William Cox 1723 - 1780
Banburyshire Family History

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The next William is the most enigmatic of the ancestors. We have assumed that 1723 was his birth year; the same year that Sir Christopher Wren died when King George I was on the throne. We do not know for sure either William's birth or death date but we do have eight facts:

The deaths of 5 of his children:

The death of his wife:

At only 14 years old Mary Hyrons was by far the youngest bride in the family. It was legal at the time, however, Jane Wylde was 28, and Jane Lamprey was 24. The child mortality seems high; even by 18th century Neithrop standards. Either they were living in particularly unsanitary conditions, or they had a very large family. If the previous rates of child mortality remained constant then we would expect eight births in total with three surviving children - perhaps a William, a Mary and, for reasons explained in the next chapter, a James. There were no Cox marriages in Banbury in the period when William and Mary's children would have married, however, on October 4th 1790 Samuel Boss, a garter-weaver, married a woman named Hannah Cox. The witnesses were a William Cox and Mary Cox, however, Mary, the wife of our William, had died ten years earlier and William would have been 67. Is this then evidence of surviving children of our William and Mary?

William and Mary were our only ancestors to not baptise any of their children. This could not have been due to the Stamp Duty Act, passed to help pay for the American War of Independence, as this did not come into force until 1783. Nor was it peculiar to this particular family, as all Cox baptisms in Banbury ceased after 1755 (other than one illegitimate baptism in 1763) and they did not start again until 1786. It does coincide with a decline in Cox marriages, but was not due to a lack of Coxes in Banbury because Cox burials continued at a steady rate. The most likely reason is religious non-conformity.

Political cartoon of 1616 illustrating the Puritan zeal of Banbury - hanging a cat on Monday for killing a mouse on Sunday

Political cartoon of 1616 illustrating the Puritan zeal of Banbury - hanging a cat on Monday for killing a mouse on Sunday

For half a century after Henry VIII's death Banbury retained Catholic sympathies. Queen Mary visited and erected the town into a borough, giving it a charter[1]. Later on, extreme Puritanism took over, leading to the story of the cat hung on a Monday for killing a mouse on Sunday.

In 1739 there were said to be only '9 or 10 papist families in Banbury, all very poor'[2], so it seems unlikely that William became Catholic in 1740. There are no Cox references in the Warkworth Catholic records (1771 - 1812) and Father Sharp, the archivist at St Chad's Cathedral in Birmingham, thought it "very unlikely" that lay Catholic priests performed baptisms in Neithrop which were not recorded at Warkworth, so it seems more likely that they were Protestant non conformists, probably Unitarians.

Presbyterian records date back to 1786 and there was a Hannah Hirons (possible relations of William's wife Mary) baptised in 1803 but there were no Coxs recorded. The Quaker records date back to 1648 and Cox marriages are recorded from 1724 (Josiah and Ann from Bloxham) but they don't appear to be related to the Banbury Coxs.

If William did become non-conformist this may have led to a family rift as it seems odd that he left his father to die in the workhouse given that he was earning money as a hempdresser.

Catholic missions in Oxfordshire
http://www.british-history.ac.uk/report.aspx?compid=63795 (fn. 278)

Contributed by Nicholas Cox
Email: cox_family(@)ntlworld.com
To contact Nicholas, copy and paste the address and remove the brackets around the @ - thank you.