Oxford History: The High


61: Magdalen Gate House

Magdalen Gate House: front

Magdalen Gate House: side

Despite the fact that it actually faces Rose Lane and overlooks the Botanic Garden, Magdalen Gate House, which was built in 1802, was deemed to be in the High Street and is today numbered 61. Its attractive Georgian façade (left) faces east, giving visitors approaching Oxford the benefit of its front view; but all that most people notice is its rather dark and unwelcoming side (right). It is owned and used by Magdalen College

It is a Grade II* listed building (List Entry No. 1047287), and its walls and gate piers are Grade II listed (1369363).

From the 1830s to 1898 (when the number 60 was reassigned to the end house on the north side of the road), Magdalen Gate House was divided into two and the sections were numbered 60 and 61 High Street.

Until the nineteenth century, three houses or shops stood on this site, and the 1772 Survey of Oxford showed that they were then occupied by Mr Watson, Mr Lewis, and Mrs Hoddington.

The current house was built in 1802 for Thomas Roberson (Oxford’s Town Clerk from 1825 to 1839). He went bankrupt in 1812, and as a result the property was sold to the Revd John Cooke, the President of Corpus Christi College.

Cooke gave the property to Dr George Williams (Fellow of Corpus Christi College and Sherardian Professor of Botany from 1796 to 1834) on 1 January 1816. The Revd W. Tuckwell, recalling the 1820s in his Reminiscences of Oxford, wrote, “… the nondescript residence built by Daubeny had not then risen, and the Professor, Dr Williams, lived in the large house facing Rose Lane.”

Dr Williams, who died on 17 January 1834, bequeathed this house to the Loring family, who appear to have divided it into two sections (originally numbered 60 and 61) and let it out. On 30 November 1859 Magdalen College bought it from Lady Loring and the Revd H. N. Loring and gave it the name of Magdalen Gate House, and continued to let it for many years.

At the time of the 1851 census, the main part of the house was occupied by the Revd Vaughan Thomas, aged 74, the Vicar of Yarnton, and his wife (looked after by a butler, cook, housemaid, and footman). Mrs Elizabeth Penson, aged 68, described as a “House Proprietor” lived in the smaller part of the house with her daughter Elizabeth and one servant, and they were both still living there thirty years later in 1881.

In 1861, the main part of the house was occupied by the physician Richard Giles and his servants; he was still here in 1871..

In 1898 Magdalen Gate House appears to have been turned back into one house, numbered 61, and in 1901 it was occupied by Charles Cannon, Secretary to the Delegates of the Oxford University Press, and his wife, three daughters, and six servants.

The Oxford University Radio Society met in the Magdalen Gate House in the 1960s.

Occupants of 61 High Street


60 High Street: Magdalen Gate House

61 High Street

By 1846–1852+

Revd Vaughan Thomas, BD, Vicar of Yarnton

Mrs Elizabeth Penson (to 1892)


R. Giles, M.D.*


S. D. Darbishire, M.D.


Edward Chapman, MA, FLS, JP


Edward Chapman, MA, FLS, JP

Office of the Oxford Educational Bureaux


Charles Cannan MA, Tutor of Trinity College

Miss Quilter


Charles Cannan MA, Tutor and junior Bursar of Trinity College


Stephen Grosvenor Lee, MA
Fellow, tutor in Modern History, and Senior Dean of Arts, Magdalen College


Horace Bradley (in 1949 only)
thereafter Magdalen College annexe

* Listed in the 1871 directory as living at No. 61, suggesting that Nos. 60 and 61 were indeed part of the same house.

©Stephanie Jenkins

Last updated: 3 August, 2016

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