Oxford History: The High


120–122: The Ivy

120-122 High Street

This building was erected on the corner of Alfred Street in 1866–8 on the site of three old shops numbered 120, 121, and 122 High Street. The group of buildings was designed by F. & H. Francis of London in the Gothic style and built by Messrs Jones. Nos. 121–2 on the right were built as a bank, but No. 120 on the left (now part of the bank) was originally rebuilt as a music warehouse. The combined premises are Grade II listed (List Entry No. 1047258), and were in the parish of All Saints until that church was deconsecrated in 1971. It is now in the parish of St Michael-at-the-Northgate Church.

There was formerly an alley known as High Street Passage between Nos. 121 and 122, but this disappeared when Nos. 120–122 were rebuilt in 1867–8. The proprietors of all three of these shops lived upstairs at the time of the 1851 census, with an upholsterer, William Payne, apparently living and working behind No. 121.

Jackson’s Oxford Journal of 19 October 1867 reports on the progress of the rebuilding work. No. 120 on the left was built for Russell’s Music Warehouse (which had already been on the site, having moved from 125 High Street in the mid-1860s). Nos. 121–2 on the right were built for the London & County Bank (the forerunner of the National Westminster, which was then in much smaller premises at 16 High Street).

Former No. 120 before 1866

The shoemaker John Vincent lived here at the time of the 1841 census with his servant and a student lodger. In 1851 he was still here alone with his servant: aged 43, he was described as a bootmaker employing two men,

In 1861 William Payne, a carver and undertaker, lived here.

Former No. 121 before 1866

In 1841 the chemist Harry Hitchcock lived here with Ann Hitchcock and their apprentice and servant,, plus two people who appear to be lodgers.

In 1851 the chemist & druggist Harry Hitchcock (36) lived here with his wife and two daughters and sister-in-law, plus a servant. In 1861 the tailor William Hayward lived here.

Former No. 122 before 1866

At the time of the 1841 census the saddler William Blackwell lived over No. 122 with his five children and a female servant, and 121½ appears to have been occupied by the Berlin wool dealer Mary Gadney and her family. Blackwell was still here in 1851 with his wife and two daughters, while the upholsterer William Payne lived at 121½ with his family, and again in 1861.

The current building at 120, 121, and 122 (built in 1867)


No. 120 (to the west)

James Russell & Co. occupied the shop premises at No. 120 from the time it opened in 1867 until 1952. (The company then merged with Acott’s and joined their business on the other side of Alfred Street at 124 High Street: Russell & Acott survived there until 1999.)

In 1871 the upstairs was let to a labourer, Joseph Cripps, who lived there with his housekeeper.

At the time of the 1881 census Mary Ann Mills, the housekeeper to the Inland Revenue Office (which then shared the building with James Acott) lived over No. 120 with her daughter, the assistant housekeeper.

In 1901 the widow Annie Cox (50) lived over No. 120 and was described as a servant and housekeeper.

In 1911 the widow Emily Pearce (54), described as the caretaker, lived in four rooms over these premises with her two daughters.


Right: Russell's music shop at the present No. 120 can be seen to the left of the photograph, with the upstairs premises advertised as being to let

Nos. 121 and 122 (the original bank)

In 1871 the banker Henry Rutherford Smith lived over the bank with his nine-year-old granddaughter and four servants.

In 1881 the manager of the London & County Bank was Charles Richard Peake, and he lived over Nos. 121–2 with his wife and three children, a cook, housemaid, and lady’s maid, and the bank messenger and his wife.

In 1901 Francis M. Davies, the bank’s manager, lived over Nos. 121 & 122 with his cook and housemaid, while George A. Pearce (47), a bank messenger, was living in a separate establishment upstairs with his wife Elizabeth and their two children.

In 1911 the manager of the London & County Bank was Walter Cockell (60), and he lived in eleven rooms over Nos. 121 & 122 (described as Bank House) with his wife and two children and their two servants. George Pearce (57) was still working as a messenger of the bank and again was in a separate part of the upper floors with his wife and two children.

Since 1953

In about 1953 the National Westminster Bank took over the whole building.

In 2013 Lincoln College purchased 120–2 High Street from the Royal Bank of Scotland, and they leased back to the NatWest Bank the parts of the buildings which front on to the High Street .

The bank closed in 2017, and in 2018 Lincoln College submitted the following two (very similar) planning applications:

  • 18/00666/FUL: “Alterations to buildings including provision of glazed shopfront to 120, and new entrance to Alfred Street frontage of 121-122, Provision of lift/flue housing to rear. Re-arrangement of ventilation and ducting to the rear. Change of use of ground floor, basement and mezzanine level from bank (A2) to restaurant (A3), and use of upper floors as four apartments (1 x 1-bed, 3 x 3-beds) (C3)”.
  • 18/00667/FUL: “Alterations to building including provision of glazed shop front to 120, and new entrance to Alfred Street frontage or 121-122, provision of lift/flue housing to rear. Change of Use of ground floor, basement and mezzanine level from Bank (A2) to restaurant (A3), and use of upper floor as four apartments (1x2 bed, 3x3 bed) (C3)”

Occupiers of 120, 121, & 122 High Street
Darker background = former buildings on this site, now demolished


120 High Street

121 High Street

122 High Street


John Vincent
Boot & shoemaker

James Bowerman
Druggist, Oil, & Colourman (to 1837)

Harry Hitchcock
Chemist & druggist

121A: William Payne
Junior upholsterer

Blackwell & Evans
William Blackwell


James Russell
Pianoforte saloon

J. Russell & Co.
Piano & music warehouse (from 1869)
plus Inland Revenue & Stamp Office

W. Hayward
Tailor, hosier, & robemaker

Oxford Chronicle
Publishing Office

(but Mr Blackwell still
here in 1861)


London & County Banking Company Ltd.
renamed London County & Westminster Bank Ltd in 1910;
London County Westminster & Parr’s Bank Ltd in 1918;
and Westminster Bank Ltd in 1925


National Westminster Bank Ltd (later PLC)
Upstairs: Coutts & Co.




The Ivy Restaurant

©Stephanie Jenkins

Last updated: 4 April, 2022

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