Oxford History: The High


123: Vacant / 124: All Bar One / 125: Whitewall

123, 124, & 125

No. 123 (left), No. 124 (middle) and 125 (right) all share a continuous eaves cornice. Nos. 124 & 125 were possibly built in the seventeenth century but were altered and rebuilt in the eighteenth century, and No. 124 has two three-light eighteenth-century sash windows and has a seventeenth century building at the back. These two shops are jointly Grade II List Entry No. 104725).

No. 123 is of indeterminate date but the front could be an alteration of that possibly built in the eighteenth century. It is Grade II listed in relation to its two neighbours (List Entry No. 1145862).

These three shops were in the parish of All Saints until 1971, and are now in the parish of St Michael-at-the-Northgate.

Nos. 123 and 124 on the left were the Bear Inn until 1801, when it was divided into two shops.

All three shops were reported in Jackson's Oxford Journal of 19 March 1842 as having been “completely destroyed” by a fire that started at Oxford Post Office at the back of No. 123.

From 1866 to 1893 the three shops formed just one business, Foster's the tailor.

Nos. 123,124, and 125 are not properly marked on the 1876 map of Oxford, suggesting that major rebuilding work was taking place.

No. 123 (Currently vacant)

From at least the 1830s to 1864 there was a tailor’s shop here, while Oxford’s first Post Office occupied a front and back room on the ground floor.

Joseph Warne was a tailor, mercer, & hatter here until 1839.

On 26 October 1839 the tailor, hosier, & hatter John Parsons took over this shop, selling “woollens, hosiery, hats, gloves, linens, flannels, &c. &c. The 1841 census shows him aged about 25 and described as a tailor) living over the shop with Humphrey Parsons (16), who assisted him in the shop, and Elizabeth Parsons (30), plus their servant and a shop assistant. Also living over the shop was James Warne junior, William Homberg, and George Northleach.

On the morning of Sunday 13 March 1842 a serious fire started in this building, completely destroying the Post Office and rooms above and Parsons’s shop. Parsons, Mr Warne junior, Mr Rainsford, and their servant all “narrowly escaped with their lives, and almost in a state of nudity” from this shop. The Post Office moved to the Town Hall and never returned, but John Parsons remained in this shop.

Possibly as a result of the fire, and certainly by 1851, John Parsons built “The Lawn” for himself in Banbury Road (now part of St Hugh’s College). He continued to run his draper’s business in this shop, but in c.1850 went into partnership with Foster & Co next door.

At the time of the 1851 census Charles Foster lived over his pair of shops at 123 and 124 High Street with his wife and seven young children, a tailor’s clerk, three general servants, a governess, and an errand boy. In about 1860 Parsons went into trade as a wine merchant at 134 High Street, and the shop was taken over completely by Foster’s.

Charles Foster was still living over Nos. 123 and 124 in 1861. By 1871 he was also occupying the upstairs of No. 125, and lived over the three properties with his wife and five children, and their four servants.

Together with 124 and 125, this building is not properly marked on the 1876 map of Oxford and was unoccupied at the time of the 1881 census, suggesting that major rebuilding work was taking place.

Foster & Co. had started business next door in No. 124 before 1839, but had expanded into this shop as well by 1861. Their advertisement on the front page of the very first edition of the Oxford Times of 6 September 1862 reads:

Desire respectfully to acknowledge the great and increasing Patronage with which they have been favoured by the Members of the University and by the Residents in the City and County, and beg to intimate that their large and extending Business enables them to offer for inspection, a larger and more extensive collection of Materials for GENTLEMEN’s CLOTHING, than can be elsewhere presented in the County.

Their Stock now includes a great variety of SCOTCH, IRISH, WEST OF ENGLAND, and other NEW FABRICS and PATTERNS, specially adapted for Complete and durable Suits, which are made up in good style and very cheap.

First-rate skill in Cutting, Good Materials, and the Best Workmanship, will be combined with strict moderation in price.


Foster's retreated to this shop when they downsized in 1895, and remained here until 1939. .

No. 124 (Currently All Bar One)

See first paragraph above under No. 123 for the early history of this building.

On 8 April 1837 an advertisement appeared in Jackson's Oxford Journal advertising a new establishment just opened at 124 High Street, opposite the Mitre and nearly opposite the market, run by Foster junior and Bailey. It sold linen drapery, silk mercery, hosiery, and haberdashery. After listing many of the specific items sold, including muslins, French and Scotch ginghams, French cambrics and handkerchiefs, shawls, socks, flannels, evening dresses, French flowers and feathers, baby linen, ladies' and children's stays, and straw bonnets, it adds: “N.B. Funerals completely furnished, with a strict adherence to economy.”

Charles Foster junior is listed in Robson's Directory for 1839 as the draper at this shop.

The fire reported above that started at Parsons' premises at 123 High Street next door (see above) also completely destroyed No. 124, described as “Mr. C. Foster’s house and elegant shop (fitted up recently at an immense expense)”. On 9 April 1842 it published a notice of an appeal to reimburse all the shopmen and women and servants who lost all their personal possessions.

Charles Foster junior returned to the rebuilt premises after the fire, and by the time of the 1851 census he was living over his pair of shops at 123 and 124 High Street with his wife and seven young children, a tailor’s clerk, three general servants, a governess, and an errand boy. He was still there in 1861 and 1871.

(Together with 123 and 125, this building is not properly marked on the 1876 map of Oxford and was unoccupied at the time of the 1881 census, suggesting that major rebuilding work was then taking place.

In about 1894 Sydney Acott who had been at 120 High Street took over Foster's shop, where he operated as a musical instrument dealer and had his warehouse.

In 1900 the business here at No. 124 was Sydney Acott, Harris & Co., as shown in this photography by Henry Taunt.

Acott mosaic#


This mosaic paving, photographed in 2018, dates from the time this was Acott's shop. It was then known as The Music House (see drawing).


The columns and putti around the entrance (below) must date from 1912, as the two scrolls are dated AD and MCMXII respectively.

Date of 1912

Acott bag


In 1950 James Russell's music shop absorbed Acott and moved here, and the firm was henceforth called Russell Acott.


Graham Ansell, the owner of Russell Acott, sold the shop in 1998 to All Bar One (see photograph of its closing-down sale). The Russell Acott shop moved to the Hinksey Business Centre in Botley; and it finally closed in 2011:

No. 125 (Whitewall Galleries)

The cellar below this shop has some walling that may be medieval.

At the time of the Survey of Oxford, No. 125 was then in the occupation of a Mrs Stevens, and its frontage measured 6 yards 1 foot 6 inches.

William Marshall, a music seller, had this shop from at least 1839 to 1846. At the time of the 1841 census he was living here with his wife Elizabeth, and Louisa Marshall and Henry Marshall, probably their daughter and grandson. It too was damaged by the fire on Sunday 13 March 1842 two doors away at 123 High Street (see above). The newspaper report states: “The roof and upper part of Mr. Marshall’s were also destroyed, and the injury to the lower part, by the attempts made to prevent the encroachment of the fire, was such as will render it necessary to re-build the whole”.

On 8 May 1847 the following advertisement appeared in Jackson's Oxford Journal:

To be LET, in the best part of High-street, Oxford, particularly adapted for a professional gentleman, or those requiring a central situation.—The WHOLE of the UPPER PART of No. 125; containing drawing room, dining room, and six bed rooms, with every other convenience, in perfect repair, having been painted throughout.

James Russell of 5 Turl Street expanded his music business in this building around this time. (He moved on to No. 120 High Street in about 1866, and to No. 124 in 1952, where he merged with Acott’s.)

At the time of the 1851 census, the premises upstairs were let to Henry Harper (an assistant librarian at the Bodleian) and his wife Cecilia (a teacher of music), with their two children, and Miss Rose Frost, a teacher of dancing, and they had one servant. In Jackson's Oxford Journal of 1 November 1851 Mrs Harper and Miss Frost advertised their dancing and deportment classes here.

In 1861 the upstairs living accommodation was unoccupied, and in 1871 Charles Foster at 123/134 next door had expanded into it.

No one lived over any of these three shops in 1901 or 1911.

Occupiers of 123, 124, & 125 High Street


No. 123

No. 124

No. 125

To 1839

Joseph Warne
Tailor, Mercer, & Hatter

Foster jun. & Bailey (1837)

Foster & Co.
Drapers & mercers

(merged with Parsons
at No. 123 to the east by 1852
and also expanded into
125 to the west by 1866)

William Marshall
Music seller & Teacher of Music


John Parsons
Tailor & hatter

(also Oxford’s main Post Office to March 1842)

Parsons & Foster
Hatters, mercers, and tailors (and at 124)

Foster & Co.
Tailors, robe makers, and Indian outfitters
(This became their main shop, but they also occupied Nos. 124 and 125 in the nineteenth century)

By 1852–1866

James Russell
Music & musical instrument seller
(and at 5 Turl Street)


Foster & Co.
Tailors, robe makers, and Indian outfitters
(also at Nos. 123 and 124)


Sydney Acott & Co.
Musical instrument dealers & warehouse

later Russell Acott Ltd
Musical dealers

Oxford Wine Company, then
Town & County Wine Company Ltd


Castle & Co Ltd
Wine & spirit merchants


Alkit Ltd


No listing:
Part of Russell Acott at 124 High Street to the west


James Walker Goldsmiths & Silversmiths Ltd
Jewellers (1970/1)

Hallmark, Jewellers (1972)


Check Fashions


A. B. & J. A. Martin granted permission to make shop self-contained again (81/00363/NFH)



Jumpers Ltd

The Body Shop


Phase Eight

All Bar One


Jack Wills (Aubin & Wills in 2012)


Black Sheep Galleries


Whitewall Galleries




©Stephanie Jenkins

Last updated: 4 April, 2022

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