Oxford History: The High


88–89: Durham Building, University College

Durham Building

The Durham Building of University College was erected in 1902, and the architect was Harry Wilkinson Moore. It is named after William of Durham, who endowed the college in 1249.

It is a Grade II listed building (List Entry No. 1299972). It was the last building in the High in St Peter-in-the East parish until that parish was united with St Cross parish in 1957.

In 1904 a controversial small bridge (on right of photograph above) was built across Logic Lane, linking this section to the main body of the college to the west.

During the First World War the Durham Building was used as a military hospital.

The former building on this site (Alfred's Head Inn, later University Hall)

John Browne, Master of University College from 1745 to 1764, left a house on this site to University College when he died in 1764 (more details here). The college appears to have let out this property, as at the time of the 1772 Survey of Oxford the part to the left (with a frontage of 10 yds 2 ft 9 in., later No. 88) was occupied by Mr Kemp, and the part on the right (with a frontage of 5 yards 1 ft 3 in., later No. 89) was occupied by Mr Parker, who was a bookseller.

By 1791 the building was the Alfred's Head Inn. (The alleged founder of University College was King Alfred.) The innkeeper was then Robert Smith: he left near the end of 1796 to go into partnership with Joseph Walker at a distillery warehouse in Cornmarket.

In Jackson's Oxford Journal of 15 September 1804 Christopher Graham announced that he had taken and newly fitted up this inn, that it had good beds and reasonable charges, and that Bobart's Coaches to and from London stopped here every day.

The Alfred's Head Inn had closed by 1811, and University College let out the building as three private properties.

Drawing of the inn at 88/89 High Street by William Turner of Oxford

In 1861 it seems to be just two properties. The former No. 88 on the left was occupied by William Cattle (aged 77) and his wife, lodger, and three servants; and No. 89 on the right by a French milliner and dressmaker, Mlle Florentine Duprez, and her apprentices and servants and undergraduate lodger. Halford’s Livery Stables appear to have operated from Tarry’s Court behind.

In 1867 University College took over the former inn for its own use, renaming it University Hall, and henceforth Nos. 88 and 89 are described in directories as being part of University College.

At the time of the 1871 census part of University Hall was occupied by William Tomlins, the college porter, and his wife and children.

In 1881 No. 88 was uninhabited, and No. 89 was occupied by the college porter, John Wheeler, with his wife and two children. He was described as the head of the household, and living with him as “boarders” was the following disparate trio from University College: an undergraduate, a second college porter, and the lecturer in classics.

The building became very dilapidated and was demolished to make way for the new 1902 building.

©Stephanie Jenkins

Last updated: 20 July, 2021

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