Oxford History: The High


Merton Street

Merton Street

Merton Street, with the Eastgate Hotel on the left and the Ruskin School of Drawing & Fine Art on the right

Merton Street runs southwards for a short distance and then turns sharp right past Merton College.

The part of Merton Street shown in this photograph used to be known as Coach & Horses Lane, after a pub that was on the west side; but from the early eighteenth to the late nineteenth century it was known as King Street.

The rest of the street around the corner was originally known as St John Baptist’s Street or just St John Street (after the church which is now Merton College Chapel).

St John Street became known as Merton Street in the nineteenth century (possibly to avoid confusion with St John Street in north Oxford), and by in the twentieth century the whole of the L-shaped road became known as Merton Street. The part of the street around the corner that runs parallel with the High still has its original cobbles, which date from the eighteenth century onwards: the road surface is Grade II listed (1485/767).

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

  • Taverns and Public Houses:
    Coach & Horses: T. HUNT
    Nag’s Head: M. THORNTON
  • Watch & Clock Makers Richard PEARSON King Street

and the following were around the corner in St John Street:

  • Boot & Shoemakers: Richard HURDIS
  • Tailors & Drapers William GILES
  • Taverns and Public Houses: George & Dragon: William VENABLES

©Stephanie Jenkins

Last updated: 17 September, 2012

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