A History of the County of Oxford: Volume 4, the City of Oxford. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1979.
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In this section
- MODERN OXFORD
Introduction, p. 181. Development of the City, p. 188. Economic History, p. 208. City Government, p. 224 (Unreformed Corporation, p. 224; Corporation 1835–89, p. 227; Paving Commissioners and Local Board of Health, p. 232; Board of Guardians, p. 234; Public Health in the 19th century, p. 236; City Government 1889–1939, p. 240; City Government since 1939, p. 244; City and University, p. 245; Parliamentary Representation, p. 248). Religious Life, p. 254.
With the Paving Commission of 1771 Oxford's modern history began. The commission's activities radically transformed the city's appearance, and its creation, together with that of the Board of Guardians in the same year, marked a shift of power away from the old corporation towards bodies on which the city and university were represented evenly, and which were financed satisfactorily out of rates. The old corporation, abolished in 1835, was succeeded by another with little power, and the confusion of authorities was not finally resolved until 1889 when the corporation was granted a full range of local governmental powers. An even greater turning-point in the development of modern Oxford was the rapid growth of the motor industry at Cowley in the 1920s. Until then, despite the coming of the canal and railway, Oxford remained a fairly small, inward-looking community, little touched by the industrial revolution, instinctively averse to change, heavily dependent upon the university for both fortune and fame. In the space of a generation Oxford was transformed into one of the major industrial cities of southern England, its population swollen by immigration, its suburbs sprawling beyond extended boundaries; its governors, while striving to preserve the jewel at its centre, were confronted by administrative and social problems typical of a new town.
In 1772 the city's population was estimated to be c. 9,500 and the university's c. 3,000; (fn. 1) the number of matriculations, however, (fn. 2) and a calculation that there were only c. 250 resident M.A.s (fn. 3) suggest that the university population was nearer 1,500. The combined population was probably well below 11,000, and by 1801 it was still below 12,000. Between 1811 and 1831 it grew by 50 per cent (see Table X), keeping pace with the rapid urban expansion throughout the country. Oxford lacked the industrial base to maintain such growth, however, and after 1831 the rise in population, although above the national average, fell behind that of larger towns, despite the inclusion of St. Clement's parish within the municipal boundary in 1836, which added c. 2,000 to the population. In the decade 1851–61 there was a sharp fall in the city's growth-rate even allowing for the fact that the 1861 census was taken during a university vacation. The university's growth did not keep pace with the city's; in 1801 the university constituted about a tenth of the total population, but by 1861 only 5 or 6 per cent. Its recovery in the later 19th century (fn. 4) encouraged steady growth in the city's population, but after 1881 the rate slowed once more.
The rate of growth in the 19th century varied greatly from one area of the city to another: several parishes, mainly central, lost population steadily from 1821, while the outer parishes, notably St. Ebbe's (until 1861), St. Thomas's, St. Clement's, and St. Giles's, provided virtually all the city's growth. (fn. 5) Moreover Oxford was the dominant economic influence over a well-populated area larger than the city's boundaries, a fact partly recognized by boundary extensions of 1889 and later. In the Oxford Registration District, which comprised the city's ancient parishes except for St. Giles's and St. John's, there was constant loss of population by net migration, reaching 3,400 in the 1880s. (See Table XI.) In the St. Clement's Registration Sub-district, which contained St. Giles's, St. John's, and most of the areas later added to Oxford, there was regular gain by migration, rising almost to 5,000 in the 1870s. The only decade in which there was a loss by migration from both registration areas combined was the 1850s (a net loss of 1,800), although in the 1880s the gain was negligible.
Source: Census, 1801–1971. Figures include Grandpont tithing but exclude Littlemore.
a Boundary change, 1837. Fig. is that given for the extended city in 1841 by Census, 1851.
b Univ. on vacation at time of census.
c Parl. boundary extended, 1868.
d Co. boro. boundary extended, 1929.
e Estimated in Census, 1951.
f Boundary extended, 1957.
Source: Census, 1851–1911. The St. Clement's Registration Sub-district included St. Clement's, St. Giles's, St. John's, Headington, Cowley, Iffley, Marston, and a number of other outlying parishes.
The widespread distress accompanying the Napoleonic Wars had repercussions in Oxford. Food, money, and coal, bought with large sums subscribed by the city and university, were given or sold cheaply to the poor, but nevertheless violence flared sporadically because of high food prices. (fn. 6) In 1800 a troop of horse was sent to Oxford from Reading, and the local militia was called out after countrymen had been intimidated in the market, and the mob had threatened to attack the town hall and colleges; other poor townsmen terrorized farmers in neighbouring villages, forcing them to promise to sell their corn cheaply. (fn. 7) In 1814 J. I. Lockhart, the city's M.P., was forced to enter the city armed after voting against the import of corn. (fn. 8) With the return of peace Oxford settled back to a more somnolent state, broken only rarely by such outbursts as the arrest, and subsequent rescue in Oxford, of those accused of the riots connected with the inclosure of Otmoor in 1830. (fn. 9) In 1856 many townsmen, disappointed of an official celebration on the ending of the Crimean War, lit bonfires in the streets; one at Carfax aparently destroyed the city stocks. (fn. 10) The last major riots occurred in 1867, in protest at an increase in the price of bread, and in the wake of similar riots in the West Country. A detachment of Guards was sent from Windsor, and peace restored by a reduction in bread prices. (fn. 11)
Throughout the 19th century, while there was an élite of prosperous townsmen, the community was characterized by small tradesmen, craftsmen, and college servants, without any great concentrations of labour. There was a wide gap between rich and poor, symbolized perhaps in St. Aldate's where Christ Church towered over rows and courts of squalid and insanitary cottages; in such areas disease was rife, and the struggle to control cholera occupies a central place in Oxford's 19th-century history. (fn. 12) The discontinuity of demand for goods and services from a university that was on vacation for six months of the year caused chronic underemployment. The notorious rowdiness and corruption of parliamentary elections in Oxford owed much to the impartial demands of those for whom such events brought much-needed income: 'if you do not employ me, I shall go to the other side'. (fn. 13) Although Oxford was reckoned to have few families who were permanently destitute, (fn. 14) appeal funds and public works programmes set up almost every year suggest that a large section of the population was vulnerable in times of high prices or bad weather. It was claimed in 1794 that more than 4,000 people had been regularly supplied with bread for 11 weeks, and in 1886 300 men were set to work repairing roads and bridges during a severe winter. (fn. 15)
The supplementation of the work of the Poor Law Guardians by effective charitable organizations (fn. 16) meant that, although there was distress, the worst crises were avoided. Individual generosity by citizens and members of the university, combined with the paternal nature of most employment in Oxford, acted as stabilizing factors in periods of national political agitation. The relationship of employed and employer was usually deferential: it was noted in 1908 that underpaid clothing workers 'seemed even proud to show that they could do so much for so small a return'. (fn. 17) Before the rise of the motor industry there was an acceptance of a traditional job hierarchy: 'When I was a boy, if a man had a job in the gasworks, the printing press, or on the railways, he stayed there ... Of course there was the college servants, but they wouldn't look at the likes of us'. (fn. 18) Stability may have been aided by the close involvement of small tradesmen, craftsmen, and college servants in the development of the city's working-class housing in the early 19th century; (fn. 19) such men lived in the areas which they helped to develop, and although many of them, other than college servants, might claim to be politically radical they were models of property-owning respectability.
The city's radical leaders could not successfully challenge the monopoly of power exercised by the city's Liberals and Conservatives. A chartist meeting held by John Towle in 1842 attracted an attendance of 200, but few came to the next meeting. (fn. 20) In 1848 it was claimed that a chartist petition organized by J. J. Faulkner contained 900 names, (fn. 21) and a well-attended meeting at the town hall overwhelmingly supported the aims of the Reform Movement. (fn. 22) The hard core of support for the movement, however, does not seem to have been large and although Faulkner and other 'chartist councillors' caused an uproar by refusing to stand for the loyal toast at the mayor's dinner (fn. 23) they were unable to make significant impact. There was little in Oxford on which discontent might effectively be focussed; the city's wealthiest men were not great exploiters of labour, the city council achieved little for good or ill, and the Local Board of Health operated quietly and without obvious injustice. Antagonism towards the university dissipated itself in occasional townand-gown riots, which persisted, irregularly, into the 20th century. (fn. 24)
The wealthy men of Oxford were brewers, bankers, lawyers, newspaper proprietors, and clothiers. It was reported in 1780 that Alderman John Treacher, a brewer, had died worth £40,000, (fn. 25) and brewing was the foundation of other family fortunes, notably those of the Tawneys, (fn. 26) Morrells, and Halls. The banks that flourished from the late 18th century did so on the firm security of university business, which brought prosperity to the families of Lock, Parsons, and Thomson. William Jackson of the Oxford Journal was also a banker, and had other business interests and investments. (fn. 27) Lawyers flourished in a university and county town, none more so than Thomas Walker, town clerk from 1756 to 1795, and William Elias Taunton, town clerk from 1795 to 1825. (fn. 28) The wealthier citizens often lived out of town and acquired country estates. Sir Joseph Lock, (fn. 29) William Jackson, and the Morrells bought estates in Headington; Taunton built both Grandpont House at Folly Bridge and Freeland Lodge, Eynsham; the brewer A. W. Hall, M.P. lived at Barton Abbey; (fn. 30) the Parsons and Thomson families, partners in the Old Bank, acquired Elsfield Manor and Woodperry respectively in the late 19th century. (fn. 31)
Oxford was not ruled, however, by a small absentee élite, for in a city where, before 1914, the only large-scale employer was the university press, the economic basis did not exist for an exclusive concentration of power in the hands of one or two people. The only family that came near to exercising prolonged influence in the city was the Morrell family from Wallingford, (fn. 32) which rose to prominence in Oxford in the mid 18th century. James Morrell (1739–1807), a partner of Thomas Walker, was involved in the management of parliamentary elections for both the Churchill and Bertie candidates; he was the university solicitor and also occasionally represented the city. In his offices with the university and as steward of St. John's College he was followed by his son, grandson, and great grandson. His son Baker (1779–1854) married the daughter of the president of Trinity College, and Robert, probably a nephew, was an attorney and county treasurer in 1844, (fn. 33) and may have been a partner in the firm of Cox, Morrell and Co., bankers. (fn. 34) Baker Morrell's son Frederick Joseph (1811–83) held the additional offices of clerk to the Paving Commission and Local Board of Health, and was a Conservative councillor from 1866–9. His son, Frederick Parker, mayor in 1899, married the daughter of the president of St. John's College; Philip, son of F. P. Morrell, was Liberal M.P. for South Oxfordshire, and married Ottoline, sister of William Cavendish-Bentinck, duke of Portland (d. 1943), with whom he entertained many eminent writers at Garsington Manor. (fn. 35) The Morrells accumulated landed property from the 18th century, and held estates widely over the county. Another branch of the family descended from Mark Morrell (1737–87), James's brother. Mark and his son, James, entered brewing in the late 18th century as partners of the Tawneys (fn. 36) to whom they were related by marriage. James (d. 1855) was living in Headington Hill Hall by 1831, (fn. 37) and the family retained the estate until it was sold to the city in 1953. (fn. 38) His son James (1810–63), sheriff of the county in 1853, (fn. 39) was an open-handed and popular local figure; his brewery, known as the Lion Brewery, remained in the family's ownership in 1978.
Concentration of wealth and office on such a scale in one family was unusual in Oxford. The Morrells were not politically ambitious, and although perhaps distinguished from their fellow-citizens by their familiar contacts with leading members of the university they were never wholly exclusive. The wealth of the city was spread widely enough over the middle classes to dampen feelings of resentment against such men. A list of the major shareholders in the proposed railway to Oxford in 1836 included Oxford bankers, tailors, grocers, wine merchants, solicitors, cooks, booksellers, and ironmongers. (fn. 40) Nor was the city's 'respectability' in the 19th century rigidly Conservative, as it was, for example, in Exeter. (fn. 41) Certainly the brewers, bankers, and lawyers were predominantly Conservative, but many prominent and widely respected tradesmen were Liberals. For much of the 19th century the city was virtually controlled by the Liberals, dominant on the council and the Local Board of Health, prominent on the Board of Guardians. The 'respectability' cut across party lines; although no dissenter became an alderman for almost twenty years after municipal reform they were readily accepted thereafter.
As a social centre Oxford never matched resorts like Bath or Cheltenham. The university attracted increasing numbers of tourists, few as ignorant as Macaulay's travelling companion, who, after spending half an hour in Oxford, pronounced 'That was a pretty town enough. Pray, sir, what is it called?'. (fn. 42) The university, however, provided few social events in which outsiders might partake, and the city had no reputation for banquets, balls, or festivals; in the 18th century the great social event was the Port Meadow races, (fn. 43) but fashionable interest in the races declined in the 19th century. A list compiled c. 1820 of the local nobility and gentry who regularly came into Oxford in style was not particularly impressive, and included many members of the university. (fn. 44) There were occasions of great public excitement and interest, such as public executions, and ascents by hot-air balloons. James Sadler (1753–1828), the first English balloonist, son of a High Street confectioner, made several ascents from Oxford in 1784 and 1785, so impressing the onlookers that George Spencer, marquis of Blandford could not be restrained from buying a balloon himself. (fn. 45) Generally, however, Oxford's claim to be 'always a century behind other towns' (fn. 46) was not an inducement to the fashionable.
Royal visits in the late 18th and earlier 19th centuries were splendid ceremonial occasions, following the pattern set in the 17th and 18th centuries. In 1785 and 1786 George III and Queen Charlotte visited Oxford from Nuneham Courtenay, home of the Harcourt family, and the mayor, John Treacher, and senior alderman, Richard Tawney, were knighted. (fn. 47) In 1799 Frederick, duke of York, devoted the first day of his visit mainly to the university, but a ball in the evening in the town hall was attended by a 'splendid assemblage' of nobility and gentry; the next day he received the freedom of the city and reviewed the Oxford Loyal Volunteers on Port Meadow. (fn. 48) The victory over Napoleon in 1814 was celebrated by a dinner followed by music and dancing for over 4,000 poor people in Radcliffe Square, and by one of the most splendid royal visits the city had seen. The Prince Regent, accompanied by Alexander I of Russia, Frederick William III of Prussia, Prince Metternich, Marshal Blücher, and other distinguished European soldiers and statesmen, visited the university, but on the afternoon of their second day they came to the town hall, where the town clerk, W. E. Taunton, and mayor, Joseph Lock, were knighted, and the honorary freedom of the city conferred on several of the visitors. (fn. 49) Earlier foreign visitors included Frederick, prince of Würtemburg, in 1797 and the exiled Louis XVIII of France in 1808: both stayed at the Star. (fn. 50) Queen Adelaide, accompanied by the duke of Wellington, stayed at the Angel in 1835; there was no official reception, but the mayor called on the queen and, according to a story circulating in the university, (fn. 51) shook her hand firmly instead of kissing it.
Queen Victoria paid the first of several visits to Oxford in 1832, while still a princess. (fn. 52) In 1841 she and Prince Albert came to Oxford during a stay at Nuneham Courtenay, and in 1860 she paid a private visit to Edward, prince of Wales, who was then spending a year at Christ Church as an undergraduate, living in Frewin Hall. (fn. 53) The Prince of Wales himself opened the new town hall in 1897. (fn. 54)
Social contact between town and gown was for a long time restricted to the most prominent townsmen. A visit by James Woodforde, fellow of New College, to take tea with a group of townspeople in 1775 was an unusual event in his round of social activities. (fn. 55) Experience of co-operation on the city's governing bodies brought town and gown closer together, (fn. 56) but there were frequently deep social divisions, exacerbated by arrogance. The city's suburban growth provoked a suggestion that 'pastry-cooks who had made fortunes by cheating members of the university should retire to the dunghills on which they were spawned . . . and not pollute the magnificent entrances to the most beautiful of cities in the kingdom'. (fn. 57) Such attitudes provoked the predictable response that the heads of houses were 'a set of vagabonds, living on the fat of the land'. (fn. 58) As late as the 1870s it was reckoned to be impossible for outsiders to get a footing in university society (fn. 59) and it was only as an increasing number of academic families settled in the suburbs of North Oxford that attitudes began to change, but then only slowly. An article of 1892 in a university magazine, caricaturing leading townsmen as Aldermen Buggins and Muggins, dropping aitches with Dickensian liberality, (fn. 60) presumably reflected the acceptable attitudes of the day.
Oxford's industrialization led to rapid population growth in the 1920s and 1930s. The city's boundaries were extended in 1929; between 1921 and 1931 the population of the whole area of the extended city grew by 20 per cent. Between 1931 and 1951 (see Table X), the population increased by a further 23 per cent, or 34 per cent if those students are included who were on vacation at the time of the 1951 census, making Oxford one of the larger urban areas of southern England. The city's growth was matched by that of the university which in 1951 comprised c. 9 per cent of the total population. (fn. 61) Thereafter the city's rate of growth slowed but the university's expansion continued. The adjusted total for 1951 means that in the following decade the population of the city as a whole fell by c. 1,500, and Oxford's total population was almost static between 1961 and 1971, in which year the university comprised about a tenth of the population.
Migration was the decisive factor in the rapid expansion of the 1920s. (fn. 62) The calculations made in the census of 1931 show that to be true for the whole area within the new boundary of 1929. In the 1920s Oxford made a net gain of more than 11,000 by migration and the city continued to gain until the 1950s. The exclusion of students in the 1951 census meant that an apparent gain by migration of c. 3,000 by 1961 in reality hid a net loss by migration of c. 6,000. The loss was probably accounted for largely by the movement out to the surrounding villages of people who continued to work in Oxford. (fn. 63) Despite a small rise in the city's total population between 1961 and 1971 there was a loss by net migration of c. 3,000.
A study made in 1937 of immigration into Oxford (fn. 64) revealed that since 1921 c. 10,300 insured workers had moved into the area. In 1936 35 per cent of the total insured population of the city, and 43 per cent of male insured workers above the age of 21, were immigrants; almost half the workforce in the motor industry were immigrants. The new industry brought in its wake a great demand for goods and services, which itself brought more people to the city: more than half those working in the bus service, for example, came from outside Oxford. In 1936 43 per cent of immigrants came from within 50 miles of Oxford, 34 per cent from within 50–100 miles, and 23 per cent from above 100 miles. More than a third came from the relatively prosperous south-west, and comparatively few from the depressed areas of the north. Economic distress, however, did account for the large number of workers who took the familiar route to Oxford from South Wales. (fn. 65)
The rapid growth of the motor industry and the influx of immigrants brought a change of attitudes and values. High wages were readily available in Oxford for the first time, and by 1936 Oxford was, with Coventry and Luton, the most prosperous town in the United Kingdom. (fn. 66) The city's traditional job-hierarchy was overturned; the immigrants also brought with them more aggressive attitudes towards their employers, and there was frequently antipathy towards them on the part of local people. Many of the habitual difficulties of immigrants, however, such as isolation and the tendency to form ghettos, did not present lasting problems, largely because so many were young and willing to mix socially. (fn. 67) One of the greatest problems was the pressure of population growth upon the city's housing resources at a time when the older areas were in need of redevelopment; the crisis produced tensions that were previously unknown in Oxford. The council estate at Cutteslowe became notorious in 1934 when the developers of an adjoining private estate built walls to prevent the council's tenants from using its roads; it was alleged that the tenants were former Oxford slum-dwellers, although most of the houses were inhabited by newcomers to the city. The council was not able to compel the demolition of the walls until 1959. (fn. 68) Another major problem was that the population, though greatly enlarged, continued to depend upon the same restricted central shopping area, a situation only partly eased by the creation of Cowley Centre in 1965. Shortage of development land within the boundaries encouraged many families to move outside, beyond the reach of reasonable public transport, thus increasing the flow of private cars into the city centre. Traffic problems, with associated controversies over relief roads, have played an unusually prominent part in the city's modern history.
The growth of the motor industry in Oxford was entirely the result of the enterprise of a local man, W. R. Morris, later Viscount Nuffield (d. 1963), (fn. 69) whose vast fortune was dispersed in benefactions to the academic and medical world. The city benefited directly, particularly from gifts to local hospital services. (fn. 70) As a young man Morris quarrelled with the city authorities when he set up a rival and unlicensed bus service in 1913; (fn. 71) thereafter he took little part in civic life, although in 1923 only ill-health prevented him from standing as a Conservative candidate for Oxford. (fn. 72) In 1951 he accepted the honorary freedom of the city, having refused it twice previously. (fn. 73)
The Oxford Committee for Famine Relief, founded in 1942 to relieve famine and sickness arising from the war in Europe, grew during the 1940s and 1950s into an international charity, Oxfam. In 1958 it was registered as a non-profit-making company, and in 1962 opened a purpose-built headquarters at no. 274 Banbury Road. In the financial year 1977–8 Oxfam raised c. £7,500,000 which was used to support projects and give emergency relief in 76 countries. (fn. 74)
DEVELOPMENT OF THE CITY
Between 1771 and 1811 the number of houses in the city increased only from c. 1,700 to c. 2,000, (fn. 75) but the city's appearance was altered greatly by the new and vigorous approach to local improvements of the Paving Commissioners of 1771. (fn. 76) The commission made the first modern attempt at overall planning in the city; with general approbation (fn. 77) the east and north gates, together with Bocardo, were demolished in 1771, (fn. 78) the butchers' shambles in Queen Street and part of the butter bench at Carfax in 1773. (fn. 79) The street-market was brought to an end, replaced by the indoor market opened in 1774. (fn. 80) In October 1771 it was reported that all the protruding inn- and shop-signs had been taken down, and 'put against the houses', (fn. 81) and the city's appearance was gradually transformed by the removal of myriad stalls, pumps, porches, penthouses, spouts, and projections. Carfax conduit was removed in 1787, and the remaining part of the butter bench c. 1822. (fn. 82) The commissioners' removal of encroachments, and the setting-back of property from the street to facilitate road-widening and paving, won the praise of visitors, who complimented the city on its new look, particularly its unaccustomed cleanliness; High Street, its paving completed in 1779 in the new style of large squared blocks with side gutters, (fn. 83) was regarded as equal to the best-paved streets in London. (fn. 84)
The enthusiasm for public improvements alarmed some householders, particularly when the Paving Commission's surveyor, John Gwynn, was observed all over town, measuring and making notes on streets and houses. (fn. 85) Others, however, were for bolder measures, notably Edward Tatham, rector of Lincoln College, who proposed widespread destruction in the city in order to open up elegant vistas and avenues: the churches of St. Michael and St. Mary Magdalen were to be demolished, the city wall and the mound removed from New College garden, and Queen's and New College Lanes turned into 'a large open street'; trees were to remain in the streets only where they concealed the 'enormous irregularity of gothic pinnacles'. (fn. 86) The commissioners, however, kept the destruction of houses to a minimum, demolishing those adjoining the east and north gates, others in Middle Row, south of St. Mary Magdalen church, (fn. 87) a few at the north end of Turl Street in 1785, (fn. 88) and a row in St. Aldate's opposite Christ Church in 1834. (fn. 89) The only large-scale demolition was in St. Clement's, for the rebuilding of Magdalen Bridge and the opening of a new road to Henley (later Iffley Road), both completed in 1778. (fn. 90) The remodelling of the area was completed by the demolition of St. Clement's church in 1830. (fn. 91) The churchyard remained, but was later made into a traffic island. The western approaches to the town had been improved c. 1770 by the cutting of New Road through the castle precincts, from Queen Street to the Botley causeway. (fn. 92) The alterations to the city's approaches were completed by the removal of Friar Bacon's Study in 1779, and the rebuilding of Folly Bridge in 1825. (fn. 93)
The Oxford Canal, opened in 1790, skirted the eastern edge of Port Meadow through what was mostly open country, ending at the New Road wharves. The canal attracted some industrial development, notably the Eagle Ironworks, which moved to Walton Well Road in 1825, (fn. 94) and further wharves were opened off Walton Street and Hayfield Road. The main navigation stream of the Thames was also altered in 1790, no longer passing under Bulstake Bridge, but through Oseney Lock, and in 1883 a new cut was made for the river Cherwell through Christ Church meadow, to ease the flooding below the city. (fn. 95)
There was little space for building in the old city, and, apart from the market and college buildings, most larger institutions of the late 18th century and early 19th were built on the northern fringes. The Radcliffe Infirmary, designed by Stiff Leadbetter, was built at the southern end of the Woodstock road between 1759 and 1770, and the Radcliffe Observatory, just to the north, between 1772 and 1794; both were financed by the trustees of the will of Dr. John Radcliffe. The first architect of the Observatory, 'the finest example of the late classic style . . . in Oxford', (fn. 96) was Henry Keene, but the building is said to owe more to his successor, James Wyatt, who modelled the octagonal central tower on the Tower of the Winds at Athens. (fn. 97) The workhouse for the United Parishes was also built to the north of the city, on the site of the later Wellington Square, in 1772. The castle gaol was rebuilt in 1776 and a new city gaol at Gloucester Green was in use by 1789. A county hall was built in solid, Norman style next to the castle gaol in 1841. (fn. 98) The most important new commercial building was the Canal House, designed by Richard Tawney for the Oxford Canal Company in 1827–9 at the canal basin. The building, of stone and in classical style, later became the master's lodgings of St. Peter's College. (fn. 99) The company's previous offices may have been in Wyaston House, in New Inn Hall Street, built in 1797 and taken over in 1878 to be the rectory-house of St. Peter-le-Bailey; the building survives as the entrance hall and library of St. Peter's College. (fn. 100) A gasworks was erected in 1818 on the north bank of the river Thames, in the Friars district of St. Ebbe's, an area later developed so intensively for housing that major extensions of the works in 1882 had to take place on the south bank of the river opposite. (fn. 101)
The university press was removed from the Clarendon Building to Walton Street in 1830, (fn. 102) and its presence there led to the rapid development of the Jericho district. The Ashmolean Museum and Taylor Institution, designed by C. R. Cockerell, were built in 1841–5 on the site of a number of old houses off St. Giles's Street. (fn. 103) The Ashmolean's classical facade contrasts strongly with the contemporary Martyrs' Memorial, designed by George Gilbert Scott, built in memory of bishops Cranmer, Latimer, and Ridley in 1841–3, and based on the 13th-century Eleanor Cross at Waltham (Essex). The memorial was financed by public subscription, and built on the site of the Robin Hood inn and other 17th-century houses to the north of St. Mary Magdalen church. (fn. 104)
A few substantial private houses were built outside the former built-up area in the late 18th century and early 19th. Grandpont House, built c. 1875 for William Elias Taunton, town clerk, is a three-storey house straddling a stream of the Thames on three arches at the south-east corner of Folly Bridge. (fn. 105) East of Magdalen Bridge, in Cowley Place, a three-storey brick house, Cowley House, was built c. 1780 for Dr. Humphrey Sibthorp, professor of Botany; north and south wings were added in the later 19th century and the house later formed the nucleus of St. Hilda's College. (fn. 106) Walton House, a plain two-storey stone villa, was built c. 1826 by Alderman Thomas Ensworth, and later became the original hall of residence of Somerville College. (fn. 107)
In the city centre there was continued refronting in stucco of older buildings, often combined with heightening and addition of canted bays, as at no. 36 High Street, where the late-18th-century front covers a 16th- or 17th-century building. In 1783 the 16th-century Star inn in Cornmarket was completely refronted with a symmetrical facade, (fn. 108) and, although the Star has been demolished, many other examples of refronting survive in Cornmarket Street and High Street. Late-18th-century buildings in stone included the High Street frontage of the market (fn. 109) and nos. 92–3 High Street, the Old Bank, built for the flourishing partnership of William Fletcher and John Parsons; no. 93, of four bays, was built in 1775 on the site of George Hall, and no. 92, of five bays, was added in 1798, but the ground floors were remodelled later. (fn. 110) Some groups of late-18th- and early-19th-century buildings replaced properties demolished during the improvements of the late 18th century, notably those built near the demolished east gate, nos. 58–9 High Street on the north side of the street, and a range on the south, nos. 61–72. At the corner of Rose Lane, in a key position overlooking the new eastern approach to the city, Thomas Roberson, later town clerk, built a large three-storey, ashlar building, later purchased by Dr. John Cooke, president of Corpus Christi College, and in 1859 by Magdalen College, which gave it the name Magdalen Gate House. (fn. 111) Other small groups of buildings of that period survive on the west side of Oriel Street, and at the north-west end of Turl Street. Not all new building was of such quality, however; until c. 1930 the south-east corner of Carfax, one of the most important sites in the city, was occupied by a drab four-storey early-19th-century building of Flemish bond brickwork. (fn. 112)
The greatest concentration of new stone buildings of the period was in St. Giles's Street, mostly built as residences and offices for leading professional men, while some of the most substantial were taken by university professors. On the south-east, only no. 1, a 2½-storey, two-bay house with pedimented doorway survives. In 1846, and probably earlier, it was occupied by a local lawyer, Baker Morrell, whose business successors occupied the building in 1978. On the north-east, nos. 14 and 15 are large stone houses, occupied in 1846 by two leading citizens, R. J. Spiers and F. J. Morrell. The north-west of the street is dominated by a group, nos. 34–8, three- and four-storeyed, with ashlar fronts, some with pedimented doorways and windows, some with cast-iron first-floor balconies. In 1846 their occupants included a builder, two ladies of independent means, a physician, the university registrar, and the university reader in Logic. (fn. 113)
Georgian and Regency terraces, so important a feature of many towns, are thinly represented in Oxford, presumably because of the city's lack of economic growth, and the requirement at that time that dons remain unmarried and resident in college. A few isolated groups survive, notably the late-Georgian stucco terrace at London Place, St. Clement's. St. John's Terrace, nos. 47–53 Woodstock Road, large three-storey brick houses with stone dressings and cast-iron balconies, was built in the early 19th century for prosperous tradesmen; a humbler version was St. Giles's Terrace, nos. 14–36 Woodstock Road. The only major development was Beaumont Street, described as the 'finest street ensemble of Oxford', (fn. 114) laid out for St. John's College from 1820 by Henry Dixon, a local surveyor, who was, perhaps, also the architect. The leases, granted for 40 years from the completion of each house, almost all date from 1824, although there seems still to have been some isolated building in progress in 1837. The houses, generally of three storeys and two or three bays, are ashlar-fronted terraces with rear and side elevations of brick, and some wroughtiron balconies. St. John Street, developed at the same time, is narrower and plainer, and Beaumont Buildings, parallel with St. John Street on the west, are small brick-built terraced houses. Most of the houses were built by speculators, of whom many lived themselves in the new development. The houses in Beaumont Street were occupied by financiers, builders, and prominent tradesmen, St. John Street and Beaumont Buildings by lesser tradesmen and college servants. (fn. 115)
Many of the same speculators, notably George Kimber, Thomas Wyatt, and John Eveness, were involved in building developments elsewhere in the city. In the early 19th century there was a prolonged period of working-class house building in the parishes of St. Clement, St. Ebbe, St. Giles, St. Mary Magdalen, and St. Thomas, so that between 1811 and 1851 the number of houses in the city, including St. Clement's, more than doubled to 5,100. By far the biggest increase came in the decade 1821–31, when the number increased by c. 42 per cent, slightly easing the problem of overcrowding which had grown in the previous decades. (fn. 116) The building was mainly in the the Friars district of St. Ebbe's, around Gloucester Green, along Walton Street, in Jericho, and in St. Clement's. (fn. 117) Further north, St. Bernard's Road was being developed in 1832 and Observatory Street in 1834. (fn. 118) The development was primarily a response to the city's rapidly increasing population, but also resulted from a shift in population out of the central parishes, where very little new house-building took place, and where extensions by colleges depleted the existing housing stock. (fn. 119) Oxford was unusual in that the movement outwards was by the less well off, leaving 'a ring of suburbs around an upper-class centre'. (fn. 120) Until the development of North Oxford later in the century there was no suitable land available for the building of middle-class housing, and the middle classes remained in the centre or lived outside the city while working-class housing was concentrated in areas that were often low-lying, ill-drained, and subject to flooding. The new houses were two- and three-storey brick cottages, occasionally varied by polychrome brick-work, and most were solidly built although drainage problems quickly became apparent. The terraces contained a variety of house-types of different standards. (fn. 121) Some of the later houses, such as those in Paradise Square begun in 1838, were built for slightly more prosperous residents. (fn. 122) The new estates were laid out by speculative developers and the houses built by 'a host of small capitalists investing savings and mortgage loans in the building of small groups of houses on individual lots', often with the intention of living in one house and renting the others. (fn. 123) In Jericho, which grew as a result of the removal there of the university press in 1830, the press did not build houses for its own workers, being content to take a few over later to rent to its employees. (fn. 124)
The pace of building fell away during the 1850s as the city failed to maintain its earlier population growth. There were sporadic attempts to redevelop some of the worst housing in the old city. In 1866 a group of tenements in St. Thomas's between the Hamel and Woodbine Place were demolished on the orders of the dean and chapter of Christ Church, and replaced by the Christ Church Model Dwellings, a three-storey block of 30 flats with open staircases, arranged around three sides of a communal courtyard. (fn. 125) In 1893 Christ Church built a four-storey block in Hollybush Row, known as the Christ Church New Buildings. (fn. 126) Both 'tenement' blocks, an unusual feature outside the larger industrial cities, continued in use in 1978.
The building of new houses in the later 19th century took place in outlying districts, and beyond the city's boundaries. There had already been some building on freehold land in North Parade, following the inclosure of St. Giles's parish in 1832, (fn. 127) and at Summertown outside the city boundary. The origin of the name Summertown is uncertain. The first references to the settlement were to Somers Town or Summers Town, but it was later claimed that those names were a mis-spelling of Summertown, so called because of its pleasant location. (fn. 128) It seems possible, however, that the settlement was first named Somers Town in imitation of the late-18th-century settlement of that name on the northern outskirts of London, in the parish of St. Pancras. (fn. 129) Beginning on the eastern side of the Banbury road c. 1¼ miles from Oxford in 1820, the settlement developed steadily, spreading across to Woodstock Road, north of what was later called South Parade, until by 1832 there were c. 125 houses and 560 people, mostly small tradesmen and labourers, attracted there by the availability of cheap accommodation in pleasant surroundings. (fn. 130) Summertown was developed by many of the men who were also active in Oxford itself; two of the principal speculative developers, Crews Dudley, a leading local solicitor, and George Kimber, tallow chandler, were also involved in the development of St. Ebbe's and Beaumont Street. (fn. 131) Summertown's development was, however, distinctive, combining small-scale cottage development with the building of substantial villas. It was neither fully rural nor suburban, and has been characterized as a 'tradesman's village'. (fn. 132) Some of the poorer cottages have been cleared, but a number of the better survive, including a group of six at the corner of Woodstock Road and South Parade, and the double house at no. 258 Banbury Road, converted into the Dew Drop inn. A small 18th-century farmhouse, part of Hawkswell farm to the east of Banbury Road, also survives. Among the more distinguished buildings was Summerhill, no. 333 Banbury Road, a 'rather grand Italianate villa', (fn. 133) first built in 1823, but later much extended and embellished. The Lodge, on Middle Way, was built c. 1840 in neo-classical style. Those later demolished included Kimber's own house, the Avenue, between Woodstock Road and Middle Way, the first large villa of the new development, replaced in 1965 by Bishop Kirk school. (fn. 134)
Later building in Summertown, mostly of cottages between the Banbury and Woodstock roads, continued slowly and only c. 50 new houses were built between 1851 and 1881. (fn. 135) Summertown was absorbed into the city in 1889, (fn. 136) and in the 1890s a new phase of development began. The area between South Parade and Beechcroft Road was laid out by the Oxford Industrial and Provident Building Society in 1893 and the society also developed the area between Victoria Road and Lonsdale Road after 1903. The Sunnymead estate, between Banbury Road and Water Eaton Road, belongs to the same period. The houses were built only slowly, but by 1930 c. 700 new houses had been added. (fn. 137) The new estates altered Summertown's character radically, imposing a pattern of housing that had more in common with North Oxford than with Summertown's own distinctive tradition of mixed development. Summertown became a middle-class suburb, and the growth of commercial development along Banbury road in the 20th century completed the elimination of its village character.
The first attempt at a planned development on the outlying land to the north of the city was on a large, isolated plot to the east of the Banbury road which had belonged to New College. The Board of Guardians bought the land in 1849 for a new workhouse, but the site proved unsuitable, and the guardians decided to develop it for middle-class housing. (fn. 138) By 1854 building had begun on the two crescents on the north and south of the Park Town estate, and in 1855 they and the crescent at the east end were complete. The remaining lots, intended for detached and semi-detached villas, were taken up more slowly, and two plots were never built on. The Park Town Estate Company, formed in 1857 to develop the remaining sites, went into liquidation in 1861, and the houses it had built were auctioned off. (fn. 139) The architect of many of the houses, Samuel Lipscomb Seckham, was also the principal speculative developer of the site. The lay-out and Italianate design of the houses were old-fashioned for the time, but the use on one or two houses of brick with stone dressings, instead of stone or stucco, anticipated the fashion which was to become dominant in the development of North Oxford. (fn. 140)
A few other Italianate stuccoed villas were built at the southern end of Banbury Road c. 1850, probably by S. L. Seckham. (fn. 141) Most of the remaining undeveloped land in the parish of St. Giles was owned by St. John's College, but it was not until the college obtained an Act of Parliament in 1855 enabling it to make 99-year building leases, (fn. 142) instead of the 40-year leases granted for Beaumont and St. John streets, that the way was prepared for the building of North Oxford proper. The initiative for the development came from the college's steward, F. J. Morrell, on whose advice it was that the college decided to develop its estate by means of building leases. (fn. 143) In 1860 St. John's began to develop, at Norham Manor, the eastern part of its estate. By selling the land as individual leasehold plots of good size, and by requiring all designs to be approved by a succession of college architects, who were in fact frequently the designers, the college was able to control the quality of building, and was responsible for the distinctive character which the area acquired over the next 50 years, as building spread northwards and westwards. The architects most involved were W. Wilkinson and his partner, H. W. Moore, and pupil F. Codd. (fn. 144) They designed houses either directly for a purchaser's own use, or on behalf of property speculators, who were very active in the development of North Oxford.
After a slow start the Norham Manor estate was completed in the 1870s. (fn. 145) On Walton Manor, west of the Banbury Road, the first lease, for nos. 121–3 Woodstock Road, seems to have been granted in 1856, but building on the estate did not become general until the 1860s. (fn. 146) During the 1870s building spread westwards towards the canal until Southmoor Road was completed in 1885. To the north, Rackham Lane (later St. Margaret's Road) was laid out in 1879, and development continued northwards, reaching Frenchay Road and Linton Road in 1895. (fn. 147) The development of the St. John's estate was finally completed in the early 20th century, when building reached just beyond Marston Ferry Road and Bainton Road along the Banbury and Woodstock roads. Further north freehold land between the two main roads was built up in the late 19th century and early 20th, merging with the Summertown development, which was spreading southwards from South Parade. (fn. 148)
Large, gabled Gothic villas of red or yellow brick and stone dressings are the characteristic houses of North Oxford, although the later houses were plainer. In general the larger houses lie along and to the east of the Banbury road, and there is a marked gradation of both house and plot size towards the west. Only where the proximity of the canal and railway prescribed social as well as physical limits to the development is there housing of smaller scale, but even there much of it is architect-designed: the spirit of North Oxford finds one of its most unlikely but forcible expressions in the artisans' cottages in Kingston Road, designed by C. C. Rolfe (1870). (fn. 149) Other notable houses are those in Hayfield Road, developed between 1886 and 1888 by the Oxford Industrial and Provident Building Society, and a block of seven cottages on the south side of Plantation Road, built in 1888 by the Oxford Cottage Improvement Company. (fn. 150) The housing development along the Banbury and Woodstock roads is remarkable for the number of mature trees there, which give the area a park-like quality that is lacking in the city's other suburbs.
It is a misconception that North Oxford grew up 'when the dons were released from celibacy and became prolific'. (fn. 151) By the time dons were allowed to marry, following the Royal Commission of 1877, (fn. 152) a large part of North Oxford was already developed, and the movement of dons out of college was in any case a gradual process. Professors and readers had always been allowed to live out, and they accounted for the relatively high concentration of university families in Norham Gardens and Park Town, but the freedom of dons to marry played only a subordinate role in the development of North Oxford as a whole. By 1883 only 53 members of colleges, including 15 professors, lived out, many of them outside North Oxford, notably in St. Giles Street and High Street. (fn. 153) The new houses were mostly taken by tradesmen, for whom the growth of North Oxford was the first opportunity to move from the city centre into suitable middle-class suburbs. Towards the end of the century the area also attracted an increasing number of retired and financially independent residents. In 1936 the first block of flats, combined with shops, was built at Belsyre Court, and later many of North Oxford's larger houses were converted for flats, hotels, or institutional use. An unusual feature of development in the otherwise residential character of North Oxford was the construction of the Osberton Radiator factory in 1919 in Osberton Road. The factory was transferred in 1925 to a near-by site on the western side of Woodstock Road. (fn. 154)
Associated with the development of North Oxford were a number of villas and terraces built in the 1860s and 1870s in Keble Road, Museum Road, Parks Road, and South Parks Road. Some of the larger villas, such as those in South Parks Road, were built for senior members of the university, but many of the terraces in Keble Road and Museum Road were speculative developments; they, too, were generally occupied by members of the university. (fn. 155) Wellington Square, at the northern end of St. John Street, was built between 1869 and 1876 as a speculative development of mixed domestic housing. (fn. 156) Between 1969 and 1973 the houses on the northern side of the square were demolished for new university registry offices. (fn. 157)
The work of speculative builders throughout the city's growing suburbs was encouraged by the Oxford Building and Investment Company. The company, founded in 1866 by a number of prominent citizens, was the most important building society in the city, concentrating on the building of houses for the 'trading and industrial classes'. The company became increasingly involved with the financing of speculative builders, until two-thirds of its transactions consisted of such business; partly as a result of the company's activities Oxford became noted for its unusually large number of speculative builders. When the company failed in 1883 it was found that too much credit had been offered to unreliable builders, and that the company secretary had been 'inviting' builders to use the company's loans to buy materials from his own timber yard and brick factory, which specialized in yellow brick: Walter Gray, who led the attack on the company and was later appointed its liquidator, claimed that it would be difficult to find one house built in connexion with the company in the past ten years which was of red brick. (fn. 158) In 1883 the building company had an interest in 378 houses, including 225 in Oxford and 104 in Swindon, and it was preparing to develop large estates in Grandpont and Cowley. (fn. 159)
The Oxford Industrial and Provident Building Society, founded in 1860, besides developing property in Hayfield Road and Summertown also undertook large developments in East Oxford. (fn. 160) The society merged with the Warwick and Rugby Building Society in 1964. (fn. 161) A third local society, the Oxford and Abingdon Building Society, established in 1851, was not involved in land purchase or house construction, but restricted its activities to loans for house purchase. (fn. 162) Other agencies at work in the city were the Oxford Cottage Improvement Company, the National Freehold Land Society, a Liberal organization, and the Conservative Freehold Land Society, the two last particularly active in East Oxford.
The major obstacle to expansion east of Magdalen Bridge was the absence of freehold land. (fn. 163) In the early 19th century there was much building in St. Clement's between High Street St. Clement's and the Cherwell, with small houses, workshops, and a brewery. Expansion eastwards followed the inclosure of Cowley parish in 1853. (fn. 164) The pattern of distribution of the land at inclosure became the basis for the subsequent layout of the streets, and is the underlying reason for many of the variations in its development. In general the areas closest to the bridge were built up first, although building plots were being sold in Magdalen Road and Percy Street as early as 1859, (fn. 165) and streets had been laid out, although by no means densely built up, as far east as Howard Street by 1878. (fn. 166)
Progress reports in local newspapers indicate that much of central East Oxford, between Iffley Road and Headington Road, was laid out by the National Freehold Land Society, who were also involved in the development of Temple Cowley in the 1860s. The Conservative Freehold Land Society laid out an estate between Stanley Road and Magdalen Road on which one or two villas were built, but, unlike its rival, the organization was not a success in Oxford. Most of the early development of East Oxford was on privately owned land, and the plots, which were small, were sold freehold. The land belonging to institutions does not appear to have been developed early except in the Rectory Road and Princes Street block which had been allotted to Pembroke College at inclosure, and which was developed by 1878. (fn. 167) In 1888 the Fairacres estate, south of the Iffley Road, was purchased from Magdalen College by the Oxford Industrial and Provident Building Society, and laid out for the building of 'superior workingmen's houses'. The development was unusual in that, like St. John's, Magdalen made it a condition of building that plans be submitted to the college for prior approval. (fn. 168) Most of the other college-owned land was still not built up by 1898, but Donnington Hospital had sold off two of its three large inclosure allotments. That on the north of Cowley Road, in the Divinity Road-Southfield Road area, was laid out by the Oxford Industrial and Provident Building Society in 1891. (fn. 169) By 1898 virtually all the privately owned land between the Cowley and Iffley roads had been developed, although many plots remained vacant. North of the Cowley Road, there was almost no development east of St. Bartholomew's hospital. South of the Iffley Road, building was in progress around Warwick Street and Argyle Street, an area largely developed by two local builders, W. Gray and T. H. Kingerlee. (fn. 170)
Much of the development of St. Clement's and East Oxford was of a piecemeal nature, any unity being derived from the widespread use of narrow plots, terracing, red or yellow brick, and two-storey elevations. Some of the larger houses on Iffley Road are reminiscent of North Oxford, and are probably by the same architects, (fn. 171) but the deep building lines and leafy setting are lacking.
Little building took place before the second half of the 19th century on the low-lying ground south of Folly Bridge between the Hinksey stream and the river Thames. On the east side of Abingdon Road a row of semi-detached villas were built c. 1860, (fn. 172) but the first streets to be laid out were further south in New Hinksey, which lies on a gravel island. The development was presumably stimulated by the proximity of the railway, opened in 1844 with a station near Folly Bridge; (fn. 173) there were c. 50 small houses by 1867, (fn. 174) and a church (St. John the Evangelist) was built between 1870 and 1872. (fn. 175) Building continued slowly there in the 1870s and 1880s. In 1879 the Oxford Building and Investment Company laid out the Grandpont estate south of the river, much of it on reclaimed marshy ground. Work began on Marlborough Road and Buckingham Street, but the development of the estate was delayed by the company's collapse, and was completed only slowly. (fn. 176) Both the Grandpont and the New Hinksey estates spread gradually southwards in the late 19th century, until development of the area west of Abingdon Road was largely complete in the early 20th century. (fn. 177) The east side of Abingdon Road remained largely farmland and college playing-fields.
At the beginning of the 19th century St. Thomas's church marked the westward limit of development in its parish except for the mill and some farm buildings on the site of Oseney Abbey. In 1850 the railway cut the parish in half and in 1853 the land was inclosed. (fn. 178) The building of the L.N.W.R. station at the eastern end of the Botley road in 1851 and the removal there of the G.W.R. station in 1852 brought a demand by railway workers for housing in the area, (fn. 179) and building first took place at Oseney Town, between Oseney Bridge and St. Frideswide's Bridge, on land leased from Christ Church by G. P. Hester, town clerk, and laid out by him in 1851. (fn. 180) After an initial surge of building in the 1850s, however, development slowed, and was completed in piecemeal fashion during the next fifty years. The pattern was the same in New Oseney, the area between the river and railway, south of Botley Road; streets were laid out and development of terraced housing begun in the 1860s, but the area long remained a mixture of houses and market gardens, sporadically built upon during the remainder of the century. Across the river from East Street the electric power station, an extensive two-storeyed building of decorative brickwork, was built in 1892, and extended frequently thereafter. (fn. 181) West of St. Frideswide's Bridge, Bulstake Town or New Botley was laid out in 1870. (fn. 182) The Cripley estate, west of the G.W.R. station, a leasehold estate on Christ Church land, was laid out in 1878 by the Oxford Building and Investment Company. Several houses were built before the company's collapse halted development. (fn. 183) The estate was completed in the 1880s by T. H. Kingerlee, (fn. 184) whose firm was also responsible for further developments, at the turn of the century, from Ferry Hinksey Road westwards. (fn. 185)
Associated with suburban development were many institutional buildings, (fn. 186) some of them the most prominent features of their localities: the churches of St. Barnabas, and St. Philip and St. James, for example, dominate the skyline east of Port Meadow. In East Oxford may be mentioned the Cowley Fathers' church of St. John the Evangelist, the Roman Catholic church of St. Edmund and St. Frideswide, the parish church of St. Mary and St. John, the Cowley Road Methodist church, and the Cowley Road Hospital, formerly the workhouse. East Oxford School is built partially on the site of an extensive brickworks, the source of bricks for many East Oxford houses.
After the initial activity in the city centre in the late 18th century and early 19th, building there slowed. In 1842 University College demolished the Three Tuns, built in 1642, to make a college extension, and in 1845 Magdalen College demolished the Greyhound inn and other houses in Gravel Walk. (fn. 187) Market Street was widened by the market committee c. 1845, and extensive ranges of shops added to the north-west and south-west sides of the street. (fn. 188) In the later 19th century, however, increased demand by an expanding university for goods, services, and space, the desire to 'improve' the city in the manner of other cities, and the novel availability of living accommodation in the burgeoning suburbs, combined to bring about farreaching changes in the city's appearance. The first major developments were the Randolph hotel (1863–6), large new premises at no. 56 Cornmarket Street (1864) for Grimbly Hughes, the city's leading grocers, and the London and County bank, later the National Westminster, at nos. 120–1 High Street. William Wilkinson was the architect of both the Randolph and the elaborate frontage of Grimbly Hughes. (fn. 189) Few others attempted to match the Gothic splendours of those buildings, but the spirit of improvement was widespread (fn. 190) and by 1883 William Morris was complaining of how little in Oxford was unscathed by 'the fury of the thriving shop and the progressive college'. (fn. 191) Cornmarket Street was particularly affected, its appearance drastically altered by a process of demolition, rebuilding, and refronting that touched most of the buildings in the street. Some of the street's oldest buildings were replaced in the late 19th century and early 20th, notably the tenements in Frewin Court demolished in 1879; the Wellington public house (no. 61), removed in 1890 for a bank; the White Hart inn (no. 21), replaced by a hotel and restaurant in 1900; the Roebuck inn, demolished in 1925 by Woolworth's. (fn. 192) Although the main part of the Roebuck (no. 8) was entirely rebuilt at that time, nos. 9–10 may only have been refronted; the apparently Georgian front is not original. (fn. 193) In Magdalen Street West the 17th- and 18th-century buildings were demolished during a series of alterations by Elliston and Cavell, the city's leading furnishing store, and others between 1876 and 1913. (fn. 194) The remodelling of the cross-roads at the north end of Cornmarket Street was completed by the building in 1910 of St. George's Mansions on the site of the George hotel at the south-west corner, and by William Baker's large neo-classical shop (1915) and the adjoining Boswell's (1929) at the south-east corner. (fn. 195)
In High Street an extension of Brasenose College in 1887–9 replaced a number of shops and houses. (fn. 196) For the Examination Schools (1877–82) the most prominent of Oxford's inns, the Angel, was largely demolished, together with several 'crowded and dilapidated houses'. (fn. 197) Oriel College's Rhodes building opposite St. Mary's church replaced a group of apparently late-Georgian shops and houses. (fn. 198) Most commercial development in High Street took the form of alterations and extensions to existing buildings, although a completely new street, King Edward Street (F. Codd), was laid out by Oriel College on the site of Swan Court. The new street, comprising houses, shops, and offices was built as a single development in 1873; the conversion of some shops to houses in 1875 (fn. 199) may indicate that the development was not a commercial success.
Queen Street was almost entirely rebuilt in the 19th century. It was widened at its west end in 1874 when the church of St. Peter-le-Bailey was demolished. (fn. 200) The shops in Queen Street traded principally on a cash-only system in contrast to some of the grander establishments in High Street and Cornmarket Street. No. 32 Queen Street was, until c. 1928, the shop of Thomas Hyde and Co., wholesale clothiers, part of whose extensive factory, behind the shop, survived in 1978 as a church hall. (fn. 201) In St. Aldate's Street the most important developments were the building of the new Post Office in 1880–1 and the opening of the new town hall in 1897. (fn. 202) George Street, which had previously attracted little attention from developers, became more a part of the commercial centre after New Inn Hall Street was extended into it in 1872. (fn. 203) Many houses, some of them 17th-century, were demolished to make way for, among others, the boys' High School (Sir T. G. Jackson, 1879–81), the New Theatre (1885–6, rebuilt c. 1933), the Y.M.C.A. (no. 10, 1891), Lucas's clothing factory at the corner of Bulwark's Lane (1890), and the Gothic corn exchange and fire station (H. W. Moore, 1894–6). (fn. 204) Apart from the extension northwards of St. John's College, St. Giles's Street was largely unaffected by Victorian development. Nos. 66–7 St. Giles's Street, a stone building in restrained Gothic style, with carved stonework and decorative ironwork, was built in 1869 for George Wyatt, ironmonger. It provides a good example of combined commercial and domestic development. Number 67 was used by the Wyatts, and no. 66 was let separately as a house and shop. (fn. 205)
The elevation of the city to the status of county borough in 1889, and the assumption by the city council for the first time of a full range of local governmental powers, (fn. 206) was marked by a display of civic pride in the redevelopment of the Carfax area in the 1890s and the building of the grandiose town hall, which followed a tour by leading councillors of the great midland and northern cities to see the sort of monuments they felt appropriate to Oxford's new status. (fn. 207) The problem of congestion at Carfax was met in 1896 by demolishing St. Martin's church except for the tower, which was left to form the focal point of a spacious paved area, extended by widening the south-east corner of Queen Street. (fn. 208) Several properties in Cornmarket Street north of the church were also demolished in 1896, and replaced by an imposing stone building designed by H. T. Hare for Frank East, tailor. The Midland Bank took over the building in 1914. (fn. 209) The north-east corner was developed next, with an exuberant bank building in 1901, and the remodelling of the area was completed in 1930–1 by the construction of twin buildings of plain stone on the south-east and south-west corners. (fn. 210)
The great period of Gothic institutional building produced, besides the university and college buildings in High Street, the university museum (Sir T. Deane and B. Woodward, 1855–60), the Broad Street frontages of Exeter (Sir George Gilbert Scott, 1854–5) and Balliol (A. Waterhouse, 1867–8), the Indian Institute (B. Champneys, 1883–96), the Oxford Union (B. Woodward, 1856), the Christ Church Meadow buildings (T. N. Deane, 1862–6), the New College range (Sir George Gilbert Scott, 1872) in Holywell Street, and the spectacular polychrome brickwork of Keble College (W. Butterfield, 1868–82). (fn. 211) The effect on the city streets was dramatic. Broad Street acquired a monumental appearance, emphasised in the 20th century by the building of the New Bodleian Library (Sir Giles Gilbert Scott, 1937–40), which replaced a group of 17th- and 18th-century houses, (fn. 212) and by an extension to Exeter College (1964) at the corner of Turl Street. (fn. 213) Holywell Street, narrower and more delicate in scale than Broad Street, was dominated on the south side by the New College buildings, the Indian Institute, and in 1929 the Hertford College extension, an imitation Georgian building.
The building of the university museum and Keble College outside the city centre marked the beginnings of the university's expansion into a new area. The University Parks were laid out from 1864 onwards, (fn. 214) and the Science Area, beginning as a series of extensions to the museum in the late 19th century, spread eastwards along the edge of the Parks, encroaching later on the triangular area north of Keble Road and on the former playing fields south of South Parks Road. (fn. 215) The building of Mansfield College (1887–9), Manchester College (1891–3), Rhodes House (1929), and the Law Library (1961–4) (fn. 216) established the university's presence in the former fields of Holywell; Mansfield Road was opened into Holywell Street to provide access to the new colleges. (fn. 217) In the 20th century the shortage of space in the central area forced the academic community to build further afield, the women's colleges mostly in North Oxford, St. Catherine's College (1960–4) and Wolfson College (1968 and later) in the meadows close to the river Cherwell. Nuffield College, built on the site of the canal basin between 1949 and 1960, used one of the few remaining large sites close to the city centre. (fn. 218) The central colleges solved the problems of rapid expansion after the Second World War in a wide variety of ways, some affecting only the internal aspect of the college, others involving the demolition of neighbouring houses and walls, or the taking of important sites beyond the college's limits. Despite the almost invariable use of expensive materials and the frequent sacrifice of room-space in an attempt to fit the buildings to their surroundings, few college extensions won general approval. The streets most deeply affected by such endeavours included the south side of Blue Boar Street, where new Christ Church buildings were built in 1964–8; Magpie Lane, where there were new buildings for Corpus Christi College; Longwall Street, where several old houses were replaced by New College's Sacher Building (1961–2); Little Clarendon Street, where shops and houses were replaced by commercial and residential development (1958–66) for Somerville College on the north side, and by the university registry offices on the south; Museum Road, where large extensions were built by St. John's College, and Keble College. The extensions built away from colleges included some of the most controversial, Magdalen College's Waynflete Building, at the eastern end of Magdalen Bridge, and Queen's College's Florey Building overlooking Angel Meadow.
Redevelopment of the city centre took place in piecemeal fashion. There was major reconstruction in St. Aldate's in the 1920s and 1930s, when a number of courts on the east side were replaced by the Christ Church Memorial Gardens (1925–6), the police station (1936), and the labour exchange (1936). (fn. 219) On the west side several small shops and houses were replaced in 1932–3 by Morris Garages, a confident commercial building celebrating the triumph of the motor car. Cornmarket Street and Queen Street remained the centre of commercial activity, and were increasingly dominated by chain-stores in the 1950s and 1960s. In Cornmarket Street the Clarendon hotel was demolished in 1955 by Woolworth's. (fn. 220) In 1963 Grimbly Hughes was replaced by Littlewood's, and Marks & Spencer's rebuilt the store which they had occupied since the 1930s. In 1978 they removed to Queen Street, where they had built one of their largest branches. At the western end of Queen Street a large new development, the Westgate Centre, comprising shops, offices, and a new central library, was built between 1969 and 1972. Modern buildings began to dominate in Cornmarket Street, Queen Street, St. Ebbe's Street, and, to a lesser extent George Street, but in High Street, Broad Street, and St. Aldate's smaller, traditional shops interspersed with domestic properties have been preserved, alterations being restricted largely to the replacement of shop fronts. The overall architectural treatment of the central area of the city by both the university and commercial interests has been frequently criticized, not only because of the demolition of ancient buildings during the 20th century, but because the materials or scale of the new buildings were thought inappropriate. (fn. 221)
The areas of older housing just outside the city centre were subject to sporadic clearance from the 1930s. St. Thomas's lost a large part of its population as a result of slum clearance combined with commercial development: the castle mill was demolished in 1930, (fn. 222) and Paradise Street, Tidmarsh Lane, Park End Street, and Hythe Bridge Street were given over to offices, warehouses, and garages. Beaver House, a large uncompromising building in concrete and dark glass, was built for Blackwell's in 1971–2. (fn. 223) Housing clearance in St. Ebbe's began c. 1962 and was completed ten years later, when the last house in Paradise Square was demolished. (fn. 224) St. Ebbe's was partially redeveloped by the building of 80 maisonettes on the site of the old gas works on the north bank of the river, and magistrates' courts were built off Speedwell Street in 1966–9, opposite the telephone exchange, completed in 1957. (fn. 225) Work began on the College of Further Education at Oxpens in 1968, and the college opened in 1972. (fn. 226) Most of the southern part of St. Ebbe's however, remained blighted by indecision over its development. In 1978, although there were plans to begin housing development, the area was still largely given over to temporary car parks and waste ground, the future of proposed inner relief-roads was still undecided, and little had been done to improve the riverside, officially described as 'squalid' in 1963. (fn. 227) The area between St. Ebbe's Street and Castle Street was totally redeveloped by the building of the Westgate Centre, and Castle Street itself was realigned. New offices were built in 1974 for the county council, at the corner of New Road and the realigned Castle Street, partially on the site of shops and houses possibly 17th-century in origin. (fn. 228) It was also planned to clear Jericho, but in the face of strong protest following the St. Ebbe's clearances, the council decided instead on a policy of 'progressive development', involving the rehabilitation of houses where possible, and the replacement of irredeemable property by new small-scale domestic building. The plan received national attention as a pioneering venture, (fn. 229) but more demolition took place than had been anticipated, and large areas were cleared and rebuilt, particularly in the area between Walton Street, Cranham Street, and Hart Street. (fn. 230)
The floodlands of the river Thames and Cherwell restricted development and made town planning, especially when traffic became heavier, extremely difficult. A town planning sub-committee set up by the council in 1921 submitted proposals from time to time, including a plan to connect South and East Oxford by road and bridge, but the first comprehensive survey of the city was conducted in 1931 by the Oxfordshire Regional Planning Advisory Committee, representing the county council and other planning authorities. (fn. 231) That report was the first to anticipate the need for expansion to be controlled, and over the next forty years it was followed by a continual succession of surveys, inquiries, and reports, including the seminal Oxford Replanned (1948) of Dr. Thomas Sharp. There was some agreement on the need to control growth, to provide services for the population east of Magdalen Bridge, to complete the ring road, which in 1938 comprised the northern, and part of the southern bypass, (fn. 232) to restrict traffic in the city centre, and to build inner relief-roads. There was no agreement over details: the city's own proposals (fn. 233) omitted the suggestion of Sharp and others for a relief-road across Christ Church meadow, and rejected the plan of the Oxford Preservation Trust (fn. 234) for a completely new civic centre east of Magdalen Bridge. Whereas Sharp advocated the total replacement of Morris Motors and Pressed Steel by small-scale light industry, the council decided instead only to place a ceiling on future growth by the motor industry. The Minister of Local Government and Housing, however, insisted on the inclusion of reliefroads, thereby precipitating twenty years of proposals, counter-proposals, decisions, and reversals that at times made the city a national laughing-stock. (fn. 235) The traffic problem in the city centre was eased by the opening in 1962 of the Donnington Bridge road, linking the southern and eastern suburbs, and the Marston Ferry road, linking Marston and Headington with North Oxford in 1971. The proposed Christ Church meadow road met with powerful opposition, led by Christ Church, and it was abandoned in 1968 in favour of an east–west link road through Eastwyke Farm and along Bullingdon Road to Headington Hill, and a north–south spine road traversing the city east of the main railway line and connecting with the bypasses by means of spur-roads. (fn. 236) In 1971 the minister finally decided that the Eastwyke Farm road and the spine road, without its extensions, should proceed, but in 1972 the Labour party won control of the city council and refused, despite orders from the government, to countenance any major new roads through the city centre. In 1974 responsibility passed to the county council, which decided to allow modified versions of the proposed roads to remain on the planning map for future implementation.
The vast suburban development of Oxford in the 20th century derived from the city's transformation into an industrial centre. Beginning in 1912 in the former Military College in Cowley, at the corner of Hollow Way and Cowley Road, Morris Motors soon began to expand, on the same site at first, but later covering a large area to the south and east. By 1938 the various factories had reached almost their full extent, with the Pressed Steel works reaching Roman Way, beyond what later became the eastern bypass. (fn. 237) Between 1921 and 1931 the population of the Cowley and Iffley district grew by 122 per cent, and Headington by 79 per cent. (fn. 238) Because the old city remained the service centre for the eastern suburbs development did not spread out evenly around the motor works but took the form of an irregular crescent from Marston to Iffley. The suburbs of Cowley, Marston, and Headington (where Old Headington, New Headington, and Headington Quarry were almost amalgamated by 1936) (fn. 239) remained distinct suburban areas, largely because of physical barriers to development such as Cowley Marsh.
By 1939 the corporation had built more than 2,000 new houses, mostly at Rose Hill (449), Freelands (365 by 1927), Gipsy Lane (314 by 1930), Cutteslowe (300 by 1934), South Park (241 c. 1931), Weirs Lane (188 by 1937), New Marston (165 by 1938), Wolvercote (119 by 1938), and Headington (101 c. 1925). (fn. 240) Some of the houses, such as those on Morrell Avenue, are of a notably high standard, presumably because they were built at a time of generous Exchequer subsidies. (fn. 241) More than 4,700 houses were built by private developers before 1937, most of them in areas added to the city in 1929, and many in developments north of Summertown, extending beyond the ring-road. The suburbs also spread beyond the city's boundaries to include Botley and Littlemore, and several near-by villages, such as Kidlington and Kennington (Berks.) became increasingly suburban in character. The hills around the city were favoured by the prosperous middle classes for the building of large houses, development spreading in particular to Boar's Hill, Cumnor Hill, Headington Hill, and Shotover.
In common with other towns, Oxford faced grave problems of housing shortage in 1945. In 1946 there were nearly 5,000 applicants on the housing list, and, despite the building of 1,400 council dwellings, there were still 5,000 on the list in 1950. (fn. 242) By then very little suitable building land was left in the city: of an area of c. 8,400 acres in 1948 almost half was built up, a further quarter was liable to flood. (fn. 243) The danger of haphazard development across the city boundaries was checked by the adoption in 1956 of a green belt around Oxford, the first outside London, (fn. 244) and by the completion of the ring road in 1965, but the barrier was breached by extensive building at Barton, beginning in 1946 and comprising 1,600 houses by 1977. (fn. 245) Most of the new housing estates after 1945 were built east and south-east of the city, notably at Rose Hill (690 houses, begun in 1946), New Marston (70 from 1950), Northway (570 from 1951–2), Wood Farm (510 from 1953), Cowley airfield, off Barns Road (240 from 1955), Blackbird Leys (2,370 from 1957), Town Furze, in New Headington (260 from 1958), Horspath Road (310 from 1958), Headington Quarry (80 from 1959), Slade Park (320 from 1974), and the Laurels (150 from 1975). Northway and Blackbird Leys estates made use of multi-storey tower blocks for the first time, but such buildings were not generally considered suitable, because of the invasion of Oxford's skyline. The council also built c. 300 houses in North Oxford, completed in 1962. The scarcity of building land forced the corporation to build almost as many dwellings outside the city, particularly at Minchery Farm, Littlemore, and at Kidlington. Although the area east of Magdalen Bridge was well-supplied with shops, (fn. 246) the larger and more specialized establishments were in the city centre, and it was both to avoid congestion there and to serve the needs of the population to the east that the Cowley shopping centre, largely completed by 1965, was built at Between Towns Road. In 1972 the centre comprised 69 shops, 112 flats, and offices and car parks. (fn. 247) Major hospital developments were established on the high ground between Headington and Cowley, and in the 1970s a major new hospital complex, the John Radcliffe, was established in a prominent position off Headley Way. (fn. 248) The College of Technology, later the Polytechnic, was sited in Headington at Gipsy Lane in 1955. (fn. 249)
In the late 18th century and early 19th Oxford remained a moderate-sized market town and seat of a university that formed a major customer for its goods and services. The rapid increase of national population did not at first affect the city, which grew more slowly than other centres of similar size, and may even have lost population by net migration. (fn. 250) After 1810, however, Oxford grew rapidly at the expense of neighbouring towns, drawing in large numbers seeking employment. (fn. 251) The city remained untouched by the developing industrial revolution, despite a flourishing river and canal trade and a position at the junction of major routes from London to South Wales, and from the Midlands to southern England. Before the opening of the Oxford Canal in 1790 Oxford's trading links were primarily with London, chiefly by means of the river: malt and grain were the major cargoes conveyed to the capital, the barges returning with sea-coal, and foodstuffs. (fn. 252) The linking of the Oxford Canal to the river made Oxford for a short time the point of interchange for the shipment of goods from the Midlands to London, and the resultant increase in traffic was reflected in the growth of the canal company's receipts from £5,500 in 1789 to £26,000 in 1796. (fn. 253)
The opening of the canal provided employment and brought about a dramatic fall in the price of coal in Oxford, (fn. 254) but cheaper transport and fuel stimulated no new industries in the city. Traffic to Oxford itself continued to increase, but the opening in 1800 of the Grand Junction Canal from Braunston (Northants.) to London removed almost all the through traffic. Oxford relapsed to become, in terms of the national economy, a backwater.
The construction of the canal, however, demonstrated that capital was available in Oxford for an attractive proposition; share issues in 1769 and 1774 raised £30,000 there, and two later instalments of loan capital raised by the company brought in £130,000, of which £70,000 came from Oxford. The money came almost equally from citizens and university men, some of whom played a leading part in the running of the company. (fn. 255) The stimulus to commercial activity provided by the canal was reflected in property values in the city, which, following a long period of stagnation, increased up to four-fold between 1790 and 1830. (fn. 256) A flourishing commercial life is also suggested by the growth of banking towards the end of the 18th century. The first known bank was that of William Fletcher and John Parsons, later called the Old Bank, which developed from the partners' mercery business; banking accounts survive from 1775, although Fletcher may have acted as a banker before that date. (fn. 257) The bank of Thomas Walker and Co., also known as the University and City Bank, opened at the premises of Edward Lock and Son, goldsmiths, in 1790, although Lock seems to have been involved in banking since at least 1775. (fn. 258) A third bank, Richard Cox and Co., was in business by 1790, (fn. 259) and a fourth, Tubb, Wootten, and Tubb followed in the early 19th century. (fn. 260) In the financially difficult times of the early 19th century Oxford's banks were unusually stable, (fn. 261) largely because of their assiduous cultivation of university business. The university connexion, essential at first, later gave rise to criticism that the banks were little interested in the needs and opportunities presented by the city. (fn. 262)
Until the Municipal Corporations Act of 1835 the corporation and University maintained their conservative and restrictive attitudes towards the town's economy. The monopoly exercised by freemen and privileged persons in their respective trades was supported by the threat of legal action by the corporation and discommoning by the university. The university agreed to restrict privileged persons to the trade in which they had matriculated, and also sought to control competition within the body of matriculated tradesmen. (fn. 263) The corporation for its part agreed not to invade the rights and privileges of matriculated tradesmen. (fn. 264) The legal right of freemen to exercise trade in the city to the exclusion of all except privileged persons was clearly established in 1794 in a successful action brought by the corporation against an unfree trader, (fn. 265) but the frequent reports of the council's committee for trade suggest that its task of maintaining the freemen's monopoly became increasingly difficult. The Municipal Corporation's commissioners nevertheless complained that exclusive trading privileges were stifling enterprise and restricting opportunities of employment. (fn. 266)
Sources: Universal Brit. Dir. (1790); Pigot, Dir. Oxon. (1823, 1844). Livery-stable keepers are omitted from the 1823 directory.
The abolition of exclusive trading rights by the Municipal Corporations Act was reckoned by some to have revolutionized trade in Oxford for the better, because of the influx of new businesses drawn into the city by the prospect of university custom (see Table XII). (fn. 267) New tradesmen, however, still faced the same entrenched attitudes, nowhere made clearer than at an inquiry into the proposed extension of the Great Western Railway to Oxford in 1836 and 1837. Among the city's leading businessmen, both the proponents and opponents of the Bill seem to have agreed that the city should retain a closed, unchanging economic structure, and differed only over whether the railway would threaten or benefit that structure. The principal worry was over the effect on trade with the university: would '£5,000 spent at the college be spent in London', or would easier access to London markets improve trade in Oxford itself? (fn. 268) Witnesses showed no desire to bring in the railway in order to alter radically the whole structure of the city's economy; those who might have done, 'the operative and working classes', (fn. 269) were not asked.
To outsiders Oxford appeared fairly prosperous, (fn. 270) but its economy was based narrowly upon the provision of goods and services. Of 678 apprentices enrolled in the city between 1770 and 1795 almost a fifth were apprenticed to tailors, and only slightly fewer to cordwainers. Apprentices were otherwise enrolled in substantial numbers to grocers (38 apprentices), bakers (31), cabinet makers (28), mercers (26), butchers (25), whitesmiths (23), upholders (21), and joiners (20). (fn. 271) The domination of the occupational structure by small tradesmen, craftsmen, and artisans is confirmed by poll books, (fn. 272) which also reveal a particularly large increase between 1806 and 1835 in the number of freemen engaged in food and drink trades (from 104 to 297), in clothing (108 to 206), and building (84 to 198), while the growth of the university had greatly stimulated the printing and bookbinding trades, where numbers rose from 10 to 90. (fn. 273) A perhaps more reliable indication of the effect of population growth on the occupational structure is given by trade directories (see Table XII), which show a great increase in the number of firms established in Oxford in the early 19th century. The number catering for the less well-to-do grew very rapidly, but there is no indication that those catering for the better-off of the university and neighbourhood suffered any decline. Doctors, lawyers, jewellers, gunsmiths, clock and watchmakers, and wine and spirit merchants all increased in number. Printing was dominated by the university press, which was the largest single employer of labour in the city in the early 19th century. The press expanded rapidly following its removal to Walton Street in 1830, and in the later 19th century between 250 and 300 people were employed there. (fn. 274)
Most businesses tried to diversify their custom as much as possible, but it was accepted that the university offered the key to economic success. Although a 'place of considerable business', Oxford was essentially a 'place for local consumption' almost wholly dependent upon the university. Thomas Sheard, a wealthy grocer and first sheriff of the reformed corporation, claimed to have a 'good university connexion, and a good family connexion as well', but there was no question but that his prosperity lay with the university: 'all the property I have in the world is staked there'. (fn. 275) The consequent economic imbalance brought serious difficulties. Many artisans and labourers were unemployed during university vacations; tradesmen faced the added complication of a trading system based heavily on long-term credit. Members of the university expected credit, and many tradesmen were only too willing to oblige: in 1795 it was said that 'at present in Oxford money is nearly useless', (fn. 276) and the beginning of each academic year saw the spectacle, admitted on all sides to be deplorable, of large numbers of tradesmen waiting on freshmen to solicit their custom. (fn. 277) The granting of credit was balanced by the raising of prices, which were higher in Oxford than elsewhere. Complaints by the university about high prices were countered by claims that tradesmen might have their entire fortune locked up in long credit, and that many businesses failed as a result. (fn. 278) Until 1844 tradesmen had some safeguard in that they were allowed access to undergraduates' home addresses; (fn. 279) if all else failed, a creditor could veto a debtor's degree by 'plucking' the proctor's gown at the degree ceremony when an indebted candidate's name was announced. (fn. 280) Few tradesmen, however, could afford to run the consequent risk of a boycott. (fn. 281) In 1779 booksellers appealed for the better payment of debts, and in 1848 some leading tradesmen formed a short-lived Oxford Trading Association to prevent soliciting for custom and ensure prompt settlement of bills. (fn. 282) Some colleges made sporadic attempts to monitor students' spending, but the problem was never resolved satisfactorily.
Although the population of the university increased after the Napoleonic Wars, (fn. 283) it was unable to provide employment for all the additional manpower in the city. The problem was mitigated by a lessening of immigration after 1840, and the influx itself generated some employment, in the building trade in the short term, and in service trades more permanently. There was much university and college building in the early 19th century, and even greater activity in domestic building, reaching a peak between 1821 and 1831. (fn. 284) During the 1830s one local builder employed between 200 and 300 men. (fn. 285)
Oxford's importance as anything more than a local market centre was restricted by the influence of Banbury to the north, and Abingdon, Reading, and particularly London to the south. The city's central position, however, gave it some importance for the marketing of corn, bacon, and cattle. Bacon was produced in large quantities, and an 'immense number' of Irish pigs were driven from Bristol for the purpose. Irish butter, also by way of Bristol, sugar and tea from London, soap, salt, pottery, and especially coal from the Midlands all came to Oxford as the centre of local distribution. (fn. 286)
The attractions of the university city and its position on important coaching routes brought many visitors to Oxford even before the advent of the railway. In the early 19th century it was reckoned that a hundred coaches daily came to and through Oxford, and the leading coaching inns, the Angel and the Star, were almost 'tributary towns within the city'. (fn. 287) A survey of Oxford's inns conducted in 1834 and 1835 by Samuel Young Griffiths, owner of the Angel and the Star, revealed that 13,096 travellers stopped in the city at least overnight. The transport industry was of major importance, and Griffiths alone employed 90–100 people. (fn. 288) Oxford was noted for the number and quality of its livery stables. Best-known were those of Charles Symonds, which began c. 1840 at no. 30 Holywell Street, and spread widely over the neighbourhood until they were claimed to be among the 'most extensive businesses in the world', with more than 100 horses. (fn. 289)
The census returns of 1851 (fn. 290) named only 139 employers employing fewer than 1,000 workers between them; 92 employers had five workers or fewer. Only one firm, the clothiers Thomas Hyde and George Franklin, employed more than 35 people. Hyde and Franklin started their ready-made clothing factory at nos. 31–2 Queen Street, possibly in the 1840s. A factory behind the shop, in Shoe Lane, was replaced by a much larger building in 1869, (fn. 291) when Hyde was the sole owner. He was the brother of John Hyde of Abingdon, whose own firm of clothiers there was reckoned to be 'one of the largest, if not the largest in the kingdom', (fn. 292) but the brothers' businesses appear to have been quite independent of one another. In 1851 Thomas Hyde employed c. 630 people, most of them presumably out-workers. In 1871 (fn. 293) he employed 160 hands in his factory, which was further extended in 1875. (fn. 294) In 1890 the firm employed c. 1,000 people in all. (fn. 295) The firm continued to trade at nos. 31–2 Queen Street until c. 1928, although the factory may have been disused for some time. (fn. 296)
The other large employers of labour were, in 1846, three breweries, a tannery, an iron foundry, and the university press. (fn. 297) The breweries were probably those of Hall, Morrell, and Tawney, all in St. Thomas's parish; (fn. 298) the tannery was probably at Littlegate; (fn. 299) the iron foundry was the Eagle Ironworks in Jericho, probably employing c. 30 men. Founded by William Carter in 1812, the ironworks acquired the name Eagle under his successor, Charles Grafton. William Lucy took over the management of the firm in the 1860s, and it was known thereafter as Lucy and Co. Until the late 19th century the firm catered for the local market, making cast iron, including agricultural machinery, ornamental ironwork, and lamp-posts. Towards the end of the century the company began to make a successful range of shelving and storage equipment. (fn. 300)
Except for such industries the economy remained dependent on building and transport, the provision of food and clothing, and on domestic service. In 1851 there were 8,145 men and 4,600 women employed in the city. (fn. 301) As many as 868 men were employed in the building trade, including 281 carpenters and joiners; of 635 men, excluding inn servants, who obtained a living from the transport industry, 176 were grooms and stable workers, and 135 were railwaymen. The impact of the railways at that time was limited, and there were still many barge- and boatmen (80, compared with 50 in 1841), and coachbuilders (69, compared with 61 in 1841). The clothing trade was dominated by tailors, of whom there were 485 men and 60 women, and milliners, of whom there were 535. There were 472 shoemakers, together with 185 wives working in their husbands' trade. The number of shoemakers tended to fluctuate rapidly, however, because itinerant shoemakers came to Oxford, as to Cambridge, in term time. (fn. 302) The importance of the distributive trades is apparent in the number of bakers and confectioners (248), butchers (167), grocers (163), and drapers (127). The strength of the professions in Oxford (531 men and 183 women) was accounted for partly by the number of university teachers, and by teachers in the numerous private schools in or near the city; Summertown, for example, was notable for the number of its 'seminaries for young ladies'. (fn. 303) The university's presence also accounted for many of the 277 messengers and porters, for the unusual number of cabinet-makers and upholsterers (135), and particularly for the number of printing and bookbinding workers (303), of whom there were far more than in other towns of similar size. More than 27 per cent of the total employed population were engaged in domestic service and allied occupations, such as inn servants or washerwomen, compared with an average for England and Wales of 13 per cent. The figure included a high proportion of men, almost 10 per cent of the male employed population, and 56 per cent of employed women, compared with the national average for women of 41 per cent. Many of the men worked for colleges, which employed 614 servants in all, including 152 personal servants of heads and senior resident members of houses. The colleges, however, employed fewer than a fifth of the total number of 3,450 domestic servants, and the hiring of domestic staff was by no means the exclusive prerogative of the wealthy; most small tradesmen, except the poorest, employed one or two servants. (fn. 304)
Some of the leading shops employed almost as many workers as the industrial concerns. R. J. Spiers and Son, (fn. 305) stationer and dealer in glass and china at nos. 102–3 High Street, employed c. 30 people in 1851, as did Elliston and Cavell, (fn. 306) drapers, whose partnership at no. 12 Magdalen Street began in 1835. The shop was taken over by Debenhams in 1953 but retained its traditional name until 1973. (fn. 307) Typical of stores basing their reputation on high-quality service was Grimbly Hughes, of no. 56 Cornmarket Street, grocers and provision merchants. Established in 1840 by Owen Grimbly and James Hughes, the firm recovered from two disastrous fires in 1857 and 1863 (fn. 308) to extend its trade over a wide area; branches were opened in North Oxford and in a number of Midland towns, and the company established warehouses in London and Leamington. (fn. 309) Grimbly Hughes was taken over by Jacksons of Piccadilly in 1959, and removed to Queen Street in 1961; the Cornmarket Street premises were demolished and redeveloped by Littlewoods Stores Ltd. When the shop in Queen Street was closed in 1963 (fn. 310) few could remember the time when Grimbly Hughes and similar shops ranked among the city's leading employers.
More widely known outside the city was the firm of Frank Cooper Ltd., manufacturers of 'Oxford marmalade' and preserves. F. T. Cooper started business as a grocer c. 1840 at no. 46 High Street, and the production of marmalade was begun by his son, Frank, c. 1874, based upon his wife Jane's recipe. By 1900 the business was so successful that a factory was opened in Park End Street, opposite the L.M.S. railway station. After the Second World War a new factory was opened in Botley Road, on the site of the former Majestic Cinema. (fn. 311) In 1964 Cooper's was taken over by Brown and Poulson Ltd., and in 1967 production was transferred from Oxford to Paisley (Renfrewshire). (fn. 312)
Lacking any single major industry, Oxford did not suffer the devastating unemployment that afflicted many industrial towns in the mid 19th century. Nevertheless, the 1850s seem to have been a period of regression. The earlier rapid population growth had no firm economic foundation: more shopkeepers were drawn to the city than the business of the place could support. Some of the leading small crafts were increasingly threatened by the availability of cheap, mass-produced imports; boot and shoe makers in particular, but also tailors and cabinet-makers, were affected, as their trades began a gradual but irreversible decline. Oxford lost its 'great transit trade' to the railways, and because it lay off the main rail throughroutes the city obtained no compensatory advantages. The coaching inns were particularly badly affected, the 'fallen Angel and extinguished Star' never recovering their former importance; by 1850 the Angle's value had fallen from £22,500 to £5,000, and that of the Star from £15,500 to £6,000. Property values in general in the city seem to have stagnated or fallen back slightly in the mid 19th century. Opponents of Free Trade argued that the repeal of the corn laws had greatly reduced the incomes of members of the university and the local gentry. Above all, the university, which used to number 12½ per cent of the city's population, numbered only 6 per cent in 1851. (fn. 313) Many people left the city during the 1850s, when the total male population fell by almost 700, and the number of men between the ages of 15 and 40 fell by c. 1,000, 500 of them in the age-group 20–25. (fn. 314) The movement was halted in the 1860s, however, as the university began a period of rapid expansion (fn. 315) that seemed to offer the city better prospects.
The railway, while it quickly proved fatal to the river trade and, in the longer term, to coaching and canal traffic, (fn. 316) brought little immediate corresponding benefit to Oxford's economy beyond providing some employment. Although a colony of railway workers grew up at Oseney New Town, near the two stations, the numbers involved were relatively small; in 1871 only c. 150 men were involved in railway work. (fn. 317) In 1865, however, it seemed that the G.W.R. might become the city's major employer, because the company's railway workshops, expected to provide 1,500 jobs, were to be sited at Oxford. (fn. 318) The corporation, which thirty years earlier had led opposition in the city to the railway, was so eager to find new employment that it offered a lease of Cripley meadow for the works. There was a sharp clash with the university, which opposed the scheme, (fn. 319) but contracts for the Cripley land were already drawn up when a change in the chairmanship of the G.W.R. led to the establishment of the works at Swindon. (fn. 320) The university opposed the scheme because it might alter the city and damage the university; more would be lost, it was hinted, by the departure of 100 students than would be gained by the arrival of 500 railway workmen. Some citizens, however, argued that many inhabitants of the outer Oxford parishes gained little from the university, and that the 'sober and industrious' G.W.R. mechanics might prove more worthwhile than the 'idle and luxurious class' brought into Oxford by the university for six months a year. (fn. 321)
Failure to obtain the railway workshops left a profound feeling of depression in the city. (fn. 322) Attempts were made to improve Oxford's position as an agricultural centre by opening a corn exchange in the town hall yard in 1863, (fn. 323) and a new cattle market in 1883. (fn. 324) Oxford suffered along with other market towns during the agricultural depression, but seems not to have been affected as badly as Banbury, and may even have increased its importance relative to other markets in the area. (fn. 325) The Banbury bankers Gillett and Co. opened a branch in Oxford at no. 54 Cornmarket Street in 1877, attracted by the increasing number of farmers coming into the city from the Woodstock area, and by the growing demand for banking services among smaller Oxford traders, in whom the old-established Oxford banks were little interested, preferring the custom of the university and gentry. (fn. 326)
The university grew rapidly in the later 19th century, (fn. 327) increasing the demand for shops and services, and cushioning Oxford from the worst effects of the agricultural depression. The keeping of lodging-houses for members of the university was of minor importance before 1868, when undergraduates were first freely allowed to live out. (fn. 328) Lodging-houses increased rapidly thereafter, and within a year or two there were more than 400. (fn. 329) In 1882 there were 520 licensed houses, accommodating 1,100 students. (fn. 330) The expansion of tourism from the late 19th century made the keeping of lodgings a flourishing business. (fn. 331) The city was also helped by its development as a residential centre. Despite its obvious attractions for tourists Oxford had never been a residential centre in the way of Bath or Cheltenham. The gradual development of North Oxford in the late 19th century, and particularly the movement of married dons there, improved the social life outside the colleges and made Oxford much more of a residential city. The growth of the suburbs generally during the later 19th century (fn. 332) preserved the building industry as a mainstay of the city's economy. One prominent Oxford builder, T. H. Kingerlee, employed between 400 and 500 men during the summer months. (fn. 333)
Nevertheless Oxford was reckoned 'a poor place for the industrial population' in the late 19th century. (fn. 334) There were still only a few major employers: the university press; the railway; Hyde's clothing factory; another clothing factory, W. F. Lucas and Co. of George Street, employing 200–300 hands in the 1890s; Hall's and Morrell's breweries, employing c. 150 between them in the 1870s. (fn. 335) The Local Board of Health and the corporation were also reckoned to be among the city's most important employers. (fn. 336) The city's leaders, looking wistfully at Reading with its biscuit factory, and at Swindon with its railway workshops, agreed that 'the great need of Oxford is some large industry'. (fn. 337) The problem was under-employment as much as unemployment. The university vacations left many men without work for long periods, workers in laundries, stables, shops, and lodgings being particularly vulnerable. In 1844 one of the strongest objections to the Poor Law Commissioners was the fear that they would end the practice of the local guardians of giving relief to 'able-bodied tradesmen, who, during the vacations, were unfortunately reduced to poverty'. (fn. 338) Oxford shoemakers claimed that two-thirds of them did not get more than six months work in the year, (fn. 339) and shopkeepers, for whom the expansion of the university had done so much, were similarly affected. Some shops in the university quarter put up their shutters for the entire period of the long vacation and it was said that the grass grew between the cobble-stones in the streets. (fn. 340) The many 'hangers-on' who waited around college gates in the hope of casual employment, usually as messengers, had nothing to do for six months in the year. (fn. 341) In 1860 the vicechancellor and mayor set up a scheme to find employment for junior college servants during the long vacation in spas and seaside resorts, a practice which continued into the 20th century. (fn. 342) Such an option was not available to many, however, and only at the end of the 19th century did the economic importance of the long vacation diminish, because of the growing number of academic families staying in Oxford during the vacations, the increase of tourism, and the use of college buildings for summer study courses. (fn. 343)
In the early 20th century Oxford's occupational structure changed little. By 1901, in the skilled trades, the dominance of tailoring among male workers had given way to printing: 28 firms of printers employed 639 men and boys, while only 443 worked in tailoring. In 1911 more than 500 men were employed on the railways, but by far the biggest single employer of labour was the university press, with c. 750 employees. More than a quarter of the employed population was engaged in domestic service. (fn. 344)
A newcomer to the ranks of major employers was the Oxfordshire Steam Ploughing Co. founded at Cowley in 1868 by Walter Eddison and Richard Nodding. (fn. 345) By 1900 the company employed 200 people, and by 1909 claimed to be the largest private firm of steam-roller and traction-engine owners in the world. (fn. 346)
The low rate of agricultural wages in Oxfordshire and the surplus of labour in Oxford itself combined to make wages in the city 'about the lowest in England'. (fn. 347) Building labourers were paid 5½d. an hour at the turn of the century, compared with 6½d. in Birmingham and 6d. in Wolverhampton. Wages were even lower in some other trades, sometimes falling as low as 13s. a week, and always much below comparable earnings in industrial towns. Of women workers, other than those in domestic service, it was reported that there was a great deal of underpayment, and what could only be described as 'sweating', particularly in the clothing industry. (fn. 348)
Economic History after 1918
As a result of the establishment and rapid growth of motor-car assembly at Cowley between 1910 and 1930, Oxford became a major industrial centre. The choice of Oxford was fortuitous, the result of the outstanding success of a local man, William Morris. Beginning as a repairer of bicycles at his parents' home in James Street, he opened a shop at no. 48 High Street c. 1901, and, in 1902, a repair shop at the corner of Longwall Street and Holywell Street, where he also began to make motor cycles. In 1913 he produced the first car of his own, the Morris-Oxford. (fn. 349) Morris's decision to base the production of his cars at the disused Military Training College at Temple Cowley rather than in Birmingham or Coventry was not haphazard or purely sentimental, for he thought in terms of large-scale production from the beginning, and believed that he could operate economically from Cowley. (fn. 350) The siting of car production in the industrial Midlands was no guarantee of success: in the early 1920s Wolverhampton was the third largest centre of the car and motor-cycle trade in England but by 1940 not a single motor-car manufacturer remained. (fn. 351) Morris's plan was to assemble cars from standardized parts made elsewhere rather than to design and manufacture his own, which would have required large capital expenditure and the sort of precision engineering that Oxford could not provide. At first the foundry facilities available in Oxford were sufficient for Morris's needs. (fn. 352) As a centre for motor-car assembly Oxford had the advantage of a plentiful supply of cheap labour, at least in the initial stages, and a central position in the national road network.
By 1914 1,300 cars had been made (fn. 353) but during the First World War production was switched to munitions (fn. 354) and it was not until after 1918 that car-production really expanded. By arranging a reliable supply of parts from outside contractors Morris prepared for the major expansion which took place in the 1920s, beginning with a bold decision to cut prices in 1921. (fn. 355) Between 1920 and 1925 Morris's share of total British production of private cars rose from c. 5 per cent to 41 per cent, at a time when national production increased two and a half times. (fn. 356)
The success of Morris Motors attracted other, related, industry to Oxford: in 1926 Morris, in partnership with others, set up the Pressed Steel Co. Ltd. to manufacture car bodies next to the motor works at Cowley. The factory's production soon grew beyond Morris's requirements and he withdrew his interest in 1930; the company eventually became independent of the other original partners in 1935. (fn. 357) In 1923 Morris took over control of the Osberton Radiator Co., moving it from Osberton Road, where it had been since its establishment in 1919, to new premises in the Woodstock Road in 1925. (fn. 358)
During the early 1930s, at a time of expansion for the car industry generally, Morris Motors' share of the market slumped, due to a combination of 'changes in demand, increased competition, and a managerial crisis within the firm', brought about largely by the very rapid growth of the business to 1928. (fn. 359) The effect on employment in Oxford, which might have been serious, was minimized by a programme of complete reorganization and re-equipment which made the Cowley works the most advanced in Europe. (fn. 360) By 1939 Pressed Steel was turning out 100,000 car bodies annually, and in May of the same year the millionth Morris car was produced. (fn. 361) The development of the industry between the wars is reflected in the employment figures: in 1919 Morris Motors employed 200 people, rising to 5,500 in 1924, and remaining fairly steady thereafter. Pressed Steel, by contrast, started life in 1926 as a large concern with a work-force of 546, and grew steadily until by 1939 it employed c. 5,250 people, compared with c. 4,670 at Morris Motors, and c. 1,290 at Osberton Radiators. (fn. 362) The expansion was made possible largely by the numbers of immigrants drawn to the city by the industry. Between 1921 and 1931 Oxford's rate of population growth was exceeded by only two towns in the country, and by 1936 Oxford ranked with Coventry and Luton as the most prosperous town in the United Kingdom. (fn. 363)
The rapid and uncontrolled growth of the motor industry, however, while freeing the city at last from economic dependence on the university, did so at the expense of even greater reliance upon the motor-car. Pressed Steel, Morris Motors, and Osberton Radiators between them employed 30 per cent of Oxford's insured population in 1939, four times the combined total of the dozen next largest industries in Oxford. (fn. 364) The only attempt at industrial diversification came from within the motor industry itself, when, in 1932, Pressed Steel set up its Prestcold division for the manufacture of refrigerators at Cowley. (fn. 365) Beneath the car industry's lengthening shadow Oxford remained a city of small enterprises; apart from Morris and Pressed Steel only the university press, Lucy & Co., and John Allen & Sons employed more than 200 people.
Of the manufacturing industries, printing soon lost its leading position to the motor industry, but it continued to expand at a faster rate than elsewhere in the country, employing 1,600 people in 1931. (fn. 366) The university press remained dominant, with a work-force of 840 in 1939. (fn. 367) W. Lucy & Co., the next largest business in Oxford, continued to manufacture the shelving and agricultural equipment that had been the mainstay of its business in the late 19th century, and also began to manufacture electrical equipment. After 1930 the company concentrated increasingly on electrical engineering, and by 1939 the number of employees had risen to c. 500. The company continued to expand after 1945, and in 1962 employed c. 860 people. (fn. 368)
John Allen & Sons, formerly the Oxfordshire Steam Ploughing Co. benefitted both directly and indirectly from the growth of Morris Motors and the Pressed Steel Co., for whom they prepared factory sites and as a result of whose success they found much work in building and improving roads. In 1930 the company made an agreement with the American firm of Parson & Co. (Iowa) for the manufacture of trench excavators at Cowley, thereby transforming a country business into a modern engineering works. Allen & Sons were able to withstand the depression of the 1930s, even though the steam-ploughing business was dropped altogether. In 1951 the company's two activities of plant-hire and engineering were separated, only the latter side of the business remaining at Cowley. (fn. 369) In 1972 the firm was taken over by Grove Cranes of Pennsylvania, U.S.A., and in 1978 500 people were employed at the Cowley works. (fn. 370)
The old-established Oxford trade of cabinet-making benefitted directly from the growth in the city's population, and one firm in particular successfully managed the transition from university custom to large-scale production for mass markets. Norman Minty, a member of a long-established family of Oxford tailors, founded the firm bearing his name c. 1886. (fn. 371) He made and sold a wide range of furniture at nos. 44–5 High Street, and at Cross Street, St. Clement's. By 1939 the firm employed 150 people, almost a quarter of all cabinet-makers in Oxford. (fn. 372) In later years the firm concentrated exclusively on manufacture rather than retail, moving to a new factory at Horspath in 1965. (fn. 373)
Source: Census, 1911–71. The numbers include non-residents employed in the city.
Despite the dominance of the motor industry, manufacturing industry employed fewer than half those working in Oxford (see Table XIII). The distributive trades, long a mainstay of Oxford's economy, responded only slowly to the stimulus of the remarkable growth in the city's population; the centre of economic activity had shifted from the old city to Cowley, there was no space for expansion within the old city centre, and there was an inevitable hiatus in the suburbs as new estates were laid out. The university trade, however, became increasingly consistent as the numbers remaining in Oxford during the vacation increased, supplemented by those attending residential conferences at the colleges. (fn. 374) Factory and housing construction, and extensive building by the university and colleges, stimulated Oxford's building trades, in which the proportion of workers was higher than in the country as a whole (6½ per cent compared with 4½); the number of workers increased little between 1911 and 1931, however, presumably because of competition for labour from the car factories. The majority of firms were small, employing 10 men or fewer, and in 1937 only three building firms in the Oxford region employed more than 200 men. (fn. 375) The continued growth of the university meant that there were still many people engaged in personal services; in 1911 30 per cent of the occupied population were so employed, and in 1931 the figure was still 23 per cent, compared with the national average of 13 per cent. (fn. 376) In 1936 1,140 of those in service were directly employed by colleges. (fn. 377)
Competition for labour from the motor industry, although alleviated by the influx of immigrants, inevitably affected other trades. Although numbers in the distributive trades and domestic service remained high, there was a rapid turnover of staff, with men and women leaving to work in the motor factories as soon as they could. Women had a greater variety of employment open to them, and were less prepared to work in jobs such as domestic service. (fn. 378) The high wages paid in the motor works not only helped to raise wages generally, but also altered the character of employment. Whereas Oxford had previously boasted a work-force with a relatively high proportion of skilled craftsmen on the one hand, and a large body of unskilled labourers on the other, there were now far more semi-skilled and unskilled workers earning as much on the assembly line as skilled men could elsewhere. The traditional job-hierarchy was overturned as those previous summits of ambition, the printing trade, college service, and the railways lost ground to the motor industry. (fn. 379)
Almost unnoticed amidst the development at Cowley was a dramatic increase before the Second World War in the numbers employed in Oxford in the civil service and local government to administer the area's swollen population. In 1911 fewer than 500 were so employed, but by 1931 there were 2,700, outnumbering the entire work-force of the printing or the building industries. (fn. 380)
The motor industry largely swept away the problem of regular unemployment for which Oxford was noted in the early 20th century, (fn. 381) but it perpetuated the seasonal unemployment for which the university vacations had previously been responsible. Each summer there was a slump in car production while the new models, only available after the autumn Motor Show, were awaited, and large numbers of workers were laid off. In 1934 unemployment in the Oxford region ran at an average of 20 per cent between June and August, compared with a national average of 11 per cent. In 1935, however, Morris Motors took the lead in breaking away from the seasonal pattern by announcing that in future new models would be introduced as and when necessary. (fn. 382)
The arrival of a great many men used to the tougher attitudes of the south Wales coal-fields had its effect, though only a gradual one, on industrial relations. Previously trade unionism had made little impact in Oxford, except in the railways and printing. Attempts in the late 18th century and early 19th by journeymen tailors, shoemakers, paper-makers, and print-workers to form workers' combinations met with hostility in Oxford, as elsewhere. (fn. 383) By 1833, however, masons, plasterers, and glaziers had formed a union, and so, possibly, had leather workers and workers at the university press. (fn. 384) Although there were occasional strikes, notably by building and clothing workers, (fn. 385) they were usually short-lived, and there was little tradition of militancy in the city. A branch of the Railway Amalgamated Servants' Association was formed with 120 members in 1872, and in 1892 the Oxford branch of the Typographical Association had 200 members, but other attempts to form unions in the late 19th century usually met with apathy. (fn. 386) A report of 1908 bemoaned the passivity of clothing workers, who were thought to be exploited. (fn. 387) Oxford was relatively undisturbed during the General Strike of 1926; members of the National Union of Railwaymen, and workers at the Clarendon Press joined the strike, but busmen refused to do so and Morris Motors, where trade unionism was discouraged and almost non-existent, worked throughout. (fn. 388) In the 1930s active trade unionists derided local workers in Oxford as insular, subservient, and politically apathetic. (fn. 389) The unions began to build up strength in the motor industry after the Transport and General Workers Union was recognized by the Pressed Steel Co. following a strike in 1934. Most busmen also joined the T. & G.W.U., which in 1937 had a local membership of 4,500. At Morris Motors, where there were more local workers and fewer immigrants from south Wales, trade unions were not recognized, and they developed very slowly until the Second World War. The printing industry remained a union stronghold and in 1937 the Typographical Association and the National Union of Printing, Bookbinding, and Paper Workers had a combined membership of 1,250. (fn. 390)
During the Second World War the factories at Cowley were turned over to aircraft-repair. The headquarters of the Civilian Repair Organization was established at Cowley, moving later to Merton College to avoid the danger of air attack. Aircraft and tanks were also built at Cowley. The economic development of post-war Oxford was closely bound up with Pressed Steel and Morris Motors, both of which underwent a number of important reorganizations: in 1952 the Nuffield Organization, of which Morris Motors formed part, merged with the Austin Motor Co. to become the British Motor Corporation, and in 1966 Pressed Steel merged with the Birmingham firm of Fisher Ludlow, and, under the name of Pressed Steel Fisher Ltd. joined with B.M.C. to form British Motor Holdings Ltd.; in 1968 B.M.H. merged with Leyland Motors to become the British Leyland Motor Corporation, (fn. 391) and the company was re-formed as British Leyland Ltd. in 1975. After the war the Nuffield Organization planned as a first step to increase its work-force at Cowley to 8,200; Pressed Steel planned on initial expansion from 7,000 to perhaps 10,000. (fn. 392) The 1950s and early 1960s saw a boom in car sales generally, but the prospect of further large-scale expansion in an industry upon which Oxford was already felt to be far too dependent was viewed with alarm by the government and the city council, and it was decided not to permit further development of the Cowley sites; a ceiling of 16,000 was put on employment in the industry at Oxford. (fn. 393) Pressed Steel and Morris Motors therefore concentrated on building elsewhere, in areas of surplus labour; in 1960, for example, the Prestcold refrigeration division was moved from Cowley to Swansea. (fn. 394) Despite such controls, designed in part to limit Oxford's expansion as a whole, the size of the work-force increased beyond the agreed 16,000 and in 1963 Pressed Steel employed 14,000 and B.M.C. 13,000 people, a rise of 50 per cent since 1951, made possible by the introduction of night shifts. In 1977 20,200 people worked for British Leyland in Cowley, including 300 for Nuffield Press Ltd., the firm's own printing house. (fn. 395)
In the post war years official policy was divided between a need for industrial diversification and the desire to restrict Oxford's growth and preserve its character. Industrial estates laid out at Horspath Road and Oseney Mead were intended for the relocation of existing firms which were badly sited rather than to encourage entirely new industries. Among the businesses which moved to Oseney Mead was the Alden Press, a printing firm begun by Henry Alden in St. Aldate's in 1832. The firm moved to Binsey Lane in 1926, and by the time of its transfer to Oseney Mead had become the leading firm of printers in the city apart from the university press. Shortly after 1965 the Alden Press took over the printing interests of A. R. Mowbray & Co. and took the name of Alden and Mowbray. (fn. 396) In 1978 the company employed c. 200 people at Oseney Mead, and a further 50 at Cowley. (fn. 397)
A. R. Mowbray began printing and publishing at no. 2 Cornmarket Street in 1858 to further the aims of the Tractarian Movement; in 1880 he was apparently the first to publish religious Christmas cards. The firm also sold church furnishings. By 1910 it had opened a branch in London, and by 1939 employed 150 people in Oxford. In 1965 it was decided to sell off the printing and church-furnishing interests in order to concentrate on publishing and bookselling. (fn. 398) Printing in general continued to make steady progress and easily maintained its position as the second largest manufacturing industry in the city, employing 4 per cent of the working population in 1951, and 5 per cent in 1971. (fn. 399)
The city's largest booksellers, B. H. Blackwell Ltd., came to prominence after the First World War. The first member of the family known to have been connected with the book trade was Benjamin Harris Blackwell, who in addition to owning a bookshop at no. 46 High Street, St. Clement's, by 1846, was also the first city librarian. His son, Benjamin Henry opened a bookshop at no. 50 Broad Street in 1879, acquiring no. 51 some years later. The firm expanded in the 1920s and 1930s, opening other bookshops in the city, and acquiring a large interest in another of the city's leading booksellers, Parker's. Expansion continued after 1945 as Blackwells acquired an interest, in association with the university press, in bookshops throughout the country. In 1966 a basement extension was opened at the Broad Street premises containing reputedly the world's largest display of books for sale, 160,000 on 2½ miles of shelving. In 1973 a large office block, Beaver House, was opened in Hythe Bridge Street and the firm owned other premises scattered throughout the city. A large part of the firm's bookselling business lies in exports, mainly to America. Blackwell's is also a printing and publishing house, the first known Blackwell imprint dating from 1880. Its original reputation lay in the publishing of poetry, but scholarly, educational, and children's books were added. In 1978 Blackwell's employed c. 750 people in Oxford. (fn. 400)
One large new firm which came to the city was A. C. Nielsen and Co., an American market-research company, which moved from London to Oxford in 1940 and transferred to Headington in 1957. In 1978 the company employed more than 600 people in Oxford, making it one of the area's biggest employers. (fn. 401)
Pergamon Press came to Oxford in 1959, leasing Headington Hill Hall from the city council. The company forms part of a group which comprises one of the world's largest publishing, printing, and bookselling organisations. In 1978 Pergamon Press employed c. 600 people in Oxford, 550 of them at Headington. (fn. 402)
Industrially the city still presented a strange mixture of heavy industry, including the gas and electricity industries for which Oxford was the regional centre until the mid 20th century, and small family firms of printers, furniture-makers, and boat-builders. Perhaps the most significant change occurred in the field of professional services (see Table XIII); the presence of the university had always influenced the number engaged in medicine, education, and the Church, but after the Second World War the professions grew faster than any other area of employment. The number of professional people increased from 10,600 in 1951 to 19,500 in 1971, whereas the number engaged in local government, for which Oxford was a county as well as a city administrative centre, fell from 3,200 in 1951 to 2,800 in 1961 and was still below the 1951 level in 1971. (fn. 403) The professions ranked a close second to the car industry in terms of numbers employed, and reflected primarily the expansion of education, both in schools and in the university, and of the health services, for which Oxford was a major regional centre.
The number of people working in the city rose steadily, to more than 81,000 by 1971, a very high figure for a city with a total resident population of 108,000. (fn. 404) To some extent the growth represented a renewed emphasis on Oxford's traditional role as a regional capital for administrative and service facilities. It also indicated the university's resurgence as a major factor in the economic life of the city: by 1971 there were 11,000 students at the university, representing a considerable body of consumers. The university also directly employed some 8,000 people, while it was estimated that if the university press, other publishers, printers, and booksellers, and the various medical departments associated with the university were taken into account, the academic world provided c. 20,000 jobs in 1974. The university's facilities and prestige, though hardly quantifiable, remained a potent influence in the attraction of employment into the service industries. (fn. 405)
Oxford's tourist trade continued to increase; in 1971 more foreign visitors came to the city than to any other in England except London; (fn. 406) although in 1971 only 1.7 per cent of those working in Oxford were employed in occupations directly connected with tourism (fn. 407) the revenue brought to the city's central shops was presumably large. In 1948 the city was severely criticized for its lack of tourist facilities, particularly the shortage of hotel accommodation compared with Stratford-upon-Avon, Bath, and Cambridge. (fn. 408) Despite some improvement Oxford still had much less accommodation in 1971 than cities such as Chester and York, and it was believed that the shortage accounted for much loss of business. (fn. 409)
From 1771 until the major reorganization of local government in Oxford in the late 19th and early 20th centuries the government of the city was shared between the corporation and a number of statutory bodies on which both the corporation and the university were represented. The Paving Commission set up in 1771 and the Local Board of Health which succeeded it in 1865 supervised the paving, cleansing, lighting, and general improvement of the city until the corporation assumed those functions in 1889. Poor-relief in most Oxford parishes was controlled by a Board of Guardians from 1771 until 1930. Under the terms of the Improvement Act of 1771 the new market was managed by a standing committee of councillors and university representatives until 1889. The policing of the city was left almost entirely to the university until the establishment of a daytime force by the corporation in 1836; a joint police committee was formed in 1869. The corporation thus played a very restricted role in local government before 1889, but exercised influence through its representatives on the other governmental bodies in the city.
The Unreformed Corporation
After 1771 (fn. 410) some of the city's prominent men devoted their energies to the statutory commissions rather than to the council: William Jackson, for example, founder of the Oxford Journal and a leading member of the Paving Commission, received an honorary bailiff's place in 1786, (fn. 411) but took no part in council affairs. The council continued to attract men of wealth and ability; its limited obligations and infrequent meetings imposed few demands on its members, and admission to the higher ranks still brought status and influence. The inclusion of aldermen and assistants on the magistrates' bench was a powerful attraction, (fn. 412) as was the council's political influence in parliamentary elections, although that lessened in the 19th century as the general body of freemen became increasingly independent of the council. (fn. 413)
There were only three town clerks in Oxford between 1756 and 1839, all prominent lawyers. Thomas Walker (1756–95) and Sir William Elias Taunton (1795–1825) were men of wealth and influence not only in the city but also in the county; Walker acted with Sir William Blackstone as the agent of Willoughby Bertie, 4th earl of Abingdon (d. 1799), and throughout his career was closely associated with successive dukes of Marlborough, as was Taunton. Walker was made town clerk of Woodstock in 1767, (fn. 414) and both he and Taunton were Clerks of the Peace for the county. (fn. 415) Taunton was succeeded as Clerk of the Peace by his son, Thomas Henry, who was, however, defeated in the election for the town clerkship of Oxford by Thomas Roberson (1825–39), who stood on a platform of opposition to Blenheim influence. (fn. 416) The contest was expensive, (fn. 417) and may in part have reflected a continuing struggle for influence between two of the major firms of bankers in Oxford, Fletcher and Parsons (the Old Bank) and Walker, Lock and Co. Taunton was supported by Thomas Robinson of the Old Bank; (fn. 418) Roberson, who presumably needed wealthy backing since he had gone bankrupt in 1810, (fn. 419) was supported by Sir Joseph Lock, and by the Cox family, to a member of which, Richard Cox, banker, he had been heavily indebted. (fn. 420)
Senior councillors remained a close-knit group, representative of the wealthiest Oxford citizens other than matriculated tradesmen or nonconformists. Most were involved in the distributive trades, but the professions and commerce were increasingly represented. The most notable development in the small ruling group of aldermen and assistants lay in the growing dominance, apparent by 1800, of men who were both mercers and bankers. In 1772 the aldermen and assistants included 3 grocers, 2 brewers, and 2 mercers; in 1800 there were 4 mercers and 2 goldsmiths, and in 1835 5 bankers. The change from mercers to bankers was primarily one of nomenclature, reflecting the growing importance of the banking activities of men who had formerly called themselves mercers. (fn. 421) Six mayors serving 11 times between 1769 and 1820 were connected with the mercery and banking partnership of William Fletcher and John Parsons, (fn. 422) and bankers or their relations served as mayor 23 times between 1771 and 1835; the dominant group included lawyers, wealthy merchants, and builders, and almost a quarter of the council came from the professions and commerce.
Contrary to previous custom, members of the council increasingly lived outside the city, and, despite protests, (fn. 423) the practice continued until 1835, when 25 members were ineligible for the new corporation on grounds of non-residence. (fn. 424) The freemen refused the mayor his nomination of the senior chamberlain in 1801, and forced the abolition of the custom altogether after 1802. (fn. 425) Otherwise the chief constitutional development was the gradual establishment of standing committees for the management of council business. By the early 19th century there were committees dealing on a regular basis with the waterworks, Port Meadow, and the city estates, an audit committee, on which it became obligatory for new councillors to serve, and a committee of trade set up in 1794 to inquire into persons carrying on trade or business in the city without being free. (fn. 426)
The committee of trade was presumably formed in connexion with a test case brought by the corporation in 1794 against William Taman, a matriculated barber, who attempted to set up as a tallow-chandler, earthenware-man, and cutler. The action ended in a clear victory for the council, and was regarded as so important that an engraved copy of the verdict was presented to every councillor. (fn. 427) A similar action in 1827 against a non-freeman holding a sale of china cost the city more than £700, (fn. 428) regarded as money well spent. Such determination to make examples of offenders reflects the council's insistence in the face of growing numbers of illicit tradesmen (fn. 429) on the freeman's trading monopoly, until the Municipal Corporations Act abolished the system in 1835.
The council was strongly criticized by the Municipal Corporations commissioners for its corruption, particularly at municipal elections, where the freemen's choice was restricted to one of two council nominees, and there was treating, bribery, drunkenness, and rioting; respectable freemen kept away, leaving the 'most indigent, illiterate, and worthless' to vote. The magistrates were accused of 'great want of resolution' because of their desire to conciliate the voters. (fn. 430) Certainly Oxford was unusual in allowing paupers, theoretically excluded from the franchise, to vote, but the council, supported by the Oxford Herald, wholly rejected the charge of partiality made against the magistrates. (fn. 431) The charge of electoral corruption was harder to dismiss. By no means all municipal elections were contested, but when they were the contests proved expensive: a struggle between the bankers John Parsons and Edward Lock for the office of alderman in 1801 reputedly cost them £400 each, a price that did not deter them from contesting the mayoralty five years later. (fn. 432) In 1816 the council found it necessary to order all its members except the common councillors to remain in the chamber on election days until the vote of the freemen was over, and the common councillors were asked not to influence the freemen when they joined them outside the chamber to vote. (fn. 433) The council, however, did not entirely control the freemen, who could, and did, choose the 'wrong' candidate if they so wished. (fn. 434)
The council's opponents in Oxford believed that 'if it was not positively corrupt, it was at best little more than useless'. (fn. 435) The council's supporters pointed to its achievements: measures taken to provide for the poor during the Napoleonic wars; the raising of an infantry regiment, the Loyal Oxford Volunteers, in 1798; the reconstruction of Folly Bridge; the fruitful co-operation with the university during the cholera outbreak of 1832. (fn. 436) The financial management of the city's charities was also reformed, and in 1802 the council compiled an impressive survey of charities. (fn. 437)
The corporation's finances during the period were managed more successfully than in the mid 18th century. The clearance of all its debts in 1768 relieved it of more than £200 a year in interest charges, and it received windfalls when the Paving Commissioners bought city property for improvements; in 1772, for example, receipts from the commissioners totalled £583. (fn. 438) Rising demand for houses, and the appointment, from 1825, of a councillor as permanent city surveyor, led to an increase in renewal fines and rack-rents from city properties in the early 19th century. (fn. 439) By 1801 the corporation had built up investments yielding £500 a year. (fn. 440)
Ordinary annual expenditure rose from c. £700 to c. £1,400 between 1822 and 1835, mainly because of increased bills and officers' salaries. The heaviest items of extraordinary expenditure were litigation costs, the purchase in 1822 of additional land at Eynsham (£1,043), investment in the city waterworks (over £3,300), and the cost of a campaign against the Municipal Corporations Bill (c. £725). (fn. 441) The corporation was called upon to make loans of £1,500 to the Market Committee in 1772, £300 to the Board of Guardians in 1774, and £1,500 plus a gift of £500 in 1826 to the trustees for the rebuilding of Folly Bridge. (fn. 442)
The small scale of the corporation's finances reflected its subsidiary role in municipal government. Nevertheless, out of an average annual income of £1,750 during the last 14 years of its life, the corporation was able to accumulate, and hand over to its successor with some pride, a surplus of nearly £5,000 in testimony of its stewardship. (fn. 443)
The Corporation, 1835–89
Under the terms of the Municipal Corporations Act of 1835 the new corporation comprised a mayor and sheriff, elected annually by the council; 10 aldermen, of whom five were elected triennially in rotation by the council; 30 councillors, of whom 10 went out of office each year; a high steward, chosen by the council as before; a recorder, no longer appointed by the council but by the Crown. Oxford was the only city, not also a county of itself, where a sheriff was allowed, (fn. 444) apparently to replace the bailiffs of the old corporation. The appointment of a sheriff raised the question whether he had the execution in the city of writs from the higher courts, in the same manner as the county sheriff; the claim was disallowed in 1836, and the chief role of the sheriff, who was regarded by the freemen as the custodian of their rights, was as keeper of Port Meadow and conservator of the city fisheries. (fn. 445) The city was divided into five electoral wards, each represented by six councillors and two aldermen. (fn. 446)
Because of the continuing powers of the statutory bodies and the university the corporation's role in local government was almost as limited as that of its predecessor: only the waterworks and the gaol were in its exclusive control. The Municipal Corporations Act required the establishment of a city police force, financed by the corporation, but that burden was eased by the continuance of the university police as the exclusive night police until 1869. (fn. 447) Of the public services established in the city during the period the gas company, tramways service, and fire brigade all remained outside municipal control. Even the public library, established by the corporation in 1854, was transferred to the management of the Local Board in 1865. (fn. 448)
The town clerk of the old corporation, Thomas Roberson, was confirmed in office in 1836, and on his death in 1839 he was replaced by George Parsons Hester, who resigned his council seat. (fn. 449) Hester held office until 1876, and in many ways was a figure in the mould of his late-18th-century predecessors, Thomas Walker and Sir W. E. Taunton, not because of county-wide influence as the agent of great local families but because of his predominant influence within the town through his close association with the city's leaders. He was a lawyer, and later a wealthy propertydealer despite his position as town clerk, but his power derived also from his domineering personality and ceaseless industry. He was largely responsible for the preservation and sorting of the city archives, apparently working through them all himself; he produced the first Schedule of City Property in 1855.
The Municipal Corporations Act had in Oxford the unusual effect of reducing the number of those entitled to vote in civic elections. Whereas the electorate in 1835 comprised 2,200 freemen, including c. 800 non-residents, (fn. 450) the burgess list of 1837 contained only 1,784 voters. (fn. 451) Few non-resident freemen, however, had troubled to vote in civic elections, so the number of effective voters probably increased after 1835. The first election in Oxford under the Act was held in the shadow of accusations of municipal corruption. (fn. 452) The electors responded by choosing, to the surprised relief of the Tory Oxford Herald, (fn. 453) a council only moderately reformist in character, despite the presence of a number of radicals led by D. A. Talboys. In Oxford, unlike many other boroughs, (fn. 454) there was no wholesale change of personnel: of the 32 members of the old council who were candidates 19 were elected, (fn. 455) and all the new aldermen were former councillors. Elections to fill places vacated by the new aldermen brought the radicals' number on the council to about a dozen. (fn. 456)
One of the first acts of the new council was to vote a political address thanking the king for the various reforms of his reign and expressing confidence in the government, (fn. 457) but the radicals had to rely on the support of the more moderate reformers, led by Charles Sadler, to effect any significant changes. Sadler and Talboys ensured a majority of reformers among the newly appointed charity trustees in the city, (fn. 458) but such successes were infrequent. All seven magistrates appointed under the Municipal Corporations Act were former councillors, (fn. 459) and for many leading new councillors, not only the Tories, the old council remained a model. Many old customs were rigidly upheld. All the civic festivities and regalia were retained, the city's ceremonial officers were given generous salaries instead of the abolished fees. The council continued to attend officially at the city church and to contribute to its upkeep, despite protests that such payments were now illegal. (fn. 460) The city drummers were abolished, (fn. 461) less out of radical zeal than because of their early-morning performances, but when, at the time of Queen Victoria's coronation an attempt was made to end the mayor's traditional service as royal butler the move was easily defeated. (fn. 462)
The council's devotion to custom sometimes brought it into public ridicule, as in 1848 when the mayoralty was offered to eight aldermen before one reluctantly accepted, although several ordinary councillors were willing to undertake the office. (fn. 463) No mayor was chosen from the common councillors until the election of James Pike in 1855; Pike was also the first nonconformist mayor. (fn. 464) Those changes came after the Liberals had gained control of the council; long before then the radicals, disillusioned by their failure to curtail what they regarded as reckless extravagance by the council, had decided not to seek any more divisions. (fn. 465)
In 1836 the new corporation faced relatively few financial demands beyond the payment of its officials, the management of its property, and the ceremonial of civic life. Even so, compared with its predecessor, its commitments were greater and its income lower. The recorder was given a salary of £100 a year, the town clerk £500, reduced to £300 in 1839, (fn. 466) in lieu of fees; the police force cost £418 in its first full year; the city gaol, previously paid for from a gaol-rate collected as part of the poor-rate, cost up to £600. (fn. 467) Income was reduced by the loss of freemen's fees, which had brought in an annual average of more than £250. (fn. 468)
Some radicals believed that reform of the archaic management of city property would yield ample funds. They proposed the simplification of fines, quit-rents, and fees to a system based on a uniform annual charge on leases, together with increased renewal fines. The proposals foundered because most councillors, including some notable leaseholders, wished to continue the favourable treatment given to city leaseholders, and because of councillors' sensitivity to any criticism of the old council. (fn. 469)
In the ten years following reform the corporation was frequently in debt, (fn. 470) and occasionally balanced its books by selling bonds and stock, despite protests about the illegality of so doing. (fn. 471) A crisis was reached in 1847 when the corporation, burdened with payments to the new county lunatic asylum at Littlemore, (fn. 472) found itself unable to meet the costs, estimated at c. £1,000, of a successful defence of its right to tolls. (fn. 473) In acute financial embarrassment, and scarcely able to pay its own officers, (fn. 474) the council imposed its first borough rate, 2¾d. in the pound, to raise an estimated £1,000, and sold more stock. (fn. 475) The debts were cleared, and the rate was allowed to lapse after one year. (fn. 476)
The corporation's finances soon began to drift into trouble again, bringing the possibility of a reintroduction of the borough rate. (fn. 477) The Littlemore asylum proved a greater financial burden than expected, (fn. 478) and litigation costs for the abolition of the mayor's oath amounted to £400. (fn. 479) The corporation lost c. £200 a year when tolls were abolished in 1859, (fn. 480) and its income from city property fell during the 1850s. (fn. 481) The old system, of 40-year leases renewable every 14 years on payment of a fine, persisted. Income from property remained a substantial part of the corporation's revenue, but it increased only slowly from c. £1,500 in 1835 to c. £4,000 in 1889. (fn. 482) Resort to a borough rate was politically difficult for the ruling Liberal party, and the corporation's finances became heavily dependent on the mortgaging of city property; in 1860 mortgage debts stood at £14,000. (fn. 483)
The corporation's limited role in local government shielded it from the growing financial pressures experienced by many corporations in the later 19th century. The city waterworks were its costliest undertaking. In 1855 the works were conveyed to trustees to provide for the liquidation of its debts, standing at £8,000. The corporation continued to contribute to the waterworks, but the accounts were kept separately, and there were complaints about secrecy and unaccountability. (fn. 484) By 1873 the waterworks debt, for which the trustees were personally liable, had risen to £11,000, and the council resumed direct control of the undertaking. (fn. 485) By 1885 extensive improvements to the works had increased the debt to £37,000, but water charges brought in an increasing revenue: in 1888 £2,859 was paid into the borough fund. (fn. 486)
The amalgamation of the city and university police forces in 1869 (fn. 487) brought the corporation more into the main arena of local government, at a cost of c. £1,800 a year, representing the city's three-fifths contribution. (fn. 488) In 1881 the corporation helped establish the Oxford High School for boys, giving the site and an endowment of £4,000. (fn. 489) In 1883 it contributed £2,000 to the Thames Valley Drainage Commissioners' improvement of the river between Medley and Iffley. (fn. 490) A total annual outlay of c. £10,000, however, at a time of rapidly expanding municipal expenditure nationally, contrasted sharply with the Local Board's annual expenditure of more than £30,000. (fn. 491) It was not until 1889, when the corporation took over from the Local Board a fuller range of local governmental responsibilities, that its finances began to reflect a picture more typical of urban administration in the late 19th century.
In the years immediately following 1836 the Tories established a clear numerical superiority in the council, so that by 1839 they provided two-thirds of both aldermen and councillors. (fn. 492) Effective control of the city, however, remained in the hands of the moderates of both parties, and the council created little stir in the public mind, so that between 1842 and 1852 only 24 out of a possible 110 seats were contested in municipal elections. (fn. 493) In 1847 the imposition of a borough rate caused exceptional excitement, (fn. 494) and passed into Liberal mythology as the issue which swept them to power, (fn. 495) although they did not achieve a majority until much later, and indeed in 1847 had supported the rate's imposition.
The events of 1847, however, indicated that all was not well with the corporation, and the Liberals gradually reduced the Conservatives' majority thereafter. The decisive point came in 1853 when the Conservatives brought in an outsider, Thomas Randall, as alderman, (fn. 496) and the Liberals, portraying the move as an attempt to go above the heads of the electorate, achieved a majority at the subsequent elections. (fn. 497) Randall resigned, and William Ward, his promoter, was deprived of his aldermanic gown; they were replaced by John Towle and Isaac Grubb, the first nonconformist aldermen. (fn. 498) Although there had been little overt dispute over the religious beliefs of councillors, the chief offices had been filled by members of the established church. In 1854 and 1855 the council approved petitions to Parliament in support of the abolition of university tests and of church rates, (fn. 499) and from 1855 three nonconformists served in succession as mayor. (fn. 500) Those events reflected the new strength of the radicals in the Oxford Liberal party, for in the 1850s a new generation came to the fore who wished to break with the traditions of the old unreformed corporation. They showed their strength in 1854 in attacking Sadler for allowing himself to be nominated for the mayoralty by the Conservatives, (fn. 501) and their triumph was the abolition in 1859 of the annual oath to the university. The moderate Liberals and the Conservatives nevertheless held the radicals at bay, and although some reforms were introduced, such as the opening of standing committees to the whole council, the radicals failed to abolish ceremonial offices or reduce the entertainment expected of mayors. (fn. 502)
After the excitement of the 1850s interest in municipal affairs reverted to its more usual level, and only 40 out of the possible 249 seats were contested between 1860 and 1880. (fn. 503) At first the Conservatives retained about a third of the council seats and aldermanic gowns, but after an attempt to break the Liberal stranglehold in 1868 they were reduced to an ineffective and derisory rump. (fn. 504) There were only two Conservative mayors between 1854 and 1887, and after 1872 there were no Conservative aldermen until 1886.
Liberal influence, which pervaded the whole city, was reinforced by the patronage that the party exercised, mostly by means of employment through the corporation, the guardians, the Local Board, the gas company, and the waterworks. (fn. 505) The control of so much of public life by a small group inevitably aroused suspicion and envy, exacerbated by the arrogance and tactlessness of some of Oxford's rulers. Four of the Liberal leaders, J. R. Carr, J. Hughes, E. T. Spiers, and W. Eagleston, dominated the council's important committees, and Carr was chairman of the powerful police committee from its inception in 1869 until 1886. (fn. 506) Hughes was also chairman of both the Local Board and the gas company, bodies with potentially divergent interests. Commercial speculations such as the gas and tramways companies and the Oxford Building and Investment Co., which were under the direction of leading Liberals, became entangled with the management of the city, leading to allegations of corruption. The Conservatives dedicated themselves to uncovering and exploiting supposed Liberal mismanagement, but produced little evidence.
The Liberals' difficulties in the 1870s and 1880s stemmed rather from their desertion by the city's influential publicans following the Permissive Act of 1874, and from the blame which the Conservatives fixed on them for the expense of a Royal Commission of 1881, set up to investigate Oxford's parliamentary elections. (fn. 507) The Liberals were also damaged by stories of high-handedness and political bias by the city magistrates, who in 1881 refused to renew the licences of six Conservative publicans scheduled as corrupt by the Election Commission. The reversal of that decision by the county justices, (fn. 508) an unusual procedure, went unchallenged by the city magistrates, who perhaps lacked confidence in their earlier action.
In 1882 a scandal broke out after investigations by an ambitious Conservative councillor, Walter Gray, of the affairs of the Oxford Building and Investment Co.; initially personalities rather than parties were at issue, but the company, managed by leading Liberals and attracting the savings of ordinary Liberals, was forced into liquidation. (fn. 509) The company secretary, Alderman J. Galpin, resigned amidst allegations of corruption, and the directors, pleading ignorance, laid themselves open to charges of negligence. The collapse of the company, the culmination of a long series of attacks on the corporation, finally discredited the old Liberal leaders.
In 1883, like the Conservatives thirty years earlier, they brought in an alderman from outside the council to preserve their dwindling majority. (fn. 510) In 1887 the triumphant Conservatives gained control of the council. The last mayor before the reorganization of 1889 was Walter Gray.
Paving Commissioners and Local Board of Health
The Oxford Improvement Act of 1771 (fn. 511) set up commissioners to supervise paving, cleansing, lighting, and general improvement. The initiative came from the university, which had become increasingly concerned at the inability or unwillingness of the mileways supervisors and the corporation to keep the roads in and around Oxford in good repair. The city was represented during the passage of the Bill by its town clerk, Thomas Walker, who worked in close co-operation with the university solicitor, James Morrell, under the active supervision of the vice-chancellor, Dr. Nathan Wetherell. (fn. 512) Despite the sweeping powers proposed there was no opposition to the Bill in Oxford. As many interests as possible were represented on the commission: university and corporation officials formed the largest ex officio membership on any improvement commission at that period; (fn. 513) the corporation was represented by the mayor, aldermen, assistants, bailiffs, recorder, town clerk, and solicitor. The commission also contained one member elected by each parish and college, and 250 named local residents, probably chosen on the basis of their local importance. (fn. 514)
The commission became the most important local government body in Oxford, with powers exceptional for its date. The Act included provision for turnpiking the St. Clement's mileway, rebuilding Magdalen Bridge, and constructing a new market, besides the usual schemes for urban improvement. The commissioners were given powers of compulsory purchase, of making by-laws, and of financing their activities by levying tolls and local rates.
The toll-gate set up beyond Magdalen Bridge proved to be the most successful means of raising income, at first producing c. £900 a year, and by 1835 c. £1,900; between 1771 and 1835 almost £30,000 of tolls was spent on improvements in the city. (fn. 515) The collection of rates was a problem and in 1779 1,000 notices of arrears were printed. (fn. 516) The rate, based on the length of property frontages, originally had a maximum of 6d. a yard for paving and 1s. for lighting, but it proved inadequate, raising only £150 for paving and £390 for lighting in 1780. (fn. 517) From 1781 the commissioners left the city and university to raise the money needed for the coming year, as each thought fit. The city, which had to provide three-fifths of the total, decided on a rate based on property valuations, levied on owners of property for new paving and pitching, and on tenants for repairs, cleansing, and lighting, the rate to be a maximum of 1s. in the pound in each case. (fn. 518) The lighting rate was raised to a maximum of 2s. in 1812. (fn. 519) In 1832–3 the combined city and university rate brought in c. £2,000. (fn. 520)
Some city councillors were active paving commissioners, and relations between council and commission were usually cordial. The new body also attracted the energies of university representatives and able citizens with no council connexions, and it brought to Oxford a capacity for comprehensive planning and administration that marked a decisive break with the past. Confusion over responsibility for street-repair, cleansing, and lighting was removed, and the commission's work in the late 18th century radically altered the city's appearance.
The early successes were followed by a period of relative apathy. Attendance at meetings declined, reaching a low point in the 1820s, and the bulk of administration fell upon about a dozen active commissioners, most of them city councillors. In the early 19th century university representatives usually attended only when specific university interests were involved. (fn. 521) The Municipal Corporations Act of 1835 made little difference to the relative status of the various agencies of local government in Oxford, and the Paving Commission remained much the most important. In the late 1830s, under the active chairmanship of Alderman Sadler, there was a revival of interest in response to the city's growing problems. By the 1850s business was no longer conducted by a mere handful of people. (fn. 522)
The commission's financial affairs in the early 19th century were managed carefully, and in the 1840s the full annual rate of c. £4,000 was conscientiously spent. The overriding concern, however, particularly among the radicals and Liberals, was that the commission should avoid debt and spend no more than was demonstrably necessary. (fn. 523) In 1848 the university demanded that its share of the rates be reduced from two-fifths to one-fifth. (fn. 524) After a bitter dispute it was reduced to one-third, (fn. 525) but the episode strengthened the opposition of the city's commissioners to large-scale expenditure.
By that date it was becoming clear that the Paving Commission was unable to cope with the demands of a population that had tripled since 1771. Fear of increased rates and of extended compulsory powers caused the city leadership to drag its feet; it was not until 1864 that a new body, the Oxford Local Board of Health, was established under the provisions of the Local Government Act of 1858. (fn. 526) The Paving Commission was dissolved in 1865 and its powers transferred to the Local Board; the board's jurisdiction was extended beyond the municipal boundary to include the developing areas south and east of the city. (fn. 527)
The Local Board's composition differed little from that of the Paving Commission. The vice-chancellor and mayor were members ex officio, and of the other members 15 were elected by the university, 16 by the corporation, and 14 by the ratepayers. (fn. 528) Many former Paving Commissioners were members of the new body, but attendance improved, partly because university members began to take a more active interest. The continuity of personnel, however, meant that despite the board's wider powers there was no immediate change of policy. Finding themselves at last with effective powers, the city's leaders seem to have lacked the will to put them to the test.
The rate set by the Local Board differed little to begin with from that of the Paving Commission, raising c. £8,000 a year. (fn. 529) Popular opinion supported caution: in 1867 every parish vestry petitioned the Local Board not to sanction 'immense, unknown, and increasing expenses' on public works. (fn. 530) Even so the board was committed to providing some form of new drainage scheme, which was initially costly: it increasingly funded its operations by borrowing. (fn. 531) For the first time in 1874 a separate drainage rate of 2d. was raised in addition to the general rate, (fn. 532) and by 1880–1 the drainage rate had risen to 1s. 2d. (fn. 533) When the Local Board was superseded in 1889 its expenditure was c. £30,000 a year and its debt more than £200,000. (fn. 534)
The board retained responsibility for the full range of local government functions exercised by the Paving Commissioners. Among its public works were the removal of St. Peter-le-Bailey church (1874), the extension of New Inn Hall Lane to George Street (1872), the construction of a fever hospital at Cold Arbour (1883), the widening of Magdalen Bridge (1882), and the rebuilding of Oseney Bridge (1889). The board took over the management of the public library from the corporation in 1865, administering it out of the general rate, and in response to demands for a general cemetery was constituted a burial board in 1876. The Local Board was abolished and its powers transferred to the corporation when Oxford became a county borough in 1889. (fn. 535)
Board of Guardians
An Act of 1771 provided for the management of poor-relief in 11 Oxford parishes, called the United Parishes, by a Board of Guardians, comprising ex officio members of the corporation (the mayor and inner council, the town clerk, recorder, and city solicitor) and 34 annually elected members from the parishes; the larger parishes were to elect four members, the others two or three. (fn. 536) The original intention had been to include 14 parishes in the scheme, but during the committee stage of the Bill three were excluded; St. Clement's and parts of St. Giles's lay outside the city boundary, and the latter, with the small parish of St. John's, wished to be excluded because of their lower rates. (fn. 537) St. Giles's and St. John's were absorbed into the Headington poor-law union in 1835. (fn. 538)
Sir John Peshall, (fn. 539) a parochial representative, was chosen as the first governor of the guardians, but by 1843 no 'great men of the city' had for many years served as guardians, and ex officio members rarely attended meetings. (fn. 540) The board consisted almost entirely of small tradesmen, (fn. 541) and, apart from the governors, few served more than one year at a time. The work was unpaid and onerous, for the guardians undertook more visiting and relief work themselves than was common elsewhere. (fn. 542) Some guardians attempted to obtain recompense through contracts to supply the workhouse and patronage to salaried posts, (fn. 543) but after 1834 the threat of investigation by the Poor Law Commissioners greatly reduced supply by 'favourite dealers'. (fn. 544)
The guardians strongly resisted the commissioners' central control, arguing that their regulations took no account of local conditions, particularly in insisting that all regular relief be given in the workhouse. (fn. 545) The guardians' resistance was weakened in the 1840s by internal disputes between High Church, Evangelical, and nonconformist members; the guardians were thought to have brought the commissioners down upon themselves. (fn. 546) Oxford's claim to exemption from the commissioners' jurisdiction was finally disallowed in 1844, (fn. 547) and relations between the two bodies gradually improved until by 1865 only one guardian was said to be hostile to central direction. (fn. 548)
The collection of rates was troublesome, and there were often deliberate deficiencies in parish quotas, overseers arguing that poor householders, if compelled to contribute, would themselves require poor-relief. In 1814 there was an overall deficit of 25 per cent, and the parish of St. Thomas, which had the highest rental but the largest number of poor, underpaid by 40 per cent. (fn. 549) The guardians could fix only the aggregate of rates, not the parish quotas, and their powers to enforce full payment were uncertain. (fn. 550) An assistant overseer was appointed in 1844 as a rate collector, (fn. 551) but the problems persisted. (fn. 552)
There was a serious attempt to amend the 1771 Act as early as 1796, (fn. 553) and from the late 1830s the guardians' financial position stimulated a campaign to make the university and colleges, hitherto regarded as extra-parochial, pay poor-rates. In 1843 the overseers of St. Michael's parish distrained on the silver at Exeter and Jesus colleges in a vain attempt to force payment, involving the parish in legal costs of £1,400. (fn. 554) Agitation, sometimes bitter, against the university continued, and in 1853 a joint committee of the university and the guardians was set up to negotiate. (fn. 555) Although the university accepted in principle that it should pay the rate, there was difficulty partly because of fear among Low Churchmen and nonconformists of the university's influence. (fn. 556) Eventually a University Rating Act was passed in 1854, establishing a new board of 33 members. The corporation was represented by the mayor and aldermen, the university by the vice-chancellor, eight members chosen by the heads of houses and bursars, and two elected by convocation, and the parishes by 11 elected by the vestries. (fn. 557) The rate paid by the city and university was based upon a valuation of their property. The act included all the colleges except Christ Church, the parts of St. John's College in the parish of St. Giles, and Merton, Corpus Christi College, St. Alban Hall, and parts of Oriel, all of which were in the parish of St. John. In 1862 the dean and chapter of Christ Church offered to be rated for the two-thirds of the college's property which had been considered extra-parochial, the other third lying in the parish of St. John. The college was allowed to elect two guardians. (fn. 558) The university collected its own rates, and had its own delegacy of appeals; it gave up the delegacy in 1875, along with the exemption from rates of certain university public buildings. (fn. 559)
The interest aroused by the struggle over the university rate was reflected in the first election under the Act of 1854; in about half the vestries there were contested elections. (fn. 560) Attendances at meetings of the guardians improved, the parochial members being particularly conscientious, but the aldermen's laxity was said to give the university too much influence. (fn. 561) In 1896 corporation representation was opened to councillors, and in 1903 the representation of the larger parishes, St. Aldate's, St. Ebbe's, and St. Thomas's, was increased. (fn. 562) In 1925 the United Parishes became the civil parish of Oxford, which was divided into wards for the election of guardians. (fn. 563) Thereafter, until the abolition of the Poor Law Board in 1930, (fn. 564) poor rates were collected by the corporation. (fn. 565)
Apart from poor-relief the guardians took a leading part in fighting outbreaks of cholera in Oxford; in 1832 they levied a special rate for public health measures, (fn. 566) and in 1849 and 1854 they formed emergency boards of health. (fn. 567) In public health generally they were accused of lack of preparedness, parsimony, and administrative inflexibility. (fn. 568) The administration of poor-relief also aroused much criticism in the later 19th century, but by 1912 was regarded as one of the strong points in city government. (fn. 569)
Public Health in the 19th Century
Oxford's general sanitary condition was believed by the Oxford Herald in 1848 to be 'disgraceful'. (fn. 570) Others argued, on the basis of inadequate statistics, (fn. 571) that Oxford was one of the healthiest cities in England, but the mortality rate for the whole city, estimated for the period 1844–50, showed an average annual rate of 24 per mille compared with 22.8 for the country as a whole. (fn. 572) The first systematic inquiry into the city's sanitary condition, in 1848, revealed the contrast between the central area and the suburbs, whose housing was evocative of the industrial north. The worst was in the older parts of St. Thomas's and St. Ebbe's, and the Red Lion Square area between Gloucester Green and Magdalen Street. The survey revealed the squalor of many of the older courts and alleys, typical of which were States' Yard, Godfrey's Row, and Coach and Horse Yard, all off Church Street in St. Ebbe's, which exhibited 'a degree of neglect and filth rarely witnessed'. St. Thomas's parish contained 'some of the worst habitations and the poorest inhabitants in Oxford'. (fn. 573) The newer housing in St. Ebbe's, Jericho, and St. Clement's was built without even basic drainage. (fn. 574)
The city's system of main covered drains had been gradually extended by the Paving Commissioners, but it drained only the central area and the main streets radiating from Carfax. The greater part of the city, particularly the lower areas, lacked main drainage and was dependent at best upon open ditches and watercourses. Disease was commonplace in the new development in St. Ebbe's, described as 'a swamp converted into a cesspool', and Jericho had little or no provision for drainage; (fn. 575) the houses built north of the University Press had foul open sewers running on three sides of them. (fn. 576) Drainage was made especially difficult by the fact that such low-lying areas of the city were liable to frequent flooding which prevented the sewage being cleared, while the commissioners were powerless to intervene with the owners of locks and weirs below Oxford which restricted the river's flow. (fn. 577)
The Paving Commissioners were the inevitable target of criticism. The reformers, led by Dr. Henry Acland, university reader in anatomy and physician to the Radcliffe Infirmary, Richard Harington, principal of Brasenose College, and Joseph Vincent, publisher of the Oxford Herald, demanded the adoption for Oxford of the Health of Towns Act, 1848, with its provision for inquiry by a government inspector, in the belief that only government intervention would improve matters. (fn. 578) The university's commissioners favoured the Act while most of the city representatives opposed it. There was a strong dislike, fostered by the commission's chairman, Alderman Sadler, of the prospect of local autonomy being threatened by 'foreigners' with compulsory powers; the Act also came at a difficult time financially for the city, and the reduction in 1848 of the university's share of the rate burden probably ensured the Act's rejection in Oxford. The commissioners decided instead to hold an inquiry of their own which was delayed, ironically, by an outbreak of cholera in 1849.
The first cholera epidemic in Oxford was in 1832, when there were 184 identified cases and 95 fatalities. St. Clement's, where there were 26 cases in Caroline Street alone, suffered more than a third of all the deaths in the city. St. Ebbe's, St. Thomas's, and Jericho were also severely affected. (fn. 579) St. Clement's misfortune was attributed to the use of contaminated water from the river Cherwell. After 1832 an alternative supply was made available from springs and in 1849 only three people died of the cholera there. (fn. 580)
In 1832 the city was ill prepared to deal with the epidemic. A board of health comprising city and university representatives was set up, but the Radcliffe Infirmary refused to admit cholera patients and a small hospital was built near the canal north of Walton Well Road. A 'house of observation' was established in St. Aldate's, and St. Bartholomew's alms-houses, Cowley, were converted into a convalescent home. (fn. 581) Those arrangements were not made until the epidemic was well under way, but there was little effective criticism of the authorities and no long-term public health measures resulted.
In 1849 there was similar confusion, and again criticism was muted. A local board of health was set up when the epidemic reached Britain in 1848, and the Paving Commissioners began an inadequate campaign to remove nuisances from the city's streets. Despite protests the Radcliffe Infirmary and the workhouse both refused to admit cholera patients, and only after the epidemic was firmly established was a special cholera hospital begun; the earliest patients were treated in a tent. A house of refuge for patients' families was opened in Jericho. The epidemic was less severe than in 1832, lasting for 12 weeks compared with 22, but it attacked the same areas as before, except for St. Clement's and Jericho Gardens; there were as many as 30 deaths in St. Ebbe's. (fn. 582) The Board of Guardians afterwards refused to defray the expenses incurred by the board of health. (fn. 583)
Although some saw clearly that public health measures might have prevented the 'terror and misery' (fn. 584) of 1849, many remained unconvinced that fundamental and expensive reforms were necessary. The Oxford Herald hinted that there was opposition to reform from citizens who owned slum property, (fn. 585) but perhaps a more serious obstacle was that, as elsewhere, there were many small property owners little better off than their tenants, and unable to afford improvements. (fn. 586) The Paving Commissioners felt obliged to adopt piecemeal measures, and many inhabitants were complacent, claiming that Oxford's streets were well paved and lit. Presumably they were thinking only of the central area, and even there the lamps were not lit when the moon was expected to give light. (fn. 587)
An inquiry promised in 1848 and carried out in 1851 (fn. 588) found that the greatest danger to public health was the city's inadequate drainage arrangements; cesspools and disgusting privies were abundant, and in the areas liable to flood, which included most of the poorer suburbs, there was a high risk of seepage from cesspools to wells. The old open sewers of Jericho had been covered in 1849, but a typical nuisance was the Trill mill stream in St. Aldate's, which received much of the sewage and garbage of St. Ebbe's, and was popularly known as 'Pactolus', after the Lydian river whose banks reputedly were lined with gold. The report of 1851 recommended the construction of a covered main sewer to a treatment works south of Oxford, the installation of main drainage to houses, and the replacement of cesspools and privies by water-closets. (fn. 589)
The outfall from five sewers discharged into the river above the city waterworks, which had no filter; contamination and the system's unreliability meant there was little demand for the water. Improvements were made to the waterworks at the time of the rebuilding of Folly Bridge in 1825, but power was provided only by a water-wheel, inadequate at times of flood and low water. A threat in 1848 to set up an independent water company stirred the corporation into making further improvements, but most people obtained their water from wells, many of which were contaminated. The university had a small supply pumped from springs at North Hinksey. The corporation improved its water-supply shortly after the report of 1851 by making use of a gravel lake at South Hinksey. (fn. 590)
The overcrowded state of Oxford's churchyards was a further threat to the city's health. An attempt by the corporation in 1843 to acquire and manage a general cemetery was resisted by the parochial clergy, who, supported by the bishop and the university, opened new parish burial grounds in 1848. The report of 1851 recommended that all burials in the city should cease, and Orders in Council to that effect were issued in 1855. (fn. 591)
The Paving Commissioners could order house-owners to remove nuisances or make a drain into the main sewer but they lacked sanctions when faced by a refusal. (fn. 592) They were obliged to finance all their works out of current revenue, lacking as they did the powers 'to charge posterity with a single sixpence'. (fn. 593) Such restrictions ruled out major structural developments. A number of improvements were, nevertheless, carried through after 1851 by individual enterprise or by the commissioners, notably the installation of many water-closets, the covering of open ditches and drains, (fn. 594) and the construction of public baths and wash-houses in 1852. (fn. 595) There were still too many badly drained and ill-ventilated courts 'crowded together in heaps', (fn. 596) and it was to those that cholera returned in 1854.
When the epidemic reached England in 1853 the Board of Guardians set up a sanitary committee to act as a board of health in co-operation with a separate nuisances board set up by the Paving Commissioners. (fn. 597) The epidemic in Oxford persisted from August until October 1854, and there were 194 recorded cases and 115 deaths. The poorer, low-lying districts were again the worst affected, and even the improved conditions of St. Clement's did not prevent 18 deaths there. There was the usual confusion: the epidemic was at its height before a temporary hospital and house of refuge were prepared, and the healthy people in the latter had to share their facilities, including a single privy, with the cholera patients in the hospital. The guardians insisted that all relief work should be carried out through the workhouse, although that 'rigorously economic establishment' proved incapable of the flexibility required. (fn. 598)
A scheme for a new local Act extending the commissioners' powers was defeated by a combination of small property owners, frightened by the threatened cost, and owners of 'fine houses in the best part of town', who saw little reason for urgency. (fn. 599) The Local Government Act of 1858, with its provision for a powerful Local Board of Health, was at first rejected, by an alliance between Liberals opposed to any loss of local autonomy and the university, which feared for its independent role in local government. (fn. 600) When another attempt was made in 1864 to have the Act applied to Oxford there was no protest, and the new Local Board of Health took over the commissioners' problems.
The board accepted that a full drainage system must be established, but was confused and divided by the varying surveys and reports which it commissioned between 1865 and 1867. (fn. 601) The need for a decision became urgent in 1867 when the Thames Conservancy Board, whose authority was extended over the Upper Thames in 1866, prohibited the discharge of sewage into the river. (fn. 602) The Local Board, abandoning one scheme in the face of public opposition (fn. 603) and indecisive about others, (fn. 604) finally committed itself in 1872 to the construction of an outfall at Sandford and a pumping station and irrigation farm at Littlemore. (fn. 605) The system was in operation by 1877 and was completed in 1880. (fn. 606)
City Government, 1889–1939
In 1883 (fn. 607) the corporation and university agreed after long and difficult negotiations (fn. 608) to seek to have Oxford made a county borough, and the Provisional Order of 1889 brought an end to much of the old diarchy in the city by giving to the university for the first time representation in the corporation itself. The change followed a period of growing co-operation between city and university dating from the late 18th century.
The city's boundaries were extended to include the whole Local Board district, together with the adjoining parts of the rural sanitary districts of Headington and Abingdon; even so, the population was below the statutory limit of 50,000 for a county borough, a point that seems to have gone unnoticed. The old central ward was abolished, and the four city wards each returned nine councillors; there were twelve city aldermen. The university formed a separate ward, with nine councillors and three aldermen, a fifth of the council. Three university councillors were elected by convocation and six by the heads and senior resident bursars of houses. The city and university councillors were not to vote in the election of each other's aldermen, but otherwise no distinction was made between the two groups. (fn. 609)
The elections to the new corporation in November 1889 brought a 'crushing defeat' for an over-confident and badly organized Conservative party. The Conservatives, formerly represented by 22 councillors and aldermen compared with the 18 of the Liberals, won only 17 seats, while the Liberals won 31. The city seems to have been more excited about the political landslide than about the new freedom of self-government. The newspapers were political and abusive in their review of the constitutional changes, and the Oxford Times complained that because of Conservative apathy the university Liberals, despite being in an overall minority, had obtained all but one of the university seats. (fn. 610) In practice the university representatives seem usually to have adopted a non-political stance in the council, a custom which most of them observed until separate university representation was ended in 1974.
Immediately after the election the Liberals offered to share municipal honours amicably with Conservatives, so that the corporation should be non-political in the manner of the old Local Board. (fn. 611) Such private agreements were rejected by some councillors as unfair to electors, but the council came increasingly under the collaborative influence of two aldermen, the Liberal Robert Buckell and the Conservative Walter Gray, who worked together until Gray's death in 1918. (fn. 612) The parties were still divided on many issues, but under Buckell and Gray rivalry was less obtrusive than it had been before 1889. As a result later elections rarely aroused the excitement of 1889, even though most were contested. There was little comment when, in 1892, the returning officer for the north ward announced the election result to a solitary cabman. (fn. 613)
Oxford's pride in its new status in 1889 (fn. 614) found immediate expression in a decision to build a grandiose town hall. New city buildings had been discussed by the old council, and they were actively promoted in the new by the Liberals and the Oxford Chronicle, but viewed with suspicion by some Conservatives, and with outright hostility by the Oxford Times. (fn. 615) The united influence of Buckell and Gray, however, ensured the scheme's acceptance. The council met in the university's Examination Schools (fn. 616) until the new town hall was opened in 1897. (fn. 617)
The new corporation took over the powers, property, and obligations of the Local Board, including responsibility for the city cemeteries and for the public library, and the police and market committees became committees of the council. (fn. 618) From 1903 education (fn. 619) became the city's heaviest item of expenditure. In 1890 the new council obtained an Act of Parliament giving it extensive control over the construction of buildings, the making and improving of roads, the regulation of traffic, and the administration of the Public Health Act. (fn. 620) A series of public improvements initiated under the Act, including the redevelopment of the Carfax area, earned the council a reputation as an active and interventionist body, (fn. 621) largely because of comparisons with its predecessor. It was indecisive over taking responsibility for gas-supply or the installation of its own electric light service, and was hesitant over the city's internal transport services, which were only partially brought under its control. (fn. 622) Large-scale expenditure even on potentially profitable enterprises was still viewed with suspicion: 'heroic legislation' was no part of the council's business. (fn. 623)
The corporation's major trading concern therefore remained the city waterworks, which were financially self-supporting, making no demand on the general rates, and occasionally even contributing a surplus. The recent completion of the drainage and sewage works by the Local Board meant that the corporation did not need to spend heavily in that area until the 1920s, but it had to complete the Local Board's plan for public cemeteries. (fn. 624)
Public health in Oxford improved greatly in the later 19th century, and the death rate fell well below the national average and the average for comparable towns. (fn. 625) A remarkable fall in infant mortality in the early 20th century was attributed largely to the work of the Oxford Sanitary Aid Association, founded in 1902. (fn. 626) Pockets of slum dwellings remained in St. Aldate's, St. Clement's, St. Ebbe's, and St. Thomas's; they were characterized by overcrowding, disrepair, and inadequate mains services, and were recognized as a health risk. (fn. 627) The efforts of the sanitary inspector and medical officer of health were frustrated by problems such as landlords too poor to carry out repairs, and by the council's reluctance to begin large-scale clearance and rehousing. The council's policy remained one of taking out orders against individual properties, and what little house-building there was before 1918 was undertaken entirely by private enterprise. The Oxford Cottage Improvement Company, founded in 1866, (fn. 628) bought up, improved, and managed, in conjunction with the Sanitary Aid Association, groups of cottages in the poorer parts of the city, and also built some new cottages. (fn. 629) Its work was hampered by the dilatoriness of the council in issuing clearance notices, even for the worst slum property. The city's medical officer observed that 'things move slowly in Oxford'. (fn. 630) Such enterprises did little to meet the demand for cheap, modern cottages, and the generally low level of wages in the city made it uneconomic to build houses that the labouring classes could afford. (fn. 631)
The council set itself a modest target of 400 new houses under the Housing Act of 1919, and failed to meet it by almost half. (fn. 632) Only in 1925 did the corporation obtain powers to borrow money for the purchase of land for housing. (fn. 633) Morris Motors, unlike some major enterprises in other towns, did not provide houses for its own workers, and the corporation built very few of the houses needed for the city's increasing population. (fn. 634) Following the 1930 Housing Act the corporation concentrated on slum clearance and rehousing, while the housing of immigrants was left to private enterprise. (fn. 635)
Oxford's population growth between the wars brought increasing pressure upon public services, and several times between 1925 and 1935 the council approached Parliament for an extension of its powers; the corporation's finances were reorganized and its borrowing powers extended in 1925 and 1933, the water undertaking was enlarged in 1928, and the corporation's powers over public health and improvements were augmented on several occasions. (fn. 636) The Oxford Extension Act of 1928 almost doubled the city's area, and created three new electoral wards, Summertown and Wolvercote, Headington, and Cowley and Iffley. The university representation of nine councillors and three aldermen remained unchanged, but representation of each of the seven city wards was reduced to six councillors; the number of city aldermen was increased to fourteen, bringing the total council to 68 members. (fn. 637) The corporation found difficult the unfamiliar demands of a rapidly changing community. In 1924, for example, it allowed the electricity company to extend its services to the growing residential and industrial areas around the city without making any provision for future municipal control. When, in 1931, the corporation exercised its option to take over electricity supply in the central area it had to leave the company in control of those new areas. The central area had little potential for population growth, while the supply of the most rapidly developing areas remained in private hands until nationalization in 1948. The municipal undertaking was nevertheless a success, with a much better record than the private company in terms of increased sales and the reduction of tariffs. (fn. 638)
The corporation's range of activities required a thorough reorganization of finances in the late 19th century. Making a new valuation of the whole city, (fn. 639) it divided its finances into two categories, broadly perpetuating the former distinction between the corporation and the Local Board. The borough fund covered the waterworks, markets, police, and city properties, while the general district fund was concerned with sanitary matters, highways, lighting, and the maintenance of the town hall. The borough fund was at first self-supporting, paying over a surplus to the general district fund, which received most of its income from rates.
The corporation's non-capital expenditure grew from £150,000 in 1914 to £900,000 in 1936. In 1913–14 education took the largest share (29 per cent), followed by roads and lighting (18 per cent), and water supply, police, and public health (all c. 8 per cent). By 1936 there was a fourfold increase in all those services except for public health, which increased ninefold. Education accounted for 21 per cent of non-capital expenditure in 1935–6, and the newly acquired electricity service for as much as 17 per cent, although the latter was a profitable trading service; other major objects of expenditure were roads and lighting (13 per cent), public health (11 per cent), and housing (9 per cent). (fn. 640)
Despite the continuing need for improved services, which led to the rapid growth of expenditure, Oxford's per capita spending from current revenue remained low in comparison with other county boroughs, (fn. 641) partly because it relied heavily on borrowing to finance capital projects. Water and electricity charges were kept deliberately low: the domestic water-rate was as low as 10d. in the pound in 1938. (fn. 642) Despite low profit-margins the city's water and electricity services yielded c. £18,500 in 1935–6, exceeded only by revenue from the general rate. (fn. 643)
Specific charges and the general rate were not the only direct contributions required of the citizen. From 1919 until 1923 a borough rate was levied in aid of the borough fund. Rating was simplified in 1926 when the general district and borough rates were consolidated, and rating powers for poor-relief were transferred to the corporation. From 1930, when the city assumed responsibility for poor-relief in the eleven parishes of the Oxford Incorporation, in the four (St. Giles, St. John, St. Clement, and Cowley St. John) which had belonged to Headington Union, and in Binsey which had belonged to Abingdon Union, the council levied a single general rate. (fn. 644)
Although income from the general rate increased from £80,700 to £308,300 between 1914 and 1936, the proportion of total income provided from rates fell from 54 per cent to only 34 per cent, because of higher water and electricity charges, larger government grants, and increased income from fees and rents. (fn. 645) Until 1918 the rate levied by the corporation was low, usually less than 4s. and occasionally falling below 3s.; (fn. 646) although it rose steadily to 9s. 6d. in 1939, Oxford remained one of the lowest-rated county boroughs in the country. Property in Oxford, however, had a relatively high rateable value, £493,400 in 1927 and £937,700 in 1939, and in the fiscal year 1934–5 the rateable value per head was exceeded by only six county boroughs. (fn. 647)
Capital expenditure, most of which was related to the city's expansion, rose from £8,000 in 1914 to £340,000 in 1939; in 1934–5 Oxford's capital expenditure was higher than in most county boroughs. Electricity, housing, water supply, and roads required the heaviest expenditure, and large capital sums were also spent on education, public health, and land for recreation. Although the trading services provided for some of their own capital costs, borrowing doubled the city's total debt to £3,000,000 between 1930 and 1936, and loan charges rose from £30,000 in 1914 to £134,000 (15 per cent of total expenditure) in 1936. (fn. 648)
Between 1918 and 1939 the distinction between Liberals and Conservatives on the council was said to have become almost nominal. There were broad differences of policy between those, mainly in the old city where the Conservative party was strongest, who favoured economy and restraint, and those, mainly in the expanding outer areas, who wanted the council to supply better services. The immigrants brought to Oxford by the success of the motor industry looked increasingly to the Labour party for political leadership. (fn. 649) From the late 1880s the Oxford Trades Council regularly asked candidates in municipal elections for their views on policies included in the trades union programme, before making recommendations on voting to its members. In 1889 the trades council put forward its own candidate, George Hawkins, a compositor at the university press. (fn. 650) Although he was unsuccessful a Liberal councillor supported by the trades council, William Rose, persuaded the city council to require all their contractors to pay recognized trade union wages. (fn. 651) In 1918 the first Labour councillor, William King, was chosen to fill a vacancy in the west ward caused by the creation of a Conservative alderman; because of the war there was no election, and the Conservatives could have claimed the seat, but agreed to the choice of King. In 1919 a second Labour councillor, Frederick Ludlow, was elected in the west ward. Both he and King worked for the university press, the focus of the Labour movement in Oxford. The Labour party did not become an effective force in Oxford until the growth of the motor industry introduced a politically conscious workforce from outside the area. By 1935 there were six Labour councillors, including R. H. S. Crossman, then a fellow of New College, elected for the Headington ward. (fn. 652) In 1936 the Labour party's strength persuaded Liberals and Conservatives to work jointly against it, and at the outbreak of the Second World War there were 13 Labour councillors. (fn. 653)
City Government since 1939
Unlike the Extension Act of 1928, which sought to regularize unplanned growth that had already taken place, the Extension Order of 1957 (fn. 654) represented an attempt to plan ahead. The additional land was later used for the Blackbird Leys housing estate, built not to house an expanding population, for Oxford's population remained relatively stable after 1950, but to cope with the movement of population eastwards within the city.
The growth of the wards east of Magdalen Bridge at the expense of those to the west brought demands for electoral change. (fn. 655) There was also increasing criticism of university representation on the council, especially after the rates payable by colleges were greatly reduced by the Rating and Valuation Act of 1961. The university agreed that election by heads and bursars of colleges was outdated, and offered to reduce its membership to six councillors and two aldermen, all elected by congregation. The places surrendered by the university were taken up by the creation of a new ward for Blackbird Leys in 1966. (fn. 656) In 1968 the number of city wards was increased to fifteen. (fn. 657) The university's separate representation was brought to an end in the local government reorganization of 1974, when Oxford lost its status as a county borough and became a district. (fn. 658) Oxford kept the title of city, together with its lord mayor, an office created in 1962, and its sheriff. (fn. 659)
Expenditure (fn. 660) increased rapidly after the Second World War, mainly to provide services for the developing areas in the east part of the city. In contrast with its practice before 1939, the city by 1963 was spending more on services than the average county borough. In that year education absorbed 50 per cent of non-capital expenditure, while highways, police, health, and sewage disposal each accounted for less than 10 per cent. (fn. 661) There was heavy capital expenditure on education, sewerage, roads, and new shopping centres at Cowley (opened in 1965) and Westgate (1972). The corporation, however, spent little more than the average for county boroughs on housing. (fn. 662) In 1945 there was an acute housing shortage in the city, (fn. 663) which was partially met by intensive building on the city's fringes. The decision that Oxford should not expand much further, however, coupled with the unsuitable nature of most of the remaining land, meant that there was soon very little land available for housing within the city. (fn. 664) The electricity service was removed from municipal control by nationalization in 1948. There was substantial capital investment in the water undertaking before it was merged with other water undertakings in 1967. (fn. 665) Borrowing caused loan charges to rise by 1973 to 22 per cent of non-capital expenditure. (fn. 666) In 1964 the debt per head of population in Oxford was 45 per cent higher than the county borough average. (fn. 667)
Oxford's rateable value remained high, standing in 1964 at more than £60 a head, compared with an average for all county boroughs of £41. The rate in the pound was usually slightly below average, but in 1964 the rate per head was the highest of any county borough in the country. (fn. 668) After the Local Government Act of 1958 government grants were re-allocated in favour of poorer areas, to the disadvantage of wealthy towns such as Oxford, (fn. 669) but in 1973 29 per cent of the city's expenditure still derived from that source. (fn. 670)
Labour party representation on the council increased after 1945, although not without set-backs, as in 1949 when the party lost ten seats. (fn. 671) The Liberals were reduced to a handful, so that the council was divided, apart from the university members, between Conservative and Labour. The Conservatives dominated the aldermanic bench, and Labour representation on the council suffered because of a lack of aldermen. In 1958, however, the Labour party obtained a majority, (fn. 672) and the council was thereafter divided evenly between the two main parties. Their dominance was reinforced when separate university representation ended with the reorganization of local government in 1974.
City and University
Although the university played a prominent part in late-18th-century local government reforms, including the establishment of the Paving Commission and the market committee, it made no attempt to impose a 'university' policy. Despite the continuance of sharp differences between city and university on some issues, the experience of active collaboration after 1771 made a return to the former hostilities unthinkable. The most likely cause of serious confrontation, the cost of poor-relief, was transformed into an important area of co-operation when the university agreed to be rated in 1853. (fn. 673)
The ceremonies of St. Scholastica's day and of the mayor's oath to the vicechancellor were the subjects of repeated representations by the city council. In 1793 it was agreed that only the mayor, two bailiffs, and two chamberlains need go to make the St. Scholastica's day offering. In 1800 the mayor refused to attend the vice-chancellor for the ceremony; he received no support from the rest of the council, however, and was compelled to pay the traditional fine of 100 marks out of his own pocket. The university refused in 1803 to accept the offering in copper instead of silver pence. After a determined approach by the council in 1824 the university agreed, for the sake of good relations, to abolish the ceremony in 1825. (fn. 674) It was more stubborn over the mayor's oath, agreeing in 1835 that those accompanying the mayor might be reduced to four but insisting that the oath be sworn. (fn. 675) A proposal to refuse the oath in 1855, narrowly defeated in council where radical strength was growing, was unanimously adopted in 1856. (fn. 676) When the newly elected mayor, the radical John Towle, refused the oath the university was uncertain how to respond, but in 1857 sent a bedel as soon as the new mayor, Isaac Grubb, took his seat in the council chamber, to demand submission before the vice-chancellor. Grubb, for whom the issue was something of a personal crusade, flatly refused, and was supported by a rather less enthusiastic council. (fn. 677) A compromise was agreed through the mediation of the university and city M.P.s: the mayor and sheriff would take the oath in 1859, and the university would then allow the obligation to lapse. (fn. 678)
Relations between the city and university authorities were generally good in the 19th century. The mayors for 1808 and 1810, John and Herbert Parsons, were the cousin and brother respectively of the vice-chancellor, Dr. John Parsons. (fn. 679) The resolution of the poor-rate issue was marked by the revival of the practice of inviting university dignitaries to the mayor's annual banquet. (fn. 680) In 1867 the town clerk asserted that relations had never been better, (fn. 681) but offence was still easily given: the university's decision in 1881 to inspect the city's lodging houses was resented because the Board of Health had not been consulted. (fn. 682)
The university's control over Oxford's tradesmen was a persistent problem. Before 1835 the corporation was anxious that the university should restrict privileged persons to the exercise of the trade for which they had matriculated, and the university seems generally to have co-operated; (fn. 683) the number of tradesmen matriculating dropped to two or three a year before the removal of trading restrictions altogether by the Municipal Corporations Act, and the practice seems to have died out completely by the 1850s. (fn. 684) The university nevertheless maintained some control over trade, either directly by regulating trades such as the hiring of horses and carriages where it had an interest, or indirectly by its general economic and political influence. (fn. 685) There was much anger over the university's contribution to Oxford's failure to become the site of the Great Western Railway workshops in 1865, (fn. 686) a reverse that seemed to reinforce the city's economic dependence. In reality the city's expansion and the new freedom to set up business brought about by the Municipal Corporations Act (fn. 687) inevitably weakened the university's control. As late as 1854 the university discommoned tradesmen who ignored its statutes, but the penalty was largely restricted to stable-keepers and was of doubtful efficacy. In the later 19th century traders could defy the threat of discommoning with confidence. (fn. 688) Disputes between the university and individual tradesmen were generally concerned with prices, the control of credit, and the alleged patronage of businesses outside Oxford. There were complaints about the boycott of tradesmen by the university on religious and political grounds, and some tradesmen refused any contact with the university. (fn. 689)
The chancellor's court retained jurisdiction over cases in which one of the parties was a member of the university, (fn. 690) and the university took care to defend its prerogative, even discommoning tradesmen who sued members of the university in other courts. (fn. 691) In the 19th century the court was confined almost entirely to civil actions, mostly of debt, and by the mid 20th century it was hardly used. Its jurisdiction was abolished in 1977. (fn. 692) Whereas townsmen were content to make use of the court to recover debts from undergraduates, there was little liking for the vice-chancellor's right to claim summary jurisdiction in criminal cases involving members of the university. The vice-chancellor's jurisdiction extended beyond members of the university; as long as the university controlled the night police those arrested were dealt with by the vice-chancellor. Sometimes townsmen were handed over to the city magistrates, (fn. 693) but even after the amalgamation of the city and university police forces in 1869 the proctors arrested disorderly persons on the streets, usually vagrants and prostitutes, and brought them before the vicechancellor. (fn. 694) In 1893 the city rejected a proposed compromise, (fn. 695) and the system remained theoretically unchanged, though little used, until 1968, when all ex officio justices of the peace lost their places. (fn. 696)
The removal from city sessions of cases involving members of the university was the subject of an agreement of 1899, whereby the city magistrates warned the vice-chancellor of such cases in advance, and he notified the Bench before the sitting began if he wished to claim jurisdiction. In 1914 the agreement was accepted as binding on successive mayors and vice-chancellors, but the vice-chancellor claimed cases rarely. After the abolition of the vice-chancellor's criminal jurisdiction in 1968 the magistrates' clerk continued to inform him of cases involving university members, but as a matter of courtesy only. (fn. 697)
The vice-chancellor possessed the right, as did the mayor, to veto public performances in the city. Attempts to remove the vice-chancellor's veto were unsuccessful, but national legislation relating to such performances had made his powers largely redundant by the 1970s, although he continued to issue permits if requested. (fn. 698)
The inclusion of university representatives in the newly formed council in 1889 did much to remove points of difference between city and university. The university's surviving privileges ceased to provoke the squabbles of the past, and there were several formal acts of reconciliation. At the opening of the town hall in 1897 Alderman Buckell became the first citizen to receive an honorary degree from the university, and in 1913 Alderman the Revd. W. E. Sherwood became the first university councillor to be elected mayor. (fn. 699) Echoes of the past were not entirely eliminated, and in 1925 there was a spectacle wholly 17th-century in character: the corporation and the university, processing simultaneously to the cathedral for a memorial service, quickened their pace upon catching sight of each other until, to the delight of the spectators, the two parties galloped, robes flying, to reach the door first. (fn. 700) The 600th anniversary of St. Scholastica's day in 1955 was marked with dignity, however; the mayor, Alderman W. R. Gowers, was awarded an honorary doctorate, and A. H. Smith became the first vice-chancellor to receive the freedom of the city. (fn. 701)
In 1771 (fn. 702) one of Oxford's M.P.s, George Nares, became a judge, and George Spencer, duke of Marlborough, openly recommended Lord Robert Spencer, his brother, who was elected without contest. Lord Robert, a government supporter, held the seat until 1790, and was succeeded by another ducal nominee, Francis Burton, who represented Oxford until 1812. The council, however, showed no desire permanently to desert Oxford's traditional patrons, the Berties, despite the ill-feeling caused by the scandal of 1768; (fn. 703) thus in 1774, although Willoughby Bertie, Lord Abingdon, refused to nominate, the council offered the seat to his brother, Capt. Peregrine Bertie, a supporter of Fox, who held it until his death in 1790.
From 1771 until 1790 there was no effective opposition to Lord Robert and Bertie at the hustings, but in 1790 Lord Abingdon's decision that he could no longer afford electioneering (fn. 704) left the council's control of one seat insecure. Between then and the Reform Bill most elections were contested, and the period was marked by the successful emergence of 'freemen's candidates' put up in opposition to council nominees, and by the defeat of the Blenheim interest. Freemen's candidates had appeared unsuccessfully in 1768, 1780, and 1790, (fn. 705) but in 1796 Henry Peters, a London merchant, defeated Arthur Annesley of Bletchingdon, M.P. since 1790. Peters was supported by James Ingram Lockhart of Great Haseley, a successful barrister who was ultimately responsible for the downfall of the Blenheim interest. When Lockhart took over Peters's platform of freemen's rights in 1802 he was soundly beaten by a new and perhaps wealthier council candidate, J. A. Wright of Crowsley Park, but in 1806 he was defeated only narrowly; when Wright temporarily withdrew in 1807 Lockhart succeeded him unopposed. (fn. 706)
In 1812, when Francis Burton retired, the duke of Marlborough had secluded himself from public life, leaving debts of £7,000 advanced by an Oxford bank for Burton's election expenses. A majority of the aldermen and assistants, formerly the duke's solid supporters, now deserted the Blenheim interest, and Wright and Lockhart were returned. (fn. 707) After Wright's retirement in 1820 the council appears not to have sought a candidate of its own, but Lockhart was beaten into second place by a High Tory, Charles Wetherell, son of the master of University College, who stressed his local connexions and the need for independence of Blenheim. (fn. 708) George Spencer-Churchill, 5th duke of Marlborough, whose candidate had briefly recaptured a seat from Lockhart in 1818, may not finally have given up the struggle to control Oxford until 1825, when his loyal supporter, Sir William Elias Taunton, town clerk, died. Taunton's successor rejected any obligation to Blenheim. (fn. 709) The strength of anti-Marlborough feeling was demonstrated again when James Langston of Sarsden came top of the poll in 1826; Langston, an open-handed Whig country gentleman, had been turned out of his Woodstock seat by the duke; since the Woodstock election took place two days before the Oxford poll, Langston transferred to the city, (fn. 710) where, until his death in 1863, he was the most popular candidate in every election in which he stood.
With the waning of the Blenheim interest national politics began, for the first time since the 17th century, to play an important part in Oxford elections. Lockhart's temporary defeat in 1818 seems to have been caused by his support for the government on the Corn Bill and the suspension of Habeas Corpus, (fn. 711) but he and Wetherell appear to have profited in 1820 from a reaction in the city to the radical agitation in the country at large. Wetherell had retired from Oxford in 1826, and by 1830 Lockhart, although in favour of parliamentary reform, was regarded as too conservative a figure; he was replaced by a wealthy London barrister, William Hughes Hughes, a Whig, whom he had narrowly defeated in 1826.
In the period leading up to Reform there was a great increase in the electorate, partly the result of rising population. In 1790 only 616 persons voted and in 1796 890, but in 1812 there were 1,530 voters, and 1,770 in 1830, only 360 fewer than in the first post-Reform election. As in the earlier 18th century the election years were marked by striking increases in the numbers of men taking up their freedom, many at the candidates' expense. In an average non-election year between 1801 and 1831 only 22 new freemen were admitted, but in 1801–2 there were 260 new freemen and there were 285 in 1812 when new freemen were being admitted each morning before the poll. (fn. 712) In 1806 a number of voters were challenged as being in receipt of poor-relief and in 1807 Lockhart significantly became chairman of the Oxford City Dispensary, (fn. 713) which gave medical relief to the poor without disqualifying them.
In 1796 fewer than 250 non-resident freemen voted (out of c. 430), but in 1802 there were over 670 out-voters. The vote of non-resident freemen, constituting as much as a third of the electoral body, was probably the largest factor in the great increase in the cost of the Oxford seats. In the period 1774–90 the expenses of the unopposed elections varied from £500 to £700, shared between the Marlborough and Abingdon interests. The Oxford races and the venison feast, (fn. 714) traditionally held after the races, cost them up to £140 a year, and bounties of food and money to the freemen over £100. (fn. 715) The contested elections of the early 19th century were much more expensive: Burton and Wright each spent above £2,600 in 1803, and in 1826 Hughes's expenses amounted to c. £4,000, half spent in bringing non-resident freemen to Oxford. Direct payment for votes was apparently rare; Burton's canvassers in 1801 would have nothing to do with it, and only one instance is found in Hughes's very full accounts for 1826. (fn. 716) Treating, at first by distributing food, beer, and tobacco and giving small freemen's and benefit society dinners, was from 1802 usually in drink alone. The change was not welcomed by most tradesmen, who claimed that candidates would serve their own interests better by wooing the employers of labour. (fn. 717) Oxford acquired an unenviable reputation for venality, so that G. V. Cox, probably provoked by Lockhart's defeat in 1830, wrote that the 'lower and more numerous class of freemen' liked 'a change of man, throwing away an old favourite as a boy does an orange he has sucked'. (fn. 718)
The Reform Act extended the parliamentary boundary to include St. Clement's, (fn. 719) but it made little change in the size of the electorate, the new householder voters balancing the disfranchised non-resident freemen: before the Act there were said to be 2,200 freemen of whom 900 were non-resident, (fn. 720) and in 1832 there were 2,312 names on the electoral register. Out of a total poll of 2,139 in that year 797 were new voters. (fn. 721) After the further extension of the parliamentary boundary in 1868 the electorate increased to 5,033, and at the general election of 1880 it stood at 6,166. (fn. 722)
In the mid 19th century Oxford was represented by political moderates, mainly Whigs or Liberals, and almost all had significant local connexions. (fn. 723) Donald Maclean, who held one seat for the Conservatives from 1835–47 was a moderate, Edward Cardwell (M.P. 1853–74) was a Peelite, and A. W. Hall (M.P. 1874–80, 1885–92) called himself a progressive Conservative. (fn. 724) The High Tory Sir Charles Wetherell conceded defeat on the first day of the poll in 1832, and, of the only two redical candidates, one withdrew before the poll in 1847, (fn. 725) and another attracted only 245 votes in 1857.
In the first post-Reform election there was little to choose politically between the three nominally Whig candidates. Money was no longer needed for out-voters but improper electoral practices continued to play perhaps a dominant part in election results. Thomas Stonor, a Catholic, defeated Hughes, but was unseated on petition, the first of three successful petitions in the period. Hughes regained the seat in 1833 and held it in 1835, but in 1837 he came a poor third to the more radical William Erle, barrister and formerly fellow of New College; Hughes was defeated because his fitful support of the Reform government had alienated his former voters without enabling him to take advantage of the Peelite reaction which returned the Tory Donald Maclean between 1835 and 1847. (fn. 726)
In 1857, in the first contested election since 1841, all four candidates were Liberals. James Langston's seat was never in doubt, but Cardwell, the other sitting member, had voted against Palmerston on the Chinese question and was regarded by many city Liberals as too conservative. (fn. 727) Charles Neate, fellow of Oriel College and active in city government, beat him by 41 votes but was petitioned against for bribery and was unseated for 'colourable employment'. (fn. 728) He and his supporters at once put forward as a candidate W. M. Thackeray, the novelist; Cardwell, disgusted at Oxford's electoral behaviour, at first declined to stand, but having made his peace with the ministers eventually narrowly defeated Thackeray, who had no local connexions and privately confessed himself a 'Cardwellite'. (fn. 729)
Conservatism began to revive in Oxford in the late 1860s, and in 1874 the sitting Liberal M.P.s were opposed by the popular Oxford brewer, A. W. Hall. The chief issues in the campaign were disestablishment and the Permissive Act; the result was influenced by the massive defection from the Liberals of the local publicans, of whom only c. 20 out of some 400 remained faithful. (fn. 730) In the event Hall was just defeated, but Cardwell took a peerage at once and Hall was successful in the by-election.
In 1880, in a campaign dominated by allegations of electoral malpractice, the Conservatives characterized Joseph Chitty, the second Liberal candidate, as a stranger fighting against Hall, the local man; (fn. 731) Sir William Harcourt topped the poll, and Hall was beaten into third place by only 10 votes. When Harcourt was made Home Secretary immediately afterwards the Oxford Conservatives broke the convention of offering no opposition to the re-election of a newly appointed minister. Hall could not afford a new contest, but the Conservative Central Office gave a subvention of £3,000. Harcourt summoned help from Joseph Chamberlain's electoral experts in Birmingham, (fn. 732) and after a vigorous campaign, conducted by both parties with fairly open illegality, Hall won by 49 votes. Harcourt easily found another seat. Some of his supporters, particularly temperance enthusiasts anxious to disqualify Hall, petitioned, (fn. 733) and after only half the charges had been heard Hall threw in his hand. The evidence of illegal practices on both sides required a Royal Commission; in 1881 Oxford was disfranchised of the disputed seat for the duration of the Parliament, and when Chitty became a judge later in 1881 no new writ was issued for the second seat.
There were no permanent political organizations in Oxford until 1868, although an abortive start was made with party clubs in 1839 to ensure full registration. (fn. 734) Before the establishment of a joint Liberal committee in 1868 at the instance of Harcourt, it was considered improper for two candidates of similar views to share their campaign management. (fn. 735) In 1832 Stonor spent nearly £5,000 on his election, but by 1857 it was said that a candidate would need only £1,000–1,800. (fn. 736) In 1868, when the electorate was larger, Cardwell thought that Harcourt would have to be prepared to spend £1,200; both thought Oxford expensive. (fn. 737) Although in 1880 the three candidates jointly tried to impose a limit of £2,000, at the subsequent by-election the Liberals were estimated to have spent £3,900 and the Conservatives £7,500. (fn. 738) Outside subventions were regarded as improper; the Conservatives concealed the contribution of the Conservative Central Office in 1880 because it was 'foreign gold', (fn. 739) and its discovery caused furore.
According to one witness in 1881 the general rule governing Oxford elections was 'work for me, vote for me'. (fn. 740) There is little evidence of the university as employer interfering, as at Cambridge, in elections; few members of the university had city votes until 1885, and the only united voice among college servants seems to have been against Stonor as a Roman Catholic. (fn. 741) From at least the 1870s the colleges were bedecked in party colours during city elections, (fn. 742) but there seem to have been no complaints. The control of public employment by members of the corporation and the statutory bodies was probably abused: Langston's strength derived from the support of Alderman Sadler, 'autocrat of the street commissioners, the city estates committee, the market, the city charities, and the gas works', who in his heyday was said to control 300 votes. (fn. 743) A Conservative complained to the Royal Commission of 1881 that all public money was spent and commissions given with a Liberal bias, and John Towle, by no means a Conservative, confirmed it. In 1868 two aldermen were deprived of their gowns because they had been concerned in the foundation of the Conservative Association, and Harcourt's agent in 1868 and 1874 was the town clerk. (fn. 744)
The shifting allegiance of the voters in St. Ebbe's and St. Thomas's seems to have been a determining factor in Oxford politics. By 1874, probably because of the Permissive Act, those areas had largely gone over to the Conservatives, but earlier they were the home of radical opinion in the city. The voters there were among the poorest and most subject to corruption; St. Ebbe's in particular had a high proportion of freemen voters who would not necessarily have qualified as £10 householders: as late as 1868 the freemen there still constituted a fifth of those who voted. (fn. 745) In a period of narrow majorities there were enough corruptible voters to turn the scale, but it was invariably asserted that money illegally spent in electioneering was largely used to get voters to the poll, not to change their opinions. (fn. 746)
It was commonplace in the 1830s for a member to claim that his supporters had given him their 'unbought, unbiased, and unsolicited suffrages'. (fn. 747) Nevertheless Alderman Sadler publicly dropped 'significant hints' in 1841 that Langston had behaved very liberally in the past and would do so again. (fn. 748) The rate of payment seems to have been £1 for a plumper and 10s. for a split vote, a practice that usually cost Langston £200 to £300. (fn. 749) In 1857 J. R. Green, the historian, canvassing on Thackeray's behalf an Oxford barge-master, thought to control many votes, was asked openly for money. The Royal Commission brought to light few instances, although a college porter in 1885 said that he had not voted because he was no longer able to get his usual £2 thereby. (fn. 750)
Stonor protested that he was unseated in 1832 not for bribery but for treating. (fn. 751) Treating was commonplace in Oxford in the mid 19th century, but the Royal Commission did not regard it as a major problem. (fn. 752) 'Colourable employment' was the gravamen of the charges against Oxford electioneers. It was taken for granted at election times, and in 1857 Neate was not alone in thinking that he had been unseated on trivial grounds; his opponent Cardwell received applications from between 400 and 500 people for work as clerks and messengers, and Thackeray admitted that if he had won Neate's seat he could have been dismissed for the same reasons. (fn. 753) In 1874 the agents said that a party failing to use such methods would certainly have lost. In 1880, following a severe winter, poor voters clamoured for work, and neither party found it possible to refuse them. (fn. 754)
The Royal Commission concluded that the constituency was not generally corrupt, but that c. 1,000 voters, a sixth of the electorate, might be affected by illegal inducements. (fn. 755) Oxford was the least corrupt of seven towns investigated at that time; nevertheless 141 persons were disfranchised permanently, a sentence later reduced to disqualification for seven years. (fn. 756) Scheduled persons included five councillors, two magistrates, and both party agents, but the city was not shocked by its politicians' behaviour. The two agents, Percival Walsh, who admitted that he 'never fought a pure election in his life', and Joseph Bickerton, continued to enjoy successful public careers; (fn. 757) two of the other chief Conservative offenders topped the poll in elections for the north ward in 1881, and the most active Liberal campaigner was offered the Liberal candidacy in 1892. (fn. 758)
When enfranchised again in 1885 Oxford was given only one seat. The electorate was then 6,983. (fn. 759) In 1911 75 per cent (9,827 voters) of those qualified were registered, an unusually high proportion for a county borough. (fn. 760) In 1918 the electorate was 25,231, in 1935 38,567, in 1950, after the enlargement of the constituency of 1948 to include industrial Cowley, 69,161, and by 1970 it had grown only slightly to 70,986. (fn. 761)
In 1885 the Oxford Chronicle hoped that 'now that wanton expenditure at elections is limited, the motive power of Toryism is dead', (fn. 762) but the balance of parties in the city had changed permanently. Except for one brief interval the Conservatives held Oxford from 1885 to 1966. In the election of 1885 the Liberals were hampered by an adverse reaction to the cost of the Royal Commission of 1881, instigated by Harcourt's supporters; more permanent were the alienation of many church-goers by Liberal policies on non-sectarian schools and disestablishment, and the split in the local party over Home Rule, which produced in Oxford the largest number of Liberal Unionists outside Birmingham. (fn. 763) The Conservatives gained from having exceptionally popular candidates in A. W. Hall (M.P. 1885–92), Arthur Annesley, Viscount Valentia (1895–1917), and Capt. R. C. Bourne (1924–38). Lord Valentia survived the national swing to the Liberals by 100 votes in 1906, and greatly increased his majorities thereafter. His successor, J. A. R. Marriott, Fellow of All Souls, gained a large majority in 1918, but was regarded by many as too aloof, and too much of a lecturer; in 1922 he was beaten unexpectedly by a Liberal, Frank Gray, son of one of the city's leading Conservatives, Sir Walter Gray. Gray's success owed as much to his personal popularity and efficient party machine as to his Liberalism; (fn. 764) he won 59 per cent of the vote, and did almost as well in 1923. His agent, however, spent slightly more on the campaign than was allowed by statute, and then presented fraudulent accounts; after a petition Gray was unseated, (fn. 765) the last M.P. in the country to be evicted for electoral malpractice.
A Socialist League was formed in 1885, (fn. 766) but the first Labour candidate did not stand until the by-election after Gray's removal in 1924, gaining 13 per cent of the vote. The Conservative candidate, R. C. Bourne, supported by William Morris, who had declined to stand himself, gained a majority of 1,842 over the Liberal, the sportsman C. B. Fry. (fn. 767) The Liberals, although winning 30 per cent of the vote in 1929, did not put up a candidate in 1931 or in 1935, when the Labour candidate, P. C. Gordon Walker, won 37 per cent.
At the time of the Munich agreement in 1938 Bourne died. Opinion on government policy, in Oxford as elsewhere, was not divided wholly on party lines; against the Conservative, Quintin Hogg, the Liberal and Labour parties finally agreed to support A. D. L. Lindsay, master of Balliol College, as an Independent Progressive, anti-Munich candidate. The spirit of 'old-time electioneering' was recalled, especially among the academic community, and the turnout rose by 9 per cent; Hogg won by c. 3,500 votes. (fn. 768)
The inclusion in the constituency of Cowley came too late for the Conservatives to be threatened by the national swing to Labour after the war, and Hogg held the seat until he became Lord Hailsham in 1950. His successor, H. F. L. Turner (1950–9), was the first 'carpet-bagger' to represent Oxford in the 20th century; he was followed by C. M. Woodhouse, fellow of Nuffield College. Between 1945 and 1964 the Labour share of the vote varied between 39 and 44 per cent, while the Liberal vote rose no higher than 18.5 per cent; a Communist stood in 1950 but won only 494 votes. (fn. 769) D. E. T. Luard, fellow of St. Anthony's College, won the seat for Labour in 1966. Thereafter he and Woodhouse alternated as M.P.s, and Oxford was a marginal seat.
The ecclesiastical census of 1851 recorded 19 Anglican churches with a total of c. 11,300 sittings, compared with 13 places of worship with 4,200 sittings for all other religious bodies in the town. (fn. 770) The weakness of nonconformity may have helped prevent any major clashes between it and the established church, but the church's unchallenged supremacy, supported by the exclusively Anglican university, encouraged an attitude among some churchmen which was at best arrogant and at worst actively hostile towards Dissent. (fn. 771) In the late 18th century the 'unbridled populace' subjected dissenters to 'violent, vulgar, and indiscriminate reproach', and in 1792 Edward Tatham, rector of Lincoln College, called nonconformist ministers 'ignorant and itinerant preachers'. (fn. 772) In 1825 a Primitive Methodist preacher was driven off the street by undergraduates with rotten eggs, and in 1829 similar street-preaching in St. Giles's provoked a riot. (fn. 773) The town council in 1834 petitioned the House of Commons against a Bill to admit dissenters to the university; a contrary petition in 1854 was passed by only 15 votes to 12. (fn. 774) As late as 1857 the newly appointed Methodist minister found that all the influence of the city and university was opposed to Methodism and was used 'with contemptuous unscrupulousness'. (fn. 775)
Despite such opposition the late 18th century and early 19th were marked by a revival of nonconformity, largely the work of immigrants to Oxford. In 1780, on the initiative of Thomas Pasco who had settled in Oxford in 1777, the few remaining Presbyterians joined with the Baptists to refound the old meeting-house in New Road. (fn. 776) John Pike, who came to Oxford in 1799, was largely responsible for building in 1818 a new Methodist chapel to replace one opened in 1783. (fn. 777) In 1830 a group, largely composed of Paedobaptists, seceded from the New Road chapel, and in 1832 opened George Street Congregational church. (fn. 778) The early stages of the nonconformist revival owed much to the successful pastorate at New Road of James Hinton (1787–1823), who not only increased the size of the Baptist congregations in Oxford and neighbouring villages, but gained the respect of leading members of the university and townsmen. (fn. 779) Nonconformity received a further boost in 1831 and 1832 from the activities of H. B. Bulteel, curate in charge of St. Ebbe's church from 1826 to 1831. Bulteel adopted increasingly extreme views during his time at St. Ebbe's, and in 1828 his parishioners protested to the bishop about such practices as allowing a chimney-sweep to pray extempore to the Sunday school. (fn. 780) In 1831, after a provocative university sermon and an unorthodox preaching tour of Devon and Somerset, his curate's licence was revoked. Bulteel replied by holding services in his garden, and later by preaching in the Baptist chapel in St. Clement's, where he was baptised by Hinton's son, John, early in 1832. (fn. 781) Later that year he opened the Adullam chapel in Commercial Road, to which some of his former congregation followed him, and which was for some years the largest nonconformist chapel in Oxford. (fn. 782)
The Tractarian or Oxford Movement began in 1833 with John Keble's assize sermon in St. Mary the Virgin, and continued until 1841 with the publication of the 'Tracts for the Times', culminating in J. H. Newman's Tract XC on the Catholic interpretation of the 39 Articles. Thus far the movement was mainly theological and devotional and largely confined to the university, although at St. Mary the Virgin, where Newman was vicar from 1828 to 1843, and at St. Peter-in-the-East, whose vicar W. K. Hamilton came under the movement's influence, daily services were held in the later 1830s. (fn. 783) It was in its second phase, which stressed the external signs of the catholicity of the Church of England, that the movement spread to the parish churches. The appearance, notably in St. Thomas's and its daughter church St. Paul's from 1842 onwards, in St. Peter-le-Bailey briefly in 1845, and in St. Cross from 1849 onwards, of crosses, candles, altar frontals, and some vestments, the teaching of the doctrine of the Eucharistic sacrifice, the encouragement of devotion to the Virgin Mary and auricular confession, all caused an outcry, particularly in Evangelical circles. Peter Maurice, chaplain of New College and curate in charge of St. Peter-le-Bailey 1846–7, published vehement attacks on 'Oxford popery', (fn. 784) and the vestries of St. Peter-le-Bailey, St. Michael at the Northgate, and St. Giles, protesting to the queen in 1850 against the proposed establishment of a Roman Catholic hierarchy in England, also deplored the 'Romanising tendencies' of certain sections of the Established Church. (fn. 785) In a debate in the town council on a similar address Alderman Charles Sadler alleged that many clergy were teaching Roman doctrines while being paid by the Established (Protestant) Church; the address, including a condemnation of such doctrines, was carried without a division. (fn. 786) A plan for a memorial to the martyred bishops Cranmer, Latimer, and Ridley, was conceived by a group of Evangelicals in 1838 as an answer to the attack made by some Tractarians on the Reformation. Not enough money was collected to build and endow a chapel, as had been intended, but between 1841 and 1843 an elaborate cross was erected at the north end of St. Mary Magdalen's churchyard, and the north aisle of that church was rebuilt as the 'martyrs' aisle'. (fn. 787)
The main Evangelical churches in the earlier 19th century were St. Ebbe's and St. Clement's. (fn. 788) In 1853 a fund, later known as the Oxford Fund, was formed to augment Oxford livings in the Crown's gift for the benefit of Evangelical incumbents. The first church to benefit from the fund was St. Clement's, to which, on the petition of the trustees of the fund, the Crown presented Evangelical rectors in 1855 and 1858. A member of the same Evangelical group bought the advowson of St. Aldate's in 1858 and vested it in Simeon's Trust. In 1864 the group bought the advowsons of St. Ebbe's, St. Peter-le-Bailey, and St. Clement's, and vested them in five trustees, later known as the Oxford Trust. The 19th-century church of Holy Trinity, a daughter church of St. Ebbe's, was acquired for the trust in 1881. (fn. 789)
For many of the poorer inhabitants of Oxford contact with Christianity in any form was confined to the street preaching of some nonconformist groups, and the receipt, in times of particular hardship, of food and other necessities distributed by incumbents and parish officers. The clergy, including many fellows of colleges, played a large part in the formation of such charitable bodies as the Anti-Mendicity society in 1814, (fn. 790) and parish visiting was carried out by both clergy and middle-class laity. Much absenteeism and 'indifference to religion' was reported, particularly in the poorer parishes, in the early years of the century and 'ignorance and vice', the public house, neglect by the clergy in the past, were all blamed. (fn. 791) The nonconformists made some headway with the railway workers who flocked into Oxford in the 1840s, (fn. 792) but the unusually high proportion of Oxford marriages in registry offices in 1849 (fn. 793) suggests that large numbers were untouched by any church.
Anglicans and nonconformists responded to the challenge of population growth in the early 19th century by building churches and chapels for the new suburbs of Summertown and Jericho and in the expanding working-class areas of St. Clement's and St. Ebbe's. An unusual place of worship was the floating chapel given in 1839 for the boatmen of St. Thomas's parish. In the later 19th century churches were built for Oseney, New Hinksey, East Oxford, and the southern part of St. Aldate's parish; a second church, St. Barnabas, was built to serve Jericho, and two were built for the middle-class area of North Oxford. (fn. 794) The Community of St. Thomas the Martyr was founded in 1847 to work in St. Thomas's parish, and another order of nuns, of the Holy and Undivided Trinity, founded in 1849, built a large convent on the Woodstock Road in 1868. R. M. Benson, vicar of Cowley St. John, founded the Society of St. John the Evangelist, the 'Cowley Fathers', in Marston Street, Cowley, in 1866. (fn. 795) The Church Army had established a training house in St. Aldate's parish by 1884. (fn. 796) The first of a number of Roman Catholic religious orders, the Poor Sisters of Nazareth, came to Oxford in 1875 and opened a home for orphans and old people on the Cowley Road. (fn. 797)
All the new Anglican churches, except Holy Trinity and St. Matthew's, the daughter churches of St. Ebbe's and St. Aldate's, were or became High Church. In 1881 the Evangelical party, led by E. A. Knox, tried to found an Evangelical church in North Oxford. That and further attempts between 1889 and 1903 foundered on the opposition first of the High Church incumbents of the area and later of the bishop and St. John's College, both of whom had reservations about the patronage of the proposed church. In 1905, however, St. Andrew's, Linton Road, was built. (fn. 798)
In 1829 the town council and at least two parishes petitioned parliament against the Catholic Emancipation Act, (fn. 799) and apparently college servants and others connected with the university voted against the Catholic Thomas Stonor in the parliamentary elections of 1832 and 1835 because of his religion. (fn. 800) Sabbatarianism was an issue at the elections of 1837 and 1857; in the latter year the novelist W. M. Thackeray was defeated partly because he was overheard to say that he favoured Sunday opening of museums and galleries. (fn. 801) In 1868 the Conservative candidate's appeal to churchmen against the Liberal proposal to disestablish the Church of Ireland failed to get him elected, but in 1874 the Liberal candidate's religious views seem to have contributed to his defeat; he was alleged to be in favour of disestablishment in England and to support the Burials Bill which would allow dissenters to hold their own services in churchyards. As his opponent was a brewer, he had the support of the Temperance group led by the Baptist and Primitive Methodist ministers. (fn. 802) Disestablishment and religious education were issues in the elections of 1880 and 1885, and in 1880 it was alleged that the parochial clergy had exerted an undue influence over voters. (fn. 803)
Nonconformists were identified first with the radicals and later with the Liberals, (fn. 804) but churchmen dominated both Conservative and Liberal parties, and many nonconformists found it expedient to conform occasionally. In 1836 one newspaper 'declared war' on those who walked behind the mace to Carfax church on Sunday mornings and crept off to a 'conventicle' in the evening. (fn. 805) In 1850 Isaac Grubb, a Baptist, complained that it was impossible for a dissenter to become mayor, sheriff, alderman, or magistrate. (fn. 806) James Pike, the Wesleyan elected mayor in 1855, acknowledged the 'peculiar honour' of his appointment but denied that he was a dissenter from the Establishment, although he preferred another system. (fn. 807) The election, by a large majority, of the first Roman Catholic mayor, Daniel Hanley, in 1870, aroused little comment and no opposition, except from the eccentric Wesleyan John Towle. (fn. 808)
Nonconformists and churchmen were split over the School Board elections in 1871. The four 'Birmingham League' candidates, including the aldermen James Hughes and Joseph Castle, were supported by the Liberal party and by the Baptist, Congregationalist, and Methodist Free Church ministers who stated their belief that the Conservative religious education candidates wanted 'education under the control of the parochial clergy and in the doctrines of the Church of England'. The three Conservative candidates, including E. P. Hathaway, the rector of St. Ebbe's, appealed for the nonconformist vote, saying that they wanted specific religious teaching for both churchmen and dissenters. They topped the poll with over 5,000 votes each; next, with c. 3,000 votes, came the only woman candidate, who had been supported by the curate of St. Paul's, Walton Street, and lastly two of the Birmingham Leaguers, with under 2,000 votes each. (fn. 809)
Other issues such as church rates, so frequently the subject of dispute elsewhere, caused little trouble in Oxford, except in St. Michael's parish where the situation was aggravated by the vicar's cantankerousness and arrogance. (fn. 810) In 1855 the predominantly Anglican town council agreed to petition parliament for the abolition of church rates. (fn. 811) In the 1890s the 'belligerent dissenter' R. J. Grubb was, perhaps unjustly, accused of disrupting Summertown vestry meetings, (fn. 812) but in 1912 it could be said that there had not for years been 'any denominational bitterness in the town'. (fn. 813)
By the late 19th century the population of the city centre was declining. The church of St. John the Baptist, Merton College chapel, was closed as a parish church in 1891 and St. Martin's, Carfax, in 1896. (fn. 814) Clergy had long complained that Oxford people did not feel bound to support their parish church: for instance in 1828 the bishop commented that 'the custom of running from one church to another' had become almost universal, and in 1854 the vicar of St. Cross complained of the 'sectarian spirit' which arose from the practice of going to other churches or even dissenting meeting-houses. (fn. 815) A rise in the congregation of one church thus tended to cause a fall in others. In 1890 the vicar of St. Mary the Virgin claimed that the cathedral, where there were no collections at services, was drawing people away from the university church, but in 1896 and 1899 the 'excellent preaching' at St. Mary's drew people away from St. Barnabas's and St. Mary Magdalen's. (fn. 816) In 1893 the congregation of St. Ebbe's had been reduced by 'superior attractions elsewhere', and the moderate churchmanship of St. Giles's drew people away from St. Peter-le-Bailey. (fn. 817)
In 1898 the rural dean estimated that about one-sixth of the population of the deanery were communicants, but church work faced several problems, chief of which was the poverty of the livings. The growing physical separation of rich from poor led to less parish visiting by lay people in poor areas; the advent of picnic parties, brakes full of holiday makers, and public concerts had resulted in lax Sunday observance, and among other hindrances to church work were mentioned rowdy Socialist meetings, heavy drinking, and the 'college servant's Sunday', the duties of which were incompatible with church attendance. (fn. 818) The rapid development of the motor industry in Oxford after the First World War brought to the country parishes of Headington, Marston, and Iffley the problems of a rapidly increasing, urban, industrial population. The newcomers had lost any church affiliations they had had and many were in any case, as the vicar of Cowley St. John admitted in 1928, 'not of a church-going class'. (fn. 819) Nonetheless churches and chapels were opened in the new suburbs by Anglicans and the older nonconformist sects, while in the de-populated central area others were closed. (fn. 820) The Oxford Group (later Moral Re-armament), founded in the university by F. N. D. Buchman, apparently had a good effect on church attendance, at least in North Oxford, in the 1920s and 1930s. (fn. 821) Much 20th-century expansion among Protestant bodies has been among the newer sects. (fn. 822) The Roman Catholic church expanded considerably in the 20th century, building many suburban churches while closing only one, in St. Clement's. (fn. 823)
The influx of refugees from the Continent during the Second World War greatly increased the size of the Jewish community and also led to the establishment of an Orthodox church and a small Lutheran community. The arrival of immigrants from new Commonwealth countries, particularly from India and Pakistan, resulted in the growth of Moslem, Hindu, Sikh, and Buddhist communities, not all of whom, however, built places of worship in the city. The ecumenical movement among Christians resulted not only in far more cordial relations between the different churches, but also in the sharing by the Church of England and the free churches of the Church of the Holy Family, Blackbird Leys. (fn. 824)