38 Cornmarket Street: The Plough

The Plough revived

Plough Inn

This seventeenth-century building on the south corner of St Michael’s Street has always been in the parish of St Michael-at-the-Northgate Church. It belonged to Osney Abbey before 1250, and was then the property of Christ Church.

In 1925 the old inn was rebuilt as a shop by the architect Thomas Rayson, and today only the windows and two pediments facing Cornmarket are original.

It is a Grade II listed building (list entry 1047327).

The Plough Inn opened here in 1656.

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, 38 Cornmarket Street was then in the occupation of the wine merchant Thomas Ensworth senior, and had a frontage of 6 yards, 0 ft. and 3 in. By 1791 his son Thomas Ensworth junior had taken over the business.




Right: “The Plough Inn from Ship Street”. This nineteenth-century painting by William Panter Vernon (1850–1923), a heraldic engraver who was based in Wheatsheaf Passage off the High Street, is reproduced by kind permission of his great-grandson Mervyn Hughes

At the time of the 1841 census the victualler Elizabeth Randall lived here with three lodgers.

John Pickett, the landlord in the 1850s, also had a harness repository here.

By 1890 George Benham, formerly a clown in Boswell's Circus and known as the “modern Grimaldi”, was the landlord of the Plough.

The Plough inn sign

The first Plough Inn closed in 1924. A photograph and drawing of the old Plough and its proposed renovation was published in the Oxford Journal Illustrated on 8 July 1925.

From 1925 to 2016 it was a shop. The Domestic Bazaar Company was here for a few years, and then the tailor Austin Reed Ltd was here for eighty years from 1936 (photograph). In 2016 Austin Reed went into administration and all its branches closed.

In July 2017 planning permission was granted for change of use from shop to mixed-use shop/restaurant and café (17/01174/FUL). The new Plough Inn opened in January 2019.



Left: the old inn sign of a man with a plough with the logo of Austin Reed. The latter has been painted out and the Plough Inn sign is relevant again

38 Cornmarket, former Plough

Occupants of 38 Cornmarket Street listed in directories etc.

To 1924

The Plough

Landlords (not subject to nineteenth-century university wine licences):

Thomas Ensworth (1791)
William Wells (1793)
Richard Wright (1823)
Ann Wright (1830)
R. Randell (1839); Elizabeth Randell (1841–1842)
John Pickett (1846–1856)
Richard Franklin (1861–1871)
William J. Robins/ Robbins (1878–1884)
Henry Laurie (1887)
George Benham (1890–1902)
Charles Best (1903–1905)

George Edward Dyer (1907–1921)


No listing: undergoing heavy restoration


Domestic Bazaar Co. Ltd


No listing


Austin Reed Ltd




The Plough (pub & restaurant)

38 Cornmarket Street in the censuses


This pub (not named) was occupied by the victualler Elizabeth Randall (30). With her lived the printer John Briton (30) and Ann Briton (20), and a 15-year-old dressmaker, Emma Feldon.


The pub (again not named) was occupied by the innkeeper John Pickett (38) and his wife Elizabeth (45), as well as a “servant to work in stables” and a lodger.


The pub was now named as the Plough Inn. The licensed victualler Richard Franklin (35) lived here with his wife Emma (36) and daughter Emma Jane (4), as well as an ostler and a female servant.


Mr R. Franklin (44), licensed victualler, lived here at The Plough with his wife Emma (45) and their son Henry (9). They had three servants, and a builder and his wife boarded with them.


William Robbins (46), the innkeeper at The Plough, lived here with his wife Mary (41), his niece Henrietta Tymins, who acted as a general servant, and his 7-year-old nephew Thomas Ludd. A “boots” also lived with them.


Plough Inn: George Benham (44), publican, lived here with his wife Emily (31) and their domestic servant.


Plough Inn: George Benham (50), publican, still lived here with his wife Emily (37) and one servant.


George Edward Dyer (43), licensed victualler, lived in ten rooms here at The Plough with his wife Annie (36) and their children Mabel (7), Vera (5), and George (4).

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