35 Holywell Street

35 Holywell Street

Grade II* Listed Building: List Entry Number 1047234, owned by Wadham College.

The date 1626 is carved on one of the corbels of this timber house. The three dormers appear to have had oriel windows at one time, but these were replaced by sliding Yorkshire lights, probably in the eighteenth century. It is roofed with Stonesfield slates. There is an eighteenth-century fireplace in the ground-floor room on the right, and the first-floor room on the left has seventeenth-century panelling.

Nos. 35, 36, 37, and 38 Holywell Street now comprise Staircases XIII and XIV of Wadham College to the north.

35 Holywell Street


Left: 35 Holywell Street in the early 1830s, drawn by W. A. Delamotte and engraved by Orlando Jewitt



Part of this house appears in a painting of the Music Room by J. A. Shuffrey in c.1907 (pictured on p. 41 of Lauren Gilmour and Margaret Shuffrey, J. A. Shuffrey 1859–1939: An Oxford Artist’s Life Remembered).

This house with 36 next door was offered for sale in Jackson’s Oxford Journal of 8 November 1845:

TO BE SOLD BY AUCTION, By W. FISHER, At the King’s Arms Inn, Holywell, on Friday the 14th day of November, 1845, at Six o’clock.

Lot 1.— The DWELLING HOUSE, No. 35, Holywell-street, occupied by Mr. Harper, wine merchant, and Mr. Hope, builder; it contains two sitting rooms, office, and kitchen, on the ground floor, with six bed rooms above; also part of the large yard behind, with Warehouse and two-stalled Stable, and Three Cottages, occupied by — Jones, — Hedges, and — Jackson; and the use of the gateway in common with the occupier of Lot 2.

Lot 2. — The DWELLING HOUSE, No. 36, Holywell-street, occupied by Mrs. Sarah Knibbs; it contains three sitting rooms, six bed rooms and cellar, with large yard and garden, and the use of the gateway in common with the occupier of Lot 1 (the whole yard being at present occupied by Mr. Hope, builder.)

The two lots are held upon renewable leases under Wadham College, for terms of 20 years, from Lady day 1838.

The premises may be viewed on application to the tenants; and further particulars obtained of the auctioneer, or of Mr. John M. Davenport, Solicitor, Oxford.

On 3 May 1890 a letter from Herbert Hurst was published in Jackson's Oxford Journal including the following:


At the suggestion of a friend a visit was paid to this characteristic house last week. It has a passable exterior even now, the ground floor reconverted once or twice till it has become commonplace, the second floor still has two early 18th century bay-windows, but resting on the earlier sills, which are supported on brackets dated 1626, well worth going to see, though rather over-painted. Above are three gables and commonplace windows, one of which is clearly upon the old plan, three times as wide as high. Interiorly each of the lower front rooms has a good old arched fireplace of stone much hacked about, Gothic, of Charles’s time. In the rooms above, facing the street, quite a surprise awaits. We have no windows of the kind now remaining in Oxford, and therefore we must strive to explain, without a diagram, a treatment which figures frequently in Loggan’s drawings, but is now extinct with us. It is worth while dwelling on it, for it has common sense and convenience to back it up, and picturesqueness to recommend it exteriorly. First of all there was the bay window about the same size as now, but fitted with sturdy mullions and transoms of oak, which have given way to the gimcrack constructions now existing. Beside this, on both hands are other two-light windows extending nearly to the sides of the room, and reaching from the cornice down to the transom, forming, as it were, wings. The frames of these remain in three instances out of four, and, in the easternmost of all, the glass is almost intact, good shaped quarries not too wide for their length. There is not a vestige of them showing toward the street, and no one would have dreamed of their existence under the canvas, which has not been torn down. The construction seems worthy of attention for several reasons—(1) It is a simple method of obtaining plenty of light within a house that stands in a narrow street; (2) It lets the light come well into the centre of the room, a matter of some importance to all who work with pen or pencil, for with the “top hamper” of blinds and curtains demanded now by modern fashion, we can only attain this object in the loftiest of rooms; (3) It gives the occupant of the room a sufficient outlook into the street from the best of all positions, a settle by the window; and (4) There is plenty of light to show up pictures on the wall, and plenty of room for cabinets or book-cases on either side the window. It is enough to add that in a bed room of one of the adjuncts to the rear we seem to have remains of work two hundred years earlier than 1626, that the whole of the second and third stories swarms with cupboards of every form and dimension in every cranny and angle, and that one room has some fairish panel work.

Historic England photograph of this house taken by Henry Taunt:

35 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 Harper (65), a wine merchant, lived here with Susan Harper (20); Henry Harper (20), who was an assistant librarian; and Frances Harper (15), who was an apprentice. They had one male servant.


John Harper (77), now a widower but still described as a wine merchant, lived here with one female servant.


William R. Bowden (43), a Plymouth-born printer and publisher employing three men, lived here with his wife Isabella (43), his son James (14), and an apprentice of 16.


William R. Bowden (57), now described as a master printer,still lived here with his wife Isabella (55) and their children James (24), who was a printer, and Jessie (22), who was a schoolmistress. They had one servant.


Charles Collcutt (51), a college bedmaker, lived here with his wife Ann and his daughters Annie (21) and Clara (19) who were dressmakers, his son Charles (17) who was a tailor, and his younger children Henry (13), James (12), Frederick (11), and Agnes (8). They had one servant girl aged 16.




William Wilsdon (40), a gardener, lived here with his wife Mary (38) and his children Olive (9), Kathleen (6), and William (4).

Occupants of 35 Holywell Street listed in directories etc.

Survey of Oxford

Frontage: 12 yds 1 ft 6 in
Mr Hawting


John Harper
Wine merchant (& Accountant from 1842)

Joseph Hope, builder, is also listed here in 1841, 1842, and 1846 directories


William R. Bowden
Printer, bookseller, & stationer etc.


Swadling & Ovenell, bookbinders


Charles Collcutt (51)
College bedmaker

Mrs C. Collcutt
Fancy dealer( by 1884)


Henry Devenish Leigh, pro-proctor
with Henry Ovenell, bookbinder at 35½


Revd Alexander James Carlyle
Chaplain & lecturer of University College and Vicar of the united parishes of All Saints & St Martin’s (Carfax); later Canon (18961905)
(with bookbinders at 35½: Swadling & Ovenell in 1899, and Edgar Ovenell in 1905)

Miss Carlyle by 1945

From 1899–1930 Miss Jane W. Kirkaldy, M.A., Tutor Somerville College,
St Hugh’s College is listed in directories at No. 35, except for 1907 to 1910.
In addition the National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies is listed in 1899
and the Society of Oxford Home Students from 1914 to 1926

From 1907 to 1910 Edgar Frederick Carritt, M.A., praelector & Junior Dean, University College is listed at No. 35


Frederick William Dampier Deakin, D.S.O., M.A.
Fellow of Wadham College


No listing


Part of Wadham College

Holywell home

© Stephanie Jenkins

Oxford History home