CORNMARKET, OXFORD

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37 Cornmarket Street: University Gift Shop


37 Cornmarket.

This building has always been in the parish of St Michael-at-the-Northgate Church. The original building on this site was known as Shoemakers' Hall: in 1596 Oxford City Council granted the Cordwainers a lease of the Town Wall against their older tenement here “to build their house, upon which the eves to drop into the Town Ditch and to build their stairs and chimneys in the same wall”. By 1604 they had rebuilt their premises and pulled down the portion of the city wall against which the house had been built, erecting a new wall four feet to the north. (For later leases up to 1771, see Salter, Oxford City Properties, pp. 248–9.)

Soon after 1771 the house was pulled down by order of the Commissioners under the Paving Act and rebuilt further back.

By 1891 this building had in turn been pulled down, and was replaced by the present building.

Charles Underhill's grocery shop

Thomas Tubb was a grocer here from at least 1839 to 1854, when he relinquished the business to Charles Underhill. On 1 April 1854 Underhill announced in Jackson's Oxford Journal that as soon as alterations to these premises were complete he would move here and close his former business at 11 Beaumont Street.

By the time of the 1861 census Underhill had moved to live privately at Diamond Villa in South Parade with his new second wife and five of his children, leaving his 18-year-old grocer son Charles Maitland Underhill and his 17-year-old daughter living over this shop with a housekeeper. For pictures of the inside and outside of Underhill’s shop in 1891, and a circular letter and catalogue for 1893, see Michael L. Turner and David Vaisey, Oxford Shops and Shopping, pp. 24–5, photographs 44–48.

Charles Underhill died in 1903, and his son Charles Maitland Underhill continued to run the business here at 37 Cornmarket until his own death on 20 January 1924. He had no sons, and the business closed down.

Since 1928

Dunn & Co Hatters had moved into the shop by 1928, with the Royal Insurance Company upstairs. In 1960 the latter took over the whole building, and remained until the 1980s, when the Woolwich Building Society moved in.

Occupants of 37 Cornmarket Street listed in directories etc

1839–1854

Thomas William Tubb, Grocer (& Tallow Chandler in 1839)

1854–1924

Charles Underhill, Grocer and general provision merchant

1925–1958

Dunn & Co., Hatters

+ Royal Insurance Co. Ltd (1928)
and (1936-1956): George Mallam solicitor

1960–1980+

Royal Insurance Co. Ltd. (later Royal Insurance Group)

1985–2007

Woolwich Equitable Building Society (later Woolwich PLC)

2008–2017

Virgin Media

2017–present

The University Gift Shop

37 Cornmarket Street in the censuses

1841

Two grocer’s shopmen and a female servant lived upstairs in Thomas Tubb’s shop.

1851

Two servants of the head of the household (i.e. the grocer Thomas Tubb) were at home on census night: Samuel Dickinson (18) and Robert Forester (23), described as a grocer’s shopmen. There was also a housekeeper.

1861

Charles Maitland Underhill (18), a grocer’s assistant and head of the household, lived here with his 17-year-old sister Harriett Roffey Underhill and a female servant

1871

Charles Maitland Underhill (28), now grocer & wine merchant, lived over his shop with his wife Louisa (22) and one servant. A grocer's shopman boarded with them.

1881

The shop was still Charles Maitland Underhill’s grocery shop, but he now lived in Warnborough Road and evidently let out the accommodation upstairs, which was occupied by David Martin (28), an auctioneer & valuer, and his wife Mary (24). They had a housemaid and kitchenmaid.

1891

Listed as being unoccupied, but with rooms over a shop in New Inn Hall Street (as St Michael's Street was called before New Inn hall Street was extended northwards as far as George Street in 1872).

1901

Described as uninhabited but in occupation: probably part of the grocer's shop below.

1911

No listing.

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