Oxford Inscriptions: Black Plaque, Prestwich Place

Prestwich Place


IN THE 1880’s

This plaque is on the north side of
the Botley Road, near the entrance
to Prestwich Place (map).

Wikipedia: Joseph Prestwich

The Times of 10 June 1884 states disparagingly of this area: “An unsavoury village, styled New Botley, stands on the margin of Hog-acre Ditch”.

Sir Joseph Prestwich (1812–1896)

Joseph Prestwich was born at Clapham, London on 12 March 1812, the son of Joseph Prestwich senior and Catherine Prytherch Blakeway. At the time of the 1861 census he was a wine merchant, living at 10 Kent Terrace, Regent's Park with his sister and two servants. He had already studied geology for years in his spare time, and in 1851 had published A Geological Inquiry Respecting the Water-Bearing Strata of the Country around London.

He still described himself as a merchant when on 26 February 1870 at the age of nearly 58 he married the widow Mrs Grace Ann McCall at Marylebone Church. Two years later he retired from the wine trade and became a full-time geologist.

In 1874 Prestwich accepted the chair of geology at Oxford, and on 3 November 1874 at the age of 62 he was matriculated at the University of Oxford by Christ Church and was granted an M.A. by decree eight days later on 11 November 1874. On 20 November 1878 he was created D.C.L.

At the time of the 1881 census he was living with his wife and their three servants at 34 Broad Street (the former Seal's Coffee House), but this was demolished the following year to make way for the Indian Institute, and he moved to 35 St Giles' Street, where he remained until he ceased to be Professor of Geology in 1888.

He and his wife retired to Shoreham near Sevenoaks in Kent, and at the time of the 1891 census they were living there at a house called Darenth Hulme with three servants.

Joseph Prestwich was knighted in the New Year's Honours List of 1896 but was already unwell and died at Darenth Hulme on 23 June 1896 at the age of 84: photograph of his grave.

  • See the entry for Sir Joseph Prestwich in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography

The alcove near the Botley Road plaque

There is an unusual alcove set into the older wall a short distance west of this plaque (shown here on Google StreetView). This was re-sited from the City Engineer's Cleansing Depot which was on the site of Prestwich Place, and its origin is uncertain. Malcolm Graham suspects that it originally housed one of the city's Victorian drinking fountains erected in around 1860, and that it was later stored at this depot.

Stephanie Jenkins