Nos. 26–27: Blackwell’s Art & Poster shop

26 & 27 Broad Street

There was a bookshop on this site from 1731 to the 1990s. In 1964 the old bookshop was pulled down by Exeter College and replaced by their Thomas Wood Building, shown above, designed by Brett & Pollen. A new split-level bookshop for Parker’s was incorporated into the design, and it was opened by the Chancellor of the University, Harold Macmillan.

Now adorned with a statue by Antony Gormley

26 Broad Street in mid-nineteenth century

26-27 Broad Street


Left: No. 26 on the corner as it was from 1813 to 1889; right: as it was from 1889 to 1964

During the excavations in 1889 for the erection of the new house on the corner of Turl Street, evidence was found of the ancient Canditch which lay here outside the wall. A considerable heap of leather (about 2ft 9in thick) was found, as well as shoemakers’ knives, and an ornamental book cover.

The former No. 26

This was the corner building on the Turl:

  • It was first built between 1606 and 1610
  • In 1813 it was rebuilt as two tenements
  • In 1889 it was rebuilt again
  • In 1964 was demolished for the third time in 150 years to make way for an Exeter College development

The house was owned by the city, and so the records of leases from 1610 are available. Here are the leases since 1813, when it was two tenements

  • 1813: John Hudson, builder, leased two messuages newly erected by him on a site formerly occupied by George Malbon
  • 1827: John Hudson leased one portion (occupied by Busby) and Harriet Syms, widow, leased the other, which she occupied herself
  • 1841: Alderman Charles James Sadler leased one tenement, and Benjamin Badcock the other one

Sure enough, Sadler is listed in Hunt’s 1846 directory at No. 26, but Badcock is listed at No. 27 (rather than at the second tenement at 26), which upsets subsequent numbering on the south side, and it does not settle down in directories until 1861. Benjamin Badcock, a land agent, is then listed correctly at No. 26 to 1866, and Miss Badcock from 1884 to 1889. The 1881 census shows Miss Sarah Badcock, an annuitant aged 75 (who gave her place of birth as Pyrton Manor House) living there with a 63-year-old general servant. At the back of the house (virtually in Turl Street) was the medical general practitioner Julius Ottaway Sankey with his wife, a “lunatic” boarder, and four servants.

Barnett House


Ottaway had the two portions of No. 26 rebuilt as a new house for himself by Symm’s in 1889, and continued to live there until 1913. It was then converted into Barnett House.

In in its first year (1915) Barnett House was home to the Oxford University Tutorial Classes Committee, the Department of Social Anthropology, and the Agricultural Economic Institute.

In its last year (1936) it housed the Institute for Social & Economic Studies, the Social Training Course for University Certificate, Oxfordshire Rural Community Council, Oxfordshire Federation of Women’s Institutes, the League of Nations Union, and the Oxfordshire Red Triangle Federation of Village Clubs.

No. 26 was taken over by Parker’s next door in 1937, and both were demolished and rebuilt in 1964.

The former No. 27 and the Parker family

This small house (shown on the left of the first two old pictures above) remained virtually unchanged from the time it was built in 1788 until it was demolished in 1964. It belonged to the city, and was leased to the bookseller James Fletcher from 1731 to 1802, to Elizabeth Fletcher from 1802 to 1816, and to Joseph Parker from 1 May 1816.

James Fletcher (formerly partner of James Rivington of St Paul’s Churchyard) came from Salisbury and founded a bookshop here, taking William Hanwell into partnership to form Fletcher & Hanwell.

In 1797, after Fletcher’s death, Hanwell went into partnership with Joseph Parker, who had served his apprenticeship in the book trade with Daniel Prince and whose great-uncle, Sackville Parker, had already established a bookshop at 88 High Street. Joseph Parker (a direct descendant of Samuel Parker, Bishop of Oxford 1686–1688) was matriculated at the University of Oxford as a “bibliopola” on 27 January 1798.

In 1817 Parker is recorded as occupying property both to the east and south of 26 Broad Street, namely No. 27 and Fletcher’s old Turl Street shop (a tiny house, 16 feet square, just inside the city wall). It appears that Parker ran his bookshop in Broad Street and lived in the little Turl Street house.

One of Joseph Parker’s sons became a Vicar, the other a surgeon, so the book business went to his London-born nephew, John Henry Parker. He passed it on to his son, James Parker. In the 1881 census, John H. Parker (75) is listed under Turl Street as a retired publisher, and is living with the next two generations of the firm: James Parker, his son, described as a publisher and bookseller, and James H. Parker, his grandson, who at 18 was still learning the business as a humble publisher’s clerk. Their publisher’s warehouseman also lived with them, plus three other boarders and their cook.

In 1937 Parker’s expanded the shop into No. 26 next door. Both were demolished and rebuilt in 1964.

The rebuilt 1964 shop

The shop continued to be Parker's bookshop for about another thirty years before being taken over by Blackwell's

Exeter College installed a statue by Anthony Gormley on the north-west corner of the roof of the shop on 15 February 2009. 

Occupants of the present shop at 26–27 Broad Street listed in directories





John Henry Parker:
J . H. Parker
, later Parker & Son Ltd, Bookshop


Blackwell’s Art & Poster shop

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