Oxford History: The High


130A: Chiang Mai Kitchen (former Kemp Hall)

Chiang Mai

This building, down a passage at the left-hand side of No. 130 High Street, is the original Kemp Hall. It is shown here on the left, looking up towards the High Street. Today it is numbered 130A, but in the past the building has variously been numbered 129 or 129A.

It is a Grade II* listed building (List Entry No. 1145872) belonging to Oxford City Council. It was in the parish of All Saints until that church was deconsecrated in 1971.

According to Anthony Wood, “Kemp Hall” was an early university hall named after John Kemp, Archbishop of Canterbury, who studied there.

Alderman William Boswell, who lived at  130 High Street, built the present Kemp Hall in his back garden in 1637, and this date remains over the doorway

Carter’s passage

Right: Kemp Hall in 1835, looking down from the High Street. The alleyway was at this time known as Carter’s Passage, after the fishmonger at No. 130.

The building that can be seen at the end of the alleyway was built in 1611, but has not survived

In 1870 Kemp Hall was altered by Honour & Castle for use as a police station. Jackson’s Oxford Journal in October 1870 reported:

The headquarters of the Oxford City Police are now transferred to Kemp Hall, High Street…. The premises, though rather out of the way, being down a passage, are central, and in the rear of the Town Hall having communication with the Superintendent’s residence, and with the City Court. On the ground floor is a spacious office and library (the books for which remain to be contributed) and above are dormitories for 14 constables. Inspector Barratt and P. S. Barrows will live on the premises. There are three good lock-up cells, in one of which are the remains of old carvings; also cellars and necessary appurtenances.

The police station is not listed in directories until 1880, after the closure of the University Book Rooms.

When the new Town Hall complex was finished in 1897 the police moved to purpose-built premises in Blue Boar Street, but the alleyway leading to Kemp Hall was still known as Blue Lamp Alley in 1937, forty years after the police had left.

From 1906 to 1925 the building was occupied by the Kemp Hall Press, and it was not until 1928 that it became a place to eat. Mrs Daisy Hoare opened tea rooms there that year, but by 1930 she and her business had gone up in the world: she was Mrs D. Hoare MBE, and the tea rooms were now the Kemp Hall Restaurant, with the telephone number 3458. By 1947 there was a new proprietor, S. R. Crawley, and the cuisine was “Anglo-Chinese”.

By 1962 the restaurant had gone Indian, and was called the Moti Mahal. But its most famous period began in 1966, when André Chavignon opened La Sorbonne here: his chef in the early days was none other than Raymond Blanc, now the owner of the famous Manoir au Quat’saisons. La Sorbonne closed in the early 1990s, and the restaurant that has in its time been Chinese, Indian, and French is now Thai.

English Heritage: Kemp Hall Police Station

Occupiers of 130A High Street (Kemp Hall)


John Keeley (Baker)
W.H. Salter (Bookbinder)


Thomas Laycock, Bookseller


Kemp Hall Police Station


Darbishire & Howarth (Oxford Geographical Institute), Map makers


Fox, Jones & Co printers (Kemp Hall Press)


Kemp Hall Restaurant (Tea rooms in 1928) (Mrs Daisy Hoare)


Stowaway Cafe, Anglo-Chinese (1943–1960)


Moti Mahal, Indian Restaurant


La Sorbonne, French restaurant

By 1995–present

Chiang Mai Kitchen, Thai Restaurant

©Stephanie Jenkins

Last updated: 30 June, 2018

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