38 Holywell Street, and former adjacent yard

38 Holywell Street

No. 38 was originally just the narrow blue house on the right of the above photograph. This dates from the late eighteenth/early nineteenth century and is a Grade II Listed Building: List Entry Number 1047236.

Also numbered 38 today is the modern building attached to the west side of the above house that used to be the entry to a yard. It was designed by Isi Metzstein and Andy MacMillan of Gillespie, Kidd & Coia and built for Wadham College in 1969–70. It is made of reinforced concrete, with lead-clad timber to Holywell Court at the rear and concrete tiled roofs to the front, and is separately Grade II listed: List Entry Number 1246930.

The new low building to the left occupies the site of a small commercial building that once had the narrow entrance to Bennett’s (later Bailey’s) Yard to the east and the wider entrance to King’s Arms Yard to the west.

38 Holywell in 1876


The 1876 OS map (left) shows Bailey’s Yard immediately behind the narrow listed building, No. 38. This belonged to the blacking manufacturer James Bailey in the mid-nineteenth century.

Bailey’s Yard looks much the same on the Longmate map of 1773.

This yard was completely enclosed except for a narrow entrance just to the west of No. 38.


King's Arms Yard was reached by the much wider entrance further to the west. It is now disguised by the frontage of the shop at No. 39 next door. J. A. Shuffrey painted King’s Arms Yard in c.1907 (OXCMS: 2002.74,7), and his painting is shown on p. 43 of Lauren Gilmour and Margaret Shuffrey, J. A. Shuffrey 1859–1939: An Oxford Artist’s Life Remembered. This painting also shows the two buildings at 38 Holywell Street to the east of the yard.


Below: The advertisement on the left was placed in Jackson’s Oxford Journal for 1 July 1815; the photograph on the right, showing the tall narrow No. 38 and a low office, dates from 1912.


38 Holywell



James Bailey himself died in 1856, and the following notice appeared in Jackson’s Oxford Journal of 11 October 1856:

GRATEFULLY acknowledges the assistance of those kind friends by which she is enabled to carry on the Manufacturing of BLACKING, being obliged to relinquish the Shoemaking Business, and respectfully solicits a continuance of the patronage of the University and the public in general to aid her in her endeavours to provide for the support of herself and five fatherless children.
N.B. Liquid and Paste Blacking may be had at the manufacturer’s price, at No. 38 HOLYWELL STREET, two doors from the King’s Arms Hotel.

Bennett’s or Bailey’s Yard

This yard behind No. 38 was known as Bennett’s Yard at the time of the 1851 census, when it was occupied by five families surnamed Wiggings, Neighbour, Roberts, Rogers, and Williams.

The directory for 1871 lists C. Haynes, James Cattle, Edward Hunt, and J. Prescott at 2, 3, 5, and 6 Bennett’s Yard respectively.

By 1876, as the map above shows, it had at last taken the name of its new owner, Bailey.

Conversion of the old building with entrance to yard into Blackwell's Music Shop

In 1969 the old office between No. 38 and 39 was demolished by Wadham College, and the new building for Blackwell’s Music Shop that was fitted into the gap was opened by Sir Adrian Boult on 9 November 1970.. Pevsner wrote of the new building:

The shop front is in Holywell Street, and its façade is the one disappointment [of Wadham’s Holywell Court development]. It creates a disturbance in the even front of the houses in the street, and it is itself not valuable enough to put one in a forgiving mood.

When in 2000 Blackwell’s Music Shop moved to Broad Street, this building was converted into a restaurant, first called Next Door and then Holywells. The restaurant closed in c.2008, and the building became part of Wadham College.

Conversion of the restaurant at No. 38 Holywell Street into college accommodation

Nos. 35, 36, 37, and 38 Holywell Street now comprise Staircases XIII and XIV of Wadham College to the north. The following planning applications relating to the former restaurant at No. 38 were approved in June 2010:

  • 09/01720/LBC
    Alterations and extensions including three-storey entrance building, external staircase, pergolas and walkways; internal alterations including new staircases, cutting back half-level floor plate, new partitions and reinstatement of bookcases, to convert restaurant to graduate learning centre
  • 09/01721/FUL
    Change of use from restaurant and bar (use class A3) to graduate learning centre (use class D1). Erection of three-storey entrance building in Back Quad, external staircase and landscaping features including pergolas and walkways

38 Holywell Street and the adjacent yard 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 Shepperd (28), a hairdresser, lived here with Harriet (20)
John Reynolds (55), a college servant and Mary (55) are listed in the same household

Bennett's Buildings

Joseph Jones (35), a baker, lived here with Elizabeth (35), Emma (5), Thomas (4), Caroline (2), and Louisa (five months)

Thomas Hill (25), a college servant, lived here with Jane (20) and Eliza Barnes (20)

Thomas Allsop (20), a porter, lived here with Caroline (20), and Eliza Hicks (4).


No. 38
James Bailey
(33), a boot & shoe maker, lived here with his wife Elizabeth (34) and their children Charles (10), Frank (8), and William (4 months), and James’s uncle Edwin Grainge (41), who was a compositor.

Bennett’s Yard

No. 1: John Wiggings (36), a baker, lived here with his wife Mary (37) and their lodger.

No. 2: Charles Neighbour (75), a former groom, lived here with his wife Harriet (61), who was a college kitchen woman. They had a “servant of all work”.

No. 3: Edward Roberts (37), a master baker, lived here with his wife Harriet (40) and their children Edward (14), who was a baker’s assistant), Harriet (10) and Mary Ann (1). Also living with them was Edward’s widowed mother-in-law, Harriet Wild (79), who is described as a pauper, and his unmarried sister-in-law Marion Wild (30), who “being afflicted receives outdoor relief”. They also had a lodger.

No. 4: Walter Rogers (21), a groom, lived here with his wife Jane (25). Another groom lodged with them.

No. 5: Edward Williams (39), a groom, lived here with his wife Elizabeth (38). Thomas Osborne (29), another groom, lived here with his wife Susannah (30), who was an upholsteress.


Emmanuel Miles (39), a blacking maker, lived here with his wife Elizabeth (44) and his children Frank (17), William (15), and David Miles (14). Also living with him are three more children presumably by an earlier marriage of his wife: William Bailey (10), Arthur Bailey (8), and George Bailey (6). Their surname explains how Bailey’s became Miles’s blacking manufactory. An uncle and aunt also live with him.


Emmanuel Miles (49) still manufactured blacking, and lived here with his wife Elizabeth (53) and his stepson Arthur Bailey (18). They had one lodger

Bennett’s Yard

No. 1: Edward Hurst (26), a tailor's marker, lived here with his wife Mary (43) and their children Edward (17), who was a printer's apprentice, Mary (15), Fanny (11), Agatha (9), and Florence (6).

No. 2: Charles Haynes (26), a tailor, lived here with his wife Martha (27) and their daughter Esther (2).

No. 3: Alfred Miller (28), a porter, lived here with his wife Jane (23) and a lodger.

No. 4: John Prescott (62), a wood turner, lived here with his wife Emma (55) and their nephew Thomas Hyde (6).

No. 5: Martha Macray (55), a widow, lived here with her grandson Ron Haynes (6) and a lodger.


Emmanuel Miles (60) was still a blacking manufacturer here. Now a widower, he was living with his unmarried daughter Sarah (38), who was a dressmaker, and they had John W. Dickeson, junior (33), a billiard-table keeper, as their lodger.


Emmanuel Miles (70). described as a blacking maker & jobbing upholsterer, lived here on his own with his housekeeper.


William Browning (43), a college bursary clerk, lived here with his wife Sarah (42), a lodging house keeper. They had a lodger, Bert Walmseley (28), who was a piano tuner, and he is listed as a separate household here.


Arthur Smith (42), a college servant, lived here with his wife Annie (42) and his children Hinton (14), Norah (9), and Herbert (4), plus one domestic servant.

Occupants of 38 Holywell Street listed in directories etc.


The business beside and
behind 38 (often numbered 39A)

The house at 38

Survey of Oxford

Frontage: 8 yds 1 ft 4 in
Mr Payton: stable

Frontage: 3 yds 1 ft 6 in
Mr Kibblewhite

1839, 1842

Joseph Jones, Baker (1839)

William Shepperd,
Hairdresser & perfumer (1842)


James Bailey (died 1856)
Boot & shoemaker and blacking manufacturer

Mrs E. M. Bailey, blacking manufacturer
with E. Boswell, baker (1861)

Mrs Ann White
Listed as private resident at 38


Mrs E. M. Bailey

with William Kerry at 38½ and
George William Lowe,
teacher of the pianoforte at 38a in 1861


Emmanuel Miles
Blacking Manufacturer

with John R. Stroud (livery stables)
from 1872 to 1876 and
W. Franklin (livery stables) in 1889


Emmanuel Miles




William Browning
Lodging house


James William Hearn
(i.e. keeper of a livery stable)

Benjamin James Wells
Lodging house


Arthur William Smith


Cornelius Hodgkins


Miss I. H. Morris-Smith


39A: King’s Arms Garage
Cars & cycles for hire; drive yourself.
Tel. No. 890


Part of Wadham College


39A: Percival’s Motors
(Percy A. Skinner, proprietor:
motor cars for hire)

Later Percival’s Motors & Coaches,
then just Percival’s Coaches


Blackwell’s Music Shop
(+ Percival’s Coaches to 1976+)


Restaurant: first “Next Door”,
then “Holywells


Conference facility of Wadham College

Holywell home

© Stephanie Jenkins

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