Charles UNDERHILL (1820–1903)
His second wife Mrs Ellen UNDERHILL, née Francis (c.1824–1904)
His daughter by his first wife Miss Emily Rosa UNDERHILL (1856–1941)
and his son by his second wife George Francis UNDERHILL (1863/4–1885)
St Giles (Ss Philip & James) section: Row 52, Grave P30

Underhill grave

Detail of Underhill grave

IN
LOVING MEMORY OF
CHARLES UNDERHILL J.P.
ALDERMAN OF THE / CITY OF OXFORD
WHO FELL ASLEEP IN JESUS
FEB. 11. 1903, AGED 82
“THE MEMORY OF THE JUST
IS BLESSED

IN / LOVING MEMORY OF
ELLEN WIFE OF
ALD. CHARLES UNDERHILL
WHO FELL ASLEEP
AUG. 18. 1904
AGED 80
I SHALL BE SATISFIED WHEN I
AWAKE WITH THY LIKENESS

IN / LOVING MEMORY / OF
GEORGE FRANCIS / UNDERHILL
AGED 21
WHO FELL ASLEEP
NOV. 24 1885
[Two lines of text]

ALSO
EMILY ROSA
YOUNGEST DAUGHTER
OF THE LATE / CHARLES UNDERHILL
DIED MARCH 9.1941
BLESSED ARE THE PURE IN HEART
FOR THEY SHALL SEE GOD

                                 MATTHEW V: 8

Underhill stone head

This grave has a carved anchor, used by early Christians as a disguised cross, and as a marker to guide the way to secret meeting places. A Christian symbol of hope, it is found as funerary symbolism in the art of the catacombs.

Left: Because Underhill was on the Municipal Buildings Committee when the new Town Hall was opened in Oxford in 1897, his head is carved in stone in the Council Chamber corridor

Charles Underhill was born in St Martin’s parish, Oxford on 28 March 1820 into a nonconformist family that had traded in the city since the early sixteenth century. His more recent ancestors had been candle-makers in Friar’s Entry, and his father was a grocer. He was the second son of the grocer Michael Underhill of St Aldate’s and Eleanor Scrivener, who were married at Oddington on 10 November 1812 and had the following children:

  • Edward Bean Underhill (born in Oxford on 4 October 1813, recorded in register of New Road Baptist Chapel)
  • Ann Underhill (born in Oxford on 25 October 1816, recorded in register of New Road Baptist Chapel)
  • Mary Elizabeth Underhill (born in Oxford on 9 March 1818, recorded in register of New Road Baptist Chapel)
  • Charles Underhill (born in Oxford on 28 March 1820, recorded in register of New Road Baptist Chapel)
  • Charlotte Underhill (born in Oxford on 14 March 1822, recorded in register of New Road Baptist Chapel)
  • Henry S. Underhill (born in Oxford on 9 March 1824, recorded in register of New Road Baptist Chapel)
  • Marion Eleanor Underhill (born in Oxford on 21 February 1826, recorded in register of New Road Baptist Chapel, buried there on 28 December 1827)
  • Michael William (or Michael William) Underhill (born in Oxford on 29 November 1830, recorded in register of New Road Baptist Chapel).

Charles’s parents are recorded in the New Road Baptist Chapel register as living in St Aldate’s parish from 1813 to 1818, and then variously in St Martin’s/All Saints’ parish from the time of Charles’s birth in 1820. Michael Underhill’s shop was at 138 High Street in All Saints’ parish in 1839, and he already then had another branch in St Clement’s Street. By 1841 the central Oxford shop was at 7 High Street, also in All Saints’ parish: it survived until the early 1920s, when it was taken over by the International Stores.

At the time of the 1841 census Charles was a young grocer of 21, living over the family shop at 7 High Street with his parents; his sisters Ann, Mary, Charlotte, and Matilda; and his younger brother Henry. An apprentice grocer also lived with the family, and they had one servant.

In the fourth quarter of 1841 at Witney, Charles Underhill married his first wife Mary Tozer (born in Taunton in c.1816). For more on Mary’s background, see her separate grave.

Charles and Mary Underhill had the following children:

  • Charles Maitland Underhill (born in Oxford in 1842, reg. third quarter)
  • Harriet Roffey Underhill (born in Oxford in 1842/3, reg. first quarter of 1843)
  • Frederick Robert Underhill (born in Oxford in 1844, reg. fourth quarter)
  • Ernest Augustus Underhill (born in Oxford in 1846, reg. third quarter)
  • Mary Ellen Underhill (born in Oxford in 1847, reg. third quarter)
  • Edward Tozer Underhill (born in Oxford in 1849, reg. third quarter, died days after birth)
  • William Stephen Underhill (born in Oxford in 1850, reg. fourth quarter; died in Summertown at the age of 7 in 1858, reg. third quarter)
  • George James (born in Oxford in 1852, reg. first quarter), died weeks after his birth, death reg. same quarter)
  • Emily Rosa Underhill (born in 1856, reg. third quarter).

Between 1849 and 1855 three children died soon after birth: these were buried in a separate grave in St Sepulchre’s Cemetery.

By the time of the 1851 census, when Charles Underhill was 31, he described himself as a “Master Grocer/Tea Dealer”, and had set up in business on his own at 11 Beaumont Street in St Mary Magdalen parish, and he and his wife Mary lived over the shop with their six young children Charles (9), Harriet (8), Frederick (7), Ernest (5), Mary (4), William (four months), plus a grocer’s assistant and three servants.

(Meanwhile Charles’s father Michael Underhill, described as the employer of 23 men, was still at 7 High Street, with his wife Eleanor; his son Henry, now aged 27 and his partner; his daughter Matilda; and his youngest son William, now aged 20 and a grocer’s assistant.)

37 Cornmarket

 

In Jackson’s Oxford Journal of 1 April 1854 Thomas Tubb, the grocer at 37 Cornmarket Street (on the north corner of the junction with St Michael Street, right), inserted a notice to say he had relinquished his business to Charles Underhill; and Underhill added a notice saying that once alterations to the Cornmarket premises were complete, his house of business in Beaumont Street would be closed.

 

Charles Underhill’s grocer’s business was to remain at these premises in St Michael’s parish from 1854 to the mid-1920s. From 1862 he is listed as having a licence to sell wine from this shop, and from 1866 at his new branch in St Clement’s).

 

When Charles Underhill took over this new shop in 1854, he and his family did not move in upstairs, but went to live in a private house, Diamond Villa in South Parade, Summertown.

 

 

 

Charles Underhill’s first wife, Mary, died at Summertown at the age of 40 in early 1858 and was buried with her infant children in St Sepulchre’s Cemetery: see separate grave. Their son William Stephen Underhill died at the age of seven later that year, and appears to have been buried with her.

A year later, in the second quarter of 1859 in Islington, Charles Underhill married his second wife Ellen Francis. Ellen was born at Woodbridge, Suffolk in 1823/4, and at the time of the 1851 census, when she was 27, she was still living with her parents, the chemist & druggist George Francis and his wife Mary, at Market Hill, Woodbridge. Charles had two more children with Ellen:

  • Sydney Francis Underhill (born in Oxford in 1860, reg. second quarter)
  • George Francis Underhill (born in Oxford in 1863/4, and baptised at St Peter-le-Bailey Church at the age of 20 on 14 February 1883, just two years before his death).

At the time of the 1861 census Charles Underhill (41) was living at Diamond Villa with his second wife Ellen (37) and their son Sydney (1). Also living with them were four children from his first marriage – Frederick (16), Ernest (14), Ellen (13), and Emily (5) – as well as his first wife’s sister Miss Selena Tozer. They had three servants.

In 1861 Charles’s son Charles Maitland Underhill (18), described as a grocer’s assistant, was living over his father’s Cornmarket shop with his sister Harriett Roffey Underhill (17) and a housekeeper, and he eventually took over the shop. On 6 May 1865 Harriett married Robert Anderson, Esq. of Hawk’s Law House, Leven, Fife at George Street Chapel in Oxford. She died in Dundee at the age of 23 on 5 June 1867.

Underhill was first elected to the City Council as a Conservative for the Central ward in November 1866.

On 9 March 1868 Underhill’s father Michael died at the age of 81 at his residence, 21 St John Street. His effects came to nearly £9,000.

57 Banbury Road

 

In 1870 Underhill took out the first lease on Woodbridge Lodge (left): formerly numbered 28, it is now 57 Banbury Road and a Hertford College house. He was to live here for the rest of his life. (The name was probably chosen by Charles’s second wife, Ellen, who had been born at Woodbridge in Suffolk.)

The 1871 census shows Underhill (described as a grocer & wine merchant employing four men) living here with his wife and his three youngest children: Emily Rosa (14), Sydney Francis (11), and George Francis (7), with two servants. His son Frederick (26), who was described as a grocer, and his daughter Mary (23) were living separately with one servant at 27 Walton Crescent. His two other surviving children, Charles Maitland and Ernest Augustus, were both married and in charge of the two family shops, living upstairs: the former was at Cornmarket, and the latter at St Clement’s branch. Both also held wine licences for their shops.

Underhill put the first of a series of advertisements for his business in Jackson’s Oxford Journal for 16 July 1870:

Underhill advertisement

In 1872 Charles Underhill took out a lease on 16 Bradmore Road, but he did not live there, and appears to have let it out to the former mayor James Stanley Lowe.

Charles Underhill was a prominent member of New Road Chapel (although he latterly attended St Peter-le-Bailey Church). He preached for the Baptists, and also published a number of religious pamphlets, including:

  • “The questions of future punishment and contingent immortality, determined by the literal rendering of the terms ‘eternal life’ and ‘eternal death’” (1873)
  • “Eternal torment versus the atonement” (1875)
  • “The Scripture doctrine of regeneration” (1878).

He also gave lectures at the Town Hall on Sunday afternoons on “The Immortality of the Soul” (11 October 1874) and “The Nature of the Future Punishment of the Wicked” (18 October 1874).

After nine years on the council, Underhill was defeated in an election in 1875 and stayed off the council for six years. The Times of 26 October 1880 gives some incidental details of his council career in a report about an inquiry into election procedures at Oxford:

Mr C. Underhill, grocer, after giving some information about the St Giles’s district, said he had been nine years in the Town Council, but was not placed on any committees of importance, he being a Conservative, and the majority of the Town Council Liberals. It cost about £20 to contest the Central ward, and £60 or £70 to contest the North ward, in which there were more voters….

The 1881 census shows Underhill at the age of 61 (described as a grocer and Justice of the Peace) living at 57 Banbury Road with his wife Ellen, his daughters Mary (33) and Emily (24), and his two youngest sons: Sydney (20) was also a grocer, and George Francis (17) was an architect.

Charles Underhill was re-elected as a councillor for the Central Ward in November 1881, and he led the Conservative Party on the council from 1882.

His son George died in 1885:

† George Francis Underhill died at 57 Banbury Road at the age of 21 on 24 November 1885 and was buried at St Sepulchre’s Cemetery on 30 November (burial recorded in the parish registers of both of St Philip & James and St Giles Church).

Underhill arms in window

Underhill arms in Council Chamber





In July 1887 Charles Underhill was made an Alderman and elected Mayor of Oxford (for 1887/8). His arms (left) can be seen in a window of the Council Chamber and (right) on the wall of the Lord Mayor’s Parlour.

In 1889 Oxford was made a County Borough and the Central Ward was abolished. Underhill was then elected a Councillor for the West Ward, and was re-elected twice to this position before being made an Alderman again in March 1896, a vacancy having occurred following the death of his brother, Alderman Henry S. Underhill.

At the time of the 1891 census Underhill’s two spinster daughters, Mary Ellen (44) and Emily Rosa (35), were living with him and his wife. Emily was still with them in 1901.

Charles Underhill (81) was still a magistrate in 1901, but In November 1902 he retired from all council committees because of his ill-health: at that time he was on the Assessment, Parliamentary, Property & Estates, Waterworks, and Visitors to Littlemore Asylum Committees.

He died the following year:

Charles Underhill died at 57 Banbury Road the age of 82 on 11 February 1903. He was buried at St Sepulchre’s Cemetery on 16 February, with the Rector of St Peter-le-Bailey Church conducting the funeral at the chapel there (burial recorded in the parish registers of both of St Philip & James and St Giles Church).

His effects came to £9,658, and his four surviving sons (Charles, Frederick, Ernest, and Sydney), who were all grocers, were his executors.

His second wife Ellen died eighteen months later:

† Mrs Ellen Underhill, née Francis died at 57 Banbury Road at the age of 80 on 18 August 1904 and was buried at St Sepulchre’s Cemetery on 23 August (burial recorded in the parish registers of both of St Philip & James and St Giles Church, with “Nonconformist” added in the former entry, and “Church burial service not used” in the latter).

Miss Emily Rosa Underhill moved out of 57 Banbury Road after her stepmother’s death, and at the time of the 1911 census was living alone at 51 Stratfield Road, Summertown with a servant.

It appears that her sister Miss Mary Ellen Underhill came to live with her, as she died at this address at the age of 80 on 11 June 1928. As her burial is recorded in the parish register of St Giles’s Church rather than that of Summertown, it is likely that she too was buried in St Sepulchre’s Cemetery. Her personal effects came to £252, and probate was granted to her sister Emily.

Emily was still apparently living at Stratfield Road in 1941, but she died that year in Abingdon.

† Miss Emily Rosa Underhill died at Barton Court, Abingdon at the age of 84 on 9 March 1941 and was buried at St Sepulchre’s Cemetery on 13 March (burial recorded in the parish register of St Giles’s Church, with the cemetery specifically named).

Her effects came to £5,026.

Description of Charles Underhill’s funeral in Jackson’s Oxford Journal of 21 February 1903:

FUNERAL OF THE LATER ALDERMAN UNDERHILL.

The interment of the late Alderman Charles Underhill, whose death was recorded last week as having occurred on the 11th inst., in his 83rd year, took place on Monday afternoon in St. Sepulchre’s cemetery, Walton-street, a large number of citizens attending the ceremony as a mark of their respect. The members of the Corporation and other assembled at Wycliffe Hall, and walked from the residence of the deceased, No. 57, Banbury-road, in procession to the cemetery, headed by Chief Constable Cole and the Mayor’s Sergeant, Mr. Beckwith, carrying the mace draped in crape. There were present the Mayor (Alderman Salter), the Deputy Mayor (Alderman Sir Walter Gray), the Sheriff (Councillor Bevers), Aldermen Buckell, Saunders, Woodward, Cooper, Lucas, Daniel, Bacon (who attended as Vice-Chairman representing the municipal Charity Trustees and Directors of the Cutler Boulter Provident Dispensary), and Hall, the Town Clerk (Mr. R. Bacon), Councillors Dorn, Vincent, Maunsell, Le Mesurier, Zacharias, Hutchins, Meeking, Curtis, Woodward, Wheeler, Druce, Taphouse, Twining, Higgins, Cooper, Dodd, Leech, Butterfield and Salter, Mr. F. Ryman-Hall, J.P., Mr. T. H. Rose, J.P., Mr. T. W. Mallam (clerk to the city magistrates), Mr. W. H. White (City Engineer), Mr. T. Harwood (City Librarian), Rev. J. Robertson, Mr. F. H, Alden, J.P., Mr. G. S. Payne, Mr. Theo. Carter, Mr. Lillingston, and the following representing the Freemen’s Committee: Messrs. R. W. Soanes, Chennell, Oliver, Beesley, C. Ives, and Goodall. There were also present at the cemetery Mr. A. W. Hall, Alderman Wilson, Professor Burrows, J. Grubb, and F. Turner, sen. The coffin, covered with choice floral tributes, was borne in an open hearse, and was followed by three carriages, containing the mourners, the whole of whom were relatives – Mr. Maitland, Mr. Fred., Mr. Ernest, and Mr. Sydney Underhill, sons; Masters Kingsley, Frank, Kenneth, and Stanley Underhill, grandsons; and Mr H. M. J., Mr. G. E ., Mr. Herbert, and Mr. Peter Underhill, nephews, the employes also followed in the procession. As the body was borne to the inner gates of the cemetery, the Corporation lined each side of the entrance roadway, and took their places in the procession after it and the mourners had passed. The burial service was conducted in the chapel and at the graveside by the Rev. F. J. Dyson, Rector of St. Peter le Bailey, the body being placed in a grave, the sides of which were covered with evergreens, at the extreme west side of the cemetery, in which a son of the deceased was laid to rest some seventeen years ago. The coffin was of panelled polished English Oak, with silver fittings, and a plate bore the following inscription

CHARLES UNDERHILL, J.P.,
Alderman of the City of Oxford;
Born 28th March, 1820,
Died 11 February, 1902.

The wreaths etc., were both numerous and beautiful, and included an extremely choice floral anchor from the widow, and others from the family, Mr. and Mrs. G. Herbert Morrell, the grandchildren in St. Clement’s and St. Margaret’s Road, Mrs. H. S. Underhill, Mrs. Edward B. Underhill (Hampstead), the Town Clerk, Mrs Fanny Bettinson, Hitchin, Ida, Lallie, Nell, Edith, Frank, Kenneth, Katie, Tom, Grace, Dora, Tessie, and Emily, the Chairman and Directors of the Randolph Hotel, Mr. and Mrs. Edward Beaumont, Nurse Lilla Cook, Mr. and Mrs. Lillington, Mrs. Hills and family (Willesden Green), Mr. and Mrs. W. J. Freeborn, Mr. and Mrs. Edgar Mills, AND Nellie, Mr. and Mrs. Alfred Boffin and Lucy, the servants (Agnes, Lizzie AND Durham, the Freemen’s Committee, and Messrs. H. Hine. H. Taylor, C. H. Markham, H. Skinner, H. Hornsey, R. G. Webb, N. Robinson, T. V. Brown, and W. Lord.

The funeral arrangements were carried out by the City Drapery Stores, High-street.


Other surviving children of Charles Underhill and his first wife Mary
  • Charles Maitland Underhill (born 1842) took over his father’s grocery business at 37 Cornmarket Street. On 30 August 1870 he married Louisa Mary Blake of 8 Oriel Street, the daughter of a college servant at Corpus Christi College, at St Mary the Virgin Church. His wife gave birth to twins, Constance and Arthur Underhill, over this shop on 22 September 1871, and their son Charles Bernard Underhill on 23 July 1873. In 1881 he and his wife were living at 14 Warnborough Road with their three children and a servant. In 1891 they were living alone at 1 Warnborough Road with one servant. By 1901 they were living at St Margaret’s Road with Constance (29) and Charles Bernard (27), who was described as a mathematical instructor: Charles Bernard Underhill died the following year in the Thame district at the age of 29. Charles and his wife were on their own again at that address in 1911, and Charles (68) was still described as a grocer and wine merchant. He died at 6 Stratfield Road, Summertown at the age of 81 on 20 January 1924, and his effects came to just over £5,097. With no son to succeed him, the shop at 37 Cornmarket Street closed.
  • Harriet Roffey Underhill (born 1842/3) married Robert Anderson in Oxford in the second quarter of 1865. They went to live in Scotland, where their daughter Mary Maitland Anderson was born.
  • Frederick Robert Underhill (born 1844) initially managed the family’s grocer’s shop at 37 Cornmarket with his brother Charles. He married Mary Hills, the daughter of the photographer Robert Hills, at Cambridge on 20 April 1871, and their first child Mary was born in Oxford in 1871/2. They moved to Norwich soon after her birth, where they had three more children: Douglas (1873), Edith (1874), and Robert (1877/8). At the time of the 1881 census he and his family were living with two servants at 1 Carlton Terrace, Heigham, Norwich, and he was described as a grocer employing six men and a boy. By 1891 they had moved to Surrey Road, Norwich, and Douglas was now a music student. Frederick died in Norwich at the age of 64 in 1909.
  • Ernest Augustus Underhill (born 1846) took over his father’s grocery business in St Clement’s. He married Catharine Mary French in Buckingham in the third quarter of 1868, and they had nine children: Helen Mabel Underhill (1869), Reginald Stanley Underhill (1870), Stella Jessie Underhill (1872), Harriet Ethelwynne Underhill (1874), Hildah Catherine (1876), Muriel Marion Underhill (1878), Norah Christine Underhill (1880), Frances Olive Underhill (1883), and Leo Kingsley Underhill (1888). At the time of the 1881 census he was described as a grocer & wine merchant employing four men and four boys, and he and his wife were living at 15 St Clement’s Street with their six children and two servants. He died at the Little House, Highfield, Headington at the age of 67 on 11 March 1914. He was buried in Headington Cemetery, and Catherine was buried with him in 1931.
Only surviving child of Charles Underhill and his second wife Ellen
  • Sydney Francis Underhill (born 1860) also became a grocer and served as Mayor of Oxford: more information here. He died in 1934.

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