BROAD STREET, OXFORD

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Nos. 40–41: Former house of Drs Wootten & Acland

Nos. 40, and 41 Broad Street were towards the middle of the group of thirteen houses dating from the first half of the seventeenth century that were demolished to make way for the New Bodleian Library in the late 1930s.

This area of Broad Street was a cluster of doctors’ surgeries in the nineteenth century, starting with Dr John Wootten (1799–1847), who had gained his D.Med. at the University of Oxford in 1826 and had opened his practice at No. 40 by 1830.

No. 41 next door was the Duke of York public house, owned by Christ Church. In 1810 its lease was given to Morrells Brewery for 70 years, and it is still listed as a pub in Robson’s Directory of 1839. In about 1840, however, Dr Wootten took over the lease of No. 41 and merged the house with No. 40 to form one dwelling.

Dr (later Sir) Henry Wentworth Acland (1815–1900) came to Oxford in 1845 when he was appointed Lee’s Lecturer in Anatomy at Christ Church. He married Sarah Cotton on 14 July 1846, and they moved to 40 Broad Street in October 1847, taking over both the lease of the house at 40/41 Broad Street and the medical practice of John Wootten, who had died that year.

In the 1851 census Acland (aged 35) is listed with his wife Sarah and three young children: William (3), Sarah (1), and Henry (5 months) Living with them are an assistant physician T. Victor Carns, and six servants: a nurse, a cook, a housemaid, a nurserymaid, a wet-nurse (the wife of a mason), and a house servant.

Between 1855 and 1860 Acland initiated the construction of the University Museum of Natural History.

Acland grave

By 1858, another five sons had been born to the Aclands, and at the time of the 1861 census there were nine servants in the house, including a governess and a page. In that year Acland started to use part of No. 42 next door, and in 1863 he acquired the lease of No. 43 , which he bought from Christ Church in 1866. He now owned four houses in a row, but let out Nos. 42 and 43.

In 1878 Acland’s wife Sarah died, and was buried in Holywell Cemetery (right). Acland endowed a nursing home in Oxford in her memory that later became the Acland Hospital.

At the time of the 1881 census his daughter Sarah (then aged 31 and described as his housekeeper) was the only member of the family occupying Nos. 40–41 on census night. Also in the house were seven servants: a butler, cook, lady’s maid, two housemaids, a kitchenmaid, and a page. (Professor Acland spent census night in Broadclyst, Devon with his brother Sir Thomas Acland, who had double the number of servants.)

Acland was Regius Professor of Medicine from 1857 to 1894. He was largely responsible for the establishment of the University Museum.

He died in this house on 16 October 1900, and was buried with his wife in Holywell Cemetery.

His daughter Sarah Acland (by this time an important amateur photographer) moved to 10 Park Town.

William Bailie Skene, Treasurer of Christ Church, occupied 40/41 Broad Street from 1902 to 1910.

In 1911 it was taken over by the University and named Acland House. It housed the School of Geography for ten years and then various small departments until 1936, when it was demolished it to make way for the New Bodleian Library, now the Weston Library..

Occupants of 40 and 41 Broad Street listed in directories

After 1852, when Freeborn’s house at 38/39 is listed as 38, this house is numbered 39/40.
At other times it is listed as 38/39/41 (here the spare number is presumably allocated
to the house in behind the two main houses). Sometimes it is just listed as 41

Date

40

41

1820s

1829:
Henry Walsh

Duke of York

Martha (or Widow) Cooper
(1823, 1829, 1839)

1830s

John Wootten, Physician
(1830, 1846, 1851)

1846

Bought by John Wootten in 1838/9
and merged with No. 40.

Andrew Walsh (independent)
is listed at No. 41 in 1841 census

1847–1866

Henry Wentworth AclandPhysician

John Wootton, Physician (1847)

George Prior (1861)

1866–1900
Henry Wentworth Acland, MD, LLD, FRS
Regius Professor of Medicine (1866–1894)
Honorary physician to HRH the Prince of Wales (1869–1899)

Radcliffe Librarian & Curator of University Galleries (1889–1900)

1902–1910
William Bailie Skene, MA
Treasurer of Christ Church

1911–1921
University of Oxford School of Geography

1923–1936
Acland House
Various departments of the University of Oxford:

Appointments Committee (1923- 1931)
Delegacy of Instruction of Indian Civil Service Candidates (1923–1936)
Adviser to Overseas Students (1923–1927)
Department of Social Anthropology (1923–1936)
Delegacy for Extra-Mural Studies (1924–1927)
Tropical African Services Course (1928–19
Oxford & Cambridge Schools Examination Board (1929–1936)
Delegacy of Lodgings (1932–19)

These two houses were demolished with nine neighbouring houses in 1937
to make room for the New Bodleian Library

J. B. Atlay, in Henry Acland: A Memoir (1903) gives a good description of 40–41 Broad Street:

The old house in Broad Street was in its way unique. It consisted of three houses which had been at some former time joined together. Two of these faced the street, and had lath-and-plaster fronts; the third, at the back, was of much older date, and its walls were over three feet thick.

 It was Dr Acland’s amusement and delight to improve this curious old place until he turned it into a veritable museum, though it always remained what Mrs Acland used to call it, a rabbit-warren. Entering from Broad Street you came into a narrow hall with a Devonshire settle made of walnut and with panelling as a dado on the walls. This panelling continued down the long passage which led to the dining-room and libraries, and the doors of the dining-room were also of walnut and made in the same shops. Out of this narrow hall opened a small room, used as a waiting-room for patients, or for those many people who came on all sorts of errands to the house. The walls of this room were completely covered, chiefly with engravings from portraits….

Out of this little room opened his small consulting-room or study, furnished in the same characteristic manner. Passing down the long passage you came to the first library. As time went on books accumulated everywhere on every sort of subject, down the passage and up the walls, till at least it was all so full that it was a matter of some difficulty to get in or out at all. Beyond this room was another, built originally as an inner sanctum for himself and his wife…

…The stairs to the drawing-room were narrow and steep, but could not be improved owing the presence of a massive chimney-stack…. The drawing-room was a low room with a huge beam running down it…. This room was the centre of the family life….

I have left to the last the dining-room and the garden, into which the former looked; it was in the oldest part of the house, with very thick walls and quaint appearance. On either side of a stone ogival arch cut through the wall was painted in the pre-Raffaelite days, in red letters, the old college “grace” for before and after meat – Benedictus Benedicat: Benedicto Benedicatur….

The garden ran back as far as Trinity Garden Wall, and Dr Acland’s originality and ingenuity were constantly exercised in making it as unlike a square bit of town garden as possible. At the four corners of the little fountain stood four pillars, removed from the Tower of the Five Orders at the Bodleian at the time of its restoration….


See the bound typescript in the Bodleian Library entitled “The Demolished Houses of Broad Street and the Freeborn Family” (1943), attributed to Emily Sarah Freeborn, and the webpage by Alan Simpson which reproduces some of the material in it.

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