No. 37: Former shop

37 Broad Street

No. 37 Broad Street was the third house from the right of the thirteen houses dating from the first half of the seventeenth century that were demolished to make way for the New Bodleian Library in the late 1930s.

The Elephant Inn on the site of the Clarendon Building is understood to have changed its name to the Royal Oak in 1662, and one of the houses in this group took up the old name of the Elephant and operated as a pub until 1820. Miriam Freeborn understood that it was probably here at No. 37, but there is a chance it was the earlier name of the Duke of York, which was definitely at No. 41

The bootmaker John Simms had taken over this shop by 1846. He died in 1848, and his widow Clara took over the business. This was a large house, and the 1851 census shows that the shoemaking business going on at No. 37 was more like a factory than a cottage industry. Clara (41) was the employer of 18 men, including her two sons George (21) and James (19), who lived with her over the shop with their two little sisters and 4-year-old brother, plus a servant and a student lodger.

On 6 June 1857 her son George Simms advertised in Jackson's Oxford Journal that having made practical observations on the foot for several years and successfully removed and cured corns, bunions, and defective toe nails, he was now offering his service to the nobility, gentry, and public generally for a fee of five shillings, and henceforth the firm was described as bootmakers & chiropodists.

Clara Simms died at the age of 68 in 1877, and at the time of the 1881 census her son George Simms, a widower of 51, lived upstairs with his son of the same trade, his daughter, and a general servant.

In Jackson's Oxford Journal of 27 August 1892 George Simms stated that he was late of 37 Broad Street and was now at 6 & 7 Ship Street. His medical repertoire had increased: he could now treat cancer, lupus, fistulas, and carbuncles, and quoted the testimony of a father whose daughter had been cured of subperiosteal sarcoma of the humerus.

The surgeon Herbert Counsell lived here at his surgery from 1903 to 1934, and in his book 37 The Broad (London, Robert Hale Ltd, 1943) he describes life at “Thirty-seven” during this period.

Occupants of 37 Broad Street listed in directories

Sometimes numbered 38, e.g. in 1851 census


Thomas Cripps, Pastry cook

By 1846–1890

Simms family, Bootmakers

1846: John Simms, Bootmaker
1852: Clara Simms, Bootmaker
1861–1890: Simms and Son, Bootmakers/Boot & Shoe makers/Chiropodists


W. Lewis Morgan, MA Oxon, MRCS
Surgeon, coroner to the university & surgeon to the Radcliffe Infirmary;
later also Lichfield Trust lecturer on surgery


Frederick Owen Pickering, Lodging House


Herbert E. Counsell, FRCS, Surgeon (Surgery)


Rose Paget, Gowns

Demolished with twelve neighbouring houses in 1937
to make room for the New Bodleian Library

See the bound typescript in the Bodleian Library entitled “The Demolished Houses of Broad Street and the Freeborn Family” (1943), attributed to Emily Sarah Freeborn, and the webpage by Alan Simpson which reproduces some of the material in it.

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