55–58 Cornmarket Street: EE and McDonald's

55-58 Cornmarket

This building with vertical fins was designed for Littlewood’s in 1964 by D. M. C. Ruddick. It replaced the three shops at Nos. 57, 56, & 55 Cornmarket Street, and offices at No. 58.

These buildings were in the parish of St Martin's (Carfax) until that church was demolished in 1896, whereafter they were in the parish of St Martin's & All Saints until All Saints Church was deconsecrated in 1971. The shops are now in the parish of St Michael-at-the-Northgate.

The photograph below shows these shops in the 1940s. On the left, next to the present Greggs building, is the entrance to the Crown Inn, with offices above: the name of the London & Lancashire Insurance Company can be seen upstairs. Then comes the grocer's shop Grimbly Hughes occupying Nos. 57, 56 & 55, and then the present Barclays Bank building on the right.

55 to 58 in 1940s

Grimbly Hughes grocer’s shop

Nos. 55–57 were occupied by the famous high-class grocer’s shop of Grimbly & Hughes prior to demolition in about 1960.

This firm initially only occupied No. 56 in the middle of the group. On 11 January 1840 the grocer Charles Shillingford announced in Jackson's Oxford Journal that he had disposed of his business in that shop to Owen Grimbly and James Hughes, then two young men in their early twenties.

On 31 January 1857 they announced that they had taken George Dewe into partnership, and from then until 1880 the business was called Grimbly, Hughes & Dew.

The first fire of 1857

This building suffered a fire on the morning of 30 October 1857, and rather surprisingly the shop reopened temporarily in a few days. Jackson’s Oxford Journal of 7 November that year reported (p. 4f):

Messrs Grimbly, Hughes, and Dewe, in again expressing their gratitude to their Neighbours, Members of the University, and the Public generally, for the assistance rendered them in extinguishing the alarming Fire which occurred on their Premises on Friday, Oct. 30, beg to give notice that they had resumed their Family and Retail Business at No. 56 Corn Market, and the Wholesale at the Warehouse lately occupied by Messrs. Lowe and Heydon, No. 27 Saint Aldate’s (opposite Christ Church).

They had to close down for a period however, announcing in Jackson's Oxford Journal on 4 September 1858 that they had rebuilt their premises and were reopening the following Saturday.

The second fire of 1863

In the early hours of the morning on Sunday 20 September 1863 there was a second serious fire. It started at No. 55, which together with No. 54 to the north was completely burnt down, while the Grimbly Hughes shop here to the south at Nos. 56 was irreparably damaged, as well as No. 57 on the other side:

The front page of Jackson’s Oxford Journal of 16 September that year reads:


Messrs Grimbly, Hughes, and Dewe, with feelings of the deepest gratitude, earnestly return thanks to their numerous friends and inhabitants of the City for the great assistance rendered by them in removing Stock and endeavouring to extinguish the fire, which consumed a great part of their Premises on the morning of Sunday last.

Grimbly, Hughes, and Dewe temporarily moved their shop into the new part of the Covered Market, and their offices into 134 High Street.

The new shop of 1864

In 1864 three five-storey buildings designed by William Wilkinson replaced 55 & 56 Cornmarket and 57 & 58 Cornmarket, as well as No. 54 to the north. Grimbly, Hughes, & Dewe expanded to take on 55 as well as 56 Cornmarket. Their new shop was described thus in Jackson's Oxford Journal of 15 October 1864:

The disastrous fire in Cornmarket Street has brought about the erection of a very imposing range of buildings by Messrs Grimbly, Hughes, and Dewe [No. 55 & 56], Mr Wyatt [No. 54] and Ald. Browning [No. 57]. The premises erected for Messrs. Grimbly, which occupy the site of the former shop and the adjoining one rented by Mr. Verey, are very generally admired. The width is 46 feet, and the height to the top of the gables 60 feet, and the façade is an extremely imposing one. The building is of red brick, with Bath stone dressings. The ground floor presents four fine pointed arches, of Bath and Hornton stone, the columns being of Aberdeen granite and the bases of Cornish granite. The shop is 30 feet by 27, and about 17 feet in height. There are also spacious warehouses (the largest 56 by 35 feet), the ceiling being supported by iron columns, lavatory, clerks' offices, &c. On the first floor are ware and store rooms and domestic apartments, the shafts of the window arches being of Hornton and red Mansfield stone, and an ornamental balcony runs the whole length of this storey. The second and third floors are devoted to bed-rooms for the assistants, &c., the top storey commanding in front a fine view of Colleges and Churches, and in the rear an extensive view of the Berkshire hills. The premises at the back, which escaped the fire, have been rearranged, and the basement comprises some spacious cellarage. The architect is Mr. Wilkinson, of Beaumont Street, and the contractor is Mr. Jones. 

An advertisement on the front page of that newspaper on 22 October 1864 announced that the brand-new shop at 55 and 56 Cornmarket would be opening on the following Saturday.

Grimbly Hughes (as the shop was known again from 1881) was one of the first businesses in Oxford to get a telephone line installed, and in 1895 they had the simple phone number 4.

In c.1930 Grimbly & Hughes took over the ironmonger’s shop to the south which had been occupied by the ironmonger J. S. Browning and his family from at least the 1820s to 1880, and thereafter by Isons, Kidman & Watts.

  • For a photograph of Grimbly Hughes decorated with flags for the 1935 Silver Jubilee, see Malcolm Graham and Laurence Waters, Oxford Yesterday and Today, p. 14

In 1959 the board of Grimbly & Hughes decided to sell the premises, and in August that year an offer of £450,000 was made by Littlewood’s, who in 1961 demolished the old buildings in order to build their new store.

The Grimbly & Hughes business was taken over by Jackson’s of Piccadilly in 1959, and in 1961 it moved to 35 Queen Street, but could not compete with supermarkets, and finally closed in 1963.

Occupants of 55–58 Cornmarket Street listed in directories etc.


Rooms over
No. 57's warehouse
(notionally 58/58A)

No. 57 (left) No. 56 No. 55 (right)

Before 1839


Occupied by
James Browning in 1818



Described as
Browning & Son
in 1823



Jonathan Samuel


Charles Shillingford
Grocer & Provision
(from 1837)



T. R. Fisher

John Fretwell
Land agent


Stone & Owen

Cecilia Jane Harper
Teacher of Music

Grimbly & Hughes

(rebuilt in 1857 after fire)

Charles Davy


Henry De Briou
French teacher


Henry T. James
Veterinary Surgeon

Thomas Verey
Tailor & woollen draper


E. W. Hazel (1872)

E. W. Hazel &
Henry Baines

Hazel & Baines
Solicitors (1890)
Edward Wells Hazel
Henry Baines

Rebuilt after 1863 fire

Grimbly, Hughes & Dewe (1867–1880)
Wholesale and family tea dealers, grocers, provision
merchants, cheese factors, British wine makers,
dealers in wines, and tallow chandlers

Grimbly, Hughes, & Co. (from 1880)
Wholesale grocers, tea dealers, provision
and wine merchants, and cheese factors


Isons, Kidman,
& Watts



Numerous listings
in the offices, including:
55: Wenn & Co,
Chartered accountants;
58: Hazel & Baines,

Grimbly Hughes & Co. Ltd


A. C. Neilson Co Ltd

London & Lancashire
Insurance Co. Ltd



A. C. Neilson Co Ltd

Buckell & Ballard


Buckell & Ballard

No listing: being rebuilt








Haagen Daz


By 2008–

Phones 4U

55–58 Cornmarket Street in the censuses


No. 55: …

No. 56: The grocers Owen Grimbly (27) and James Hughes (20) were living here with Martha Grimbly (30) and two lodgers, two apprentices, three grocer’s shopmen, and two male and three female servants.

No. 57: …

No. 58: The surgeon Thomas Fisher (25) lived here with Anne (30) and another surgeon, Charles Parker (30), and two male and one female servants.


No. 55: The jeweller Charles Davey (40) lived here with his wife Caroline (30), and their children Jane (4) and Charles (3). They had one female servant.

No. 56: James Hughes, born in Twyford and described as a grocer employing 13 men, lived over the original small Grimbly Hughes shop with his wife Jane (36) and their children Henry Skinner Hughes (6) and James (two months), and Hughes’s sister Jane (22). Also living over the shop with the family are eight members of staff at the shop (five grocer’s shopmen, one grocer’s apprentice, a grocer’s porter, and a candle pounder) and three domestic servants (a cook, housemaid, and nurserymaid).

No. 57: Described as “uninhabited”, which implies that the whole building was used as an ironmonger's shop. (The proprietor Jonathan Samuel Browning was living as a “gentleman” in his mansion in St Giles’s Fields.)

No. 58a: Henry De Brion (39), a teacher of languages, lived here with his wife Eliza (27), who were both born in Paris, and their London-born son Henry (5). They had one general servant.


No. 55: The tailor & woollen draper Thomas Verey (38) lived over the shop with his wife Clara (30) and his children Alice (5), Thomas (3), and Clara (11 months). They had a female house servant aged 13.

No. 56: Six male grocer's assistants aged from 18 to 32 lived here over the Grimbly Hughes shop (two countermen, a s warehouseman, two clerks, and a porter), looked after by a housekeeper and a housemaid.

No. 57: No one listed again, so no one was sleeping at the premises.

No. 58: The veterinary surgeon Henry T. James (40) lived here with his wife Mary (46), his son Henry (9) and his nephew Robert James (2). They had one domestic servant. At  No. 58½ lived the ironmonger James T. Browning (28), who is the owner’s eldest son, with his wife Hannah (26) and his children Allen (2) and Gertrude (1). They had three house servants.


Nos. 55 & 56: The grocer George Dewe (40), a partner in Grimbly Hughes & Dewe, lived over the shop with his children Alice (7) and William (3), plus a cook, a nursemaid, and a house boy. Ten assistants also lived over the shop: four clerks, two warehousemen, four countermen.

No. 57: Listed as uninhabited: probably part of the ironmonger's shop below.

No. 58: Edward Hazel (51), solicitor, lived here with his wife Ann (44) and their cook and housemaid.


Nos. 55 & 56: The grocer James J. Hughes (31), son of the co-founder of the Grimbly Hughes business, lived over the combined new shop with his wife Eliza (29). (Back in the 1871 census, when he was living at Woodlawn in Park Town with his parents, he had been described as a “Law student”.) Living over the shop with the couple are seven male grocer’s assistants and an errand boy, and two female domestic servants.

No. 57: Uninhabited: probably part of the ironmonger's shop below.

No. 58: Edward W. Hazel (61), a solicitor, lived here with his wife Ann (54). They had two servants (a cook and a housemaid).


Nos. 55 & 56: Alfred Fitch (46), a wholesale grocer's manager, lived over the Grimbly Hughes shop with his wife Sarah (36) and their children Alfred (15), Florence (13), Sidney (9), and Reginald (5). They had two servants (a cook and a housemaid).

No. 57: Uninhabited: probably part of the ironmonger's shop below.

No. 58: Edward Hazel (71), a solicitor, lived here with his wife Ann (64) and two domestic servants.


Nos. 55 & 56: Emanuel Goodman (31), a grocer's assistant, lived here over Grimbly Hughes with two boarders (also grocer's assistants) and a caretaker and housekeeper.

No. 57: Listed as uninhabited but occupied: part of the ironmonger's shop below.

No. 58: Albert Walters (32), a blacksmith, lived here over the solicitors' office with his wife Edith (32), a caretaker, and their daughter Edith (10).


Nos. 55 & 56: Emanuel Seymour (41), a grocer's assistant, lived in five rooms over the Grimbly Hughes shop with his wife Emily (32).

No. 57: No census sheet: part of the ironmonger's shop below.

No. 58: Albert John Walters (42), a hot water fitter, lived in four rooms over the solicitor's office with his wife Edith (42) and their daughters Edith (20), who was a shop assistant, and Mabel (9).

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