Alan Crosby: Revisiting my Oxford origins

By Jon Bauckham, 23 July 2015 - 1:45pm

A recent trip to Oxford saw Alan pay a pilgrimage to the house where a branch of his family tree once lived – including a forebear who served in the local fire brigade

Dr Alan Crosby is the editor of the Local Historian and a columnist for WDYTYA? MagazineThursday 23 July 2015
Alan Crosby
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Oxford Broad Street Alan Crosby

Alan's relatives, George and Elizabeth Wiggins, lived in the narrow house at the centre of this photograph. See its exact location on Google Street View by clicking here (Credit: Google)

I’ve just returned from a week in Oxford where, as usual, I took a stroll along Broad Street and looked up at the very tall and narrow house where my father’s great aunt, Elizabeth Hannah Wiggins, lived.

It’s right in the middle of the city, opposite Balliol College, and in the road just in front of the house is a cross marking the spot where Protestant heretics Archbishop Cranmer and Bishops Latimer and Ridley were burned at the stake in the mid-1550s.

I never knew my Dad’s great aunt, but her’s is another of those family lines in the ‘pending tray’ – the ones to start tracing when there’s a few spare minutes (or hours, or days!)

Elizabeth’s husband, George Frederick Wiggins, was an auctioneer and he appears many times in the city directories.

In 1901 he was also the ‘Sheriff’s Officer’ for Oxfordshire, meaning that he was responsible for issuing and enforcing many court orders. Given his trade, many of these were in relation to the seizure and restraint of goods from debtors and others whose possessions were to be taken in lieu of fines.

In his younger days, George was also Captain of the Oxford Volunteer Fire Brigade. There are various late-Victorian photographs of the brigade, all gleaming brass equipment, with young and not-so-young men sporting spectacular moustaches and sideburns.

I imagine that George might have been among them, but I’ve no idea what he looked like. Firefighting ran in the family – his brother-in-law, Edwin John Crosby, was Captain of the Banbury Volunteer Fire Brigade in the 1880s.

Maybe I missed my vocation? No, I’m not brave enough!
 

Alan Crosby lives in Lancashire and is editor of The Local Historian. He is an honorary research fellow at Lancashire and Liverpool universities

 

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