52 Cornmarket Street (site of former Star/Clarendon Hotel)

Clarendon Centre

The Clarendon Centre (above, in 2018) occupies the site of the former Clarendon Hotel (shown below in c.1905).

Clarendon Hotel

This was an ancient coaching inn, which was known as The Star for at least 400 years until 1863. Its front was replaced with a symmetrical façade in 1783.

See E. M. Jope, “The Clarendon Hotel, Oxford. Part I. The Site” and W. A. Pantin, “The Clarendon Hotel, Oxford. Part II. The Buildings” in Oxoniensia XXIII (1958).

Blue plaque


The blue plaque (right) on the north side of the Clarendon Centre remembers the Star Inn as the place where the Oxford Yeomanry was formed in 1794.

In 1823 the following coaches left the Star each day:

  • For London: The Blenheim at 8am; the Star at 9am; the Aurora at 11am; the Royal Sovereign and the Retaliator at 12.30pm; the Courier at 2pm; and the Royal Eclipse at 9pm.
  • The Banbury, Warwick, Leamington, and Birmingham coach left the Star at 12.30pm
  • The Ludlow coach left the Star at 12 noon
  • For Woodstock: The Blenheim left the Star at 4pm
  • For Worcester: The Aurora left at 12.30pm, and
    the Eclipse at 11pm.

At the time of the 1841 census about twenty guests were staying at the Star Hotel, including the Marchioness of Londonderry and her daughter Lady Alexandra Vane, plus about ten female servants and fourteen male servants.

In 1863 the Star was acquired by the Oxford Hotel Company, and Jackson’s Oxford Journal for 14 March that year reported that it would be renamed either the Alexandra (after the newly wed Princess of Wales) or the Clarendon. The latter won the day. On 26 June 1863 Charles Dodgson (Lewis Carroll) wrote in his diary, “[Augustus George Vernon] Harcourt and I afterwards dined together at the new 'Clarendon' Hotel."

Clarendon Hotel 1876


The Clarendon Club was founded here in 1863, but moved to 54 Cornmarket in 1882. It was back here in the 1940s and early 1950s.

On 15 October 1864 Jackson's Oxford Journal reported that the Clarendon Hotel had been new fronted, and that a building was being erected on the site for the Apollo University Lodge of Freemasons.


Right: Map of 1876 showing
the Clarendon Hotel

The photograph below was taken outside the Clarendon Hotel in 1906, and shows a group of young men (probably undergraduates of Pembroke College) about to embark on a journey in the rain.

Clarendon Hotel in 1906

The photograph below shows a CTC (presumably Cyclists’ Touring Club) dinner at the Clarendon on 7 November 1905. (Both these photographs are in the possession of Derek Collier.)

CTC at the Clarendon in 1905

The Clarendon can be seen in the postcard below dominating the east side of Cornmarket .

Cornmarket, with Clarendon Hotel on left

The hotel later became part of the Trust House group, who produced the postcard shown below.

Clarendon Hotel


52 Cornmarket Street in the censuses


No innkeeper appears to be present at the Star Hotel on census night. The guests at the hotel include the Marchioness of Londonderry and Alexandra La Lane and the physician Thomas Star with Georgina and their two servants. An office clerk and fourteen servants (six female and eight male) slept on the premises.


Samuel Young Griffith (51, born in Bath) is hotel keeper at the “Star Hotel”. He lived here with his wife Sarah (44, born Marlborough) and two daughters: Grace (21) and born in Oxford, and Rebecca (5) and born in Cheltenham. They had ten live-in servants (two chambermaids, a housemaid, kitchenmaid, china-maid, nurse, waiter, porter, and coachman. Staying at the hotel were two commercial travellers, and a retired horse-keeper aged 82. Living next door at the Star Tap were Thomas Beesley, the hotel’s porter, with his wife and four children, his mother-in-law, and a house servant.


Samuel Young Griffith (61) was still the keeper of the Star Hotel and was also described as a wine merchant. His wife Sarah (56), and his unmarried Oxford-born daughter, Adelaide (21) were living with him. He had until recently also run the Angel Inn in the High Street, which was in the process of being closed down. There were eleven servants living at the inn: a cook, barmaid, ostler, and waiter; three housemaids; two chambermaids; and two porters. There were only two guests on census night: James Manning (79), who was the Recorder of Oxford, and his niece Sarah.


William Swadling (38), described as licensed victualler at the Clarendon Tap, lived here with his wife Elizabeth (38) and two domestic servants. The main hotel building is described as unoccupied.

James Belcher (36), cellarman, lived in Clarendon Passage with his wife Emma (32) and their children Ernest (13) and Christiana (1).


John F. Attwood (50), the keeper of the Clarendon Hotel, lived here with his wife Hannah Attwood (36)and his wife’s sister, Mary E. Kite, who worked in the inn. The other sixteen live-in servants were a book-keeper, a barmaid, a chambermaid, a kitchenmaid, housemaid, still-room maid, under-chambermaid, scullery maid, three waiters, a boots and under-boots, a plate-man, page, and billiard-marker. Next door at the “Clarendon Tap” lived two Clarendon Inn ostlers.


Edward St Clair Rogers (27), the proprietor of the Clarendon, lived here with his wife Helen (33) and their children Helen (10) and Howden (6). Also living on the premises were a bookkeeper, nurse, domestic servant, barmaid, page boy, waiter, two general servants, housemaid, two boots, and a platemen. Three guests were staying at the hotel.

There is a separate listing for the “Clarendon Shades” in the Clarendon Yard: its manageress, Emilie Kimber (27) lived there with a servant girl.


James Dyson (51), the hotel keeper at the Clarendon, lived here with his wife Elizabeth (50) and their children Helen & Alice (both 24), Jessie (22), and Alan (17). There were also 21 servants living on the premises (the hotel bookkeeper, three barmaids, a chambermaid, four housemaids, a still-room maid, a vegetable maid, a scullery maid, three porters, a chef, two waiters, a plateman, and two pages. There were seven guests and one boarder at the hotel.


George Sanders (59), the proprietor of the Clarendon, lived in this 60-roomed hotel with his son Hugh Saunders (26), who was the hotel manager. Twenty-two servants lived with them: a chef, a vegetable chef, two kitchen porters, a pastry cook, a plateman, a house porter, a billiard marker, a head bookkeeper, a relief bookkeeper, three housemaids, a barmaid, a stillroom maid, a ladies maid, a linen-keeper, two night porters, two grooms and two workers. Eleven guests were staying at the hotel on census night.

Since 1939

In 1939 the Clarendon was bought by Woolworth & Co. (who until then had occupied the Roebuck Hotel in Cornmarket). In 1944 Lawrence Dale wrote in Towards a Plan for Oxford City, “When the Clarendon goes this superb street [Cornmarket] may be said to have been destroyed by inertia and intolerance more effectively than by high explosive.”

Because of the war, however, demolition was delayed, and the building served as an American Servicemen’s Club during the second world war, and then until 1952 it was used as offices.

Both the City and University refused planning permission to Woolworth's, but they went to appeal and Harold Macmillan (then the Minister of Housing and Local Government) came down in favour of Woolworth’s. The Clarendon Hotel was demolished in 1954 to make way for their new store, designed in 1956–7 by Lord Holford, with the front made of Clipson stone, Bladon stone, and grey slate

The new store, five times larger than its predecessor and featuring a cafeteria, was opened by the mayor and mayoress of Oxford, Alderman and Mrs R. F. Knight, on Friday, October 18, 1957. The mayor told guests:

When I look at this very wonderful building from the Mayor’s Parlour, I realise what you have achieved. The inside is staggering and, inside and out, you have nothing to be ashamed of. I can say that, as a city, we are very proud of your frontage.

Pevsner commended Clarendon House as one of the best recent buildings in the city's main shopping streets, saying that it showed “how this kind of job can be done tactfully and elegantly”.

Below: The Woolworth’s logo and the date 1957 spread across the top of the letter W still remains on the front of the old store (photographed 2018). WHM probably stands for William Harvey Moore.

Woolworth's sign

The Oxford branch of Woolworth’s closed in 1983, and in 1983/4 the site became the Clarendon Centre (planning application 82/00756/A_H). This included one large retail unit, 22 small to medium units, and a pedestrian mall linking Cornmarket to Shoe Lane and Queen Street.

Occupants of 52 Cornmarket Street listed in directories etc.

To 1862
The Star

Star Inn

Some innkeepers (subject to 19C wine licences):

Charles Stuart (1774–1777)
Mrs Mary Stuart (1778–1788)
Stephen Winkworth (1791)
Mrs Dupois (1823)
Richard Staning (1827–1835)
Samuel Young Griffith (1839–1861)

The Clarendon

Clarendon Hotel

Innkeepers/hoteliers (subject to 19C wine licences):

Charles Titian Hawkins (1864/5)
Miss Smith (Manager) (1867)
John Frederick Attwood (1871–1881)
E. S. Rogers (1890)
E. Dyson (1899–1902)
George Saunders (1911, 1914)
Trust Houses Ltd., proprietors (1921–1936)

Henry Kelson & Son, tailors, were also listed at No. 52 in the early twentieth century


Morris Garages

Clarendon Club


The Morris Garages Ltd (Clarendon Garage)

Clarendon Club

Various Government offices, e.g. in 1947 Ministry of Labour & National Service Employment Exchange (Women’s Department; Rent Tribunal (Furnished Houses); Ministry of Education (Oxford office); Ministry of Labour & National Service (Nursing appointments office); Ministry of Works; Post Office Training School; Ministry of Supply; Ministry of Transport

In 1954–1957 the former hotel was demolished and rebuilt as a large store



In 1983 the old Woolworth's store was rebuilt as the CLARENDON CENTRE


Littlewood’s in main shop on the Cornmarket frontage


Gap in main shop on Cornmarket frontage
(Gap Outlet Store after relaunch in 2019)

53A to left of entrance

H. Samuel to the left of entrance (53A) to April 2018 and
Milano Couture
from June 2018 to 2019





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