Oxford History: The High


128A: Oxford Nails (former Gill’s Ironmongers)

Gill’s Ironmongers

Gill’s, Oxford’s much-loved ironmonger used to have a shop in the Wheatsheaf Yard, behind No. 127 High Street (now, ironically, Oxford Nails).

Gills was one of the oldest firms of ironmongers in the country, dating back to the mid-sixteenth century, although it was not always called Gill’s. It closed permanently in August 2010:

Gill & Co still offer online shopping, and include their history on their website:


This building was in the parish of All Saints until that church was deconsecrated in 1971. It is now in the parish of St Michael-at-the-Northgate Church.

From 1816 (and probably long before) until 1925, this ironmonger’s shop was at 5 High Street (now the eastern end of Lloyds Bank). The Gill family, however, only became involved in the business from about 1840.

In 1783, the proprietor was Thomas Bush, and he went into partnership with James Pilcher in c.1830. Then in c.1840 Pilcher went into partnership with James Gill (1814–1879), giving up the business to him shortly afterwards. Gill then went into partnership with his cousin George Ward, younger brother of the Oxford Mayor William Ward.

The name Gill & Co. first appears in an Oxford directory of 1876.

The firm has occupied five different shops in the High. The ironmonger Thomas Bush is first listed in the High Street in 1816, but was probably also there in the eighteenth century. His shop is specified as No. 5 in a directory of 1839.

Business must have been going well for Gill’s at the end of the nineteenth century, because in 1891 they expanded to include No 4 next door.

In about 1910, however, Sainsbury’s had moved into No. 4 and Gill’s had retreated back in No. 5:

In 1922 Barlow & Alden Ltd and Ison, Kidman & Watts amalgamated under the name of Gill & Co. Ltd. When Sainsbury’s at No. 4 expanded into No. 5 in 1925, they moved across the road to 127–8 High Street.

In about 1953 Gill & Co moved to its final, smaller premises (numbered 128A High Street) at the rear of their shop. At this date they were described as “ironmongers, heating engineers & plumbers”.

Ownership of the Gill company when it was at 5 High Street





Thomas Bush

Ironmonger, and Manufacturer of Brazery and Tin-ware


Thomas Bush



T. Bush & Son

Ironmongers and braziers, High Street


E. Bush & Co.

Ironmongers, braziers, & tinmen, High Street


Bush & Pilcher

Ironmongers & braziers, High Street


Charles Pilcher

Ironmonger, 5 High Street


Pilcher & Gill

Ironmongers & braziers, 5 High Street

1846, 1852, 1861

Gill & Ward

Ironmongers & braziers, 5 High Street


Gill & Co

Ironmongers, gasfitters, &c., 5 High Street

©Stephanie Jenkins

Last updated: 3 January, 2021

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