ST GILES’, OXFORD

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No. 37: House belonging to Christ Church


37 St Giles

 

37 St Giles was built in about 1789 on the north part of Vincent Shortland’s timber-yard. It is a Grade II listed building (List Reference No. 1047142).

The house passed to the Dr Lee’s Trust in 1894, and from that date until 2006 the Dr Lee’s Readers at Christ Church lived here.

 

In the early eighteenth century, Edward Riggins, a carpenter, had a timber yard on the site of the present 37 and 37a St Giles. In 1739 he took on as an apprentice Vincent Shortland, the son of yeoman Thomas Shortland of Helmdon in Northants. Shortland later married Riggins’s daughter Elizabeth and became a partner in the business; and he took it over completely in December 1756 when Edward Riggins’s son Richard died.

In 1772 a survey of every house in the city was taken in consequence of the Mileways Act of 1771. The timber-yard on the site of Nos. 37 and 37A is recorded as being in the occupation of Vincent Shortland, with its frontage measuring 31 yards 1 feet 6 inches. Vincent’s home was nearby at 40 St Giles, and only Coster’s yard and stable lay between his house and place of work.

Shortland became a council chamberlain in 1760 and Mayor for the first time in 1780. In 1783 he took on as his last apprentice his own son, and he probably retired from the carpentry business in 1789 when this apprenticeship was nearing its end. It was around this time that he built the present No. 37 as a fine home suitable for a retired gentleman with civic responsibilities. (A house in St Giles “late in occupation of Vincent Shortland” is advertised to let in Jackson’s Oxford Journal of 10 October 1789, and it seems likely that this would have been Riggins’s old house at 40 St Giles.)

Shortland became an Alderman in 1791 and served a second term as Mayor in 1794. He died in 1801. His son, Vincent John Shortland, inherited his property in St Giles and (just two months after his father’s death) married Mary Maria Wentworth at St George’s, Hanover Square. They baptised their first two children in Kidlington in May 1803 and August 1804, and then another five at St Giles’ Church between 1805 and 1812. It appears that they used this house (and later possibly another) in St Giles as their town house and a country house in Kidlington. Vincent John is still described as “of St Giles’s” when his son matriculated at the University of Oxford in 1824 , and “of Kidlington” when he died in Suffolk in 1831. Although he had been apprenticed to his father as a carpenter, he seems to have lived the life of a gentleman, and is always described as such.

Vincent John Shortland’s sister Mary continued to live in St Giles’ Street for a short period after her father’s death, but in 1805 she married William Turner, a widowed farmer of Shipton-on-Cherwell, at St Giles’ Church. She had ten children in Shipton and died their in 1840.

In 1808 Vincent John “released” the house and grounds in St Giles to Daniel Turner, Esq. (who was not obviously a relation of his brother-in-law William Turner). At about this time No. 37A was built to the south, probably by the Turners: they appear to have lived in the new house and rented out No. 37.

In the 1830s Dr John Kidd (1775–1851), a well-known Oxford physician who had been appointed Aldrichian Professor of Chemistry in 1803, Lee’s Reader in Anatomy in 1816, and Keeper of the Radcliffe Library in 1834, took over No. 37. In 1835 he gave a large dinner party there after a Council meeting of the British Medical Association. He is listed at this house in the Post Office Directory of Oxfordshire and Berkshire 1841, yet the 1841 census reveals that he spent the census night at his former home in Cornmarket with his wife Isabella and his two youngest daughters, Frances and Susan, so perhaps he was only renting part of the house at this time. Daniel Turner died at the age of 85 in 1843, and his daughters, the Misses Caroline and Emma Turner, immediately conveyed this house to Dr Kidd, and his family moved in. The 1851 census lists him in retirement at No. 37, aged 76, with his wife Isabella, his two youngest daughters, his wife’s sister Miss Agrilla Savery, and two servants. In his Reminiscences of Oxford, William Tuckwell says that Dr. Kidd was “a sensible, homely creature”, the first medical professor to abandon the massive gold-headed cane: he was a little man, “trotting about the streets in a ‘spencer’, a tailless greatcoat then becoming obsolete, and worn only by himself and Dr Macbride”.

Kidd died on 17 September 1851 and was buried at St Giles Church on 22 September: his gravestone is at the back of the church, near the Banbury Road. At the time of the 1861 census the head of the household was his wife Isabella, aged 86, then living here with all four of their daughters — Isabella, Beatrice (a widow), Frances, and Susan — plus a cook and two housemaids. Mrs Kidd was buried at St Giles Church in 1863, followed by Frances in 1871 and Isabella junior in 1875.

In 1881 his youngest daughter, Miss Susan Kidd, then aged 66, was the head of the household, and she lived alone at No. 37 with her housekeeper’s family (who probably occupied the premises at the back of the house). She was the last of the four sisters to die, in December 1894, and was buried at St Giles Church. Jackson’s Oxford Journal reported on 15 December, “On Friday last Miss Susan Kidd died at 37, St Giles’, where she had resided upwards of forty-five years…. By the will of the late Dr Kidd, the house, 37, St. Giles’s, now belongs to Christ Church.”

From 1894 to 2006 the house belonged to the Dr Lee’s Trust and during most of that period was occupied by a succession of Dr Lee’s Readers at Christ Church. It is now leased out by Christ Church.

Occupants of 37 St Giles’ Street listed in censuses and directories

By 1835–1894

John Kidd, Physician
Mrs Kidd (1861); the Misses Kidd (1866); and Miss Kidd (1869–1895)
Biography of Mrs Kidd and her daughters

1896–1915

John Barclay-Thompson, Mus.B.
Tutor of Christ Church & Lee’s Lecturer in Anatomy

1918–1921

Peter Shufeldt

1922–1929

Trevor Braby Heaton
Student & Lee’s Reader in Anatomy, Christ Church

1930–1943

Col. Sir Harold Franz Passawer Percival
Student, Lecturer, & Steward of Christ Church

1945

John Richard O’Brien, B.A., B.M., B.Ch.

1947

Arthur William M. Ellis
Student & Regius Professor of Medicine, Christ Church

1949–1954

John Steven Watson
Student of Christ Church

1955–1957

Anthony C. Allison
Dr Lee’s Reader in Anatomy and student & medical tutor of Christ Church

1962–1973

Paul W. Kent
Dr Lee’s Reader in Chemistry

1974–2006

Professor Richard P. Wayne
Dr Lee’s Reader in Chemistry

2007–present

Washington International Studies Council

The servants’ quarters at the rear of the house were converted into offices in about 1960, and have been occupied by the following businesses:

  • 1960–1976+: Surman & Chilton
    Chartered Architects & Diocesan Surveyors
    (John Maxwell Surman and Edwin R. Chilton)
  • 1996–2006: Montgomery Architects (formerly Howes, Allen, & Montgomery)

Additional information kindly provided by Richard & Brenda Wayne

St Giles’ home

Stephanie Jenkins

Oxford History home