Nos. 48–51: Blackwell’s Bookshop


Blackwell’s main bookshop is comprised of four old shops in Broad Street: Nos. 48, 49, 50, and 51 (running from right to left in the above picture). All four are Grade II listed buildings: the pair of houses on the left (51 and 50) date from the early eighteenth century (List Entry No. 1047351), while the pair on the right (49 and 48) were rebuilt and only date from 1936 (List Entry No. 1047352). Most of Blackwell’s cannot be seen from the street, as its vast basement extends under Trinity College’s quadrangle.

During the demolition


Nos. 48 and 49 became dangerous when their immediate neighbours to the east were demolished to make way for the New Bodleian Library in 1936, and they also had to go.

The right-hand half of the present shop was rebuilt to match the left-hand side. It includes the large area of Bliss Court, whose remaining tenants were rehoused.

Bliss Court was painted by J. A. Shuffrey in c.1907 (OXCMS: 2002.74,87, pictured on p. 473 of Lauren Gilmour and Margaret Shuffrey, J. A. Shuffrey 1859–1939: An Oxford Artist’s Life Remembered).

Blackwell’s from the air


Above: the front of John Chaundy’s shop at No. 49 shored up during the demolition process.


Right: Nos. 48–51 as they were before the right-hand pair of shops had to be rebuilt

(Both old pictures reproduced by kind permission of Sue Chaundy)

Nos. 48 and 49 (demolished)

There were given to the parishioners of St Mary Magdalen by George Owen in the sixteenth century, but they sold them to Trinity College in about 1920.

Susannah Seckham

No. 48 (on the right of the pair)

On 29 April 1843 John Daly announced in Jackson's Oxford Journal that he had taken over this shop from Miss Mallet and would continue in the same business as statiioner & perfumer.

At the time of the 1851 census No. 48 was occupied by Susanna Seckham (right), a dealer in glass and china, her spinster daughter, and their servant; she had been here since at least 1839 and remained here until her death in 1862.

At the time of the 1881 census No. 48 was occupied by Elizabeth Rose, a widowed glass and china merchant, and her son Edward, a building surveyor.

No. 49 (on the left of the pair)

At the time of the 1851 census Charles Lobb (57) and his wife Mary (62) lived here:, they are incongruously described as haymakers, but they must have been doing well as the kept a servant.

At the time of the 1881 census John Chaundy, a print seller and lay clerk, with his wife, five sons, and a general servant

Chaundy’s. 49 The Broad

Bliss Court

In the middle of the four shops was a passage leading to Bliss Court, where in 1881 fifty people lived crammed in nine houses stacked beside what is now the right-hand side of Blackwell’s. The passage to the court shows up clearly in the picture below of John Chaundy’s picture shop (reproduced with kind permission of Sue Chaundy). In 1881 the eponymous W.H. & J. Bliss, painters & plumbers, occupied Bliss Court behind, along with John Parr, a tailor, and Charles Mathews, an engraver.


Historic England photograph:

Nos. 50 and 51

No. 50 (on the right of the pair)

At the time of the 1851 census John Bradfield, a glazier and plumber, lived at No. 50 with his wife and five grown-up children (two of them described as plumbers themselves.

On 21 January 1860 the following advertisement appeared in Jackson's Oxford Journal, advertising the auction of the freehold of this property:

Auction of 51 Broad Street

Initially another painter & decorator, Edward Haynes, took over the premises at No. 50.

On 1 January 1879 this shop was bought by Benjamin H. Blackwell. At the time of the 1881 census he was aged 32 and living here with his widowed mother Ann Blackwell and one servant. He was described as a “Bookseller master employing one apprentice and one boy”.

No. 51 (on the left of the pair)

This was occupied by Messrs Law & Son, tailors to 1842. On 14 May that year a forthcoming auction of No. 51 was advertised in Jackson's Oxford Journal:

All those eligible situated FREEHOLD PREMISES, in which a very extensive and lucrative business has been carried on for many years by the late Messrs. Law and Son, tailors; containing, on the ground floor, an entrance lobby, spacious shop, and convenient front counting house; a drawing room and dining room, with china closet, on the first floor; two bed chambers on the second floor; and two ditto and closet over; a good kitchen scullery, wine and beer cellars, in the basement; detached wash-house, with workshop above; two-stall stable, small garden, and other conveniences; joint use of passage from the street, pump of good water, &c. &c.

At the time of the 1851 census No. 51 was occupied by John Lockwood, a master tailor employing six men, and his wife, their five young children, and a general servant. He was succeeded by James Lockwood. At the time of the 1881 census the latter had recently died, and his daughter, Miss Mary A. Lockwood, was continuing to run his business. She lived in the house with her two-year-old nephew, and an undergraduate boarder.

This shop has been part of Blackwell's since 1887.


Blackwell’s began life in just one of its present four shops: No. 50 (second from the left). Benjamin Henry Blackwell’s father, Benjamin Harris Blackwell, had been a secondhand bookseller at 46 St Clement’s Street since 1845, before coming the first City Librarian. He died when young Benjamin was 6, and the latter was apprenticed to Charles Richards, a bookseller at 104 High Street, at the age of 13.

Benjamin Henry Blackwell bought the freehold of 50 Broad Street and opened this shop on New Year’s Day 1879. In 1887 he expanded into No. 51 next door to the left, and in 1919 took over No. 49 to the right.

In 1936 Blackwell’s managed to get a building lease of the site of 48, 49, and Bliss Court (which ran between 49 and 50) at an annual rent of £155, for eighty years from Trinity College, and rebuilt the two shops to match those on the left.

Occupants of 48, 49, 50, and 51 Broad Street listed in directories
Numbers run right to left. Nos 48 and 49 were rebuilt in 1936





Susannah Seckham
China Warehouse

Mrs E. Rose
China & glass ware

William B. London
Hairdresser, perfumer, stationer, & newsagent (& post office from 1896)

City Typewriter Co.
Carfax School of Shorthand

Miss Mallet
Stationer & perfumer

John Daly, Stationer

Charles Lobb, Staymaker

H. Sanders

John Chaundy
Heraldic painter, carver gilder, & picture frame maker
(also at 45)

c.1816 to late 1850s:
John Bradfield
Plumber, & glazier

Ed. Haynes
Painter & decorator

B.H. Blackwell
Second-hand & new bookseller

To 1842: Messrs Law & Son, Taiilors

Lockwood Tailors

1846: Henry Lockwood
1852–1867: Mrs Lockwood
1869–1880:James Lockwood
1884:Mary A. Lockwood

B.H. Blackwell
Second-hand & new bookseller

B. H. Blackwell
Second-hand & new bookseller

Blackwell’s Bookshop

There, in the Broad, within whose booky house
Half England’s scholars nibble books or browse.
Where’er they wander blessed fortune theirs:
Books to the ceiling, other books upstairs;
Books, doubtless, in the cellar and behind
Romantic bays, where iron ladders wind.

John Masefield

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