28 Cornmarket Street: Laird Hatters

28 Cornmarket

26 to 28 Cornmarket in the 1920s

This building, which originally comprised three separate shops, probably dates from the fifteenth century and was altered in the seventeenth and nineteenth centuries. It belongs to Jesus College, and has always been in the parish of St Michael-at-the-Northgate Church.

No. 28 is on the left, on the corner of Ship Street, and is separately Grade II listed (list entry 1369341) to the pair of shops to the right of the building. It has been heavily restored



Right: Nos. 26, 27, and 28 Cornmarket Street in the 1920s: a comparison with the modern photograph at the top of this page shows the extent of the restoration of No. 28 on the corner

In 1772 a survey of every house in the city was taken in consequence of the Mileways Act of 1771. According to H. E. Salter, 28 Cornmarket was then in the occupation of Mr Constable, and had a frontage of 4 yards, 1 ft. and 9 in.

In about 1813 Joseph Andrews had an auction business here, which on his death in 1830 was taken over briefly by his son Charles Wood Andrews.

In 1835 the shop was taken over by Hughes & Company. At the time of the 1841 census Henry Hatch (22), a draper, lived here with his wife Sarah and their son Henry, plus a milliner and a servant. On 20 January 1844 Henry Hatch announced in Jackson’s Oxford Journal that he was moving to this shop at 28 Cornmarket Street from his former shop at 71 High Street.

By 1849 No. 28 was occupied by another draper, Sweetman Brothers. Its freehold was advertised for sale thus in Jackson’s Oxford Journal of 8 January 1859:

No 28, CORN MARKET STREET, at the corner of SHIP STREET, Oxford;

Comprising a Shop, with plate glass front, comfortable sitting room, three bed rooms, water closet, kitchen, and other domestic offices; together with a room adjoining and connected therewith, fronting Ship-street, and held by lease under the Feoffees of St. Michael’s Parish, for a term of 40 years, from Lady Day, 1843; all in the occupation of Mr. Sweetman, linen draper, at a rental of £70 per annum.

Lewis Solomon had a tobacco shop here from 1862.

Harvey Brother, tea & coffee dealers, were here from at least 1880 to 1914, and their advertisement in 1888 and a photograph of their shop in 1904 can be seen in Michael L. Turner and David Vaisey, Oxford Shops and Shopping, p. 31, photographs 65 and 66.

The photographers Penrose & Palmer were here from 1925 to 1932, with tea rooms upstairs.

Thomas Rayson extensively restored this shop in 1951, as reported here in The Times of 7 March 1952:



Oxford has a number of old timber buildings, mostly domestic in character, which contrast agreeably with the stately stone architecture of the colleges. One of the most important of these, 28, Cornmarket  Street, which stands at the corner of Ship Street opposite the Saxon tower of St. Michael’s Church, has just been saved from destruction. It dates from about 1450.

It has three storeys above ground and a basement. The ground and first floors have original corner posts, carrying diagonal beams supporting the floor joists above, which are tenoned obliquely into them. These joists also carry the projecting wall timbers.

Within the last 30 years a nondescript shop front had been inserted in the north and west fronts. Some time during the last century the gable of the roof had been removed and the roof hipped back, stripped of its stone, and covered with blue slates. The whole of the timbering, which evidence shows as originally exposed, was rendered over. Behind this rendering, plaster-work of the fifteenth and seventeenth centuries has been discovered between the timbers.

The building had remained in this state for the last 20 years or so, until a recent defect in the nineteenth-century plastering revealed deterioration which provoked official notice. It was decided to restore the building, and work began in April, 1950. The whole of the shop front was taken out and discarded and a new plan adopted which exposed the fine angle post with its medieval ornament. This necessitated giving up a small floor area to the benefit of the pavement. New shop fronts have been designed by Mr. Thomas Rayson, the architect for the restoration, on eighteenth-century principles and in harmony with the Old Plough inn opposite. It was impossible to set back the western frontage to the line of the original fifteenth-century wall. This would have meant relinquishing too great a proportion of the floor area. Furthermore, the protruding shop front made possible the construction of two necessary direct supports for the overhanging west front.

Seventeenth-century pictures show a bay window projecting from this front. A new bay on the same lines has been formed, but the cusped heads of the lights, which no doubt filled all the original windows, have not been reproduced. Wherever windows were required in this restoration, for utilitarian purposes, for which no evidence was available, they are distinguished by having plain, square heads, and have had their cusped heads replaced.

The restoration of the third storey involved the roof. The hip had to go but the purlins had been cut. To construct the roof to a western gable a new oak truss of a modern type was inserted. The purlins were jointed on this and extended to the gable. The western wall is correct in its position, which was determined by original mortises. It was agreed that a projecting window should not be constructed in the gable unless evidence was forthcoming, but horizontal mortises were discovered showing exactly where the sill and head of a window had been Stone slates have been used to cover the roof Two steel stanchions were carried up near the north front, one to support the old roof truss, the other the new truss. Another on the south side supports the new truss. At first-floor level along the north front steel girders which had been inserted 30 years ago have been strengthened. By this means the roof load is taken from the overhanging north wall and transferred to the stanchions.

On 23 August 2011 the lease of No. 28 was purchased for £6,000 by Berkeley Credit & Guarantee Ltd, a company registered in the British Virgin Islands (ON276750).

Occupants of 28 Cornmarket Street listed in directories etc.


Henry Hatch, Draper & silk merchant


Miss A. Dobney, Linen draper


Sweetman & Co. Draper &c and Straw hat warehouse


Lewis Solomon, Tobacco & cigar shop (announced in Jackson's Oxford Journal
on 14 June 1862 that he had taken these premises in addition to No. 29)

Later also Fancy Bazaar. Solomon had originally been at No. 30,
and was also at No. 39 by 1871, so he occupied four Cornmarket shops over the years


Harvey Brothers & Co, Tea and coffee dealers


Curry’s Cycle Co Ltd
Upstairs: Miss Tothill-Fleming, Tea rooms


Penrose & Palmer, Photographers
Upstairs: Ye old North Gate Tea Rooms (Miss Toothill Fleming in 1925, then Misses R. E. & M. J. Carter)


Speedwell Cleaning Co., Dyers & cleaners

Late 1980s

Geoffrey Rhodes Opticians (photograph)

By 2008–2010

Mobile Phones Direct




Laird Hatters

28 Cornmarket Street in the censuses


Henry Hatch (22), a draper, lived here over his shop with Sarah Hatch (2) and Henry Hatch (1). A miller and one female servant also lived with them.


Nicholas Sweetman (37), a linen draper, lived here over his shop with his wife Mary Ann (26) and one assistant and one apprentice.


Three young drapers’ assistants were living over this shop: John Law (18), Ellen Percy (20), and Sarah Rose (17). They had one female house servant, aged 23.


William Biggs (74), a widowed draper, lived here over his shop with his son Frank (37), both of whom were shoe makers, and his daughter-in-law Annie Biggs (27).


Edwin J. Harvey (30), as a tea dealer employing two hands, lived over his shop with his wife Charlotte (29) and daughter Mary (1). They had one general servant.


Uninhabited: probably part of the shop below.


Uninhabited but in occupation: probably part of the shop below.


No listing.

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