John Harris THOROGOOD (1837–1902)
His wife Mrs Amelia Maria THOROGOOD, née Knapp (1826–1903)
Their son John Harris THOROGOOD junior (1866–1871)
St Mary Magdalen section: Row 4, Grave C56

John Thorogood


Loving Memory

DIED AUG. 29, 1902,


DIED NOV. 5, 1903,


DIED DEC. 2, 1870.




The wrong date of death is given on the grave marker for their little son: it should be Dec. 29, not Dec. 2. This inscription would have been added after both his parents were dead.

John Harris Thorogood was born in Salford, Bedfordshire on 16 April 1837 and baptised at a Wesleyan Church in the Newport Pagnell Circuit on 20 June. He was the son of the baker Richard Thorogood and Mary Harris.

At the time of the 1841 census John (4) was living at Salford with his parents and six siblings Richard (11), Elizabeth (9), Samuel (8), Francis (6) and Frederick (2). In 1851 John (13) was a pupil teacher living at Cranfield, Bedfordshire with the schoolmaster James Brine and his family. John obtained a first-class certificate in teaching, and presumably joined the Church of England, as in 1857 when he was aged 20 he moved to Oxford to become the Master of St Mary Magdalen parish school.

Amelia Maria Knapp was born at Clewer near Windsor, Berkshire in 1826 and baptised there on 8 October. She was the daughter of Thomas Knapp and his wife Mary. At the time of the 1851 census Amelia (23) was a schoolmistress, paying a visit to the Vicar of Winkfield, Berkshire.

In March and April 1858 the banns were called at St Mary Magdalen Church for John Harris Thorogood of that parish and Amelia Maria Knapp of Windsor. They were duly married at Windsor, and had the following children:

  • Frederick Druce Thorogood (born at St Mary Magdalen School House, Oxford on 1 February 1859 and baptised at St Mary Magdalen Church on 25 March, with his birth announced in Jackson's Oxford Journal);
  • John Harris Thorogood junior (born at the school house in 1866 and baptised at St Mary Magdalen Church on 4 January 1867); died 1870

St Mary Magdalen School and the teacher's house were in Victoria Place or Court, which was behind the present New Theatre at the north-east side of George Street.

By the time of the 1861 census Mrs Thorogood (27) was the Mistress of St Mary Magdalen girls' parish school, while her husband (23) continued to be the Master of the boys' section. They were living in the schoolhouse with Frederick (2) and a servant who doubtless looked after their son during the school day.

On 9 January 1864 John Thorogood was praised in Jackson's Oxford Journal for teaching the boys of the Choir of St George's Church to sing solos and choruses from the Messiah, plus anthems and carols, for the free parish concert held at the Boys' School at Gloucester Green.

His younger son was born in 1866 and died in 1870:

† John Harris Thorogood junior died at Victoria Court at the age of 4 years and 2 months on 29 December 1870 and was buried at St Sepulchre’s Cemetery on 2 January 1871 (burial recorded in the parish register of St Mary Magdalen Church).

His death notice in Jackson's Oxford Journal read: “Dec. 29, John Harris, the beloved son of Mr. J. H. and Mrs. A. M. Thorogood, Victoria Place, George-street, Oxford, aged four years and two months.”

In 1871 John (38) and Amelia (43) were still living at the school house with Frederick (12); Amelia's niece Eliza Jane Knapp (22), who was a schoolmistress; two 11-year-old boy boarders; and their servant.

At the end of 1872, after serving fifteen years as its Master, Thorogood left St Mary Magdalen parish school. Jackson's Oxford Journal on 21 December 1872 reports that his parishioners presented him with a silver teapot and a purse of 21 sovereigns, and speeches were made emphasizing what a kind and respected teacher he had been, and stated that the average attendance at the school had risen from 48 to 172 during the period he was in charge.

Thorogood's plan was to set up his own private school, and on 14 June 1873 (when he was still living in the house attached to St Mary Magdalen school) he inserted the following advertisement in Jackson's Oxford Journal:

MR. J. H. THOROGOOD, fifteen years and a-half Master of S. Mary Magdalene [sic] Boys' School, Oxford, having purchased suitable Premises in Walton-street, intends, on Sept. 29, 1873, OPENING a PRIVATE SCHOOL, in which he hopes to give to the Sons of the Middle Classes a thoroughly good and sound English Education. Pupils will be prepared for the Civil Service and Oxford Local Examinations.
Prospectuses, &c., can be obtained of Mr. Thorogood, S. Mary Magdalene School House, George-street, Oxford.

The first home of his school was at 130 Walton Street, which he named Bedford House, probably after his birthplace. It was a private school which prepared boys for the Oxford Local Examinations, and the following advertisement appeared in Jackson's Oxford Journal on 10 January 1874:

MR. J. H. THOROGOOD hopes to meet his Pupils
on Wednesday next the 14th of January, 1874

Similar notices published over the years show that terms started January, April, and August. The results of the school in the Oxford Local Examinations were published each year, as well as the yearly prize-giving.

Bedford House School

It was reported in Jackson's Oxford Journal on 30 January 1875 that the school was about to move to new purpose-built premises (at 122 Walton Street in St Giles's parish):

Mr. Thorogood would have been glad to have invited the parents and friends of the scholars, but the present premises are too small to allow of that. He has, however, secured a site from the President and Scholars of St. John’s College, and he has in course of erection a large room, class-room, and offices, &c., sufficient to accommodate 100 scholars; it is hoped that these will be ready by Easter.

The new premises (right), which retained the name Bedford House School, did not open until 22 May 1875. Jackson’s Oxford Journal reported on 16 October 1875:

A new School in Walton-street, built for Mr. Thorogood, Master of the “Bedford House School”, by Mr. Joseph Hall, was opened on the 22nd of May last. The School, which is built of brick, with stone facings, is spacious, and there is a large playground at the back, together with all the necessary offices.

At the time of the 1881 census John (43) and Amelia (53) were living at a third address in Walton Street, No. 135 Walton Street (twelve doors down from the school and in St Mary Magdalen parish) with their son Frederick (22), who was then an organist. They had nine boy pupils aged between 9 and 15 boarding with them, and they employed a 12-year-old servant girl.

Their son Frederick was living in St Giles's parish (possibly at the school) when he was married in 1883:

  • On 8 August 1883 at Salford, Bedfordshire, Frederick Druce Thorogood of St Giles's parish married Eliza Brown Duke, daughter of William Duke of Ship Street, Common Room man of Exeter College. At the time of their marriage she was living at Salford (where Frederick's father had been born), and their banns were called at St Giles's Church in Oxford in July.

Frederick and Eliza's only son John William Thorogood was born at a fourth Walton Street address, 129 Walton Street in St Giles's parish, in 1884 and was baptised at St Giles's Church on 30 August,

At the time of the 1891 census John Harris Thorogood and his wife Amelia were still living at 135 Walton Street, and their son Frederick (32), who was now himself also a schoolmaster, was living with them with his wife Eliza (31) and their son John (6), plus a servant.

John Harris Thorogood remained Principal of Bedford House School until the summer term of 1895. He served as the city councillor for the West Ward until 1899.

It is hard to find John Harris Thorogood in the 1901 census. His son Frederick (42), described as a schoolmaster who was working on his own account from home, was now the head of the household at 135 Walton Street, where he lived with his wife Eliza (41) and their son John (16), who was a pupil teacher, plus his mother Amelia (75), and a servant.

John Harris Thorogood senior died in 1902:

† John Harris Thorogood died at 135 Walton Street at the age of 65 on 29 August 1902 and was buried at St Sepulchre’s Cemetery on 1 September (burial recorded in the parish register of St Mary Magdalen Church).

His obituary was published in Jackson's Oxford Journal on 6 September 1902 (page 3c).

His wife died the following year:

† Mrs Amelia Maria Thorogood née Knapp died at 135 Walton Street at the age of 77 on 5 November 1903 and was buried at St Sepulchre’s Cemetery on 9 November (burial recorded in the parish register of St Mary Magdalen Church).

Their only surviving son and his wife
  • Frederick Druce Thorogood (born 1859) had been admitted to the Littlemore Lunatic Asylum by the time of the 1911 census. He died there later that year, on 22 July 1911, at the age of 50: his effects came to £406 7s. 1d., and Eliza was his executor. His burial is recorded in the parish register of St Mary Magdalen Church, but no grave in St Sepulchre's Cemetery has been identified. His widow Mrs Eliza Brown Thorogood née Duke (born 1860) was aged 51 and boarding alone with the White family at 20 Plantation Road at the time of the 1911 census. She died at the London Road Hospital in Headington at the age of 84 in September 1946 and was presumably buried with her husband, as again her burial was recorded in the St Mary Magdalen register.
Their only grandchild
  • John William Thorogood (born 1884) of St Giles's parish married Eunice Blanche Maud Hawkins of St Thomas's parish in Oxford in 1909. At the time of the 1911 census John (26), who was an assistant schoolmaster, was living with his wife Eunice (22) in London at 2 Dudley Gardens, Ealing. They do not appear to have had any children.

Bedford House School

Thomas William Robinson became the second (and last) Principal of the school at 122 Walton Street in the autumn term of 1895. The school closed in 1930, and the building was used as a Somerville College lecture room until the mid-1950s. Between 1973 and 1976 it is listed in Kelly’s Directory as St Paul’s Sunday School.



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