James PRIOR (1800–1850)
(with a mention of his wife Eliza Prior and their four infant sons, buried elsewhere)
St Michael section: Row 7 Grave C51
TO THE MEMORY OF
LATE OF THE PARISH OF ST
MICHAEL IN THIS CITY,
WHO DIED THE 14 OF OCTOBER
AGED 49 YEARS.
ALSO ELIZA HIS WIFE,
DIED JUNE 20, 1841,
AGED 48 YEARS.
SHE WAS BURIED IN ST MICHAEL’S
PARISH WITH FOUR SONS, WHO DIED INFANTS
James Prior was born in Oxford in 1800 and baptised at St Aldate’s Church on 4 July. He was the son of Thomas Prior and his wife Mary.
On 23 April 1825 at Holywell Church, James Prior married Eliza Seary (born in c.1794), and they had the following children:
- Mary Rebecca Prior (born in Oxford in 1826 and baptised at Holywell Church on 14 April)
- George Prior (born in Oxford in 1828 and baptised at St Michael’s Church on 3 February);
died age three and buried in St Michael’s churchyard on 27 March 1831
- Henry Prior (born in Oxford in 1829 and baptised at St Michael’s Church on 30 August);
died aged six weeks and buried in St Michael’s churchyard on 20 September
- Emma Prior (born in Oxford in 1830/1 and baptised at St Michael’s Church on 2 January 1831)
- George Henry Prior (born in Oxford in 1832 and baptised at St Michael’s Church on 10 June);
died aged four months and buried in St Michael’s churchyard on 24 October
- Harriet Prior (born in Oxford in 1834 and baptised at St Michael’s Church in January)
- George Prior (born at St Aldate’s, Oxford in 1836 and baptised at St Michael’s Church on 17 September);
died at St Aldate’s aged seven months and buried in St Michael’s churchyard on 19 March 1837.
At the time the first two children were baptised, James Prior was described as a servant, but from 1829 he was a victualler in St Michael’s parish. His wife gave birth to four sons between 1831 and 1837, but all died in infancy; their three daughters survived.
At the time his youngest son was baptised in September 1836, James Prior was still a victualler, but now in St Aldate’s parish: the register explains that he was “baptised in St Michael’s Church in compliance with the wish of the parents, the older children having all been so when the family lived there”. Although his parents were still living in St Aldate’s when he died the following year, he was also allowed to be buried in the same grave as his little brothers.
At the time of the 1841 census James Prior was the victualler of the Bell Inn at 18 Cornmarket (on part of the site of the modern block to the north of Market Street), and he and his wife were living there with Emma (9) and Harriet (6). They had one female servant, Rhoda Edwards, and on census night one independent lady was staying at the inn. Their eldest daughter Mary Rebecca Prior (15) lived in the High Street, where she was the servant of an elderly lady called Mary Wyatt.
Mrs Eliza Prior died on 20 June 1841 at the age of 47 and was buried in St Michael’s churchyard, probably in the same grave as her four infants sons, on 23 June.
James Prior died nine years later in 1850. There could not have been room for another burial in his wife’s grave, and so he was buried in St Sepulchre’s Cemetery, which had been open just two years:
† James Prior died in St Michael’s parish, almost certainly at the Bell Inn in Cornmarket, at the age of 49 on 14 October 1850 and was buried at St Sepulchre’s Cemetery on 16 October (burial recorded in the parish register of St Michael’s Church).
The Bell Inn after his death
At the time of the 1851 census, the innkeeper of the Bell in Cornmarket was James Prior’s eldest daughter Miss Mary Rebecca Prior (25), with her two sisters Emma (20) and Harriett (17) as assistants. They had a lodger, Derby-born china merchant Francis Thompson (22), and Rhoda Edwards was still their servant, and a porter also lived with them.
Later in 1851 her sister Emma Prior married their lodger, Francis Octavius Thompson, in Oxford, and the couple continued to run the Bell; but she died in 1855, and the inn passed into other hands.
Daughters of James and Eliza Prior
- Miss Mary Rebecca Prior (born 1826) never married. In 1861 she was boarding with her sister Mrs Harriet Harris at 49 Observatory Street: aged 35, she described herself as a former innkeeper. In 1871 she was a sempstress, boarding at 21 Jericho Street. She died in Oxford at the age of 48 near the beginning of 1875.
- Emma Prior, Mrs Francis Octavius Thompson (born 1830/1): see separate grave.
- Harriet Prior (born 1834) married James Harris (21), a bookbinder of St Thomas’s parish, at St Michael's Church in Oxford on 28 June 1853 when she was 19. In 1861 she was living at 49 Observatory Street with her bookbinder husband and their first two children James Harris (4) and Harry Harris (2); her sister Mary Prior was then lodging with them. They were at the same address in 1871 with two more children, Kate Harris (9) and Ernest Harris (7). Harriet Prior died in Oxford in 1876 (reg. Headington district third quarter) at the age of 43.