James Robert SIMMS (1831–1877)
St Mary Magdalen section: Row 5a, C52
I H S
IN LOVING MEMORY OF
SECOND SON OF THE LATE
JOHN & CLARA SIMMS
WHO DIED APRIL 15, 1877
AGED 44 YEARS
THY WILL BE DONE
James Robert Simms was born at 23 Holywell Street, Oxford in 1831 and baptised at St Cross Church on 16 October. He was the second son of John Simms (born c.1809) and Clara Campion (born in Marcham in 1809 and baptised there on 21 May). His parents must have married in about 1828, and they had eleven children:
- George Simms (born in Oxford in 1829/30)
- James Robert Simms (born at 23 Holywell Street, Oxford in 1831 and baptised at St Cross Church on 16 October)
- Grace Elizabeth Simms (born at 23 Holywell Street, Oxford in 1833 and baptised at St Cross Church on 14 April)
- Clara Maria Simms (born at 23 Holywell Street, Oxford in 1834 and baptised at St Cross Church on 23 November)
- Louisa Hannah Simms (born at 23 Holywell Street, Oxford in 1836/7)
- John Simms (born at 23 Holywell Street, Oxford in 1838/9 and baptised at St Cross Church on 6 January 1839); died aged seven weeks, and buried at that church on 2 February
- Arthur Simms (born at 23 Holywell Street, Oxford in 1840 and baptised at St Cross Church on 31 March);
died aged 1½ and buried at that church on 19 November 1841
- Clara Ann Simms (born at 23 Holywell Street, Oxford in 1842 and baptised at St Cross Church on 6 February)
- Emily Mary Simms (born at 23 Holywell Street, Oxford in 1843; no baptism found, reg. third quarter)
- Fanny Pattison Simms (born at 23 Holywell Street, Oxford in 1845 and privately baptised on 4 March; admitted to St Cross Church on 26 December)
- John Edward Simms (born at 37 Broad Street, Oxford in 1847 and baptised at St Cross Church on 5 September).
James’s parents John and Clara Simms were living at 23 Holywell Street (a house demolished in 1891 to make way for Mansfield Road) at the time of the 1841 census with their five eldest surviving children: George (11), James (9), (Grace) Elizabeth (8), (Clara) Maria (6), Louisa (4), and Arthur (1), plus one servant.
By 1846 John Simms and his family had moved to 37 Broad Street in St Mary Magdalen parish (right), one of the houses opposite the Clarendon Building that was demolished in 1937 to make way for the New Bodleian Library. He set up a bootmaking business here that was to remain in the family for over 45 years.
James’s father John Simms died at 37 Broad Street at the age of 39 in April 1848, before St Sepulchre’s was open, and he was buried in the churchyard of St Cross Church in Holywell on 25 April. His wife Clara took over the business, and by the time of the 1851 census she was employing eighteen men. James Robert Simms (19) and his older brother George (21) were both now working for their mother as bootmakers. Three of her younger children were at home: Clara Ann, wrongly recorded as Elizabeth (9), Emily (7), and John (4), and they had a servant. (Grace) Elizabeth was a nurserymaid in a house in Camberwell; Louisa (13) was staying at Guy’s Hospital with her aunt, Miss Elizabeth Simms, who was a Sister on the Electricity Ward; and Fanny (6) was staying with her grandmother, Mary Campion, a widow of 76 on parish relief, at Marcham. Only (Clara) Maria (16) is hard to find.
Two of James’s sisters were married before the next census:
- On 24 July 1855 at St Mary Magdalen Church, Oxford, Clara Maria Simms married Thomas James Winney, a share broker of Mile End Road, London;
- On 29 December 1860 at St Mary Magdalen Church, Oxford, Louisa Hannah Simms married William Thorne Whittingham, a superintendent of the Telegraph Company in Liverpool, and the marriage was announced in Jackson’s Oxford Journal.
From 1861 the family business was described in directories as Simms & Son. At the time of the 1861 census James Robert Simms (28), who never married, was working as a boot closer for his mother and living with her at 37 Broad Street together with his sister Emily (17) and brother John Edward (14), plus one servant; and his nephew James Arthur Winney (1) was also staying with his grandmother on census night.
Another of James’s sisters was married in 1869:
- On 24 July 1869 at St Mary Magdalen Church, Oxford, Emily Mary Simms married Arthur James Atkins, a draper of Cheltenham, and the marriage was announced in Jackson’s Oxford Journal.
At the time of the 1871 census, Mrs Clara Simms, now a bootmaker employing sixteen men, was living at 37 Broad Street with her son James Robert Simms (39), who was described as a boot closer, and one servant. Her sister-in-law Miss Elizabeth Simms (65), who had been a nurse at Guy’s Hospital, was living with her.
Two more of James’s sisters were married in the 1870s:
- On 27 June 1874 at Oughtibridge, Sheffield, Fanny Pattison Simms married William Richard Griffin of Headington, and the marriage was announced in Jackson’s Oxford Journal;
- On 18 November 1876 at St Mary Magdalen Church, Oxford, Clara Ann Simms married George Osborne, a gentleman of St Mary Magdalen parish.
James' mother Mrs Clara Simms died in Oxford at the age of 68 on 10 April 1877 and was buried with her husband at St Cross Cemetery, Holywell, on 14 April.
James himself died on the day after his mother's funeral:
† James Robert Simms died at 37 Broad Street at the age of 45 (not 44 as on tombstone) on 15 April 1877 and was buried at St Sepulchre’s Cemetery on 17 April (burial recorded in the parish register of St Mary Magdalen Church).
A joint announcement was inserted in Jackson’s Oxford Journal on 21 April 1877:
April 10, at 37, Broad-street, Oxford, aged 68, Clara, widow of Mr. John Simms, bootmaker;
and, on April 15, at 37, Broad-street, James Robert Simms, their son, aged 45.
Simms & Son, Bootmakers, Boot & Shoe Makers, and Chiropodists remained in their shop at 37 Broad Street until at least 1890, but by 1893 the property was occupied by a surgeon.