Oxford History: The High


24–31: Brasenose College new buildings

Brasenose College

These Brasenose College buildings that face the High Street are not as old as they look: they were designed by the well-known later Victorian architect T. G. Jackson. The three bays on the left in the above picture date from 1911, and the tower and the four bays to the right from 1887.

Both parts are Grade II listed (1911 section List Entry No. 1046736, 1887 section 1046735).

The boundary of All Saints' and St Mary's parishes lies between Nos. 27 and 28.

First part of Brasenose building

Brasenose demolished seven shops and Amsterdam Court in order to build its New Quadrangle stretching down to the High. The picture on the left shows the same scene before 1911, when only four of the seven bays were built.

At the time of the 1851 census Jane Ryman (her husband apparently absent for the night) lived over Nos. 24 and 25 with two servants. Ryman’s, who had occupied Nos. 24 and 25 since before 1846, retreated into No. 23 when their old pair of shops was demolished by Brasenose College in 1909.

Edward Bracher the photographer lived over No. 26 with his wife, two little children and two servants. At the age of 14, Henry Taunt, the famous Victorian/Edwardian photographer, started his photographic career here with Bracher. In c.1865 Bracher sold the business to Wheeler & Day and it was transferred to 106 High Street, but Taunt remained at No. 26 as their photographic manager for a short period. By 1866, however, the shop had been taken over by R. E. Farrant, a turner and brushman, and Taunt had moved to a shop of his own in Cornmarket. In 1874 he moved to 9–10 Broad Street, but moved back to the High Street in 1894 when the lease ran out, spending a year or so at No. 41 and then moving to No. 34.

Edward Bracher’s photographic business was purchased by Wheeler & Day, Booksellers, in 1865 and transferred to 106 High Street.

Mrs Susan Tester (whose husband also seems to have been away) lived over No. 27 with her son (a partner in the family fishmonger business), two daughters, and a servant. The Testers, who had started business in this shop before 1836 remained there until it was demolished in 1876. Their family tomb is in the churchyard of All Saints, and reads:

Samuel Tester, died 1 May 1879, aged 86. Susan wife of Samuel Tester died 20 April 1854, aged 67. John son of Samuel & Susan Tester, died 16 August 1845, aged 27. Elizabeth Whiting, daughter of Samuel & Susan Tester, died 25 October 1880 aged 58 years. Also Robert, son of Samuel & Susan Tester, died 30 March 18– aged 68 years.

English Heritage: This group of houses being demolished

English Heritage: 26–31 from west, 1887

Amsterdam Court
Amsterdam Court (or simply “Amsterdam” as it is usually described in directories) was a narrow passage which ran between 25 and 26 High Street until 1911. Originally it stretched back almost to Lincoln College, but in the 1820s Brasenose cut it off roughly level with its chapel. It now lies under the west side of the New Quadrangle, and the passage between Staircases XI and XII is called Amsterdam in its memory. Anthony Wood first mentions Amsterdam in May 1667, and in July 1671 he writes of two visiting Benedictine monks, “Their lodging was in Allsaints parish, in the back-side housing called Amsterdam.”

English Heritage: Amsterdam Court area from east, 1908

The detail from an 1814 Oriel College plan below shows the shops that once stood on this site. On the left is No. 25 (Sewell), next to the entrance to Amsterdam Court, and after the gap comes No. 26 (Cox), and No. 27 (Tester),: all three are still listed at these shops in Robson’s Directory of 1839. Then come No. 28 (Spiers), No. 29 (Barrett), No. 30 (the Lodgings of the Principal of Brasenose College), and 31 (Sindry) in front of the Oxford Arms pub in St Mary’s passage.

Brasenose shops

Occupiers of the site, 1814–1911
Darker background = former buildings on this site, now demolished


 High St


26 High St


28 High St

29 High St

30 High St

31 High St


William Sawell

Frederick Cox
Ladies’ shoe maker

Samuel Tester



Lodgings of Principal of Brasenose College



Edward Standen
Mercer & Shirtmaker


Mrs Elizabeth Hickman


James Ryman

Charles Maltby
Boot & shoemaker

Mrs K. Standen


James Ryman
Carver & gilder, Printseller

Edward Bracher

Catherine Sirman Standen
Hatter, mercer & tailor later Standen & Co.

Smith Bridges
Stationer & fancy warehouseman
Mrs Bridges

Richard J. Hansard
Surgeon (1852)

Henry Carter (1861)


James Ryman
Printseller, publisher, & frame maker

Mrs Winfield
Berlin wool repository

W. H. Gee
Secondhand bookseller

Edward Bassett
Hair cutter & stationer

Standen & Co.
Tailors & robe makers


Ryman & Co.
Print sellers & publishers

Miss A. E. Stew
Berlin wool repository

1887 extension to
Brasenose College




1911 extension to
Brasenose College

©Stephanie Jenkins

Last updated: 3 August, 2016

The High home Small Shark Oxford History home