No. 16: St Giles’ House

16 St Giles

St Giles’ House at 16 St Giles, formerly known as the Judge’s Lodgings, is now part of St John’s College. It is Grade II* listed (List Entry No. 1047136), as are its gates and piers (1359647), while its driveway is Grade II listed (1047135). It lies in St Giles' parish.

Pevsner describes it thus:

Built in 1702, the best house of its date in Oxford. Seven-bay ashlar façade with a pedimented three-bay projection and quoins. Later, rather dull doorway with doric pilasters and a straight entablature. Gatepiers with gorgeous urns. At the back an equally gorgeous decorated shell-hood. The front also originally had a shell-hood. Staircases with twisted balusters, and a plaster ceiling with a fine rich oval wreath of flowers.

The house was described thus by the Royal Commission on the Historical Monuments of England, published in 1939:

(183) The Judge's Lodging (Plate 216) … is of two storeys with cellars and attics; the walls are ashlar-faced and the roofs are covered with slates and lead. It was built in 1702 but the N. part was remodelled c. 1800 and there is a late 18th-century cottage against the S. side. The front is symmetrically designed with rusticated angles and finished with a cornice having a pediment over the central bay; the windows have architraves and the lower range also cornices; the central doorway has been altered. The attics have gabled dormers. This front has been recently refaced. The back has similar windows, cornice and dormers; the doorway (Plate 8) has a wooden semi-domical hood supported on carved brackets and having scrolls, cherub-heads and a basket of fruit and flowers. The doorway in the S. wall has a flat wooden hood and an original panelled door. On the lead flat of the roof is a plate inscribed "Thomas Rowney Esq. Elizabeth his wife, Anno 1702."

The front garden has an enclosure with stone gate and angle piers surmounted by cornices and vases; the wrought-iron gates have an ornamental band and cresting; the railings are plain. The entrance to the yard and carriage-way, on the S., seem to be later and in the wall, S. of the yard, is a doorway with a segmental head, key-block and cornice.

Inside the house, the entrance-hall is lined with bolection-moulded panelling, with cornice and dado-rail; the fireplace has a moulded marble surround. The staircase has twisted balusters, cut and bracketed strings and the rails are ramped over the grouped balusters forming newels. The ceiling (Plate 39) has a cornice and an oval panel with a richly modelled band of fruit and flowers; the spandrels have acanthus-ornament. The S.W. room is lined with bolection-moulded panelling with an enriched cornice; above the angle-fireplace is a panel with scrolled floral ornament and a second panel above with enriched mouldings. The back staircase has twisted balusters, close-strings and square newels with pendants; the walls have a panelled dado, with a handrail as capping. On the upper storey is a considerable amount of bolection-moulded panelling and some re-set panelling of c. 1600; there are also some fireplaces with moulded surrounds.


Back of 16 St Giles' House
Above: The back of St Giles’ House in May 2006

Garden house, 16 St Giles





Left: The summerhouse in the back garden. The dome is said to be based on the model made by James Gibbs in 1734 for the stone dome he designed for the Radcliffe Camera, which was built between 1737 and 1749.



St Giles’ House was built in 1702 for Thomas Rowney the elder, who had been baptised at St Giles' Church in 1668. He was High Sheriff of Oxfordshire for 1691/2 and served as MP for Oxford from 1695 to 1721. He died in 1727 and was buried at St Giles' Church, and his wife Elizabeth was buried with him three years later.

His son Thomas Rowney the younger (1693–1759) succeeded him as MP in 1721 and also lived in the house: he donated land for the Radcliffe Infirmary in 1758, and also paid for Oxford's earlier Town Hall of 1852 to replace the old guildhall. He left St Giles' House to his wife Mary, provided that she continued to live in the house and did not remarry. At the time of the 1772 Survey of Oxford the house was duly occupied by Mrs Rowney, and its frontage was measured as 28 yards and 2 feet (the widest in St Giles). Mary Rowney was buried with her husband in 1797.

From 1852 to 1965 the house (although in the occupation of other people) was used by the Judge when staying in Oxford during the Assizes, and thus became known as the Judge’s Lodgings.

At the time of the 1851 census the house was occupied by Miss Sarah Speakman (aged 60 and described as a proprietor of houses) and her widowed sister Mrs Elizabeth Webb with her three children, plus one servant.

In 1861 No. 16 was occupied by the retired boatbuilder Isaac King, his wife Mary, and their widowed daughter Mrs Marianne Herbert and her child (plus a cook, housemaid, nursemaid, and manservant). Their gardener and his family are also listed under No. 16, but they probably lived in the house in its back garden.

On 3 November 1875 Oxford High School was founded in this building. It then had just three forms and three teachers. In 1879 the school moved into 38 St Giles for two years before moving to 21 Banbury Road at the beginning of 1881.

At the time of the 1891 census the house was occupied by Edward Freeman, Regius Professor of Modern History, and his wife and daughter and their six servants (a cook, two housemaids, a parlour maid, a kitchen maid, and a pantry boy. A housekeeper lived independently in a separate part of the house.

It was then occupied by various other individuals until it was taken over and restored by St John's College in 1965. They use it for receptions and seminars, and have flats on the top floor.

Occupants of 16 St Giles’ Street listed in censuses and directories


Miss Sarah Speakman


Thomas A. Lister


Isaac King (1866)
Mrs King and Mrs Herbert (1869)
Mrs Herbert (1871–1875)


Oxford High School
Miss Ada Benson, Headmistress
(no one living on premises)


Rev. W. Cape


Edward Augustus Freeman, M.A., Hon. D.C.L.
Regius Professor of Modern History




David Watson Rannie




Miss Price


John Davidson Beazley, M.A.
Lincoln & Merton Professor of Classical Archaeology & Art


Sir John Wormald, KBE, MICE, JP
(Tel. 3806)


Sir Arthur Cecil McWatters
Additional Professorial Fellow, Trinity College


Part of St John’s College

St Giles’ home

Stephanie Jenkins

Oxford History home