Henry Oxford of England 1584-1658

Henry Oxford of England 1584-1658

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Henry Oxford was the first of the Cambridgeshire and American Oxford family line to use the Oxford name. (There are other probably unrelated Oxford family lines in Suffolk and Devon Counties in England.) Henry grew up in the household of Henry Evans (1543-1612) in London, England.  Henry Oxford initially used the surname Evans (Evins, Euins) but later changed his surname to Oxford and all of his children had the Oxford surname.

Henry Evans document changing his name to Henry Oxford
Henry Evans Document Changing his name to Oxford

The surname change is recorded in the parish church registers in which the births of his children are recorded.  For example, there is the following entry in the Harston Parish Register of Cambridgeshire England: “John Oxford the son of Henry Oxford alias Evans and Anne his wife, baptized June 14, 1614”. Copies of the Cambridgeshire parish registers can be found at  the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah.  To understand the circumstances of the adoption of the Oxford name it is useful to go back one generation to Henry Evans.

Henry Evans (1543-1612)

was a London scrivener (a lawyer specializing in legal documents such as contracts).

Sketch of Blackfriars Theater
Blackfriars Theater

He became the manager of the famous Blackfriars Theatre owned by the Earl of Oxford (See the Wikipedia entry for “Blackfriars Theatre” in the section on “Henry Evans – theatre”.)

Blackfriars Theatre was in the huge former Blackfriars Monastery complex in London.  In 1580 Henry Evans organized a children’s choir and theater group called the “Children of the Chapel” (later called the “Children of the Chapel Royal”).  Evans operated a resident school for the young men in the choir group.  The choir group was composed of young men who performed songs, dances, and theatre spectacles for the public and often performed in the private residences of the English nobility.  The choir group was informally called the “Oxford Boys” due to the sponsorship of the Earl of Oxford.  In 1604 Evans was accused of seizing  orphan boys off the streets of London to attend his school and to become part of his performance group.  In 1608 King James I  acting on complaints ordered an end to the plays presented by Evans at Blackfriars. Evans discontinued his management of Blackfriars Theatre and the theatre was taken over by the acting group “Kings Men” of the Globe Theatre. (see the book “Shakespeare’s Theater” by Ashley Thorndike which can be found at the website:

Children of the Chapel (1580-1608).

Young Henry Oxford was a member and later manager of the “Children of the Chapel” choir group.   The group became quite famous performing not only at Blackfriars Theatre but also in the houses of the nobility and at the royal court. For example, in 1584 the group then commonly called the  “Oxford Boys” was paid 6 pounds 18 shillings by the Earl of Oxford for performing at the royal court at Greenwich for Queen Elizabeth.  (See the book “The Life of Edward DeVere, 17th Earl of Oxford” by Alan Nelson.) As a member of the “Oxford Boys”, Henry Oxford would have lived at Blackfriars in London and would have attended the school operated by Henry Evans.  He studied to become a musician.

Henry Oxford as a Child.

Henry Oxford at first used the name Evans.  It could be assumed that he was probably the son or adopted son of Henry Evans, but because he later changed his name from Evans to Oxford, he might have been one of the orphans rescued from the street or an illegitimate child placed in the care of Henry Evans as a type of apprenticeship.  The name Oxford was chosen probably as an honor to his patron, the Earl of Oxford, and because he was accustomed to the name as he was known as one of the “Oxford Boys”. Based on the date of his employment, the date of his marriage, and the dates of the births of his children, the date of the birth of Henry Oxford is about 1584 probably in London.  After leaving the “Oxford boys” performance group in 1607, Henry at age 23 became a professional musician playing the viol (an instrument shaped like a violin but larger and played by the musician sitting with the viol in his lap.)

Henry Oxford as a Musician.

In 1607 Henry was employed as a a viol player, singer, and music teacher as part of a resident body of musicians for Robert Cecil, 1st Earl of Salisbury, at

Photo of Hatfield House in England
Hatfield House

Hatfield House (a castle just north of London formerly owned by King Henry VIII and the childhood home of Queen Elizabeth).  Henry performed at celebrations at the royal Whitehall Palace, at Salisbury House, and at Hatfield House.  His residence was at Hatfield House. He was paid 20 pounds sterling per year plus expenses.  The expenses of Henry Oxford are recorded the archives of the Earl of Salisbury.  For example, Henry submitted a bill for 12 shillings for a trip to Kensington Palace for a performance, and he submitted an invoice for 57 shillings for keeping viols in repair for a year.  In 1608 Henry was temporarily dismissed from his position by the Earl of Salisbury for supposedly trying to “kidnap a gentlewoman” (presumably Anne Cotton), but the abduction was actually an attempted elopement and Henry was reinstated in his position as musician and teacher. Cecil recorded that it would be “fitter for me to quitt my love of musique which pleaseth myne ear than to protect leudnes in this kind”(sic). But a fellow musician (Hicks) appealed to Cecil’s love of music and commended Oxford’s “musical skill which far outweighed his unadvised rashness”.  “You have always been honorably affected to the house of Oxford, please show some favour for the name of Oxford.” Henry Oxford was re-instated.  In 1612 Robert Cecil died, and Henry’s employment at Hatfield House temporarily ended.

Henry Oxford Marriage, Children.

On 14 April 1613 Henry at age 29 married Anne Cotton at St. Clement Danes Church in London and he moved to Harston, Cambridgeshire, the home of his wife on the road from Cambridge to London.  Anne Cotton was a noblewoman, and Henry then became known as “Henry Oxford, Gentleman”.  In 1617 there was a lawsuit filed in Cambridgeshire called “Hallyley vs Oxford, alias Evans, and his wife Anne”   Henry and wife Anne had the following three children whose births are recorded in the Harston Parish Church Register:


On 14 April 1613 Henry at age 29 married Anne Cotton at St. Clement Danes Church in London and he moved to Harston, Cambridgeshire, the home of his wife on the road from Cambridge to London.  Anne Cotton was a noblewoman, and Henry then became known as “Henry Oxford, Gentleman”.  In 1617 there was a lawsuit filed in Cambridgeshire called “Hallyley vs Oxford, alias Evans, and his wife Anne”   Henry and wife Anne had the following three children whose births are recorded in the Harston Parish Church Register:

1. John Oxford born 14 Jun 1614. (no further information)
2. Wendy Oxford born 14 Sept 1615 (died 20 Feb 1685)
3. Thomas Oxford born 17 Jun 1617 (died 2 July 1617)

In the period 1618-1636 William Cecil, 2nd Earl of Salisbury, made Hatfield House a center of culture and patronized many musicians such as Henry Oxford who often performed there. Henry continued his career as a professional musician. In 1618 a well known musician dedicated a verse to “Master in Music, Henry Oxford”.  Henry retained his main residence in Cambridgeshire but often resided in London. In 1635 Henry Oxford and many others were sited for living in London rather than at their normal place of residence in violation of a royal order to send London residents back to the countryside. In 1635 at age 51 Henry Oxford retired to his home in Cambridgeshire. In 1635 Henry received a royal letter of patent giving him a monopoly on the manufacture of sieves made of oxtails, and there was a lawsuit at Ipswich called “Henry Oxford and wife Anne vs Henry Clovell” concerning the validity of the patent.  In 1636 there was a lawsuit in Harston called “Giles Cotton vs. Henry Oxford, brother” (actually brother-in-law). The Oxford lawsuits are recorded in the Public Records Office of England in the Index of Chancery Proceedings.  In 1651 “Henry Oxford, Gentleman” appeared in the English House of Lords to defend his son Wendy Oxford who had been a captain in the royal army of the recently beheaded King Charles I.  Wendy Oxford was being fined and exiled from England by the House of Commons after the defeat of the royal army by Oliver Cromwell and the army of Parliament.

Photo of Boxworth Church, Cambridgeshire Cambridgeshire, England
Boxworth Parish Church

On 29 May 1658 Henry Oxford died at age 74 and is buried at the  Boxworth  Parish Church in Cambridgeshire with the Cotton family.

Connection to the Oxfords of America.

1. Henry Oxford (1584-1658) who adopted the Oxford name
2. Wendy Oxford (1615-1685) a captain in the royal army, exiled from England
3. John Oxford (1639-1719) immigrated from England to King George County, Virginia
4. Samuel Oxford Sr (1696-1773) moved from Virginia to Rowan County, NC
5. Samuel Oxford Jr (1742-1811) married Bathsheba Barrett and operated a ferry service at Oxford Ford in Lincoln County, NC.  Their sons (Samuel, James, Jonathan, Isaac, Jacob, and Abel) established Oxford family lines in Kentucky, North Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee, Missouri, and Arkansas.