Highfield Park, Old Road
Highfield Park was built in about 1886, and with its 28-acre park was by far the grandest house in New Headington and Highfield. The house and garden is now Boundary Brook House (formerly the Park Hospital), while its former park is occupied by medical departments.
Left: 1898 OS map showing Highfield House opposite Lime Walk, with its park extending as far as the Boundary Brook to the west.
The first owner of Highfield Park, listed in directories from 1887, was Nehemiah Harry Neville Prior, known as Harry, who was a successful furniture salesman with a large shop at 17 Queen Street, Oxford and later another at 200 Cowley Road.
Right: Advertisement by Prior in Kelly’s Directory for 1889
Prior’s two youngest children were born at Highfield Park: Gladys Mary and Robin Sylvio (baptised at Holy Trinity Church in Quarry on 29 May 1887 and 29 May 1892 respectively). The 1891 census shows Harry Prior living at Highfield Park with his wife Martha, his son Sydney (who was then a student of Natural Sciences at Exeter College, Oxford), and his younger children Cordelia, Percy, and Gladys. Despite the size of the house and family, they had only one live-in domestic servant (a cook).
Their youngest child, Reginald (known as Rex), was born at Highfield Park near the start of 1895, and was killed in the First World War. See this page about him for more on the Prior family, including photographs.
Ten years on in 1901, his daughter Cordelia is listed as a Home Student and his second son Percy as an undergraduate at Oxford; but most interesting is his eldest son Sydney, who is now described as a “Cycle Maker & Mechanical Engineer”. Having obtained his BA in Chemistry in 1893, Sydney followed the example of William Morris and started up the Highfield Motor and Cycle Works in the grounds of Highfield House (He was not as successful as Lord Nuffield, however, and although in 1907 he opened up his own shop on the corner of Holyoake Road (latterly the Cotswold Collection, demolished in 2006), after a few years it was taken over by his employee G.H. Williams, his employee.
Left: Advertisement taken out by Sydney Prior in Bennett’s Business Directory of 1911
Advertisements for his “Highfield cycle” can also be found regularly in Kelly’s Directory
Above and below: Photographs of Highfield Park (kindly supplied by Robin Prior) taken by Norman Taylor of The Studio, 186 Cowley Road before the Priors left in 1908.
In 1908, Harry Prior retired: his furniture shop in Oxford became the Electra Picture Palace, and he moved to a smaller house in the Ridings. His tombstone in the graveyard of Holy Trinity Church, Headington Quarry, shows that he died in Headington on 14 March 1931 at the age of 89.
The Revd Prebendary Henry Whitehead Moss, MA, who was Headmaster of Shrewsbury School from 1866 to 1908, is listed in directories as living at Highfield Park from 1909. The 1911 census shows Henry Whitehead Moss (69) and his wife Frances Emma May (49) living here with their four children and six servants (a nurse, cook, useful maid, parlour maid, housemaid, and kitchenmaid). Mrs Moss is listed in directories from 1913, implying that the Revd Moss may have been in hospital, as he did not die until 14 January 1917. Mrs Moss remained at the house until her own death in 1933.
From house to hospital
Highfield Park (including its 28 acres of land) were put up for sale in 1933. The Warneford Hospital bought the whole site for £18,000, and it has always been part of the same administration as that hospital.
- In 1936 it opened as a convalescent villa for sixteen of the Warneford’s female patients.
- In 1939 it became the Park Hospital for Functional Nervous Disorders, with 26 beds.
- In 1958 the Park Hospital became a children’s psychiatric hospital
- In 1986 it became a general children’s hospital, incorporating the National Centre for Children with Epilepsy.
- Since about 2009 the building has been Boundary Brook House, housing child and adolescent mental health services
The University of Oxford has purchased the whole hospital site Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust, but will initially lease the old building back to them.