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95–101: Rhodes Building, Oriel College


95-101 High Street

Oriel College's Rhodes Building of 1911 was designed by Basil Champneys and built by John Wooldridge and George William Simpson of Frenchay Road. It is Grade II* listed (1046662).

It was paid for by a bequest of Cecil Rhodes, who had been an undergraduate at Oriel. It occupies the whole site between Magpie Lane (formerly Grove Street) and Oriel Street. The college cleared the site by demolishing the seven houses (with shops on the ground floor) at 95–101 High Street. It was opened by the Provost of Oriel, Dr Charles Lancelot Shadwell, on 28 September 1911 (see photographs in the Oxford Journal Illustrated of 4 October 1911).

Figures on the Rhodes Building

There is a statue of Cecil Rhodes (above) high up over the central doorway. This and other images of Rhodes in Oxford have been controversial in recent years.

There are seven life-size statues on this building, sculpted in Portland stone by Henry Alfred Pegram. The two shown above each side of the window below Rhodes are of King Edward VII and King George V, chosen because the former died and the latter came to the throne in the year the building was being erected (1910). The other four are former heads of the college: Cardinal William Allen (1532–94, Fellow 1550, Principal of St Mary's Hall); Walter Hart or Lyhert (Provost 1435–46), John Hales (Provost 1446–9); and Henry Sampson (Provost 1449–76). All seven statues are pictured here.

The inscription under the central statue of Rhodes reads: E:LARGA:MVNIFICENTIA / CAECILII:RHODES. As well as acknowledging Cecil Rhodes’ munificence, the large letters in that inscription are a complicated chronogram which, when shuffled, gives the date of the building, MDCCCLLVIIIIII. (Normally the date 1911 in roman numerals would be the much neater MCMXI.)

The new college building was not generally regarded as an improvement to the street:

  • Soon after its completion in 1911, Oriel College's Treasurer L. L. Price noted “most people would I think agree that the compromise … is unpleasant”.
  • In his memoirs of 1927, W. E. Sherwood wrote that Oriel had “broken out into the High, … destroying a most picturesque group of old houses in so doing, and, to put it gently, hardly compensating us for their removal.”
  • In 1930 Evelyn Waugh went further and suggested blowing the building up.
  • In 1965 James/Jan Morris wrote in Oxford: “If you are very old indeed, you are probably still fuming about the façade built in the High Street by Oriel College in 1909, which most of us scarcely notice nowadays, but used to be thought an absolute outrage.”

See Edward Impey, “The Rhodes Building at Oriel, 1904–2011: Dynamite or Designate?”, Oxoniensia 76 (2011), 95–104
(online here as a PDF).


The seven shops on this site that were demolished

95 to 101 High Street in 1910

The above photograph shows the row of shops in 1910: several of the shops have a sign in the window saying “PREMISES COMING DOWN”. From left to right they are:

  • No. 95, the tall, four-storey, narrow shop on the corner of Magpie Lane, with BATES & CO over the door.
  • No. 96, a wider, shorter three-storey building the width of four sash windows, with the name of the cutler F. T. LONG over the door and window of the first two bays.
  • Then there is another doorway labelled 96½, leading to the university lodgings upstairs, and to the right of that doorway there is narrow shop window presumably belonging to Long the cutler with FUJIYA advertised over it: this appears to be a type of cutlery
  • No. 97, a taller, four-storey building just one window wide, marked Hedderly, a tobacconist & cricketing outfitters
  • No. 98, a shorter shop, two bay windows wide, also marked Hedderly
  • No. 99, a narrow shop, just one window wide: this was Mrs Davis's ecclesiastical warehouse, but the sign is hard to read. On the first floor is a sign for the Perth Dye Works.
  • No. 100 & 101, a large four-storeyed building, two bay windows wide, on the corner of Oriel Street. This is divided into separate shops: on the left at No. 100 is SAUNDERS, an optician, and on the right at No. 101 is SOAME, the photographer and picture frame maker. On the first floor of the latter is James Langley, solicitor & commissioner for oaths, with his details painted on the window: two men are looking out of this window at the photographer.

There is a similar photograph by Henry Taunt of this row of houses.


The shops on this site between 1772 and 1910

The 1772 Survey of Oxford shows that the seven shops on this site were occupied as follows: Craddock (95), Morton (96), Court (97), Buck (98), Bayne (99), Johnson (100), and King (101). James Woodforde records how on 13 February 1776 he paid Bayne[s] 0 : 2 : 6 for a new razor.

The extract from an Oriel College plan of 1814 below shows the seven shops between Oriel Street (left) and Magpie Lane (right) and their occupiers at that date, namely (right to left on the plan): Jacks (95), Jubber (96), Court (97), Parsons (98), Baynes (99), ?Tyrer (100), and Treacher (101). Both Baynes and Jubber were still occupying these shops in 1839.

Map of 1814

The ecclesiastical warehouse based at No. 99 in this row may well have been in the mind of Thomas Hardy when he wrote Jude the Obscure in 1895. Jude’s cousin Sue Bridehead who lived in Oxford was:

an artist or designer of some sort in what was called an ecclesiastical warehouse, which was a perfect seed-bed of idolatry… The shop seemed to be kept entirely by women. It contained Anglican books, stationery, texts, and fancy goods; little plaster angels on brackets, Gothic-framed pictures of saints, ebony crosses that were almost crucifixes, prayer-books that were almost missals.

Several of the businesses that once operated in this row of shops and are shown in the table below later flourished elsewhere in Oxford:

  • Adamson & Co. Tailors moved across Oriel Street to huge new premises at 102/103 High Street in 1891;
  • Hall Bros Tailors moved to 94 High Street and later to 119 High Street;
  • Joseph Vincent moved to 109 High Street;
  • The junior photographer James Soame joined up with Gillman to form Gillman & Soame, the photographic firm that still survives today.

Occupiers of the site of 95–101 High Street
  Darker background = former buildings on this site, now demolished

Date

95 High St

96 High St

97 High St

98 High St

99 High St

100 High St

101 High St

1772

Craddock

Morton

Court

Buck

John Bayne
Cutler & Baker
in 1839

Ann Bayne
Cutler
in 1846

Johnson

King

1814

Jacks

Henry Jubber
Pastry cook & confectioner

Parsons

Tyrer[?]

Treacher

1839

John Bellman
Hairdresser & Perfumer

Charles Feldon
Tailor &
Robe maker

Ann Davis
Pastry Cook

Thomas Roberts
Jeweller

James Spiers
Chemist & druggist
(since 1832)*

1846

M. R. King
Berlin warehouse

E. T. Spiers
Bookseller

Charles Feldon
Tailor

Charles W. Robinson
Tailor

Henry Brown
Chemist & druggist

1876

George P. Day
Bookseller, stationer, & photographer

Flack & Smith
Bootmaker
with
Henry W. Hippey, Cook & confectioner in 1882

E. T. Spiers
& Co.
Wine & spirit merchants

John King
Tobacconist

Mrs Wells
Berlin and ecclesiastical warehouse
in 1876

The Misses
E. & K. Wells from 1880

Adamson & Co.
Hosiers, hatters,
& shirt makers

1880

John Chapman
Wood carver

 

 

HEDDERLY

 

William Hedderly
Tobacconist, athletic &
cricketing outfitter

at both 97 & 98 to 1887

 

William Hedderly,
confectioner at No. 97 and
Hedderly, executors of,
tobacconists, athletic and cricketing outfitters, at No. 98
to 1894

 

William Hedderly
Tobacconist, cricketing
outfitters, etc

to 1909

1884

Page & Slade
Military & naval tailors
with
R. Staley, Cook, confectioner & wine merchant at 96½

1887

Slade & Co
Military & naval tailors
with Hall Brothers, Tailors, hosiers, hatters & shirtmakers upstairs at 96½

1889–
1891

W. G. Hooper
New & secondhand book seller

1893

Arthur Richardson
Music seller

 

Joseph Vincent
Stationer

Upstairs at 96A: Hall Bros., tailors

Mrs Henrietta Armstrong
Berlin & Ecclesiastical warehouse

Edwin Saunders
Optician

Oriental Art Company

1894

Mrs Carter
Confectioner

Upstairs: University lodgings

1895–
1899

George Richard Beesley

Mrs M. H. Beesley
Milliner

Mrs Ellen Davis
Ecclesiastical warehouse

James Soame
jun.
Photographer

Upstairs: James Langley, BA
Solicitor & Commissioner
for Oaths

1900–
1903

Miss A. K. Baughan
Milliner

[Bates & Co. is listed over the door in a 1909 photograph but is not mentioned in directories]

1904

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

1905–
1908

Frank Thomas Long
Cutler

1909

No listing

1910

No listing

Since
1911

Rhodes Building, Oriel College

* The chemist David Morphew announced in Jackson’s Oxford Journal of 16 December 1832 that he was retiring through ill-health, and that his successor in business would be James Spiers.

©Stephanie Jenkins

Last updated: 10 June, 2020

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