Oxford History: The High


102: Brora and & 103: Toast

102 & 103

No. 102 (on the corner of Oriel Street) and No. 103 next door to the west were built in about 1714 by William Ives, a wealthy mercer. The pair of houses are jointly Grade II listed (List Reference No. 1047251), and from at least 1834 to 1964 were a single shop. They have always been in the parish of St Mary-the-Virgin.

No. 102 is grander than its three neighbours to the west, as its high ceilings mean that it has only three floors to their four. Its window on the first floor has an ionic column on each side,

102 and 103 in 1814


The 1772 Survey of Oxford shows that Mr Towsey occupied No. 102 (which had a frontage of 4 yards 2 ft 9 in) and Mr Stevens No. 103 (with a frontage of 6 yards 2ft 9 in).


Mr Costar, a grocer, had a lease on Nos. 102 and 103 in 1799 and 1818, but he appears to have let the two shops, as they are marked as occupied by West and Loder respectively on the Oriel College plan of 1814 shown on the left.

William Loder, a perfumer hair dresser, stationer, cutler, and china & glass warehouseman had No. 103. He was in partnership with John Gunner until 9 October 1835, then intended to continue on his own, but he died at the age of 43 in May the following year. His widow Sarah Loder then took over the shop, and Willilam Loder junior by 1846. The latter transferred the business to 20 High Street, and Spiers at No. 102 was able to expand into this shop.

Richard J. Spiers took possession of No. 102 on 6 March 1834. The Revd W. Tuckwell, in his Reminiscences of Oxford describes the shop in the 1830s:

In 1835 the house of Wood, the apothecary, at the entrance to Skimmery Hall Lane [Oriel Street], was translated into Spiers’, now itself extinct, but for nearly sixty years inseparable from Oxford life, better served and more artistic in its merchandise than any shop in England. Its display of papier mâché and of ceramic ware, surrounding a beautiful cardboard model of the Martyrs’ Memorial, was one of the features in the 1851 Exhibition.

At the time of the 1841 census George Burbridge occupied Spiers's shop at No. 102 (Spiers himself lived in a private house in St John Street), while William Loder, the perfumer at No. 103, lived over his shop with his wife Elizabeth, a child called Matilda Martin, a couple called Thomas and Mary Smith, and three servants.

In the early or mid-1840s Spiers took over the much larger shop at No. 103 next door and henceforth his business operated from both Nos. 102 and 103.

Hunt’s Directory for 1846 has two advertisements for Spiers: one is for ornamental hair, and the other lists some of the novelties for sale, namely: writing desks; inkstands; envelope cases; blotting portfolios; cases of French writing paper; card cases; memorandum tablets; ornamental paper cutters; glove boxes; work boxes, dressing cases; musical boxes of all sizes; richly ornamented papier mâché goods, with views of Oxford; silver baskets, card cases, and vinaigrettes, with views of Oxford in relief; bagatelle tables; chessmen and boards; mantelpiece and drawing-room ornaments, in French porcelain, Bohemian glass, bronze, &c.

At the time of the 1851 census, the upstairs premises of Nos. 102 and 103 were occupied by Spiers’ employees, headed by William Harvey, the manager of the shop, and his wife. There were also three counting house clerks, two shopmen, a stationer’s apprentice, and a general servant.

In 1861, the upstairs of the two shops was occupied by three employees: the accountant William Sylvester, who described himself as the supervisor; cabinet goods salesman; and a china salesman.

In 1871 the upstairs premises were occupied by Spiers's manager and commercial clerk Alfred Bannister and his wife.

Spiers' shop at 102

The picture of Spiers’ shop at 102/103 High Street shown above was drawn by Cuthbert Bede for his book The Adventures of Mr Verdant Green, published in 1853. Verdant is taken in by the joke that Wordsworth wrote “Oh ye Spires of Oxford” in praise of the shop, which shows how the name Spiers was pronounced. Mr Green ended up buying the following “remembrances of Oxford”: a fire-screen to be prepared with the family coat of arms for his father; another with a view of the High for his aunt; a netting-box, card-case, and a model of the Martyrs’ Memorial for his three sisters; and a paper-knife for himself.

In 1891 Nos. 102 and 103 (together with Nos. 1, 2, and 3 Oriel Street) were fitted out specially as a large tailor’s shop for Messrs Adamson. Jackson’s Oxford Journal for 17 October 1891 (p. 8b) reports that the work was done by Knowles & Son, directed by the Surveyor to Oriel College, the owners of the property. The premises were divided into business and domestic sections, the sanitary arrangements were overhauled, and a water heating system and baths were fitted. The premises were also redecorated and electric bells installed.

Photograph showing 102 & 103 High Street in 1959, occupied by Adamson Tailors

Occupiers of 102 & 103 High Street


No. 102

No. 103

Prior to 1835


William Loder (1814): in partnership with
  John Gunner until 1835
Sarah Loder (1839)
William Loder (1846)
China & glass dealer


Spiers & Son
Stationers, desk & dressing-case makers,
and general fancy warehousemen


By 1847–1890

Spiers & Son
Stationers, desk & dressing-case makers, and general fancy warehousemen


Adamson & Co.
Tailors [also occupied 1–3 Oriel Street]





Thomas Cook & Son Ltd., Travel agents


Greenaway & Morris, Photographic dealers


Morris Photographic Centre


Andrews Estate Agents
(Upstairs 1992–2000: Opportunity Trust)





©Stephanie Jenkins

Last updated: 29 June, 2021

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