Oxford History: The High


123: Phase Eight

123 Phase Eight

No. 123 is on the corner of Alfred Street. It was built in 1790 on the site of the Bear Inn (formerly the Tabard), but was largely rebuilt in the nineteenth century. It is a Grade II listed building (List Entry No. 1145862).


In 1772 a survey of every house in the city was taken in consequence of the Mileways Act of 1771. A single house then stood on the site of Nos. 123 and 124: it was in the occupation of a Mr Brockis, and its double frontage measured 14 yards 2 feet 4 inches.


From at least the 1830s to 1864 there was a tailor’s shop here, although Oxford’s first Post Office occupied the ground floor of No. 123 in the early 1840s.

John Parsons had taken over from Joseph Warne as tailor and hatter here by the time of the 1841 census, but he only occupied the upstairs part of the building, and the front and back rooms downstairs comprised Oxford’s main post office.

On the morning of Sunday 13 March 1842 a serious fire started in this building (reported in Jackson’s Oxford Journal of 19 March 1842), “completely destroying the Post Office and rooms above, Mr. Parsons’s shop”. The Post Office moved to the Town Hall and never returned.

Parsons, Mr Warne junior, Mr Rainsford, and their servant all “narrowly escaped with their lives, and almost in a state of nudity”. It is probably around this time that Parsons built “The Lawn” for himself in Banbury Road (now part of St Hugh’s College). He continued to run his draper’s business in this shop, but in c.1850 went into partnership with Foster & Co next door.

At the time of the 1851 census Charles Foster lived over his pair of shops at 123 and 124 High Street with his wife and seven young children, a tailor’s clerk, three general servants, a governess, and an errand boy.

In about 1860 Parsons went into trade as a wine merchant at 134 High Street, and the shop was taken over completely by Foster’s.

Charles Foster was still living over Nos. 123 and 124 in 1861. By 1871 he was also occupying the upstairs of No. 125, and lived over the three properties with his wife and five children, and their four servants.

Together with 124 and 125, this building is not properly marked on the 1876 map of Oxford and was unoccupied at the time of the 1881 census, suggesting that major rebuilding work was taking place.

Foster & Co. had started business next door in No. 124 before 1839, but this is the shop to which they retreated in 1895. Their advertisement on the front page of the very first edition of the Oxford Times of 6 September 1862 reads:

Desire respectfully to acknowledge the great and increasing Patronage with which they have been favoured by the Members of the University and by the Residents in the City and County, and beg to intimate that their large and extending Business enables them to offer for inspection, a larger and more extensive collection of Materials for GENTLEMEN’s CLOTHING, than can be elswhere presented in the County.

Their Stock now includes a great variety of SCOTCH, IRISH, WEST OF ENGLAND, and other NEW FABRICS and PATTERNS, specially adapted for Complete and durable Suits, which are made up in good style and very cheap.

First-rate skill in Cutting, Good Materials, and the Best Workmanship, will be combined with strict moderation in price.


Occupiers of 123 High Street


Joseph Warne, Tailor, Mercer, & Hatter


John Parsons, Tailor & hatter

(also Oxford’s main Post Office to March 1842)


Parsons & Foster, Hatters, mercers, and tailors (and at 124)

Before 1861–1939

Foster & Co., Tailors, robe makers, and Indian outfitters
(This became their main shop, but they also occupied Nos. 124 and 125 in the nineteenth century)


Alkit Ltd, Tailors



By 1998–1999

Jumpers Ltd.


Phase Eight

©Stephanie Jenkins

Last updated: 7 November, 2016

The High home Small Shark Oxford History home