|The Demolished Houses of Broad Street, Oxford|
Miriam Freeborn's BookWhilst researching the FREEBORN branch of Helen's family, I came across a fascinating book in the Bodleian Library, entitled "The Demolished Houses of Broad Street and the Freeborn Family". It was written in 1943 and in the Bodleian catalogue is attributed to Emily Sarah Freeborn, one of the last residents of one of the houses. The book itself does not bear an author's name on the title page. However from the text it is clear that it has in fact been written by Miriam Elizabeth Freeborn, Emily's sister in law.
The book is a hard-bound, typescript, of around 50 pages, with five original photographs of family members, or their portraits. As a frontispiece the author has included a hand-painted illustration of the Freeborn crest and motto, reproduced here.
Since the pages are original typescript and the paper is too thick to have permitted the production of any carbon copies, it seems reasonable to assume that this is the only copy of the book that ever existed. It is a fascinating document and this web page attempts to cover a small fraction of the information therein, together with some further additions from other sources.
The houses concerned were those at the north eastern corner of Broad Street, which were demolished around 1937 prior to the construction of the new Bodleian library on the site. According to Miriam Freeborn (MEF), the Freeborn house, No.38 had been acquired by the library as early as 1930 in anticipation of the construction of the new building.
As part of her excellent website devoted to Broad Street, Stephanie Jenkins gives a detailed description of these houses and their occupants, on a set of webpages starting here. The rest of the page you are now reading is devoted to Miram Freeborn's recollections and researches relating to the houses.
William Pantin's StudyWhen the site was being cleared, Dr William Pantin made a detailed record of the medieval and later buildings on the site pioneering the techniques which he later referred to as "Above Ground Archaeology". As part of this work, Miriam was approached by Dr. Pantin (whom she refers to as "Mr.W.A.Pantin") for information about the Freeborn house. This seems to have been the impetus for her own researches into the adjoining houses which resulted ultimately in the production of her own book.
Dr. Pantin's work was published in Oxoniensa Vol.II (1937) pp 196/7 and Miriam quotes from relevant sections of this. Whilst she is never overtly critical one senses that she felt Pantin was too eager to accept a romantic story over a prosaic fact. For example, after describing how the Freeborn house had two staircases of equal size and importance, placed back to back, Pantin suggests it was probably due to its having originally been two houses but then goes on to describe a "family legend" concerning a brother and sister who quarrelled but were forced to live together to comply with the terms of an inheritance. Miriam dismisses this with the added footnote. "There is no foundation for the legend! M.E.F."
Dr. Pantin's plans for No.46 Broad Street, together with some photographs of the site, are included in the modern book Oxford, the Buried City by Tom Hassall, published by the Oxford Archaeological Unit in 1987.
A Survey of Oxford in 1772In addition to her own family knowledge and the work of Dr. Pantin, Miriam quotes from a Survey of Oxford carried out in 1772, as a consequence of the Mileways Act passed in 1771. (This act is often assumed to simply provide for the funding of roads within a mile of the city. However it had a rather wider impact including the destruction of the Northgate and Eastgate and the widening and resurfacing of many roads within the city, including the widening of Magdalen bridge.) The cost of all this work was to be born by a tax on households within the city, based on the length of their street frontage. To assess householders for this tax involved a survey of all properties, including the name of the person responsible to pay the tax (normally the occupier, rather than the landlord), and the length of frontage. This manuscript survived in the hands of the Morrell family and was transcribed in 1911-12 by Rev. H.E.Salter. It was originally published in 1912 then in 1920, republished by the Oxford Historical Society, together with some additional documents, as their Volume 75. Miriam had access to a copy of the original 1912 edition, which had had further notes, added by a Dr. W. Paterson Ellis. It should be noted that there was no house numbering at the time of the original survey. In his transcript, Rev. Salter has attempted to correlate the descriptions with the "modern" house numbers, based on the frontage measurements given.
The Houses which were DemolishedThe plan which follows shows the houses concerned, as they appeared at the end of the 19th century. It is based on a 1900 Ordnance Survey map, incorporating revisions to 1898. The coloured buildings are identified in the text which follows.
Firstly a word about the numbering in Broad Street. This ran from west to east along the south side of the street, starting from 1 at the junction with Cornmarket and ending with 34 at the Old Clarendon building. The north side was then numbered back from east to west, starting with number 35 at the corner of Parks Road. The houses which were demolished were numbers 35 to 47. I have not yet established when the numbers were introduced. However from a simple count of the number of houses, it is clear that some had been combined before 1898.
The dark-blue building is the Clarendon Building, originally the University Printing House, designed by Nicholas Hawksmoor and erected between 1712 and 1715. The delegates of the University Press still meet there, though the actual printing presses had been moved to Walton Street by 1830.
The buildings coloured in yellow are all Public Houses or Inns. The large inn at the extreme right of the plan on the corner of Parks Road and Holywell Street, is the King's Arms and is still in existence under that name today.
Opposite the Kings Arms and coloured green, is the Indian Institute building erected between 1883 and 1896 (and now occupied by the history faculty libraries). At http://www.headington.org.uk/oxon/broad/buildings/east/old_indian_institute/index.htm there is a web page devoted to the history of this building. In 1772 the corner appears to have been occupied by another inn, the "Coach and Horses", which closed sometime before 1810. This was replaced by Seal's Coffee House, which in turn was demolished when the Indian Institute was built.
There now follows a summary of Miriam Freeborn's description of some of the individual houses, concentrating chiefly upon their occupants between 1772 and 1930.
No. 35 Broad Street
No. 36 Broad Street
No. 37 Broad Street
No. 38 Broad Street
In 1794, the house was jointly purchased by Thomas DAVIS senior, Thomas DAVIS junior (a cook of the University) and Ann DAVIS, his sister from a Richard JOHNSON. Ann was by this time Mrs. FREEBORN, having married John FREEBORN in 1788. Ann had a son, John James Simms FREEBORN born in 1795. Tragically her husband died as a result of a fall from his horse in 1798. About a year later, Ann married Richard TREDWELL.
Miriam goes into some detail, concerning the complex finances involved in the joint ownership of the building, each of the parties at various times mortgaging part of their interest in the property. To add further complexity an adjacent piece of garden was purchased in 1796 (from its four joint owners!), a right of way was negotiated from the rear of the property through to Parks road and various cottages at the rear of the property were independently tenanted.
The following people were all involved in some way in these
No. 39, 40 & 41 Broad Street
No. 42 Broad Street
No. 43 Broad Street
No. 44 Broad Street
No. 45 Broad Street
No. 46 Broad Street
No. 47 Broad Street
No. 48, 49, 50 & 51 Broad Street
No. 52 Broad Street
No. 53 Broad Street
Names mentioned in the aboveThere follows an alphabetical list of names of persons mentioned above, with approximate dates.
The above represents the state of my knowledge of these people at the last update of this page. I am still working on this area so more will be added.
If you see any people you recognise, please send an email to Alan Simpson. I may well have more information about some of these people, than would fit here. I certainly have a much more extensive knowledge of the FREEBORN family.
|Copyright © Alan Simpson 2001||Back to local history home page.||Last Updated 2001-02-21|