Oxford History: Schools


Central Girls’ School, New Inn Hall Street

Central Girls' School

The above picture was drawn by Hervey Rutherford in 1900 and appeared in The Builder of 18 May 1901. The accompanying text reads:


This building has been erected for the Oxford School Board, to accommodate about 300 girls, and is situated in New Inn Hall-street. It also contains a cookery centre and a pupil teachers’ centre.

The school has a stone front, and the roof is covered with Yorkshire stone slates.

Messrs. Kingerlee & Sons, of Oxford, were the builders, and Mr. Leonard Stokes the architect. The drawing is exhibited at the Royal Academy.

This school was described by Pevsner as “not really like any other Oxford building”. The floor plan at ground level is shown below.

Plan in Builder

It is a Grade II listed building (List Entry 1047198), with its gateway listed separately (1121520).

The original Central School for Girls had been founded in about 1797 as a United Charity and Sunday School. Until 1824 it was in Gloucester Green, and then in moved to Penson's Gardens, St Ebbe's. In 1880 it moved into the old Wesleyan Chapel in New Inn Hall Street.

On 30 September 1898 both this school and the boys' equivalent to the east of Gloucester Green were taken over by the Oxford School Board, which immediately condemned both buildings and decided to replace them on new sites in central Oxford. Jackson's Oxford Journal of 7 January 1899 published the report of the School Accommodation Committee of that board at a meeting held the previous Monday:

On 30 September 1898 both the boys' and girls' central schools were taken over by the Oxford School Board. Jackson's Oxford Journal of 7 January 1899 gives the report of the School Accommodation Committee of that board at a meeting held the previous Monday:

This committee reported that they have given very careful consideration to the question of sites on which to erect new buildings to replace the present condemned buildings of the Central Boys' and Central Girls' Schools. Various sites have been considered, and it having been found impracticable to obtain one site sufficiently large for both schools, they have come to the conclusion that it will be better to erect the two schools on separate sites. A piece of vacant ground in New-in-Hall-street, containing about 1,500 square yards, the property of Balliol College, and forming part of the old site of New-Inn-Hall, has been considered. The position of this ground is a central one, and most convenient for the purposes of a school, and it is offered to the Board at the price of £3,300, with immediate possession, all legal and other costs to be paid by the Board. The committee considers this to be a very reasonable price, and they believe that the piece of ground would form a convenient site for the Girls Central School. They therefore, recommend that a plan be at once submitted to the Education department for approval, and if approved that the purchase of this land be at once carried out on the above terms.

Pupil Teachers' Centre

The proposal was agreed. and on 11 March 1899 the newspaper reported that at the meeting of the School Board held the previous Monday, a letter from the Education Department at Whitehall had been read out approving the New Inn Hall Street site, which had been purchased from Balliol College, as satisfactory for a girls' school not exceeding 239 places. Attached to it was to be a pupil teachers' centre.

Left: Inscription on the building to the left of the site remembering the Pupil Teachers' Centre

The ground plans for the school prepared by Leonard Stokes were approved in April 1899, and Jackson's Oxford Journal reported on 29 July 1899 that the School Board had accepted the tender of £10,379 from the builder T. H. Kingerlee at an extraordinary meeting held the previous Wednesday. At that meeting the architect stated that “unless the buildings were going to be used to any extent in the evening it would be hardly worth while having electric light” (although in the end the Board chose electricity rather than gas).

On 30 September 1899, the Board advertised for a Clerk of Works for the school and pupil teachers' centre.

The girls moved into the school towards the end of 1900, and both the Central Girls' and the Central Boys' Schools were formally opened by Sir William Anson in January 1901.


By the end of the 1940s, it was the third choice for a girl who passed the 11+, the first four choices being:

  • Oxford High School for Girls
  • Milham Ford School
  • Central Girls’ School
  • Girls’ Technical School (in St Ebbe’s until 1954).

Right: The name of the school survives on the side of the building on the right

School dinners were taken in the hall of New Road Baptist Church, which was adjacent to the school. The girls went to the nearby Wesley Memorial church hall for PE, and for outdoor sports had to walk to the field in Manor Road.

The school moved up to Gipsy Lane in Headington in 1959, becoming Cheney County Secondary Girls’ School, and its former building (below) was used by the College of Further Education. It is now part of St Peter’s College.

Girls' High School

©Stephanie Jenkins

Last updated: 27 May, 2022

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