LONG WALL STREET, OXFORD

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Former Morris Garages, 21 Long Wall Street


Old Morris garages, 21 Long Wall Street

The garages in 1913, with hire cars outside and in 1925

Most of this site originally belonged to Merton College and was attached to 100 Holywell Street to the west (which had a frontage of 51 yards at the time of the 1771 Survey of Oxford). The new garage building, however, was always considered to be in  Long Wall Street, but it did not acquire the number 21 in directories until 1967.

In 1902 William Morris (later Lord Nuffield) took over the disused livery stables on this site. In 1909–10 he demolished these stables and replaced them with the Morris Garage, designed by Tollit & Lee. Its front neo-Georgian façade and other parts (shown above) survive today, and the building is Grade II listed (1407549).

Described as “Oxford's new motor palace”, the City Engineer's plan for the site was published in the Oxford Journal Illustrated of 13 July 1910 (p. 6). The Oxford Chronicle of 14 October 1910 (p. 9) reported that a new garage with a floor space of 4,400 square feet facing St Cross Road was being built by Mr W. R. Morris, and that it would contain repairing shops, private lock-ups for cars, and an extensive showroom. The central doorway led to a covered garage and workshop.

The prototype of the Morris Oxford car was assembled on this site in 1912.

Kelly's 1914

In Kelly's Directory for 1914–1915 (right) The Morris Garages were listed under Long Wall Street without a number, sandwiched between the private house at No. 20 and the wall letter box to the right of the entrance.

When production moved to Cowley in 1914, this building remained in use as company offices and as a service and distribution centre, and Lord Nuffield himself had an office on the first floor.

The drawing below, taken from an advertisement in the Oxford Mail in 1928, shows the building when it was known as the Longwall Service Depot:

Morris garages in 1928

Kelly's 1930

In 1930 (left) the building was listed under Long Wall Street as The Morris Garages Ltd; Car Service depot. The building still had no number, and was still listed straight after the private house at No. 20.

By 1938 the building was listed as the Morris Garages Ltd Service depot and hire department, still without a number

From 1941 to 1964 it was just listed as the firm's Service Department.

From 1966 to 1976 the Morris Garages were listed in Kelly's Directory as being occupied by a self-drive hire department. A firm of chartered accountants moved into some of the offices in 1967 and these were given the number 21 for the first time.

In 1977 the whole building was threatened with demolition, but the frontage, side elevation, and roof structure were retained when in 1980 it was developed as student accommodation for New College by John Fryman of the Oxford Architects Partnership. It is now entered from the south, behind the central archway. In 2016 planning permission was granted to New College to erect a single-storey building in the Morris yard for students with disabilities and make further alterations (16/03209/FUL).

In 2018 this garage was named as one of the top ten most important sites that have shaped England's trade and industry.

The Morris Motors archive 1926–1952 is held by Warwick University.


This site in the nineteenth century

In the nineteenth century this land was occupied by a printing office and livery stables:

  • The printing office of Jackson’s Oxford Journal This had the address of the house next door to which it belonged (namely 60 Holywell Street until 1837, and then 100 Holywell Street under the new numbering system). The newspaper’s founder, William Jackson, died in 1795, leaving the ownership of the paper to Miss Mary Jones, and on her death in 1816 it passed to its printers, Grosvenor & Hall. William Hall became sole proprietor of the newspaper in 1824. The printing office moved out in 1894, and in 1899, the Oxford Times Company bought the business from the Hall family.
  • Livery stables The coach proprietor Christopher Waddell ran these stables by 25 June 1834, when he and his wife Sarah had their son Christopher baptised at Holywell Church. The 1841 census shows that his family lived in the adjoining house at 100 Holywell Street.

It is likely that in 1894 the livery stables also took over the premises vacated by Jackson’s Oxford Journal.

It is unclear from the 1876 OS map below which part of the land attached to the 100 Holywell Street  site was then occupied by the livery stables and which by the printing office, but it seems more likely that the livery stables would have been behind, as tentatively marked in red:

Site of 21 Long Wall Street

See the site in 1900 side-by-side with today

Letter box in Holywell

 

Jackson’s Oxford Journal of 26 January 1878 reported the installation of the letter box (right) in the wall of the land attached to 100 Holywell Street :

NEW POST OFFICE LETTER BOX.—The Post Office authorities have this week placed a letter box in the wall of the house, No. 100 Holywell-street, which is situate at the junction of that street with Long Wall-street, and the road leading to the Church. The new box will be a great convenience in the locality, and the hours of clearing are 9.30 a.m., 2.20, 5.30, 7.15, and 9.0 p.m. on week days, and 2 p.m. on Sundays

It would indeed have been a great convenience to the newspaper’s printing office, then behind the wall.

The original Victorian letter box was replaced in the wall of the Morris Garage, and is still in use today.

 

Site of 21 Long Wall Street in directories (listed under Holywell Street until 1914)

1772
Survey of Oxford

Frontage: 51 yds 0 ft 0 in
Mr Pepall: House [100 Holywell Street] and yard [21 Long Wall Street]

By 1834–1851

Christopher Waddell, coach master

1861–1894

Oxford Journal Printing Office

1894–1896

William Franklin Livery Stables

1899

H. J. Fletcher Livery Stables

1905

E. Simmonds & Son, fruit salesmen

1911–1976

The Morris Garages
(W. R. Morris, proprietor): 1914

The Morris Garages Ltd.
(Service depot & Hire department), Phone 2241 (4 lines); Wire, “Auto” (1935–1936)

The Morris Garages Ltd
Self-Drive Hire Department (1976)

At 21 Long Wall Street today

New College annexe

Long Wall home

© Stephanie Jenkins

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