Bridge over Headington Hill
The footbridge running across Headington Hill joining the two parts of the Morrell estate dates from 1877. It was much admired in its day: it was the subject of about ten different postcards like this one at the beginning of the twentieth century. It is actually in St Clement’s parish rather than Headington.
Its architect was William Wilkinson, who also designed the Randolph Hotel and much of north Oxford in the High Gothic style. In Headington he also designed Headington Workhouse, and the Wingfield Convalescent Home, both now demolished. The bridge was built by George Castle of Oxford.
Today the bridge is used by Oxford Brookes students as a short-cut between the Headington Hill Hall and main Gipsy Lane campuses.
From 1864 to 1876 the Morrell Trustees looked after Headington Hill Hall for the owner, Alicia Morrell, who had not come of age.
The widow of Tyrrell Knapp, who had inherited her husband’s land on the south side of Headington Hill (now South Park and Morrell Avenue) planned to sell it for a housing estate; but the Morrell Trustees purchased both for £26,000 in 1876 to prevent this development, which they thought was too near Headington Hill Hall. This purchase effectively doubled the size of the Morrell estate. Jackson’s Oxford Journal of 12 October 1878 (p. 8c) reported that “A handsome bridge now connects the old portion of the estate with that purchased from the Knapp family, and this is also the work of Mr. G. Castle.”
In 1877 Herbert Morrell, who had married his cousin Alicia, linked Headington Hill Hall to its fruit and vegetable garden on the other side of the main road by this bridge, which was designed for both foot and carriage passengers.
This farmland on the south side of the bridge came under threat a second time in the 1920s, when the city council hoped to use it for housing. But the Morrell Trustees would only release a strip of land to the south, resulting in a brand new road flanked by superior council houses: the appropriately named Morrell Avenue. Then in 1932 – as the stone at the foot of Headington Hill with lettering by Eric Gill records – the Morrell Trustees sold the remaining 60 acres of farmland to the Oxfordshire Preservation Trust, with the stipulation that no building should ever be erected on it. In 1959 the land was handed over to the City Council: the cows moved out, and the Morrells’ South Park now belongs to the people of Oxford.
- Jackson’s Oxford Journal, 12 October 1878, p. 8c