Oxford History: The High


Magpie Lane

Magpie Lane in the 1840s

Left: engraving by Orlando Jewitt showing Magipe Lane in the 1840s

The entrance to Magpie Lane has a 1902 house (now the Quod Restaurant) on the left and the 1910 Rhodes Building of Oriel College on the right. The lane runs down to Merton Street, becoming wider at the south end.

This lane had a bad reputation in the thirteenth century, when it was known as Grope Lane (or worse).

In the seventeenth century it was named Magpie Lane after the sign of a magpie on an alehouse in the lane.

By the late nineteenth century Magpie Lane was known as Grove Street, as shown on the postcard below, which dates from the early 1920s. By the late 1920s, the name of Magpie Lane was reinstated.

Magpie Lane in 2005

Grove Street

The west side of Magpie Lane is bounded first by the side of the Rhodes Building, and then by the main part of Oriel College.

The east side has nine houses (1–9 Magpie Lane) that run down as far as Kybald Street (formerly Grove Place). The four houses between Kybald Street and Merton Street (10, 11, 12, and 13 Magpie Lane) were demolished in the 1960s by Corpus Christi College to make way for modern student accommodation.

The pictures shown below of the houses on the east side of Magpie Lane were taken in May 2006.

1 and 2 Magpie Lane
1 and 2 Magpie Lane

3 Magpie Lane
3 Magpie Lane

4 Magpie Lane
4 Magpie Lane

5 Magpie Lane
5 Magpie Lane

6, 7, 8, and 9 Magpie Lane
6, 7, 8, and 9 Magpie Lane from south

6-9 Magpie Lane down to Merton College
6, 7, 8, and 9 Magpie Lane looking towards Merton Street

College buildings replacing 10-13 Magpie Lane
Corpus Christi College accommodation replaces 10, 11, 12, and 13 Magpie Lane

The following businesses are listed under Magpie Lane in Pigot’s Directory for 1823/4:

  • Book Binders J. L. WHEELER
  • Gun & Pistol makers James FORREST
  • Whitesmiths, &c Charles STEVENS

©Stephanie Jenkins

Last updated: 17 September, 2012

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