Oxford History: The High

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95–101: Rhodes Building, Oriel College


95-101 High Street

The Rhodes Building of 1911 (shown in the above photograph) was designed by Basil Champneys and paid for by a bequest of Cecil Rhodes, who had been an undergraduate at Oriel College. It is a Grade II listed building (List Entry No. 1046662).

There is a statue of Rhodes high up over the main entrance, with Edward VII and George V beneath. The inscription reads:

E:LARGA:MVNIFICENTIA
CAECILII:RHODES

As well as acknowledging Cecil Rhodes’ munificence, the large letters are a chronogram which when shuffled give the date of construction, MDCCCLLVIIIIII.

95-101 High Street

The Rhodes building fills the whole stretch of the High between Magpie Lane and Oriel Street, and seven houses had to be demolished to make room for it: they can be seen in the picture on the left and (from the other direction) here on the English Heritage website.

The new college building was not universally regarded as an enhancement to the street; in his memoirs of 1927, W. E. Sherwood wrote that Oriel had “broken out into the High, … destroying a most picturesque group of old houses in so doing, and, to put it gently, hardly compensating us for their removal”.

This picture of No. 98 (Hedderley’s tobacconist shop) from the English Heritage site shows how charming the old buildings were.

The 1772 Survey of Oxford shows that the shops were occupied as follows: Craddock (95), Morton (96), Court (97), Buck (98), Bayne (99), Johnson (100), and King (101)

The extract from an Oriel College plan of 1814 below shows all the shops between Oriel Street (left) and Magpie Lane (right) that used to stand on this site, and gives the current occupiers, namely (right to left on the plan): Jacks (95), Jubber (96), ?Curl (97), Parsons (98), Baynes (99), ?Tyrer (100), and Treacher (101). Both Baynes and Jubber were still occupying these shops in 1839.

Map of 1814

James Morris in Oxford (1965) writes: “If you are very old indeed, you are probably still fuming about the façade built in the High Street by Oriel College in 1909, which most of us scarcely notice nowadays, but used to be thought an absolute outrage.”

See Edward Impey, “The Rhodes Building at Oriel, 1904–2011: Dynamite or Designate?”, Oxoniensia 76 (2011), 95–104.

Several of the businesses in this row of shops later flourished elsewhere in Oxford:

  • Adamson & Co. Tailors moved across Oriel Street to huge new premises at 102/103 High Street in 1891;
  • Hall Bros Tailors moved to 94 High Street and later to 119;
  • Joseph Vincent moved to 109;
  • The junior photographer James Soame joined up with Gillman to form Gillman & Soame, the photographic firm that still survives today.

The ecclesiastical warehouse based at No. 99 in this row may well have been in the mind of Thomas Hardy when he wrote Jude the Obscure in 1895. Jude’s cousin Sue Bridehead who lived in Oxford was:

an artist or designer of some sort in what was called an ecclesiastical warehouse, which was a perfect seed-bed of idolatry… The shop seemed to be kept entirely by women. It contained Anglican books, stationery, texts, and fancy goods; little plaster angels on brackets, Gothic-framed pictures of saints, ebony crosses that were almost crucifixes, prayer-books that were almost missals.

Occupiers of the site of 95–101 High Street
  Darker background = former buildings on this site, now demolished

Date

95 High St

96 High St

97 High St

98 High St

99 High St

100 High St

101 High St

1839

John Bellman
Hairdresser & Perfumer

Henry Jubber
Pastry cook & confectioner

Charles Feldon
Tailor & Robe maker

Ann Davis
Pastry Cook

John Bayne
Cutler & Baker

Thomas Roberts
Jeweller

James Spiers*
Chemist & druggist

1846

M. R. King
Berlin warehouse

E. T. Spiers
Bookseller

Charles Feldon,
Tailor

Charles W. Robinson
Tailor

Ann Bayne
Cutler

Henry Brown
Chemist & druggist

1876

George P. Day
Bookseller, stationer, & photographer

Flack & Smith
Bootmaker

E. T. Spiers & Co.
Wine & spirit merchants

John King
Tobacconist

Mrs Wells
Berlin and ecclesiastical warehouse

Adamson & Co.
Hosiers, hatters,
& shirt makers

1898

George Richard Beesley

Mrs M. H. Beesley
Milliner

Joseph Vincent
Stationer

Alfred Edwin Hunt
University lodgings

96A & 97: Hall Bros.
Tailors

Mrs Elizabeth Green
University lodgings

William Hedderley (executors of)
Tobacconist, cricketing outfitters, etc.

Mrs Ellen Davis
Ecclesiastical warehouse

Edwin Saunders
Optician

James Soame
jun.
Photographer

James Langley, BA
Solicitor

1908

Miss A. K. Baughan
Milliner

Frank Thomas Long
Cutler

Mrs Elizabeth Green
University lodgings

William Hedderley
Tobacconist, cricket outfitters, etc.

Mrs Ellen Davis
Ecclesiastical warehouse

Edwin Saunders
Optician to the Eye Hospital

James Soame jun.
Photographer

Since
1911

Rhodes Building, Oriel College

* The chemist David Morphew announced in Jackson’s Oxford Journal of 16 December 1832 that he was retiring through ill-health, and that his successor in business would be James Spiers.

©Stephanie Jenkins

Last updated: 3 August, 2016

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