Sir William Markby (1829–1914)
Sir William Markby (1829–1914) was born on 31 May 1829, the fourth son of the Rector of Duxford in Cambridgeshire. He first came to Oxford to read Mathematics at Merton College in 1846.
Markby was called to the bar in 1853, and in 1866 was appointed a Judge of the High Court of Bengal. On 22 March that year he married Lucy Taylor (1841–1928), and their only child, an unnamed son, was born and died in Calcutta the following October.
On his retirement from the bench in 1878, Markby was knighted, and the couple returned to England, where Markby took up the newly created Readership in Indian Law at Oxford, a post he held until 1900. He was also Tutor and Senior Bursar of Balliol College under Jowett.
In March 1879 Markby bought the southernmost plot of land to the east of Pullens Lane that was being sold by John Marriott Davenport. His wife later wrote:
We soon decided that Headington Hill was a desirable spot whereon to pitch our tent and so it came about that we bought a few acres of land within the sacred limits of the University and built the house that was to be our home for so many years to come.
In September 1880 his family moved into their new house, usually known as The Pullens. The 1881 census describes the house as “Joe Pullen’s, Headington Hill”, and shows Sir William (51) and his wife Lucy (38) looked after by a cook, parlourmaid, housemaid, and kitchenmaid. It was in this house that Sir William would have written Elements of law considered with reference to principles of general jurisprudence (first edition 1889; sixth edition 1905).
The Markby family was away from Headington at the time of both the 1891 and 1901 censuses; but in 1911 William (81) and his wife Lucy (64) were at home with five servants. Sir William continued to be “Tutor to the Indian probationers” when he retired from being Reader in Indian Law and is listed as the occupier of Pullens in directories until his death in Headington at the age of 85 on 15 October 1914. He was buried at Headington Cemetery four days later.
For some unknown reason Lady Markby then renamed their house “Fairfield”. In 1917 she published a book about her husband: Memories of Sir William Markby, kcie, by his Wife. She remained in the house until her death at the end of 1928.
Right: The Markby family tombstone in Headington Cemetery has been deemed dangerous and put to lie flat on the grass. It reads:
TO THE MEMORY OF
SIR WILLIAM MARKBY
BORN AT DUXFORD CAMBS MAY 31 1829
DIED AT HEADINGTON HILL OXON,
OCTOBER 15, 1914
“LED BY THE SPIRIT OF GOD
TO DO JUSTLY, TO LOVE MERCY AND
TO WALK HUMBLY WITH GOD”
BELOVED WIFE OF THE ABOVE
BORN SEPTEMBER 19, 1841
DIED DECEMBER 23, 1928
“THE LORD IS MY LIGHT AND MY SALVATION”
AND OF THEIR INFANT SON
WHO WAS BORN AND DIED AT CALCUTTA
© Arpad Turmezei
Above: The Pullens, where Sir William and Lady Markby lived.
There is a much fuller entry on William Markby in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography
The ODNB online is available free to many public library users, including those in Oxfordshire:
enter your library ticket number in the “Library Card Login” box