Tony Williamson, a former Lord Mayor of Oxford and prominent 'worker priest', has died aged 85.

Revd Canon Williamson lived several lifetimes in one, working at the Pressed Steel car body factory in Cowley for 30 years, serving as a city and county councillor for decades and spending time as the Diocese of Oxford's director of education.

He was one of Oxford’s leading Labour politicians and a lifelong activist, which underpinned a lifelong Christian commitment to helping people however he could.

Read again: Ex-Lord Mayor with the human touch has died

Anthony Williamson was born on September 2, 1933, in Fenny Drayton, near Leicester.

His father, Revd Joseph Williamson, was an Anglican minister, and his mother Audrey, was a nanny.

'Father Joe' campaigned in east London in the 1950s to clear slums and open safe houses for prostitutes and Tony inherited this instinct to fight social injustice.

Tony and his two older sisters, Lucy and Joy, gained the education his father never had.

He attended the Dragon School in Oxford and Marlborough college, Wiltshire, before completing his national service in Egypt.

Mr Williamson studied Geography at Oxford University's Trinity College, and at Cuddesdon theological college, near Oxford.

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His future wife, Barbara, attended Oxford at the same time, but the pair met again in early 1959 and were married by October.

Their four children, Ruth, Paul, Hugh and Ian, were born between 1960 and 1967 and Mr Williamson taught them to cycle, drive and play numerous sports.

At Cuddesdon, he committed to working in industry, and in 1958 he left early to start work at Cowley's Pressed Steel car body factory.

In 1960, Mr Williamson became the first Anglican priest to be ordained while in factory work and without having served a curacy.

During this time, he helped establish the Worker Church Group, to support Britain’s worker priests.

Oxford Mail:

Mr Williamson's factory job was his base for his worker priest role and he became heavily involved in trade unions and local politics.

He was involved in the Transport & General Workers’ Union (TGWU) and became chairman of the factory's branch in 1971, remaining in the role until leaving the factory in 1987. He was first elected to Oxford City Council in 1961 and served almost continuously until 1988, representing Cowley and Iffley, Donnington and Blackbird Leys.

Mr Williamson campaigned for social housing and organised political support and finance for building thousands of council houses in poorer communities.

He also spent 15 years on Oxfordshire County Council from 1973 to 1988, serving as joint leader for two years in the mid-1980s.

As Lord Mayor in 1982/83 he pursued his worker priest role, clocking in at the factory at 7.15am every day and visiting municipal rubbish collectors and other less glamorous professions.

In 1989, Mr Williamson became diocesan director of education for Oxfordshire, Buckinghamshire and Berkshire and helped modernise the education service.

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That same year, he and his wife moved from Cowley to Watlington, near Thame, and threw themselves into town life.

Mr Williamson spent seven years as parish council chairman, while as chair of governors he helped establish the new primary school, which opened in 2000.

Barbara suffered a severe stroke in 2011 and Mr Williamson became her full-time carer, but continued to support younger clergy as a union representative for the Faith Workers’ branch of Unite.

After Barbara died in 2015, Tony remarried with Jill Sweeny, a family friend who passed away in 2018.

In 2017, the county council made him an honorary alderman, its highest honour.

Mr Williamson had prostate cancer and died peacefully at home on February 12. He is survived by his sister Joy, four children and eight grandchildren.

His funeral will take place at midday on Friday, March 1 at St Leonard’s Church, Watlington.