Oxford History: The High


69–70: Pens Plus

69-70 High Street

These are the eighth and ninth in the terrace of eleven houses and shops belonging to Magdalen College that is attached to the back of Magdalen Gate house. This terrace was rebuilt subsequent to the widening of Magdalen Bridge that took place in 1772–8.

They were in St Peter-in-the East parish until that parish was united with St Cross parish in 1957.

Nos. 69 and 70 are the two halves of this building, whose brick façade with stone dressings was rendered and re-windowed in 1932. See photograph taken by Michael Bunney in 1931 “before spoliation” in Malcolm Graham, “Bunney and Pearce's forgotten 1930s survey”, Oxoniensia 84 (2019), 96. It has a modern stuccoed front, but there is an eighteenth-century staircase and panelling inside. The building is Grade II listed (List Entry No. 1115468).

According to H. E. Salter, at the time of the Survey of Oxford in 1772, before the widening of Magdalen Bridge and the rebuilding of this area, the former two houses/shops on this site were occupied by Mr Watson (a grocer) and Mr Homes.

They were both owned by James Dormer, the grocer at No. 69, when they were put up for auction on 22 July 1851. The two houses were described as follows in the auction advertisement in Jackson's Oxford Journal on 5 July 1851:

All those extensive PREMISES, nearly opposite Magdalen College, having a front towards the street of 51 feet, and extending in depth 174 feet.

Lot 1.—The spacious PREMISES, No. 69, occupied by Mr. Dormer, where an extensive grocery business has been carried on for a number of years. The house comprises a good front shop, back parlour, drawing room, five bed rooms, and large cellar, and there is a side entrance for a horse. There are also detached two kitchens with bed rooms over, large warehouses and stable, with yard and garden, forming an excellent premises for the present business or any other requiring large space.

Lot 2.—The HOUSE, No. 70, now occupied by Mr. Blake; containing three sitting rooms, four bed rooms, cellar, court yard, and detached kitchen and scullery with rooms over. Part of the adjoining house will be added to this lot, so as to enlarge the front sitting room, and an addition will be made to the offices.

No. 69 was a shop and No. 70 a house until 1901, when they were joined as one shop. In 1932 they were split into two shops, but rejoined as one in c.1990.

No. 69

At the time of the 1841 census the grocer James Dormer was living over his shop with his wife and three young children, plus a shopman. He was still here with his wife in 1851, and they now had seven children and three servants, and his assistant grocer as well as a lodger (a solicitor’s widow) plus her servant were living with them. Later that year Dormer sold this shop.

In 1861, Charles Laker, the grocer, lived over his shop at No. 69: he was a widower with one daughter and his sister was his housekeeper. Laker was still here in 1891.

In 1901 Walter Edward Andrews, the proprietor of the china shop downstairs, lived over No. 69 with his wife and five children. In 1911 he occupied the fourteen rooms over both Nos. 69 & 70 with his wife and their son, plus a boarder.

Photograph of 69 High Street in 1949, when it was Russell, Butler & Marks

No. 70

At the time of the 1841 census Thomas Walker, a college servant, lived here with his wife and young daughter and their two servants.

In 1851 this was still a private house, occupied by Richard Blake, the Common Room man of University College, and his wife and servant.

On 27 March 1858 the following advertisement appeared in Jackson's Oxford Journal:

TO be LET,— A genteel PRIVATE RESIDENCE (No. 70) , containing seven sitting and bed rooms, good water closet on the one pair, wash-house, coal-house, and loft over, and other conveniences. Rent moderate

Catherine Whiting, a 33-year-old widow, lived here in 1861 with her four-year-old daughter, her sister, and her elderly father. It appears to have been unoccupied in 1871.

In 1881 a journeyman tailor called Roger Simmons lived here with his wife, three children, and niece.

In 1891 Hannah Quarterman kept a lodging house here, probably aided by her two daughters.

In 1911 the premises were occupied jointly with No. 69 above by the shop proprietor.

Photograph dating from c.1900 showing 70 High Street

Occupiers of 69 & 70 High Street


69 High Street

70 High Street

By 1839–1851 

James Dormer
Grocer etc.

Various tenants:
Thomas Walker (1846)
Richard Blake (1851)
Robert Simmons (1861)
Mrs J. Whiting (1866–1871)
Robert Simmons (1870–1880)
John Owen, university lodgings (1884–1887)
Mrs Quarterman, university lodgings (1889–1896)


Charles Laker
Grocer & wine merchant


Walter E. Andrews & Son, China & glass dealers


H. Kelson & Son. Tailors,
Hosiers, outfitters, & robemakers


P. W. Powell, Antique dealer (1932 only)

Eamonson & Stanton
Health food stores (1934 only)

Oxford Health Food Stores (from 1935)


R. J. Bartlett


Scottish Amicable Building Society

Oxford Health Food Stores


Russell Butler & Marks
Auctioneers & estate agents, also agents for
the Scottish Amical Building Society and from
1962 the Bristol & West Building Society


Miell & Co.

R. C. Phillips Ltd, Pen distributors
(Writing Instruments and Handwriting Consultant)

By 1993–present

Pens Plus
Dealers and repairers of vintage & modern writing equipment

Upstairs since 1984: Part of Stanford House

©Stephanie Jenkins

Last updated: 25 August, 2021

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