Loxley family

William Frederick Loxley was born in Warwickshire in 1854. He was apprenticed as a carpenter in Oxford, working there from 1875.  He married Mary Elizabeth Howkins, a farmer’s daughter, in 1880. Three of their children, Jane Ethel Sarah, born 20 March 1881, Frederick Lionel Keith, born 9 June 1882, and Cyril Roland Sherwood, born 17 May 1886, all lived to maturity.

Loxley children's graves

William and Mary had three other children. Hannah Gertrude Gladys was born on 16 October 1884, Wilfrid Philip Soloman on 7 December 1887 and Ellen Sophia on 1 March 1889.  Gertrude died aged 3 on 26 February 1888.  Just a year later Mary died on 10 March 1889 after giving birth to Ellen, who survived only three days and had died on 4 March. Within a few days, on the 15 March 1889, Philip died aged 15 months.  The three children are buried together in the children’s area (F115) and their mother, Mary Elizabeth Loxley separately in what is now a Garden of Remembrance and Thanksgiving (D225).

Mary Loxley's grave & Graham

William Loxley married his first cousin Sophia Loxley a year after Mary died. They had one child, Clement Bernard Chester on 5 June 1891.

Shortly after coming to Oxford William Loxley met a fellow carpenter George Edward Benfield whilst working on the restoration of the roof of New College Chapel. They subsequently became friends (Ss Mary and John Church records show that on two occasions one of their boys were baptised together) and also business associates. They founded the firm of Benfield and Loxley with premises in Bullingdon Road. Its first major building contract was for Magdalen College School (boarding) house, ‘The Willows’, designed by A W Blomfield, completed in 1894.The firm prospered, as further substantial work followed, much of it for Colleges and University.

George Benfield built himself a house in Iffley; the firm built its own brickworks at Sandford. William Loxley sent his sons to the City of Oxford (High) School and built himself a large Horton stone house on Rose Hill, complete with a sprung floor for dancing in the large room on the second floor. It overlooked the City and it had sufficient grounds to house outbuildings, shielded from the main house, that could accommodate a pony and trap.

William Loxley took particular interest in the work on the Chapel for St John’s Hospital (now the Convent Chapel of the All Saints Sisters of the Poor) which the firm was building in 1906 under the direction of Ninian Comper. But before it was completed, he died suddenly, apparently from food poisoning aged 52 years, shortly before he could move to his new house.

Loxley memorial plaque

He is buried in Rose Hill Cemetery. The Sister Superior of the Hospital sent a wreath and he is commemorated by a brass plaque in the floor of the Chapel which reads:

Remember William Frederick Loxley, builder snatched away by /
sudden death before the completion of this church Lammas day 1906 /
May his zeal for its perfection be counted precious in the sight of God

Below this is a Masonic crest with compasses and square.

After William Loxley’s death the family moved to his house, Cingaltree (so called because of a large tree that stood by the gate, since felled when the Littlemore road was realigned). Ethel kept house for her stepmother. Keith trained as a pharmacist in London and later owned chemists shops in St Giles and North Parade; he died in 1930 and was buried in North Oxford Cemetery. Roland became a farm manager and died in 1935. Bernard joined the 9th Battalion London Regiment (Queen Victoria's Rifles) in 1916.  He went out to France with the regiment in February 1917, serving in France and Belgium.  He was at the battle of Arras, also at Passchendaele in September 1917. He left the army after the war, first living in Divinity Road, and he owned an ironmongers and builders business in St Giles. He married and had two sons now living in other parts of the country. Having moved outside the City he returned to North Oxford after he retired and died in 1975.

William Loxley’s wife Sophia died in 1931 and was buried in Rose Hill Cemetery (as was Ethel who died in 1947). Ethel moved to another house and Cingaltree was let to the Hon Frank Pakenham (who later became Lord Longford). He lived there until 1939 when he inherited family property. Having no further use for it, he permitted Oxford City Council to requisition the house for evacuees from London. Later it was used for other purposes, then compulsorily purchased in about 1949 and is now at the centre of the Singletree sheltered housing complex.

The Loxley family connection with Benfield and Loxley ended when William died in 1906.  George Benfield’s son William H. and grandson William G. were, in turn, directors so retaining their family interest until the 1970s. Later it was taken over and the premises in Bullingdon Road sold for housing (the Bramwell close development). However, even after several changes of ownership, the name of Benfield and Loxley continues to be used for a building firm of high repute. 

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