Landmarks in the History of Broad Street


The first Oxford city wall was built, leaving the present area of Broad Street outside the city. There was a lane outside the wall, then a deep man-made moat or ditch (known as the Candida Fossa or Canditch). This ran towards the back of the present shops on the south side of Broad Street and on along George Street, thus completing a circuit of flowing water around the city walls


There is archaeological evidence of settlement on a road outside the walls, where Broad Street is now. By 1230 that road was used for a horse market and was known as Horsemonger Lane


Beginning of Balliol College, when John de Balliol (as part of his penance for insulting the Bishop of Durham) rented a house outside the city wall (on the site of the present Master’s Lodgings) to maintain some poor scholars


Start of the building of Durham College, founded on the site of the present Trinity College for monks from Durham to live while studying at Oxford. It was set well back from the road, and reached via a narrow lane


Horsemonger Lane was known as Canditch


At least seven properties in the street became gardens or waste ground, reflecting the decline in Oxford’s population during this period


Occupation virtually ceased at the east end of the street in the area of the present New Bodleian Library, and did not resume until the seventeenth century


Exeter College formally assumed its present name. At this time its main entrance was to the north, opening out into the lane running beneath the city wall, on the site of the houses now on the south side of Broad Street


The new octagonal chapel of Our Lady at Smith Gate (later to become the shop numbered 29 Broad Street) was built just to the north of New College Lane

By 1551

Turl Street, which had hitherto stopped abruptly at the city wall, was extended by a path (known as “The path leading from the Hole in the Wall”) to reach what is now Broad Street


Nicholas Ridley (Archbishop of London) and Hugh Latimer (Bishop of Worcester) were burnt at the stake just outside the city walls on 16 October, in the area which is now the west end of Broad Street


Thomas Cranmer (Archbishop of Canterbury) was also burnt at the stake here on 21 March

Sir Thomas Pople established Trinity College in the old buildings of Durham College


An inn called the White Mermaid opened on the site of the present White Horse


The whole northern moat was built over in the seventeenth century, marking the development of Broad Street in its present form. Old houses dating from the middle ages at the north-east end of Broad Street (many of which had been purchased by the city in 1569) were rebuilt; and a middle row of six houses were built in the centre of Broad Street (its eastern end on what is now the Sheldonian Theatre forecourt).


Kettell Hall (the large stone house now part of Trinity College) was built


The south side of Broad Street (to the west of Turl Street) was developed by this time, and John Prideaux, Rector of Exeter College, built an expensive house (worth £400) in the street

Between 1661 and 1675

Smith Gate in Catte Street (on the north side of the junction with New College Lane) was removed, thus allowing easier access to the Broad Street area. Most of the city wall had already disappeared by this time


The Sheldonian Theatre, with its back entrance on Broad Street, was built for the University by Sir Christopher Wren


The University bought the leases of the row of houses in the middle of the street and demolished them to improve the view of the Sheldonian


The row of cottages that now form part of Trinity College were built


Broad Street was made into a “causeway” with the help of contributions from colleges


The University’s Ashmolean Museum (now the Museum of the History of Science) was built facing Broad Street

By 1700

Twenty identifiable sites of inns in Broad Street dating from before 1700 can be found


The Clarendon Building, for the use of the University Press, was built to the designs of Nicholas Hawksmoor


The Turl Gate just to the north of the junction with St Michael Street was removed, further opening up access to Broad Street from the city


Lord North presented Trinity College with its present main gates


First evidence of the name Broad Street


Henry Keene built the Fisher Buildings at the far western end of Balliol


The Oxford Mileways Act led to the paving and repair of Broad Street, and the widening of it by removing the wall on the south side of Balliol College, “and taking in such part of the garden as shall be necessary”. Balliol lost its entire front forecourt the next year


H. J. Underwood built the eastern end of the Exeter College Broad Street buildings


George Gilbert Scott built the gateway and tower of Exeter College and the range running west to the present Blackwell’s Music Shop. In 1858 Queen Victoria received a copy of the design for a proposed fountain in memory of Alfred the Great in the road, but it never came to fruition


Alfred Waterhouse built the main Broad Street frontage of Balliol College, with gateway and tower, known as the Brackenbury Buildings, and the adjoining Master’s Lodgings


Benjamin Henry Blackwell opened a secondhand bookshop at 50 Broad Street. Blackwell’s was to have a big impact on the street: by the 1990s No. 8 was their children’s bookshop, Nos. 23–25 their music shop, Nos. 26–27 their art and poster shop, Nos. 48-51 their main bookshop, and No. 53 their local bookshop. Of the 31 numbers then still allocated to commercial properties in the street, 18 were thus occupied by Blackwell’s


Start of Phase I of the Indian Institute. The former Seal’s coffee house on the corner of Holywell and the adjoining shop (Nos. 33 & 34 Broad Street) were demolished


Four cottages on Broad Street were incorporated into Trinity College

A cabman’s shelter was erected in the centre of Broad Street, outside Trinity College on 25 July


The President’s Lodgings of Trinity College were built on Broad Street by Sir Thomas Graham Jackson, set well back from the road


Start of Phase II of the Indian Institute. The shops at 31 & 32 Broad Street were demolished


Opening of Oxford Electric Company Ltd, which had its central switch station at its offices at 45 Broad Street until 1905


The present William Baker House was built on the corner site


The old houses at 1-5 Broad Street were demolished to make way for Boswell House, a six-storey building comprising a department store for H. Boswell & Co. Ltd, including offices and a restaurant upstairs and two additional small ground-floor shop units (4 & 5 Broad Street) to the left


The kidney pebbles of Broad Street had “not long been removed” at this time (W.E. Sherwood, Reminiscences of Oxford)


The cab- and cart-stand in the centre of Broad Street was given over to car-parking


Report of a University Commission led to the building of the New Bodleian Library, designed by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott, at a cost of £1 million and opened in 1940. Thirteen seventeenth- and eighteenth-century shops and houses were demolished to make way for it


The west end of Broad Street came under threat, this time from the city, who owned the property on the south side of Broad Street, west of the Turl. Leases were due for renewal, and a plan was hatched to replace the row of untidy shops with a modern block, but this did not materialize


Exeter College demolished the old Parker’s bookshop at Nos. 26–27 and built their Thomas Wood Building on the corner of the Broad and the Turl


The Norrington Room of Blackwell’s (named after Sir Arthur Norrington, President of Trinity College) was opened, entering the Guinness Book of Records for having the world’s largest display of books for sale in one room. Situated under the south-east corner of Trinity College, it measures 10,000 square feet and has three miles of shelvin


From 24 February to 2 March the Delegates’ Room in the Clarendon Building was occupied by protesting students


New emperors’ heads were erected outside the Sheldonian Theatre


Oxford Transport Strategy: Bollards were erected at the west end of Broad Street to stop through traffic, and the parking spaces were removed from the centre of the street; but in 2001 half the parking spaces (25) were reinstated


The Museum of the History of Science reopened following improvements funded by a £1.6m Lottery grant. Its basement was been excavated to provide an exhibition gallery, education room, and library, which extend under Broad Street itself


Antony Gormley statue erected on roof at Turl Street corner on 15 February

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Stephanie Jenkins

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