East Oxford: 57A St Clement’s Street

St Clements Parish Buildings

The architect’s drawing above appeared in the Building News of 27 May 1887. It shows on the right the club house that opened in 1886 (latterly occupied by the St Andrew’s bookshop) and on the left the St Clement’s parish buildings (with girls' school upstairs) that would open in 1891. These adjoining buildings stand on the corner of Boulter Street in St Clement’s and replaced the former Cutler Boulter Almshouses, which moved into a new street leading from Worcester Street to Gloucester Green. Both buildings were designed by Harry Wilkinson Moore.

The club house house on the right (opened in 1886)

Victoria Cafe

Jackson's Oxford Journal reported on 16 October 1886 that the coffee house or club house on the right was nearly completed:

The first portion of the scheme, consisting of the club house, is in course of erection, and now nearly completed. The Rev. W. L. Guerrier (Curate) has generously obtained and furnished the whole cost of the site. The intention is to provide public coffee and refreshment rooms on the ground floor, and rooms for reading, games, club meetings, &c. on the upper floors. The building is situated at the corner of Boulter-street, St Clement's, on the site of the old Cutler Boulter almshouses, and is designed by Mr. H. Wilkinson Moore, architect. It is build with red bricks and tiles, and is a pleasing departure from the usual run of Gothic architecture. We understand that a much more picturesque building was originally designed, but had to be abandoned owing to the action of the Local Board. The building work has been well carried out by Mr. H. Walker, a contractor living in the parish.

This building opened as a club house in 1886, and from 1889 directories list the Victoria Coffee House as occupying the ground floor. The above postcard dating from c.1920 would have been produced for advertising purposes, and the text reads:

“Victoria Cafe, St. Clement’s, Oxford, Mrs. Hazell, Manageress. Well Aired Beds, Good & Reasonable Accommodation, for Cyclists & Commercials, Boarders Taken.”

Although the above card only mentions Mrs Emma Hazell (nee Tompkins), her husband, Walter James Hazell (1873–1938), was the proprietor of this café, and his obituary in the Oxford Times for 4 November 1938 reads:

The death of Mr. Walter James Hazell occurred at the Radcliffe Infirmary, Oxford, on Saturday. He had been proprietor of the Victoria Cafe, St. Clements for 33 years & for 26 years sexton of St. Clements Church. His wife died six months ago. They leave one daughter. The funeral, which was conducted by the Rector of St. Clements (Rev. A Murray Thom), took place at Headington on All Saints Day….

The café closed after his death.

The parish buildings on the left (opened in 1891)

The parish buildings were designed back in 1886 (at the same time as the building on the right) by Harry Wilkinson Moore, but Jackson's Oxford Journal reported on 16 October 1886 that more funds were needed to complete the parish rooms on the left:

It is intended, as soon as sufficient funds can be collected, to carry out an extensive and useful block of buildings arranged for parish purposes in St. Clement's, consisting of a mission hall or public room, girls' school, &c., also a parish club house, with reading room, &c. The Rector (Rev. F. Pilcher) has devoted much time and energy in trying to establish this useful work.

The parish buildings were eventually built by Messrs Walker in 1890–1. Jackson's Oxford Journal of 15 October 1887 reported:

Steps are now being taken to prepare the vacant plot of ground in High-street, St. Clement's, adjoining the coffee house so generously built by the Rev. W. L. Guerrier last year, and to get it ready as a site for the long-needed parish buildings and girls' school. The Rev. F. Pilcher, the respected Rector, has been untiring in his efforts to raise the necessary funds, for want of which the good work has been hampered. A design was obtained from Mr. H. Wilkinson Moore, which was exhibited in this year's Academy, and promises to produce a useful good-looking building. The necessary working plans have since been duly prepared, and the builders' contracts obtained, and all matter put in train for commencing active building operations forthwith.

In the event, the parish building, designed to hold 200 people, was not opened until 29 December 1891, and it was described thus in a long report of the opening ceremony that appeared in Jackson's Oxford Journal of 2 January 1892:

The new building is in perpendicular style with Gothic tracery headed windows, and is built so as to agree with the already existing Coffee House next door. It has a frontage in High-street, St. Clement's, of 28 feet, and consists of three floors of about 60 feet by 25 feet inside measurement. The basement floor is laid with patent wood block flooring on a cement surface with a bed of concrete under. This is to be used for various classes, amongst which will be a carving class, and a Sunday Bible class. The ground floor is the parish room, entrance to which is gained both from High-street and Boulter-street. It is 15 feet high, the ceiling is match-boarded, and the whole room is lighted up with Wenham Lights. The first floor, access to which is from Boulter-street, and which is reached by a stone staircase, is the girls' school and class room. The ceiling is relieved with arches and wood work part of the way up to the roof. In addition to the main building there are at the back the various school offices, consisting of a cloak room, lavatory, &c. The cost of the building is now estimated to be about 250l., about 700l.more than the original contract. The plans were by Mr. H. Wilkinson Moore, architect, and the work has been carried out by Mr. H. Walker, builder, of 52 Pembroke Street [now Rectory Road], St Clement's.

The Revd W. J. Guerrier prayed God so to prosper the work of this building that “the parish might be known as a parish from which drunkenness and evil were driven out, and where the Gospel was known”.

References to St Clements parish buildings:

  • Oxford Chronicle, 16 October 1886
  • Oxford Chronicle, 15 October 1887
  • Oxford Chronicle, 11 October 1890
  • Oxford Chronicle, 17 October 1891
  • Bodleian MS Top Oxon c.105, fols. 164–172

Since 1939

The building on the left continued to function as a mission hall, and the former coffee shop on the right as an annexe. In 1941 it is listed as the Old Oak & Old Palace Senior Boys’ School, which had probably been evacuated from London.

In 1949 the former coffee shop became a Gospel Book Depot, and was the St Andrew’s Christian Book Centre until it closed in 2020. It is now due to become a homeless shelter.

In the 1980s the upper floors of the Old Mission Hall were converted for use as accommodation, and the basement is currently a youth centre.

St Clements Street

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