Stories of Oxford's old mortuary

thisisoxfordshire: Chief executive of OCVA Alison Baxter shows the plans for the mortuary and coroner’s court with retired coroner’s officer John Graham, left, and frequent member of the coroner’s jury, John Mutton Chief executive of OCVA Alison Baxter shows the plans for the mortuary and coroner’s court with retired coroner’s officer John Graham, left, and frequent member of the coroner’s jury, John Mutton

STORIES about Oxf-ord’s old mortuary have been flooding in since an appeal in the Oxford Mail.

Last month, the Oxfordshire Community and Voluntary Action (OCVA) organisation urged readers to help them find out more about their building.

The office block in Floyd’s Row housed the city’s mortuary and coroner’s court until the late 1990s.

After reading about the plea in the Oxford Mail, former employees at the court enjoyed a tour around the building and regaled staff with stories of what went on between its walls.

John Mutton, 86, knew the building well when he used to earn extra money as a juror in the coroner’s court from 1949.

He said: “I used to work at the Coopers department store in Oxford. I worked in the gardening section and during the winter we weren’t very busy.

“So the coroner’s clerk would come and find a jury, off I’d trot and I’d go and be a juror for half a crown. Sometimes you’d do two to earn some more money.

“Eventually they knew me so well I became the foreman. I must have done it for about three or four years.”

He added: “I can remember some of the sad cases, kids being killed on the roads and things like that.”

Mr Mutton, from Northway, also visited the building off St Aldates when it was the labour exchange to sign up for the Royal Navy in the early 1940s.

John Graham was coroner’s officer in the building from 1990 until 1995, working closely with former coroner Nicholas Gardiner.

He said: “I had a variety of jobs from going out to deaths to arranging post mortems, but more importantly looking after the living, comforting them and explaining what would happen next and why.

“It was an interesting place to work and I enjoyed my time here. I met some fantastic people, I really did, and have a lot of memories.

“The problem was not so much the deceased, but helping the living to get over the deaths – pointing them in the right direction if I thought they needed counselling, and putting them in touch with the right people.

“The building has changed a lot and it is really an eye opener to see from what it was to what it is now.”

Maureen Spiers, 73, worked for the coroner’s officer in the building for 10 years from the mid 1940s.

She said: “I worked for the summons and warrants office which later turned into the prosecution service.

“It wasn’t as busy in those days as it is now. I worked there when I was a teenager and have happy memories.”

OCVA is putting together a collection of the stories for Oxford Open Doors on September 8 and 9.

Chief executive Alison Baxter said some letters she had received were sad ones, from people who came to the building to identify loved ones.

She said: “We have been delighted by the response to the feature in the Oxford Mail. The team here has been touched by how willing people have been to share some very emotional experiences with us.”

Comments (1)

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10:44am Sat 11 Aug 12

Geoff Roberts says...

...and finally. What a lovely story!
...and finally. What a lovely story! Geoff Roberts

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