Oxford History: The High


39, 40, & 41: Queen’s Lane Coffee House

39-41 High Street

The large block shown in the above photograph, numbered 39–41, has an eighteenth-century front, but was otherwise rebuilt by The Queen’s College in 1967–8, when the yards at the back were incorporated into the Queen’s Lane quad. The two left-hand units have been occupied by Queen’s Lane Coffee House since 1970, and in 2003 it also expanded to the third unit on the right.

The whole block forms one Grade II listed building (List Entry No. 1047280). It was in St Peter-in-the East parish until that parish was united with St Cross parish in 1957.

It is believed that a very early coffee house may have been on or near this site in 1657; certainly there was a coffee house, known as Harper’s, here in the second half of the eighteenth century. But the present use of the building as a coffee house only dates from c.1970.

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, Nos. 39 & 40 were then in the occupation of a Mr Harper, and their frontage measured 9 yards 1 foot 0 inches, while 41 was occupied by a Mr Fidler and measured 7 yards 0 feet 2 inches.

No. 39

On 9 February 1829 the printseller & picture-frame maker Willilam Thompson announced in Jackson's Oxford Journal that he had taken over the old-established print shop of the printseller W. Parker at the bottom of the High Street. Robson's Commercial Directory of 1839 establishes that this shop was here at No. 39.

High Street Post Office


At the time of the 1841 census the college servant Charles Fisher lived here with his wife and daughter plus their servant girl. In 1851 William Gardener, the Manciple of St Edmund Hall, lived here with his wife Mary, two servants, and an undergraduate lodger. In 1861 and 1871 the later Manciple, Thomas D. Jackson, was here with his wife, four children, and two servants.


This shop on the corner of Queen’s Lane was also a post office from 1890 to 1927, and the sign “High Street Post Office” can be seen attached to No. 39 in this detail from an old postcard. In 1911 Miss Sarah French (72), the postmistress here, lived in the eight rooms upstairs with a boarder.

No. 40

At the time of the 1841 census the tobacconist Charles Castle lived here over his shop with his wife Arabella, their three children, and two servants. In 1851 he was still living here with his wife and three children and their servant.

By 1861 the shop had been taken over by the “carver & gilder & dealer in Berlin wool” John Davis, who lived here with his family. Miss Emily Davis (33) lived over the shop in 1871 with her brother Arthur, who was an attorney's clerk.

Field advert, 1899


In 1911 Hubert Field (43), antique dealer, lived in the five rooms over his shop with his wife and three children.


Right: Advertisement published in Kelly's Directory for 1899 for Hubert Field's showrooms at 40 High Street. It reveals that his works were at Tyndale Street (then called William Street) in east Oxford.


Below: Historic England photograph (HT13743) of No. 40 in 1906 when it was Field's Antiques

Hubert Field expanded into No. 39 on the corner in 1928, and Nos. 39 & 40 have been one shop since that date

A glimpse of the shop when it was Culpeper's in 1949

No. 41

At the time of the 1841 census the bookseller William Graham lived here over his shop with his family. He was still here in 1851 with his wife, his two bookseller sons, his daughter, and a servant.

In 1861, another bookseller, Henry Hammans, was here, and in 1871 the living quarters upstairs were occupied by Miss Elizabeth Coleman (60).

McKay’s advertisement

From 1882 to 1894 James Thornton (the son of the founder of Thornton’s bookshop) had a shop here at No. 41 (and another at No. 33 from 1872 to 1907). Henry Taunt the photographer moved here for a short time in 1894 when the lease on his Broad Street shop ran out before moving on to No. 34.

From 1943 to 1966 this shop was a café: first the Golden Kettle, then McKay's (advertisement right) and then the Copper Kettle.

In 2003 the Queen's Lane Coffee House expanded eastwards to include this third shop.

The accommodation above the shops at Nos. 39–41 was unoccupied at the time of the 1881 census, which suggests some rebuilding was taking place at the time.

From 1941 to 1966 Nos. 39 and 40 were Culpeper House (see photograph of it in the 1950s), and until 1949 the herbalists there also ran the Golden Kettle Café at No. 41 on the right. The photograph below (Historic England BB43/00283) shows 39 & 40 High Street (numbered as 40) and the Golden Kettle next door at No. 41 in 1943.

For a short while a separate business (Magna Galleries) operated from No. 41, and then in 2003 the Queen's Lane Coffee House expanded to include all three shops.

Occupiers of 39–41 High Street


39 High Street

40 High Street

41 High Street


William Thompson & Son
 Printsellers, House painters

Charles Castle

William Graham


Charles Fisher
College servant


The Manciple of St Edmund Hall:

     Thomas Davis Jackson      (1861–1876)

     Christopher Maltby


Henry Hammans


Miss Emily Davis
Berlin wool repository

Messrs J. & F.H. Rivington
Publishers (1867–76)


Mrs Wilkins
Berlin wool, art needlework, & fancy repository (1884-5)

Mrs Albert Edward Solloway
Berlin wool, art needlework, & fancy repository; Registry office for servants; and High Street Post & Money Order Office (from 1889)

James Thornton
Bookseller & Publisher


Miss S. French
Milliner & dressmaker
& post office
(to 1927)

Hubert Field
Antique furniture dealer
(from 1900)

H.W. Taunt & Co., Photographers etc. (1894–5)

Mrs M.C. Bickmore, Dealer in antiques (1895–7)

Mrs M.A. Smith, Restorer of paintings & dealer in antiques

The Ladies’ Association, Antique Furniture, oil paintings, and old china (1905–8)

The Antiquary (Archibald Graham) (& No. 48), renamed Ye Old Book Shoppe 1927 (1909–29)


Hubert Field, Antique furniture dealer

Coverley Bookshop (B.H. Blackwell Ltd) (1930–1)
Davenant Bookshop (1932–9)


Culpeper House, Society of Herbalists Ltd

(listed at No. 40 (= Nos. 39 & 40) from 1943

The Golden Kettle Café (proprietors The Society of Herbalists)


Culpeper House
Society of Herbalists Ltd

McKay’s Café (1952–60)

Copper Kettle (1962–7)


Queen’s Lane Coffee House

Magna Gallery
Antique dealers;
later Old maps & Prints


Queen’s Lane Coffee House

©Stephanie Jenkins

Last updated: 11 June, 2023

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