20/21 (and 21A) Holywell Street

20 Holywell Street

No. 20 is a Grade II Listed Building: List Entry Number 1369396 and is owned by Merton College. It dates from the early seventeenth century and was refashioned in the eighteenth century. It once stood on the corner of Park Place, and now stands on the corner of Mansfield Road.

The Holywell Boarding School for young ladies was opened here in the early 1770s. It was run by Mrs Madegon, who took out a large advertisement in Jackson's Oxford Journal of 22 June 1771 listing all the fees, and adding “The House is extremely commodious for the Purpose, and besides an extensive Garden, opens to the Parks, and is in a fine healthy Situation”.

The house appears to have been subdivided into two in the 1840s, with the door on the left presumably leading to No. 21. At the back was another house with workshops numbered 21A. The Luker plumbing and glazing business was based behind this house for over fifty years. On 17 April 1847 the following advertisement appeared in Jackson’s Oxford Journal:

WILLIAM LEWIS LUKER, PLUMBER, GLAZIER, AND PAINTER, Begs respectfully to inform the Nobility, Gentry, and the Public generally, that he has taken to the business and premises, No. 21 Holywell-street, so successfully carried on by his late lamented Father for upwards of 40 years, and trusts that by strict attention and moderate charges to merit a continuance of their patronage and support.

On 22 May 1847 the following advertisement relating to all three houses in this group appeared:

VALUABLE LEASEHOLD DWELLING HOUSES, With excellent GARDEN, In HOLYWELL STREET, Oxford. Also a desirable detached GARDEN, with Summer House, &c. IN THE PARKS, OXFORD. Calculated for investment or occupation, and is well worth the attention of capitalists, a sale being absolutely indispensable.

TO BE SOLD BY AUCTION, By Messrs. T. MALLAM and Son, At the sign of the Roebuck Inn, Oxford, on Thursday the 3d day of June, at six o’clock (by the direction of the executrix of the late Mr. William Carter), in the following lots:—

Lot 1. — A comfortable PRIVATE DWELLING HOUSE, No. 20, Holywell-street, containing an entrance passage, sitting room, and kitchen, on the ground floor; drawing room and two large closets on the first floor, three bed rooms and two closets on the second floor, and attic over; pump of good water, scullery, and other out-offices, two cellars, and a good garden at the back of the same, now in the occupation of Mr. Wells. Also a DWELLING HOUSE adjoining, being No. 21, containing a sitting room, Kitchen, scullery &c. on the ground floor; sitting room and bed room on the first floor, and three bed rooms over; cellar, pump of good water, small garden, out-offices, and other conveniences, in the occupation of Mrs. Hellier. Quit rent 18s., and a land tax.

Lot 2. — A very good DWELLING HOUSE, situate at the back of the above, and in which the business of a plumber and glazier has been carried on for a great number of years past; containing two good sitting rooms, five bed chambers, domestic offices, cellaring, &c. &c., with detached workshops, large yard, &c.; and also two enclosed large and very productive Gardens at the back of the same; the whole in length from the front of the dwelling to the Parks 312 feet. Quit rent 15s. and a land tax.

Lot 3. — A very excellent Piece of GARDEN GROUND, with Summer House thereon, situate in the Parks, Oxford, containing a frontage to the public path at the back of Holywell-street of 39½ feet, by a depth of 297½ feet. Quit rent 2s. 3d.

This property is held by lease under Merton college for a term of 40 years, from Lady Day, 1837.

May be viewed at any time previous to sale by leave of the tenants, and any further particulars obtained of Mr. Mathews, solicitor, and of the auctioneers, High-street, Oxford.

No. 20 and the house behind were offered for sale again on 16 December 1848 in two lots:


On Wednesday the 20th December, 1848, at the King’s Arms Inn, at Six o’clock, in two lots.

Lot 1. — A substantially-built and commodious DWELLING HOUSE, No. 20, Holywell-street, with ample accommodation for the occupation by a large family, extensive garden in the rear thereof, out-buildings and stable, with door-way opening to the path leading towards Holywell Church. The House might, with little expense, be made into two. — This lot extends in depth, from the street to the path, 393 feet.

Lot 2. — A convenient and retired COTTAGE, situate in the centre of two large gardens at the back of Lot 1, and divided therefrom by the path leading to Holywell Church above-mentioned, and is in depth, from the path to the back, 284ft. 10 in.

The above premises are held by Lease under the Warden and Scholars of Merton College, Oxford, for the remainder of a term of 40 years, from Lady Day, 1838.

Nos. 20 & 21 appear to have been reunited as one house in about 1890, when it became a lodging house, and the number 21 was lost.

20, 21, and 21A 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

No. 20/21
Harry Luker
(25), a writer, lived here with Mary Ann (25), and George (20), who was a plumber. They had one female servant.

No. 21A
William Luker
(30), a plumber, lived here with Mary (30).


No. 20
Thomas Fidler
(46), butler at St Mary Hall, lived here with his wife Maria (47) and one house servant.

No. 21
Alexander Reinagle
(51) lived here with his wife Caroline (33). Both were teachers of music, and they had one servant.

No. 21½
William L. Luker (42), a plumber employing two men and one boy, still lived here with his wife Mary (41). They had a graduate of Brasenose College lodging with them.


No. 20
Thomas Fidler
(60), now Manciple of St Mary Hall, lived here with his niece Sarah Harrington (27), who acted as his housekeeper, and two boarders. They had one house servant.

No. 21
Alexander R. Reinagle
(61) lived here with his wife Caroline, and both are described as teachers of music. They had one servant.

No. 21A
Mary Luker
(57), a widow, lived here with her nephew George Beddall (25) (with both described as plumbers & glaziers), and her niece Emily Kentland.


No. 20
Thomas Lucas 
(46), a lodging house keeper, lived here with his wife Mary (46) and their children Thomas (24), who was a clerk, Ellen (13), William (10), and Arthur (9). They had no servants.

No. 21
George Vincent
 (37), a porter at Brasenose College, lived here with his wife Jane (32) and their children Adelaide (6) and Louisa (3). They had one domestic servant.

No. 21A (listed in the census as 22 Holywell Street)
Henry Crane (28), a plumber, lived here with his wife Elizabeth (23), their son William (2), and Elizabeth's sister Emma Williams (21). They had one servant.


No. 20
Thomas Lucas
(56), a lodging house keeper, still lived here with his wife Mary (54) and his two sons: William (20) was a railway clerk and Arthur (19) a post office clerk.

No. 21
George Eve (31), a college porter, lived here with his wife Esther (32) and his children Albert (7), Ernest (5), Charles (2), and Ellen (1).

No. 21A
Henry Owen Crane
(38), a lay clerk, and plumber & painter employing five men, still lived here, now with his second wife Ellen (25) and his son William (12).


No. 21 (Nos. 20 & 21 combined as one house, and thereafter numbered 20)
George Eve (41), a university lodging house keeper, lived here with his wife Esther (41) and their children Ernest (15), Charles (12), Ellen (11), and Beatrice (4).

No. 21A
Ellen Crane
 (35), now a widow described as a “plumber &c”, still lived here with her children Arthur (6), Percy (4), and Edith (2), plus her stepson William (22), who was now a plumber's manager.


No. 20 (Nos. 20 & 21 combined as one house)
Mary Walker
(52), a married lodging house keeper, lived here with her daughters Gertrude (26); Maggie (23), who was a clerk in the Post Office; Winifred (21), who was a florist’s shop assistant; Constance (16), and Freda (12). A retired innkeeper aged 85 lived with them as a boarder, and they had a 14-year-old servant girl.


No. 20
Gertrude Walker
(37), a lodging house keeper, lived here with her sister Constance (26) who assisted her. Both were unmarried.

Occupants of 20/21 Holywell Street listed in directories etc.


No. 21A
(behind No. 20/21)

No. 21

No. 20

Survey of Oxford

No frontage
on the street

Possibly gateway
of Mr Johnson, 6 yds 0 ft 10 in

Frontage:  10 yds 0 ft 7 in:
Mr Madegon


George L. Luker

William Lewis Luker
Painter & glazier (1841–1852)

Mrs Emily Luker

Mrs Deborah Bennet

Thomas Wells (by 1841)


Mrs Hellier


Alexander Robert

Teacher of Music
(formerly at No. 55)

Thomas Fidler
Manciple, St Mary Hall



George Beddall,
Plumber, painter
(died in 1867)


H. P. Crane
Plumber, painter,
& glazier (1872)

Henry Owen Crane
Plumber, painter
& glazier (1887)

George Crane
Plumber, painter,
& glazier
(by 1889)


Thomas Lucas
Lodging house keeper


George Eve


Henry Owen Crane
(executors of), plumbers
listed in 1899

George Eve
Lodging house


Miss Walker
University lodging house



D. E. Norton


Revd Canon Thomas Birkett Dover, M.A.


Geoffrey Reginald Gilchrist Mure
Senior Tutor, Merton College


St Hugh’s College House


Robert Graham Cochrane Levens
Fellow of Merton College


Dennis S. Parsons, M.A., D.M
(listed with previous occupier Levens in 1958 only)


Philip J. Waller
Fellow & Tutor in History, Merton College

Since 1986

Merton College annexe

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© Stephanie Jenkins

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