Oxford History: The High


King Edward Street

King Edward Street

King Edward Street is much wider than other roads running off the High because it was only created in 1872/3. It has always been in the parish of St Mary-the-Virgin.

Oriel College built this new street by demolishing the original No. 109 (which it bought from Balliol College) and 110 (which it already owned) in order to join the High Street to Oriel Square. There is a debate about which King Edward is remembered here, but as Oriel proposed the name and their founder was King Edward II, he seems a likely candidate.

Rather oddly, the numbers of the obliterated shops were transferred to the rebuilt Nos. 111 and 112 to the right, which explains why the three adjoining shops that now comprise Shepherd & Woodward are still numbered 109, 110, and 113.

The shops on the two corners facing the High Street were also rebuilt in 1872/3, while the other shops lining each side of the new King Edward Street were built in 1873/4. They are all massive buildings, out of proportion to other shops in the High. Pevsner wrote that King Edward Street was “a street of any old-town centre. Just rows of four-storeyed houses, all drab, except for No. 8, the far corner-house, which is Gothic, of yellow brick and stone.”

Jackson's Oxford Journal reported on 11 October 1873:

The new street leading from High-street to Bear-lane — known as King Edward-street — is now formed, and the various shops are being rapidly fitted up, and some of them will be ready for business this Term. The street is 40 feet wide, with a roadway of 22 feet, and a pavement on each side.

[Followed by a description of the new shop to the west (present No. 108)
and the right (present Nos. 109 & 110), given on those shops pages.]

On the west side of King Edward-street has been erected a row of ten-roomed houses and shops of a similar elevation to that of Mr. Goundry's [on west corner, now 109 High Street]. There is a public footpath in the rear, which gives ample light and ventilation to the back rooms. These houses have been fitted up very conveniently, and are intended either for University lodgings or business premises. They have been built by Messrs. Joseph Castle and Co. from the designs and under the superintendence of Mr. Codd.

Three substantial houses are also being erected in this street by Mr. James Walters, builder, including one for the Oxford Reform Club, which is to be completed by Lady-day next. Each house is built of white brick, with Bath stone dressings, the roofs being covered with blue slates, and is well arranged for private occupation or business premises. Mr. Shirley designed these houses. Mr. Honor, Cowley Road, has also two houses in course of erection in this street.

The rebuilt and new shops here still belong to Oriel College. The plaque to Cecil Rhodes on 6 King Edward Street is causing controversy in 2020.

The former shops and Swan Court on the site of this road

Until 1872 a group of shops ran continuously along the High at this point, but the shops then numbered 109 and 110 were demolished to make way for the new road. Swan Court, which ran between Nos. 110 and 111, was also removed at this time.

The new enlarged No. 108 on the east corner more or less occupies the site of the original house with that number, but the shop on the west corner scooped up the missing numbers 109 & 110, so today the “wrong” numbers (111 & 112) are missing.

The Oriel College plan below is dated 1814 and shows the row of shops that ran in an unbroken line westwards from No. 102 on the corner of Oriel Street, ending on the map with James Wyatt’s house at No. 115 just peeping in:

King Edward Street area shops

The occupiers of the row of shops shown above in 1814 were (left to right):

115: Wyatt
114: Holmes
113: Archer         
112: Routledge  [Rebuilt in 1872 and renumbered 110]
111: Winter [Rebuilt in 1872 and renumbered 109]
Here was Swan Court, named on plan [Removed to make way for King Edward Street]
110: Bridgewater [Removed to make way for King Edward Street]
109: Bridgewater [Removed to make way for King Edward Street]
108: Allen [Rebuilt in 1872]
107: Jones
106: Robinson
105/104: Sadler
103: Loder
102: West

In an announcement in Jackson's Oxford Journal of 26 November 1809, Mr A. Routledge announced that he had moved into a more commodious house in the High Street (presumably No. 112), where he sold perukes, ringlets and hair ornaments. Holmes at No. 114 may be the bootmaker John Holmes, who announced in Jackson's Oxford Journal of 11 December 1813 that he had taken over the premises in the High Street of his late uncle, Mr Rusbridge.

DetailDetail of the plan above showing Bridgewater’s shop at the former Nos. 109/110
which was removed along with Swan Court to the left to make way for the road

©Stephanie Jenkins

Last updated: 1 May, 2021

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