Oxford History: The High


131: Payne & Son

131 High Street

No. 131 dates from the fifteenth century, but the front was altered in the eighteenth century and bay windows inserted. It is a Grade II listed building (List Entry No. 1047261). It was in the parish of All Saints until that church was deconsecrated in 1971.

In 1772 a survey of every house in the city was taken in consequence of the Mileways Act of 1771. No. 131 was then in the occupation of a Mrs Puffet, and its frontage measured 4 yards 2 feet 8 inches.

At the time of the 1851 census John Withers, the chemist who then had this shop, lived upstairs with his wife, his younger brother Frederick, and a servant.

In 1861 James Sheard, the watchmaker and jeweller who had his business here, was living upstairs with his wife and four children and two servants. He was still here in 1871, when he was described as a goldsmith, and in 1881, when his son, Henry Vaughan Sheard, was also described as a jeweller.

Dog and clock

Payne & Son (since 1888)

In 1888 George Septimius Payne of Payne & Son (founded in 1790 in Wallingford by John Payne of London) bought Alderman Sheard’s business, and the firm is still there. The firm is now run by the seventh and eighth generations of Paynes:

There is an old model of a dog guarding a large clock-face in its mouth over the shop front (right). The passage beneath this sign leads to the Chequers Inn behind.

At the time of the 1911 census Joseph Cousins (35) lived with his wife in the nine rooms upstairs at 131 High Street, which was described as the “New Tory Club”: they were respectively the Steward and Stewardess of that club.

Occupiers of 131 High Street


W.C. & J.G. Last, Linen drapers & Silk mercers


Charles A. Green, Cabinet maker

By 1851–1852+

John Withers, Chemist & druggist

Before 1861–1888

J. Sheard, Watchmaker & jeweller


Payne & Son, Goldsmiths

©Stephanie Jenkins

Last updated: 30 June, 2018

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