No. 11: House of Secrets (Harry Potter)

No. 11 in 2019

No. 11 was occupied by Thornton’s bookshop from 1870 to 2002. The building dates from about 1800, and is Grade II listed (List Entry No. 1047343).

Joseph Thornton opened his first bookshop in Magdalen Street in 1835, and moved to 51 High Street in 1840. In 1853 he moved back to Magdalen Street, and in 1863 to 10 Broad Street next door to this shop.

In 1870 he moved to No. 11, and his bookshop continued to flourish here as a family firm for over a hundred  years.

In 1772 a survey of every house in the city was taken in consequence of the Mileways Act of 1771. The house then standing on this site was in the occupation of a Mr Sandal, and its frontage measured 5 yards 1 foot 10 inches.

The 1841 census shows the tailor William Wallington at this house. In 1851 the occupant was another William Wallington, his son of 19, described as a tailor and draper, with his 17-year-old brother as his assistant. The two teenage drapers live by themselves in the house with a servant and a lodger.

Wallington junior went bankrupt, and Jackson’s Oxford Journal of 29 August 1857 advertised a sale of his household furniture and stock-in-trade (mostly academic gowns) to be held on the premises two days later.

Thornton’s by Trevor Coppock

The 1881 census shows Joseph Thornton, who was born in Billericay, as the employer of one man and three boys. Aged 72, he was living over this shop with his wife Clara and daughter Lydia (a governess), and one general servant. His son James was managing a bookshop of his own at 33 High Street at this time.

The business remained in the family until 1983, when it was about to go bankrupt. Wim & Scharlie Meeuws of Holdan Books bought it from John (known as “Young Jack”) Thornton, and altered the shop between 1983 and 1985 to meet fire regulations. The Thornton’s name survived on the shop until the business finally moved out on 1 January 2003.

Oxford Mail, 30 November 2001:
Oxford’s oldest bookshop to close down

Thornton’s Bookshop was based at Boars Hill until 2007 and is now at Faringdon, about twenty miles from Oxford.


Right: The old Thornton’s Bookshop in Broad Street
© Trevor Coppock Photography, Auckland, New Zealand

Occupants of 11 Broad Street listed in directories


William Wallington, Tailor


Thomas Harris, Librarian, bookseller, & stationer


Joseph Thornton, New and secondhand bookseller & stationer


Campus Buttery

Buttery Hotel upstairs
from February 2008




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