Oxford History: The High

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134: Jigsaw


134 High Street

In 1772 a survey of every house in the city was taken in consequence of the Mileways Act of 1771. No. 134 was then in the occupation of a Mr Strange, and its frontage measured 6 yards 1 foot 4  inches.

The present No. 134 was rebuilt in 1790. It is a Grade II listed building (List Entry No. 1047262), and its present design won a heritage award for good shop design in a conservation area. It 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.

Richard Cox, a draper, had his business here from 1783, and in Jackson’s Oxford Journal of 17 August 1790 there was a notice announcing that Richard Cox & Co would be operating from newly-built premises on the site. Cox moved gradually over into banking, and went into partnership with James & Robert Morrell; but Cox (who had three times been Mayor of Oxford) engaged in corrupt practices and fled bankrupt to Calais in 1833. His wife Sarah Cox was still living here at the time of the 1841 census with her daughter Louisa Cox, a man called Charles Cox, and two female servants, but on 7 July 1841 Jackson's Oxford Journal announced that all her furniture. linen, china, carpets and rugs, fire irons, kitchen requisites, and a variety of other effects would be auctioned under a bill of sale.

This premises on the ground floor remained Morrell’s Bank from 1833 until1851. On 1 March 1851 James Morrell announced that he would be relinquishing the business of his bank here a few weeks later on 25 March. Five days later the 1851 census shows Robert Haines, a banker’s clerk, living upstairs here with his wife, two children, and a servant. It was advertised to let on 3 April 1852.

On 3 February 1855 in Jackson's Oxford Journal this house was advertised thus for sale:

TO BE SOLD BY PRIVATE CONTRACT,—
THAT MOST DESIRABLE
FREEHOLD HOUSE & PREMISES
No. 134, HIGH STREET,

For many years known as
THE BANKING HOUSE of Messrs. MORRELL
And the Private Residence of Richard Cox, Esq.

The House is very substantially-built, well fitted up, and replete with every convenience, and the Rooms are commodious and well ventilated.

The Property being in the best part of Oxford, is well adapted for a Banking House, or for the Residence and Offices of a Professional Gentleman; and is equally suitable for a Private Residence for a family, and eligible for investment.

The owner of the business, John Parsons is listed here in directories in the 1860s. (This is not the John Parsons of the Old Bank, but the former tailor from 123 High Street.) Parsons did not live here (he had a fine house, “The Lawn”, on the Banbury Road), and at the time of the 1861 census the upstairs premises were occupied by Parsons’s shop manager Samuel Hester, described as a Commercial Clerk and Wine Merchant. Hester went bankrupt later in 1861.

By 1871 the upstairs living quarters were occupied by Christopher Park (formerly of 54 Cornmarket). a wine merchant employing three men, and his wife and daughter and servant. He was still here in 1881, and a barmaid lived with him and his wife: her presence of a barmaid suggests that the wine shop was already on its way to becoming a pub.

By 1889 No. 134 was known as the Market Vaults Hotel, and in 1901 the American-born innkeeper Mary Ann Allen was living here with her two barmaid daughters and three barmen (her son-in-law and two servants).

At the time of the 1911 census Clement Arthur Spicer (47) was the licensed victualler here at the Market Vaults, and he lived in the eight rooms upstairs with his wife Martha, who assisted him in the business, his mother-in-law, and his four children, plus a mother's help.

Between 1920 and 1928 the Market Vaults Hotel was run by Alfred Shrubb, a former world-champion runner. Shrubb held a number of world records and championship titles during a remarkable athletics career between 1899 and 1915. For a few years he was regarded as the best distance runner in the world, and many still rate him as one of the top cross-country men of all time. His last active involvement in sport was during his time at the Market Vaults Hotel. As well as running this hotel he was an Oxford city councillor and was also the very first paid coach employed by Oxford University Athletics Club. In 1928 he emigrated to Canada with wife Ada and he died there in 1964.

Information on Alfred Shrubb kindly provided by Rob Hadgraft, who is writing a biography of this former Oxford citizen. Further information welcome; please contact r.hadgraft@ntlworld.com

In 1981 permission was granted to the Automobile Association to turn this shop into an office and combine it with No. 133 next door. In 1999 it separated and became a retail shop again.

Occupiers of 134 High Street

1783–1833

Richard Cox, Mercer, later Banker

Cox, Morrell, & Co, Bankers (1811–1833)

1833–1851

James & Robert Morrell, Bankers

1861

John Parsons, Wine merchant

1863–1864

Temporary use as the Grimbly Hughes grocers' office
while their Cornmarket shop was being rebuilt after a fire

1866–1887

Christopher Park, Wine & spirit merchant

1889–1935

The Market Vaults Hotel

William R. Rose, photographic apparatus & materials dealer, was also here from 1909 to 1964
(also occupying the whole of No. 133 next door from 1916)

1936–1976+

White’s Restaurant and Cocktail Bar (known as Debrett’s in 1947 only)

1979–1998

Automobile Association (with 133 next door)

1999 to present

Jigsaw

©Stephanie Jenkins

Last updated: 10 July, 2021

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