Oxford History: The High


61: Magdalen Gate House

Magdalen Gate House

Despite the fact that it actually faces Rose Lane and overlooks the Botanic Garden, Magdalen Gate House was deemed to be in the High Street and is today numbered 61. Its attractive Georgian façade faces east, giving visitors approaching Oxford the benefit of its front view: the side facing the High is much less attractive, not least because the windows have been bricked up.

It is a Grade II* listed building (List Entry No. 1047287), and its walls and gate piers are Grade II listed (1369363). It was in St Peter-in-the East parish until that parish was united with St Cross parish in 1957.

From the 1830s to 1898 (when the number 60 was reassigned to the end house on the north side of the road), Magdalen Gate House was divided into two and the sections were numbered 60 and 61 High Street.

Until the late eighteenth century three houses or shops stood on this site, and the 1772 Survey of Oxford showed that they were then occupied by Mr Watson, Mr Lewis, and Mrs Hoddington.

The current house was built in 1802 for Thomas Roberson (Oxford’s Town Clerk from 1825 to 1839). He went bankrupt in 1812, and as a result the property was sold to the Revd John Cooke, the President of Corpus Christi College.

Cooke gave the property to Dr George Williams (Fellow of Corpus Christi College and Sherardian Professor of Botany from 1796 to 1834) on 1 January 1816. The Revd W. Tuckwell, recalling the 1820s in his Reminiscences of Oxford, wrote, “… the nondescript residence built by Daubeny had not then risen, and the Professor, Dr Williams, lived in the large house facing Rose Lane.”

Dr Williams, who died on 17 January 1834, bequeathed this house to the Loring family, who appear to have divided it into two sections (originally numbered 60 and 61) and let it out. In 1859, pursuant to a Decree of the High Court of Chancery made in a cause of Loring v. Thomas and approved by the Vice-Chancellor, the Judge appointed Messrs. T, Mallam to sell the house by auction, and the following advertisement appeared in Jackson's Oxford Journal on 23 July 1859:

The FREEHOLD DWELLING HOUSE lately occupied by the Rev. Vaughan Thomas, deceased, well situate opposite to Magdalen College, and overlooking the Botanical Gardens, which, together with the Meadows and Walks beyond, for a lively and picturesque scene from the principal rooms, viz., the drawing room, dining room, and study. There are also three best bed chambers, each with dressing rooms attached, and six other chambers and attics; in the basement are the servants' offices, including kitchen, pantry, larder, butler's and housekeeper's rooms, wine and beer cellars, brew-house, &c., &c., the whole enclosed within a conveniently-sized walled garden.
   The out-goings are a Land Tax of £5 14s. 6d., and 3s. 8d. paid annually to the City of Oxford.

On 30 November 1859 Magdalen College bought it from Lady Loring and the Revd H. N. Loring and gave it the name of Magdalen Gate House, and continued to let it out to private individuals until 1949, when it became an annexe of their college.

Magdalen Gate House in the Censuses

1841: One part of the house was occupied by the physician Charles Daubeny and his four servants, and the other by Mary Williams and her three servants.

1851: The main part of the house was occupied by the Revd Vaughan Thomas, aged 74, the Vicar of Yarnton, and his second wife Catherine, who were looked after by a butler, cook, housemaid, and footman. (Thomas's first wife Charlotte Williams, who had died at Holywell Lodge on 31 July 1843, was the daughter of the previous owner, Dr George Williams.) On 8 February 1851 it was reported in Jackson's Oxford Journal that the Revd Thomas told reported to the Oxford Sanatory [sic] Enquiry that “the kitchen and passages of his house, No. 60 High-street. were occasionally flooded when a heavy fall of rain took place, which the grating opposite Magdalen College was incapable of carrying off”.

1861 and 1871: The main part of the house in 1861 was occupied by the physician Richard Giles and his niece, plus their three servants ( housemaid, cook, and page). He was still there in 1871.
Mrs Elizabeth Penson
, aged 68, described as a “House Proprietor” lived in the smaller part of the house with her daughter Elizabeth and one servant.

1891: Only two housemaids were at home in the main part of the house (now occupied by Edward Chapman), while Mrs Penson was still in the smaller part.

In 1898 Magdalen Gate House appears to have been turned back into one house, numbered 61

1901: Charles Cannon, Secretary to the Delegates of the Oxford University Press and a Tutor at Trinity College, lived here with his wife, three daughters, and six servants.

1911: Frederick William Hill, a dental surgeon, lived here with his wife and three servants, occupying twelve rooms. The house number of Magdalen Gate House is given as 62, and possibly the accommodation included some of the house next door.

From 1921 to 1947 Magdalen Gate House was occupied by Stephen Grosvenor Lee, Fellow of Magdalen College, and since 1950 it has been a Magdalen College annexe.

The Oxford University Radio Society met in the Magdalen Gate House in the 1960s.

In 1991 Magdalen College was granted permission relating jointly to 61 High Street and 1 Rose Lane for “conversion and refurbishment, including demolition and rebuilding of rear extension at 1 Rose Lane to provide 18 student study bedrooms with associated kitchen and sanitary facilities and two teaching rooms” (91/00152/L).

Occupants of Magdalen Gate House, High Street


Magdalen Gate House (first part)

Magdalen Gate House (second part)

By 1846–1856

Revd Vaughan Thomas, BD, Vicar of Yarnton

Mrs Elizabeth Penson (to 1892)


R. Giles, M.D. (listed as living at No. 61)


S. D. Darbishire, M.D.


Edward Chapman, MA, FLS, JP


Office of the Oxford Educational Bureaux


Charles Cannan MA, Tutor of Trinity College

Miss Quilter


Charles Cannan MA
Tutor and junior Bursar of Trinity College


Stephen Grosvenor Lee, MA
Fellow, tutor in Modern History, and Senior Dean of Arts, Magdalen College

1949 only

Horace Bradley (in 1949 only)


Magdalen College annexe

©Stephanie Jenkins

Last updated: 18 September, 2021

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