Oxford History: The High


129A: Wheatsheaf Inn

Wheatsheaf, 129A High Street

The Wheatsheaf Inn is behind No. 129 High Street in the Wheatsheaf Yard. This yard is a narrow passage running from between Nos. 127 and 129 High Street down to Blue Boar Street.

The buildings in the Wheatsheaf Yard, including this inn, were demolished and rebuilt in 1896/7.

The Wheatsheaf was variously numbered 127½, 128, and 129A High Street, although in directories right up to 1958 (the last year that Kelly's Directory published landlords' names) it is listed under Wheatsheaf Yard, and not under the High Street. It was in the parish of All Saints until that church was deconsecrated in 1971, and is now in the parish of St Michael-at-the-Northgate Church.

The original Wheatsheaf (built in 1654 and demolished in 1896)

The first Wheatsheaf Inn was built in 1654 and recorded in 1662 as the Hen & Chickens. It was not known as the Wheatsheaf until 1761, when John Walker obtained permission from the town council to put up a new sign with that name.

There is a good description of this inn when its lease was advertised for sale in Jackson's Oxford Journal on 9 November 1776:


On the Premisses, some Time in the Beginning of December next,—A large commodious PUBLICK-HOUSE, in full Business, known by the Name of the WHEATSHEAF, in the High-Street, Oxford, with two other HOUSES, two Stables, Garden, and Skittle Alley, adjoining, very pleasantly situated opposite the New-Market. The Premisses have lately been put in good Repair.—The Whole is held by a Forty Years Lease under Magdalen College, Thirty-three of which are unexpired, and renewable every Fourteen Years. The Estate is underlett at 27l. 10s., per Annum.

On 11 October 1828 Thomas Davis junior advertised that he was making the Oxford Sausage here.

On 29 October 1836 the Ancient Order of Druids (Lodge 39) announced in Jackson's Oxford Journal that they had moved their lodge room to the Wheatsheaf.

By 1846 this inn held a university wine licence.

Groups such as the Young Freemen's Friendly Society held their meetings and dinners in the club room here.

Landlords of the former inn the nineteenth century included:

  • 1824–1830: Thomas Davis
  • 1834: R. Wyatt (curiously W. Crozier in 1835 and P. A. Wyatt in 1836, but back to Richard Wyatt in 1839. At the time of the 1841 census the victualler Richard Wyatt lived at the Wheatsheaf with his wife Martha and their seven children, and the gardener Thomas Davis (possibly the previous landlord) and the fencing master Archibald Maclaren lived separately on the premises
  • 1846–1870: At the time of the 1851 census the Wheatsheaf Inn was occupied by Thomas Wright (38), described as a saddler as well as a publican and his wife Sarah (36) and their four young children, plus their 13-year-old niece who worked as a barmaid, and a servant. Thomas Wright died after a very short illness on 22 December 1859, and at the time of the 1861 census his widow Sarah Wright (47) was the publican: she lived here with her five children and a general servant.
  • 1886: F. G. Gilder

Wheatsheaf Passage and Nos. 127 and 128 High Street (which span the High Street entrance) were demolished in August 1896 and rebuilt in 1896/7. The report on the rebuilding can be found in Jackson’s Oxford Journal of 16 October 1897, p. 6d (edition missing from British Library online newspapers)

The present Wheatsheaf (built in 1897)

The Wheatsheaf used to be a Morrell’s pub, but was then taken over by the Whitbread Brewery. Since 2000 it has been a free house.

The room upstairs in the new Wheatsheaf building continued to be the lodge room of the Albion Lodge of the Ancient Order of Druids. The photographer Henry Taunt was a member, and took the photograph below of the room in 1912:

Landlords of the present pub include:

  • 1899: William Hemming
  • 1914–1916: H. J. Deacon
  • 1915: William Hemming
  • 1930: Walter A. Heath
  • 1935–1954: Joseph Spencer
  • 1956–1958: William A. Blight

A number of workshops and people working from home occupied Wheatsheaf Yard after it was rebuilt. For example in 1899 in the brand new yard there were:

  • J. E. Elliott & Co., electrical engineers
  • William P. Vernon, engraver
  • T. Bates, bookbinder
  • Workshop of Gill & Co, the ironmongers at 5 High Street
  • Greatbatch & Co. Ltd, china & glass stores (also at 15 High Street)
  • Miss Laura Butterfield, shirt maker
  • Works of Slatter & Rose Ltd, booksellers &c. at 16 High Street
  • W. T. Brown & Son, bookbinders
  • Edgar Glanville, farrier

A controversial planning application was submitted in February 2021 to convert the first and second floors into nine student rooms with a shared kitchen and common area (21/00345/FUL)

The former Wheatsheaf Yard

The photograph below shows Wheatsheaf Yard prior to its demolition in 1897. The photograph was owned by William Vernon who had a workshop in the passage, and is reproduced by kind permission of his grandson Mervyn Hughes

Wheatsheaf Passage


©Stephanie Jenkins

Last updated: 5 June, 2021

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