Oxford History: The High


86 & 87: Babylon

86-87 High Street

Nos. 86 and 87 are on the site of the former Boster Hall and the Saracen’s Head. The present building is an early seventeenth-century timber-framed house, with the upper storeys jutting out beyond the lower ones. A new front with seven Doric columns was added at ground-floor level in about the 1820s.

It is a Grade II* listed building (List Entry No. 1047248). It was in St Peter-in-the East parish until that parish was united with St Cross parish in 1957.

Nos 86 and 87 are owned by University College, and there is now student accommodation upstairs. They have formed one dwelling for much of their history. In 1772 a survey of every house in the city was taken in consequence of the Mileways Act of 1771, and Nos. 86 & 87 were then in the occupation of Mr Hacker, and their joint frontage measured 14 yards 1 foot 9 inches.

The 1841 census shows Ann Bridges, an elderly independent lady, living at No. 87 with her daughter Caroline and two female servants.

At the time of the 1851 census, these were still two private houses. No. 86 on the left was divided into two: downstairs lived Charles Daman, a clergyman and Tutor in Classics at Oriel College, together with his wife, two sons, and three servants; and upstairs was Thomas Bradshaw, a funded proprietor, with his wife Frances and their two sons, his mother-in-law (the Dowager Viscountess of Hereford), and five servants. In No. 87 lived William Castle, the Manciple of Magdalen College, together with his wife, three servants, and five student lodgers from Brasenose and University Colleges.

In 1861 the architect Charles Buckeridge lived at No. 86 on the left with his family and two servants, while his other servants (a footman, cook, and housemaid) lived in No. 87. He still lived there in 1871, but was not at home; his footman and cook were at home at No. 87. He must have moved out shortly afterwards, as he was living in Middlesex at the time of his death in 1873.

Walford & Spokes sale

In 1876 Walford & Son, antique dealers, took over these two houses and turned them into a single shop. From 1886 they were Walford & Spokes, jewellers & furnishers. They remained here until 1939, and were latterly decorators & cabinet makers.

At the time of the 1881 census, George Spokes (then the manager of Walford & Son and later a partner) was living over the shop, as well as an errand boy of 14.

In 1911 Thomas Stilgoe (31), an attendant at the University [Examination] Schools, lived in the four rooms over No. 86 with his wife. The rooms over No. 87 were not listed and are likely to have been part of the shop.

Walford & Spokes closed down in 1939 when their lease expired, and on 19 June that year E. J. Brooks held an auction of hard woods and decorators' & cabinet makers' plant at the rear of the premises. The auction catalogue whose cover is reproduced on the right has the prices that were realized pencilled in: examples include nine 9in x 1in American oak planks that fetched £3, a four-panelled oak door and frame 15/-, a pair of 5ft decorators' trestles 12/6, a rubber-tyred hand truck £3 5/-, a carpenter's bench 2/-, sundry brass door handles and key plates and a quantity of locks & keys 13/-, a Frister & Rossman sewing machine £1 6/-, an old Barlock typewriter & cover 5/-, and a Royal typewriter £5 5s. From outside, three antique cannons and a wall sun dial fetched 10/-, and a grindstone 14/-

An antique dealer moved in, and then from 1960 to 2009 there were three different banks on the premises. In 1975 there were no fewer than three branches of the National Westminster Bank in the High: here at Nos. 86–87, at No. 91, and at 120–122. Since 2017 there have been none.


Occupiers of 86 & 87 High Street


86 High Street

87 High Street


Rev. Charles Daman (to 1852+)

Mrs Ann White

Mrs Anne Bridges


Charles Buckeridge (only listed in 1861)

Revd H. L. Mansel (to 1867)

Walter Faulks (1871 only)


Walford & Son, Dealers in antique china/silver/furniture (1876–1885)

Walford & Spokes, Jewellers/furnishers (1886–1939)


Cecil A. Halliday, Antique dealer


District Bank Ltd


National Westminster Bank Ltd


Beneficial Finance (formerly Household Bank), HFC Ltd




Babylon Trading

©Stephanie Jenkins

Last updated: 30 July, 2021

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