2 Holywell Street (Sinclair House)

2 Holywell Street

Grade II Listed Building: List Entry Number 1186750. This house dates from the early seventeenth century, but was partly remodelled in the eighteenth century. Owned by Merton College.

Mrs Wise lived here in the 1770s. The present hand-rails beside the steps to the front door are relatively modern, and this report from Jackson’s Oxford Journal explains what happened to the original ones:

Whereas on Monday the 21st of this instant October 1771, the iron rails to the steps of Mrs. Wise’s house in Holywell were taken away. This is to give notice that if any one will discover the offender or offenders so that they may be brought to justice, shall, on his or their conviction receive half a guinea reward from Francis Kibblewhite in Holywell. [Mr Kibblewhite lived at No. 39.]

The auction of this house at the Clarendon Hotel was advertised thus in Jackson’s Oxford Journal on 27 February 1869:

All that commodious and substantial-built DWELLING HOUSE, containing entrance hall, dining room, and breakfast room, together with a large room used as an office on the ground floor; drawing room, bed room, dressing room, and w.c. on the first floor, and four bed rooms over the same; a large kitchen, pantry, scullery, wine, beer, and coal cellars in the basement, with garden and conservatory at the back; also a BUILDING adjoining, containing two large rooms, called the laundry, with passage entrance from the street, to which it has a considerable frontage, and might be easily converted into a separate Dwelling House.
This Property is held by Lease under Merton College, Oxford, for a term of 40 years, from the 5th of April, 1864, subject to the following Out-goings: — Quit rent, 5s.; 8 pecks of Malt; and Land Tax, £2 1s. 6d.

The property of the late John Hudson, Esq. was also auctioned at the same time.

No. 2 Holywell Street was a girls’ boarding school in the 1880s, and is named as Sinclair House in directories between 1872 and 1887, and on the 1876 OS map.

On 10 December 1881 the lease of this house was advertised in Jackson’s Oxford Journal:

JOJ 10 December 1881

The house failed to sell at the auction, and on 24 December 1881 the auctioneers advertised that they were prepared to sell it privately for £850. It appears to have been bought by a private individual, as the newspaper of 27 May 1882 announced: “BIRTHS: May 19, at Sinclair House, Holywell, Oxford, the wife of F. H. Peters, of University College, of a daughter.”

By 1890 there was a school in this house: on 11 January 1890, the newspaper published a letter from E. K. Burstal, Honorary Secretary of Sinclair House, saying that his school would not association with the School Board for the purposes of the Technical Instruction Act.

2 Holywell Street in the censuses


The 1841 census for Holywell does not give house numbers, but it is possible to deduce where people listed that year lived by examining directory entries between 1839 and 1842 and later censuses

John Matthew (35), a builder, lived here with his wife Ann (35) and one female servant.


John Matthew (45), a builder employing 15 men, still lived here with his wife Ann (45). They now had two servants.


Ann Matthew (54), a widowed fundholder, lived here with two servants


George Gardner (55), a grocer, lived here with his wife Sarah (45) and his stepdaughter Elizabeth King (24) who was a teacher, plus two schoolchildren whose relationship is uncertain. They had two servants: a cook and a housemaid


Kate Proud (27) lived here with Mary Tredwell (34): both are unmarried, and described as boarding school proprietors.

Frances Proud (29), another unmarried boarding school proprietor, lived here in a separate household, along with a 15-year-old pupil teacher, Adelaide Chowles, and six pupils: Annie Collier (15, born Witney); Ethel Piper (15, born Huntingdon); Emily Reynolds (15, born Highbury); Minnie Tytherleigh (13, born Axminster); and Emily and Fannie Lepine (8 and 7, born in Hounslow). They have two female domestic servants.


Mary V. Hobhouse (76), described as the wife of the head of the household and living on her husband's means, was living here with her husband's cousin Rose Young (25). They had two servants (a cook and a parlourmaid).


Henry Leigh (37), a college fellow & tutor, lived here with his wife Alice (37) and his daughter Margaret 6. They had three servants (a German governess, a cook, and a housemaid).


Arthur Percy Dodds Parker (43), a surgeon, lived here with his wife Mary (38) and three servants.


Occupants of 2 Holywell Street listed in directories etc.

Survey of Oxford

Frontage: 18 yds 2 ft 0 in
Mrs Wise


Henry Jones Underwood


John Matthew, builder

Mrs Ann Matthew by 1861


John Hudson
(presumably the builder in Longwall)


Mrs George Gardner & Miss King (1871)
George Gardner (1872–1875)


E. K. Burstal, C.E.
Secretary of Sinclair House School.


Henry Devenish Leigh
Vice-President of Corpus Christi College


Arthur Percy Dodds-Parker


Miss Isabelle M. Little, M.B., Ch. B.
Physician and surgeon


Robin Harrison, C.B.E., M.A.


P. D. Watson, M.A., M.B., B.S.


Change of use from private dwelling to student accommodation (89/00101/NFH)


Merton College annexe

Holywell home

© Stephanie Jenkins

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