Holywell Music Room, 34 Holywell Street

Holywell Music Room

The Holywell Music Room is owned by Wadham College. The photograph above shows it after restoration in 2009, and the drawing below by W. A. Delamotte (engraved by Orlando Jewitt) dates from c.1830.

Holywell Music Room

The construction of the Holywell Music Room began in 1742 to the design of the Revd Dr Thomas Camplin (Vice-Principal of St Edmund Hall and Archdeacon of Taunton),at a cost of £1,263 10s. The Music Room opened in 1748, and is probably one of the earliest buildings in Europe erected specially for musical performances.

Pevsner writes that the Music Room “looks exactly like a large Nonconformist chapel, with its white pedimented three-bay front”. Inside, the two chandeliers are those that were hung in Westminster Hall for the Coronation of George IV: they were given by the King to Wadham College. The organ is probably Dutch, of c.1800.

Benefit concerts are regularly advertised in Jackson's Oxford Journal, the earliest one in the edition of 1 March 1755.

The Music Room had been in financial difficulties for some time when it closed at the beginning of 1840. In Jackson's Oxford Journal on 14 March 1840 it was described as “the late Music Room, Holywell” and advertised to be let on lease. The upholsterer W. A. Dicks took it over, and on 30 January 1841 he inserted the following advertisement in Jackson's Oxford Journal offering furniture for sale in the Music Room and stating that in future it would be let out for various purposes:


W. A. DICKS most respectfully begs to inform the Members of the University and the inhabitants of Oxford and its vicinity, that he has now on SALE at the Music Room, Holywell-street, a great variety of Bookcases, Sofas, Easy Chairs, Library, Card, and other Tables, Reading Desks, Wardrobes, Chests of Drawers, and other miscellaneous furniture; Carpets, Rugs, Paper Hangings, Moreens, Cottons &c. which he is SELLING OFF considerably under prime cost, as the room will in future be let for concerts and general exhibitions, approved of by the Vice-Chancellor and Mayor. Jan. 22, 1841.

On 6 March 1841 a forthcoming auction of the contents of the Music Room was advertised:

The INTERIOR FITTNGS of the MUSIC ROOM, situate in Holywell-street, Oxford; consisting of a Grand Piano Forte (by Broadwood and Son,) fine-toned, double bass; a very massive suspending Glass Chandelier, with 12 handsome brass burners, lustres, &c. complete, well calculated for a Public Ball Room; nine Glass Side Lamps, Fornis, Seats, Tables, and other Articles.

Then on 4 September 1841 Dicks announced in Jackson's Oxford Journal that he would in future use the Music Room as an auction mart:

Music Room, Holywell-Street, Oxford.

W. A. DICKS most respectfully informs the inhabitants of Oxford and its vicinity that he intends using those spacious premises, called the Music Room, as an Auction Mart, for the Sale of Horses and Carriages, and every other species of Property – the sales to take place every fortnight. He trusts that, by the strictest attention and punctuality on his part, and as the premises are so well adapted for sales, to merit a portion of the public patronage. Those persons who may favour him with the sale of their property may rely on its being settled for the day after the sale.

On 7 October 1843 Dicks announced:


W. A. DICKS, Auctioneer, begs to announce to the inhabitants of Oxford and the public in general, that he has greatly enlarged the area of t he Music Room, rendering it eligible for exhibitions of every description, but particularly for Music, having reconstructed the orchestra, so as to contain a much larger audience than heretofore.

Persons having Goods to dispose of are respectfully informed that they can be removed to the above Room and sold, thereby avoiding the inconvenience of sale on their own premises.

The Music Room then became a museum for a short period. M. Billing's Directory and Gazetteer of the Counties of Berks and Oxon for 1854 states:

THE ARCHITECTURAL MUSEUM, Holywell Street.—This building, from a design by Dr. Camplin, Vice-Principal of St. Edmund's Hall, was erected at an expense of £1264; it was originally intended for a music room, and was used for some time as a University concert room, under the management of stewards from the various colleges. It is now the Oxford Architectural Society's Museum, and contains some very fine models of cathedrals, and other public buildings, a large quantity of valuable works, drawings on heraldry and architecture, and other matters of Gothic character, interesting to the antiquarian.

On 15 September 1860 it was announced that the Music Room had been handsomely renovated by Mr Thomas, and that the Oxford Choral Society would resume their weekly meetings there. Concerts also started again.

The Music Room in 1976

Hence the 1876 OS map (left) describes it as a Music Hall again. There is a curved garden behind it, adjoining the garden of No. 33 to the east.

By 1881 the Music Room once again had a resident Keeper or Musician.

Holywell Music Room is a Grade II* listed building: List Entry Number 1047232



In the early twentieth century it became the home of the Oxford University Music Club, which moved next door to the Faculty of Music at No. 33 in about 1953.


Holywell Music Room website

34 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

William Dicks (50), an upholsterer, lived here with Mary (60).


William Dicks (60), an upholsterer, continued to live here with his wife Mary (73) and their daughter Rhoda (30), who was a teacher of French and music.


William A. Dicks (70), now a widower and described as a gentleman, lived here with his daughter Rhoda (50) and one female servant.


William A. Dicks (75), now described as an upholsterer again, lived here with his widowed sister Maria Sheard (65).


William Ellard (47), described as a musician and the Keeper of the Music Room, lived here with his wife Emma (47), his son Harry (14), and his father-in-law William Bishop (a 73-year-old brick and tile maker). The family had one servant, a laundress.


William Ellard (47), now described as a musician, lived here with his wife Judith (42).


Frank J. Sanders (34), a compositor and caretaker, lived here with his wife Annie (30) and his children Wilfred (8), Joy (6), Edgar (3), and Hilda (1).


No listing.

Occupants of the Music Room at 34 Holywell Street listed in directories etc.

Survey of Oxford

Frontage: 25 yds 0 ft 0 in
Musick Room


William Andrew Dicks
Upholsterer; Auctioneer & Appraiser; Insurance agent


William Ellard
“Musician” in 1875 and 1876, and “Keeper” in 1889 and 1894


Oxford University Music Club and Union
Frank James Sanders, Manager (1896–1930)


Holywell Music Room

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