Oxford History: The High


Merton Street

Merton Street

The present Merton Street is L-shaped: it runs southwards from the High Street and then turns sharp right past Merton College. The Eastgate Hotel is to the east and the Ruskin School of Drawing & Fine Art to the west.

Originally, however, the north–south section of Merton Street shown above was known as Coach & Horses Lane, after a pub that was on the west side; and then from the early eighteenth to the late nineteenth century it was known as King Street. This part of the street was in the parish of St Peter-in-the-East.

The rest of the street around the corner running east to west was originally known as St John Baptist’s Street or just St John Street (after the St John the Baptist Church which used to share the Merton College Chapel building). St John Street became known as Merton Street in the nineteenth century (possibly to avoid confusion with St John Street in north Oxford). This part of the street was in two parishes: the eastern part in that of St Peter-in-the-East, and the western part in that of St John-the-Baptist.

In the twentieth century the whole of the L-shaped road became known as Merton Street. The part of the street around the corner that runs parallel with the High still has its original cobbles, which date from the eighteenth century onwards: the road surface is Grade II listed (list entry 1119637).

The following businesses are listed under King Street in Pigot’s Directory for 1823/4:

  • Taverns and Public Houses:
    Coach & Horses: T. HUNT
    Nag’s Head: M. THORNTON
  • Watch & Clock Makers Richard PEARSON King Street

and the following were around the corner in St John Street:

  • Boot & Shoemakers: Richard HURDIS
  • Tailors & Drapers William GILES
  • Taverns and Public Houses: George & Dragon: William VENABLES

©Stephanie Jenkins

Last updated: 22 August, 2021

The High home Small Shark Oxford History home