Oxford History: The High


131: Payne & Son

131 High Street

No. 131 dates from the fifteenth century, but the front was altered in the eighteenth century and bay windows inserted. It is a Grade II listed building (List Entry No. 1047261). It was 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.

The building is owned by The Queen's College.

In 1772 a survey of every house in the city was taken in consequence of the Mileways Act of 1771. No. 131 was then in the occupation of a Mrs Puffet, and its frontage measured 4 yards 2 feet 8 inches.

On 23 February 1839 W. C. and I. G. Last opened a linen drapery & silk mercery hear, announcing that they had “a good assortment of new and elegant Prints, Shawls, Gros de Naples, Irish Linens and Sheetings, Hosiery, Haberdashery, Long Cloths, Calicoes, Bed Ticks, Flannels, Ladies' and Children's Shoes in great variety, Ribbons, Gloves, Muslin Collars and Habit Shirts, Flowers, &c. &c.”This house was auctioned soon after it was taken over by the new firm, and the advertisement in Jackson's Oxford Journal of 13 July 1839 described it as follow:

All that excellent commodious FREEHOLD BUSINESS HOUSE and PREMISES, situated in the best part of the High-street, Oxford, opposite the Market, in the occupation of Messrs. Last (late Cousins), drapers &c.; comprising an excellent double-fronted bow-windowed shop, and large show room behind; handsome drawing room, 21 ft. by 14 ft.; a dining-room, 21 ft. by 13 ft, at the back; and an airy bed room, 18 ft. long, on the one pair of stairs; front sitting room, 21 ft. by 14 ft. on the two pair of stairs; a commodious room at the back, 21 ft. by 13 ft. and one bed chamber, 18 ft. long; on the three pair of stairs, three bed rooms and an attic, leading out on a pleasant and convenient flat leaded roof; large front under-ground kitchen and back ditto, light cellaring, paved court yard, wash-house, pump of good water, and other conveniences.

The cabinet maker Charles A. Green announced in Jackson's Oxford Journal on 9 September 1843 that he had moved to this shop..

At the time of the 1851 census John Withers, the chemist who then had this shop, lived upstairs with his wife, his younger brother Frederick, and a servant.

In 1861 James Sheard, the watchmaker and jeweller who had his business here, was living upstairs with his wife and four children and two servants. He was still here in 1871, when he was described as a goldsmith, and in 1881, when his son, Henry Vaughan Sheard, was also described as a jeweller.

Dog and clock

Payne & Son (since 1888)

In 1888 George Septimus Payne of Payne & Son (founded in 1790 in Wallingford by John Payne of London) bought Alderman Sheard’s business, and the firm is still there. The firm is now run by the seventh and eighth generations of Paynes:


There is an old model of a dog guarding a large clock-face in its mouth over the shop front (right). The passage beneath this sign leads to the Chequers Inn behind.

In 1901 Miss Beatrice C. Martineau (34), a tea room manageress & cookery teacher, lived over this shop with a housemaid, a housekeeper & waitress, a waitress & cook, a waitress & cookery teacher, and a kitchenmaid.

At the time of the 1911 census Joseph Cousins (35) lived with his wife in the nine rooms upstairs at 131 High Street, which was described as the “New Tory Club”: they were respectively the Steward and Stewardess of that club.

Occupiers of 131 High Street

By 1837 to 1839

Miss Cousins, Ladies' fashions


W. C. & J. G. Last, Linen drapers & Silk mercers


Charles A. Green, Cabinet maker

By 1851–1854

J. & F. Withers, Chemists & druggists (to Jan 1851)
John Withers, Chemist & druggist (from Jan 1851; died aged 32 on 24 October 1855)


James Sheard, Watchmaker & jeweller (from Dec 1856)


Payne & Son, Goldsmiths (Berlitz Language Centre now upstairs)

©Stephanie Jenkins

Last updated: 6 August, 2021

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