). Susan’s father was described as a farmer until 1840

By 1851 Susan's father was a postman living in Wheatley with his wife and four of his sons. In 1861 he and his wife were still living there with two sons, but they were now described as being supported by their family. Susan is hard to find in either of these censuses, and is likely to have been in service.

On 2 September 1862 at Wheatley, James Ray, a college servant of St Mary Magdalen parish, married Susan Sheldon of Wheatley. They had six children, but only two survived childhood:

  • Alice Mary Ray (born at Beaumont Buildings, Oxford in 1863 and privately baptised on 20 August; received into St Mary Magdalen Church on 15 November)
  • Emma Elizabeth Ray (born at Beaumont buildings in January 1865 and baptised at St Mary Magdalen Church 26 February; died aged fourteen months and buried on 26 March 1866
  • Harry James Ray (born at 5 Beaumont Buildings, Oxford in 1866 and baptised at St Mary Magdalen Church on 27 October); died aged five months and buried on 31 January 1867
  • George James Ray (born at Broad Street, Oxford in 1867 and baptised at St Mary Magdalen Church on 7 October)
  • Frank Alfred Ray (born at Broad Street, Oxford in 1875 and baptised at St Mary Magdalen Church on 4 April); died aged five and buried on 21 February 1880
  • Edith Annie Ray (born at 57 Broad Street and baptised immediately at St Mary Magdalen Church on 11 January 1877); died aged two days and buried on 15 January 1877

James Ray and his wife began their married life at 5 Beaumont Buildings, and were still there in 1866: presumably during this period he was continuing to work for St Edmund Hall.

Susan Ray's father Joseph died in Wheatley at the age of 77 and was buried there on 30 April.

By the late 1860s the Ray family was living at 57 Broad Street (one of the Trinity College cottages), and James was working as a Trinity College bedmaker, a job he was to hold until his death. Four of their young children died at Broad Street between 1866 and 1880, and all would have been buried at St Sepulchre’s Cemetery, probably in a children’s section set aside by St Mary Magdalen Church.

The 1871 census shows James (44) and Susan (37) living at 57 Broad Street with their two surviving children Alice (7) and George (3).

In 1881 the family of four is listed in the census as occupying both 57 and 58 Broad Street, and James was described as a bedmaker.

In 1883 the family had to leave 57 Broad Street as the row of cottages was being incorporated into Trinity College. They moved to 16 Wellington Square, and James continued to work for the college. .

Their son George was married in 1890:

  • On 29 October 1890 at St Giles’s Church, Oxford, George James Ray, who was still living with his parents and working as a traveller, married Margaret Elizabeth Hudson, who lived at Clarendon Hall and was the daughter of the farmer Robert Hudson.

The 1891 census shows James Ray living at 16 Wellington Square, where he and his wife kept a university lodging house, although James evidently worked for Trinity College as well. Their son George (23) and his wife Maggie (24) were also living with them, and they had one servant. Their daughter Alice (27) was staying on census night with her uncle Alfred Long and his daughter Wilhelmina, who lived at the Judge’s Lodging in Dallington, Northampton, where Alfred was the caretaker.

James Ray died at work in Trinity College in 1894:

† James Ray died in the chapel quadrangle of Trinity College at the age of 67 on 23 April 1894 and was buried at St Sepulchre’s Cemetery on 26 April (burial recorded in the parish register of St Mary Magdalen Church).

Jackson’s Oxford Journal reported on his death and funeral as follows on 28 April 1894:

SUDDEN DEATH OF A COLLEGE SERVANT. — On Monday evening last a case of very sudden death occurred within Trinity College, the unfortunate man being an old servant of the College, Mr. James Ray; shortly after six o’clock he was walking in the chapel quadrangle, and was seized with convulsion of the heart, and he was observed to fall backward against one of the buttresses of the hall. Mr. Sayers and some of the other servants at once ran to his assistance, and medical aid was quickly forthcoming, but it was of no avail, death taking place in a few minutes. The body was removed to the deceased’s residence, No. 16, Wellington-square; he had been attended by Mr. G. Hitchings, surgeon, for a considerable time, and he had seen him as late as Saturday, and consequently the holding of an inquest was unnecessary, Mr. Hitchings being able to certify as to the cause of death. The deceased had been engaged at the College for about 32 years, and previous to going there he was at St. Edmund Hall in a similar capacity; he was a prominent and useful member of the College Servants’ Benefit Society for many years, and about four years ago was the recipient of a gold watch from the members in recognition of his services as treasurer for twenty-eight years. Mr. Ray was in his 69th year, and was greatly respected by all who had the pleasure of his acquaintance for his geniality of manner and strict integrity. — The funeral took place on Thursday afternoon in St. Sepulchre’s Cemetery, Walton-street, and was attended by a number of the servants of Trinity College and members of the Benefit Society.

His effects came to £488 16s.

At the time of the 1901 census his widow Susan (68) was still keeping a lodging house at 16 Wellington Square, aided by her daughter Alice (37) and one servant. She died less than a year later:

† Mrs Susan Ray, née Sheldon died at 16 Wellington Square at the age of 69 on 14 March 1902 and was buried at St Sepulchre’s Cemetery on 17 March (burial recorded in the parish register of St Mary Magdalen Church).

Her effects came to £612 2s. 9d.

Alice continued running her parents’ lodging house at 16 Wellington Square with one servant until her own death in 1918:

† Alice Mary Ray died at 16 Wellington Square at the age of 54 on 26 October 1918 and was buried at St Sepulchre’s Cemetery on 30 October (burial recorded in the parish register of St Mary Magdalen Church).

Her effects came to £2,337 19s. 9d.

The other surviving child of James and Susan Ray
  • George James Ray (born 1867) was working as a traveller in sewing machines in 1901 and living at 16 Stockmore Street with his wife Margaret and daughters Constance (9) and Susan (7). He was still a commercial traveller in 1911 when the family was living at 76 Cowley Road, where his wife ran a lodging house and had three lodgers on census night. Their three surviving children were still at home: Constance (19), who was a milliner; Susie (17); and Winifred (4). George died in Oxford at the age of 79 near the beginning of 1946.



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