No. 15: St John’s College house

15 St Giles'

The present No. 15 St Giles' dates from just before 1820. It is a listed building (List Entry No. 1084344), and lies in St Giles' parish. It is now owned by St John’s College, but was originally owned by Balliol.

At the time of the 1772 Survey of Oxford there were two older houses on the site of the present No. 15:

  • Miss Eaton with a frontage of 6 yards 1 foot 8 inches to the south
  • The Duke of Marlborough with a frontage of 3 yards 2 feet 1 inch to the north.

In 1820 this house was described as “lately erected on a piece of ground whereupon heretobefore stood a messuage in the occupation of Walter Powell, gent., afterwards Mrs. Eaton, widow”.


In 1820 Balliol College granted Sir Edward Hitchings a lease of 14 and 15 St Giles; Street for 40 years for a payment of £145 2s 6d. and a rent of 5s. for the former and 20s. for the latter. He himself moved into No. 14, which adjoins the north side of the Lamb & Flag Inn, and let out this house next door to Bulkeley Bandinel, Bodley's Librarian.

Dr Bandinel remained there until 1832, when the following advertisement appeared in Jackson’s Oxford Journal on 22 September 1832:

A very superior House in St. Giles’s, OXFORD
TO BE LET, with possession at Michaelmas next,–That spacious and excellent HOUSE, now in the occupation of the Rev. Dr. Bandinel; comprising breakfast, dining, and drawing rooms, suitable sleeping rooms, and offices; with a good garden; and every requisite for the residence of a most respectable family.

The house was let to the Revd James Hitchings of Wargrave, and occupied by the Oxford surgeon George Hitchings, Thomas Hitchings of Bayswater, and Thomas Benwell of Oxford.

By the time of the 1841 census Frederick Joseph Morrell (who was a solicitor in practice at 1 St Giles with his father Baker Morrell) was living here at No. 15 with his wife and three young sons (Frederick, James, and Baker) and five servants. Ten years later in 1851 these three boys were absent (probably away at school), and there were four more young Morrell children at home. The family then had seven live-in servants (a governess, footman, cook, housemaid, under-housemaid, and two nurses). In the early 1850s this growing Morrell family moved to Black Hall at 21 St Giles.

By May 1854 the house was occupied by George and Josephine Butler (probably at first on a sub-lease), and their second of their three sons, Arthur Stanley, was born here. On 30 July 1855 Butler took out a 14-year lease on this house and opened the first private hall there under the new university statute of 18 May 1855, calling it “Butler Hall”. Unfortunately Josephine’s respiratory problems were exacerbated by the Oxford climate, so George took up the post of Vice-Principal of Cheltenham College in 1857. (They later moved on to Liverpool, where Josephine was to become famous as a social reformer and women’s activist.)

By the time of the 1861 census, the house was occupied by the Registrar of the University, Edward Rowden, and his wife and six young children, plus a manservant, cook, housemaid, and nurse. Mrs Rowden continues to be listed at this house in directories until 1901, but she appears to have let it out in the early 1880s, as at the time of the 1881 census it was occupied by William James Herschel, a baronet and widower with two children, living with his sister-in-law, plus their seven servants (a governess, lady’s maid, cook, parlour maid, housemaid, nursery maid, and kitchen girl). Mrs Rowden (70) was back in residence at the time of the 1891 census, together with her son Edward, who was a barrister at law, her two daughters, and three grandchildren, plus her cook and housemaid and her grandchildren's nursemaid.

In the twentieth century, the building had various uses: it was Butler Hall, the Inland Revenue Office, and a branch of Boots the Chemist. The St Giles School of English (later known as the Eckersley School of English) was founded here in 1961, and also occupied premises at No. 45 opposite from 1983.

In 1992 it was converted by T.S.H. Architects into a doctor’s surgery.

The house was adapted by St John’s for student accommodation in 2000.

Occupants of 15 St Giles’ Street listed in censuses and directories


Freehold messuage of Sir Edward Hitchings
in occupation of the Revd Bulkeley Bandinel


Leased to the Revd James Hitchings of Wargrave,
George Hitchings of Oxford, surgeon,
Thomas Hitchings of Bayswater, gent,
Thomas Benwell
of Oxford, gent.

By 1841–1854

Frederick Joseph Morrell, Esq


George & Josephine Butler
“Butler Hall”


Rev. Dr Edward Rowden
Registrar of the University
Professor of Civil Law (1861–70)

Mrs Rowden (1871–1901)


Inland Revenue Office


Commercial Union Assurance Company


Boots the Chemists
Eckersley School of English


Elizabeth A. Livingstone
(upstairs, 1980–1998+)


Doctors’ Surgery
(Drs Pyper, Nichols, & Walton)


Student accommodation
for St John’s College

St Giles’ home

Stephanie Jenkins

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