CORNMARKET, OXFORD

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55–58 Cornmarket


55-58 Cornmarket.

The above picture, taken in 2009, shows the building with the vertical fins designed by D. M. C. Ruddick for Littlewood’s in 1964. It replaced the three old shops at Nos. 55–57.


Grimbly Hughes grocer’s shop

Nos. 55–57 were occupied by the famous high-class grocer’s shop of Grimbly & Hughes prior to demolition. Owen Grimbly and James Hughes first opened in 1840 in in No. 56 in the middle of the group. From the late 1850s to the early 1870s, the shop was called Grimbly, Hughes & Dew.

The shop was destroyed by fire in 1857. Jackson’s Oxford Journal of 7 November that year reports (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 have 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 moved back to their Cornmarket premises, but just six years later in 1863 there was a second fire, and the building was razed to the ground, along with No. 55 next door to the north. The front page of Jackson’s Oxford Journal of 16 September that year reads:

THE GREAT FIRE AT OXFORD

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.

In 1864 Grimbly & Hughes was rebuilt, incorporating the sites of both burnt shops, as an enormous five-storey building with a Venetian Gothic front, and counters of mahogany and marble. An advertisement on the front page of Jackson’s Oxford Journal of 22 October 1864 announced that the brand-new shop at 55 and 56 Cornmarket would be opening on the following Saturday.

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

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 demolished the old buildings in 1961 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.

In the Censuses

1841

No. 55: …

No. 56: The grocers Owen Grimbly (27) and James Hughes (2) are 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) is living here with Anne (30) and another surgeon, Charles Parker (30), and two male and one female servants.

1851

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

No. 56: James Hughes, born in Twyford and described as a grocer employing 13 men, is living over the original small Grimbly Hughes shop with is wife Jane (36) and their children Henry Skinner Hughes (6) and James (2 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 a shop (Jonathan S. Browning was now living as a “gentleman” in St Giles’s Fields.

No. 58a: This is occupied by Henry De Brion (39), a Teacher of languages, and his wife Eliza (27), who were both born in Paris, and their London-born son Henry (5). The family had one general servant.

1861

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

No. 56: An unmarried grocer’s clerk, Frederick Hawkes, is described as the head of the household over the Grimbly & Hughes shop. With him live five other male members of the shop’s staff (two grocer’s counterman, a grocer’s warehouseman, a grocer’s clerk, and a grocer’s porter), and 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) is living here with his wife Mary (46), his son Henry (9) and his nephew Robert James (2). They have one domestic servant. At  No. 58½ lives 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 have three house servants.

1881

Nos. 55 & 56: The grocer James J. Hughes (31), son of the co-founder of the Grimbly Hughes business, lives 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: The ironmonger’s shop is again listed as uninhabited.

No. 58: The solicitor Edward W. Hazel (61) is living here with his wife Ann (54). They have two servants (a cook and a housemaid).

Occupants of 55–58 Cornmarket listed in directories etc.

Date

No. 58/58A No. 57 (left) No. 56 No. 55 (right)

1839

T. R. Fisher
Surgeon

J. S. Browning
Ironmonger

 

(was Browning
& Son
in 1823)

Charles Shillingford
Grocer & Provision
Warehouse

John Fretwell
Land agent

1846

Stone & Owen
Surgeons

Cecilia Jane Harper
Teacher of Music

Grimbly & Hughes
Grocers

Charles Davy
Watchmaker

1852

Henry De Briou
French teacher

1861

Henry T. James
Veterinary Surgeon

Thomas Verey
Tailor & woollen draper

1867–
1880

E. W. Hazel (1872)
Solicitor

E. W. Hazel &
Henry Baines
(1872)
Solicitors

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

Rebuilt after 1863 fire

Grimbly, Hughes & Dewe (1867, 1872)
Wholesale and family tea dealers, grocers, provision
merchants, cheese factors, British wine makers,
dealers in wines, and tallow chandlers

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

1890–
1921

Isons, Kidman,
& Watts

Ironmongers

1928–
1956

Grimbly Hughes & Co. Ltd, Grocers & wine merchants

Upstairs: 55: Wenn & Co, Chartered accountants; 58: Hazel & Baines, Solicitors (1932–1956)

1958

A. C. Neilson Co Ltd,
London & Lancashire
Insurance Co. Ltd,
Oxfam

Grimbly Hughes & Co. Ltd
Grocers

1960

A. C. Neilson Co Ltd,
Buckell & Ballard

1964–
1968

Buckell & Ballard

No listing: being rebuilt

1964–
1980

Littlewoods

By 2008–
present

Number lost:
entrance to Crown

McDonalds Phones 4U (EE) Champion Recruitment
(by 1990)
Old pictures on other websites and in books

Photograph of 1863 by Henry Taunt showing the Grimbly Hughes shop at 56 Cornmarket razed to the ground by fire, and people watching the firemen with their small hand-operated pump from behind a barrier

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

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© Stephanie Jenkins

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