BROAD STREET, OXFORD

Back
Next

Landmarks in the History of Broad Street

911

The first Oxford city wall was built, leaving the present area of Broad Street outside the city. There was a lane outside the wall, then a deep man-made moat or ditch (known as the Candida Fossa or Canditch). This ran towards the back of the present shops on the south side of Broad Street and on along George Street, thus completing a circuit of flowing water around the city walls

1100–1230

There is archaeological evidence of settlement on a road outside the walls, where Broad Street is now. By 1230 that road was used for a horse market and was known as Horsemonger Lane

c.1263

Beginning of Balliol College, when John de Balliol (as part of his penance for insulting the Bishop of Durham) rented a house outside the city wall (on the site of the present Master’s Lodgings) to maintain some poor scholars

1291

Start of the building of Durham College, founded on the site of the present Trinity College for monks from Durham to live while studying at Oxford. It was set well back from the road, and reached via a narrow lane

c.1325–1650

Horsemonger Lane was known as Canditch

1329–1373

At least seven properties in the street became gardens or waste ground, reflecting the decline in Oxford’s population during this period

1400

Occupation virtually ceased at the east end of the street in the area of the present New Bodleian Library, and did not resume until the seventeenth century

1405

Exeter College formally assumed its present name. At this time its main entrance was to the north, opening out into the lane running beneath the city wall, on the site of the houses now on the south side of Broad Street

1520

The new octagonal chapel of Our Lady at Smith Gate (later to become the shop numbered 29 Broad Street) was built just to the north of New College Lane

By 1551

Turl Street, which had hitherto stopped abruptly at the city wall, was extended by a path (known as “The path leading from the Hole in the Wall”) to reach what is now Broad Street

1555

Nicholas Ridley (Archbishop of London) and Hugh Latimer (Bishop of Worcester) were burnt at the stake just outside the city walls on 16 October, in the area which is now the west end of Broad Street

1556

Thomas Cranmer (Archbishop of Canterbury) was also burnt at the stake here on 21 March

Sir Thomas Pople established Trinity College in the old buildings of Durham College

1591

An inn called the White Mermaid opened on the site of the present White Horse

1600s

The whole northern moat was built over in the seventeenth century, marking the development of Broad Street in its present form. Old houses dating from the middle ages at the north-east end of Broad Street (many of which had been purchased by the city in 1569) were rebuilt; and a middle row of six houses were built in the centre of Broad Street (its eastern end on what is now the Sheldonian Theatre forecourt).

c.1620

Kettell Hall (the large stone house now part of Trinity College) was built

1630s

The south side of Broad Street (to the west of Turl Street) was developed by this time, and John Prideaux, Rector of Exeter College, built an expensive house (worth £400) in the street

Between 1661 and 1675

Smith Gate in Catte Street (on the north side of the junction with New College Lane) was removed, thus allowing easier access to the Broad Street area. Most of the city wall had already disappeared by this time

1664–9

The Sheldonian Theatre, with its back entrance on Broad Street, was built for the University by Sir Christopher Wren

1667

The University bought the leases of the row of houses in the middle of the street and demolished them to improve the view of the Sheldonian

1670s

The row of cottages that now form part of Trinity College were built

1674

Broad Street was made into a “causeway” with the help of contributions from colleges

1679–83

The University’s Ashmolean Museum (now the Museum of the History of Science) was built facing Broad Street

By 1700

Twenty identifiable sites of inns in Broad Street dating from before 1700 can be found

1711–13

The Clarendon Building, for the use of the University Press, was built to the designs of Nicholas Hawksmoor

1722

The Turl Gate just to the north of the junction with St Michael Street was removed, further opening up access to Broad Street from the city

1737

Lord North presented Trinity College with its present main gates

1751

First evidence of the name Broad Street

1767

Henry Keene built the Fisher Buildings at the far western end of Balliol

1771

The Oxford Mileways Act led to the paving and repair of Broad Street, and the widening of it by removing the wall on the south side of Balliol College, “and taking in such part of the garden as shall be necessary”. Balliol lost its entire front forecourt the next year

1833–4

H. J. Underwood built the eastern end of the Exeter College Broad Street buildings

1856–9

George Gilbert Scott built the gateway and tower of Exeter College and the range running west to the present Blackwell’s Music Shop. In 1858 Queen Victoria received a copy of the design for a proposed fountain in memory of Alfred the Great in the road, but it never came to fruition

1867–8

Alfred Waterhouse built the main Broad Street frontage of Balliol College, with gateway and tower, known as the Brackenbury Buildings, and the adjoining Master’s Lodgings

1879

Benjamin Henry Blackwell opened a secondhand bookshop at 50 Broad Street. Blackwell’s was to have a big impact on the street: by the 1990s No. 8 was their children’s bookshop, Nos. 23–25 their music shop, Nos. 26–27 their art and poster shop, Nos. 48-51 their main bookshop, and No. 53 their local bookshop. Of the 31 numbers then still allocated to commercial properties in the street, 18 were thus occupied by Blackwell’s

1882

Start of Phase I of the Indian Institute. The former Seal’s coffee house on the corner of Holywell and the adjoining shop (Nos. 33 & 34 Broad Street) were demolished

1885

Four cottages on Broad Street were incorporated into Trinity College

A cabman’s shelter was erected in the centre of Broad Street, outside Trinity College on 25 July

1885–7

The President’s Lodgings of Trinity College were built on Broad Street by Sir Thomas Graham Jackson, set well back from the road

1892

Start of Phase II of the Indian Institute. The shops at 31 & 32 Broad Street were demolished

1892

Opening of Oxford Electric Company Ltd, which had its central switch station at its offices at 45 Broad Street until 1905

1915

The present William Baker House was built on the corner site

1928

The old houses at 1-5 Broad Street were demolished to make way for Boswell House, a six-storey building comprising a department store for H. Boswell & Co. Ltd, including offices and a restaurant upstairs and two additional small ground-floor shop units (4 & 5 Broad Street) to the left

1927

The kidney pebbles of Broad Street had “not long been removed” at this time (W.E. Sherwood, Reminiscences of Oxford)

1928

The cab- and cart-stand in the centre of Broad Street was given over to car-parking

1931

Report of a University Commission led to the building of the New Bodleian Library, designed by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott, at a cost of £1 million and opened in 1940. Thirteen seventeenth- and eighteenth-century shops and houses were demolished to make way for it

1939

The west end of Broad Street came under threat, this time from the city, who owned the property on the south side of Broad Street, west of the Turl. Leases were due for renewal, and a plan was hatched to replace the row of untidy shops with a modern block, but this did not materialize

1964

Exeter College demolished the old Parker’s bookshop at Nos. 26–27 and built their Thomas Wood Building on the corner of the Broad and the Turl

1966

The Norrington Room of Blackwell’s (named after Sir Arthur Norrington, President of Trinity College) was opened, entering the Guinness Book of Records for having the world’s largest display of books for sale in one room. Situated under the south-east corner of Trinity College, it measures 10,000 square feet and has three miles of shelvin

1970

From 24 February to 2 March the Delegates’ Room in the Clarendon Building was occupied by protesting students

1972

New emperors’ heads were erected outside the Sheldonian Theatre

1999

Oxford Transport Strategy: Bollards were erected at the west end of Broad Street to stop through traffic, and the parking spaces were removed from the centre of the street; but in 2001 half the parking spaces (25) were reinstated

2002

The Museum of the History of Science reopened following improvements funded by a £1.6m Lottery grant. Its basement was been excavated to provide an exhibition gallery, education room, and library, which extend under Broad Street itself

2009

Antony Gormley statue erected on roof at Turl Street corner on 15 February

Oxford History Home

Stephanie Jenkins

Broad Street Home