Headington history: Listed Buildings/Structures

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Headington Hill Hall's Upper Lodge

The lodges of Headington Hill Hall were probably built when the house was massively enlarged in 1856–1858. In 1880 it was described as having “four lodges, but the ‘upper’ and ‘lower’ form the principal entrances”.

Only Upper Lodge is actually a listed building, but information about the other lodges is also given on this page, as well as some information about Headington Hill Park, which originally belonged to Headington Hill Hall.

Upper Lodge

Upper Lodge

List entry for Headington Hill Hall's upper lodge: 1229839

Upper Lodge of Headington Hill Hall is the only one of Headington Hill Hall’s three surviving lodges that is a listed building (ref. reference: 1485/10005). It was one of the two main lodges, and was probably used by the carriages arriving from the London direction.

It is now the Building and Estates Department of Oxford Brookes University, while a new wing on the side acts as a lodge to monitor visitors.

The lodge was occupied as follows in the censuses:

  • 1861 and 1871: Jabez Harris (35) was the lodge keeper in 1861 and lived here with his wife Elizabeth (32), an upholsteress. By 1871 Elizabeth was a widow and lived here alone in the position of lodge keeper.
  • 1881, 1891, and 1901: George Henry Stone (41), a Sergeant Major in the Rifle Volunteer Corps, spent census night of 1881 alone in “Upper Lodge” with his wife. In 1891 he was a military pensioner, and his wife Sarah (49), who was the lodge keeper, and their six children were at home. By 1901 Sarah, now a widow, lived here alone and was still working as the lodge keeper.
  • 1911 census: Upper Lodge was occupied by Frederick Rolph (60), who was a reading-room caretaker, and his wife Jane Elizabeth (62) who was the lodge-keeper here. Their son Frederick (26), who was a photographer, lived with them.

Gertrude Stone (born at Cowley Barracks near the end of 1878 and baptised at St James’s Church, Cowley on 5 January 1879) etched her name on the glass in 1895, when she was sixteen: photograph by Mike Ratcliffe.

The following occupants are listed at Upper (Top) Lodge in directories, when it was also the estate office:

  • 1930–1938: Charles Henry Trinder
  • 1943–1952: William M. Pool
  • 1954–1956: Mrs Harding and S. S. Harding in 1958.

Pergamon Press took over the estate in 1959, and no one is listed as living here until 1964, when Samuel Swadling moved in: he was still here in 1976.

The other non-listed lodges of Headington Hill Hall

Lower Lodge

Lower Lodge in 2011

Lower Lodge (above) stands beside the splendid gates of Headington Hill Hall at the bottom of the hill, and must have welcomed carriages coming from the direction of Oxford. It was occupied as followed in the censuses:

  • 1861: James Weller (48), a lodge keeper, lived here with his wife Sarah (42).
  • 1871: James Ford (50), who was a groom, lived here with his wife Anne and his four children.
  • 1881 and 1891: George Mercer (36), a lodge keeper, lived here in 1881 with his wife Ellen (36). They were both still here in 1891, when George is described as a house porter and Ellen as the lodge keeper.
  • 1901: Walter Hazell (29), a general labourer on the estate, lived in “Lodge 1” with his wife Emma (34)
  • 1911: Thomas Bristow (51), a lodge keeper, lived here with his wife and four children.

The following occupants are listed at Lower Lodge in directories:

  • 1930–1936: Thomas Bristow, with Mrs Bristow in 1938
  • 1947 to 1958: S. M. Alsford
  • 1962 to 1973 by Clifford C. Heath.

Middle (or Dairy) Lodge

Dairy Lodge in 2011

Dairy Lodge (above), half-way up the hill, was a service lodge, primarily for the use of the dairy. Its south gable end is built into the park’s boundary wall, and the dairy farm comprised three buildings (two of which can be seen on the left of the above photograph) grouped around a yard.

Below: The dairy barn viewed from inside the park.

The dairy

Cowman and milkmaids on Headington Hill in 1917

Cattle, with Headington Hill Hall behind

Inside the dairy

George Herbert Morrell was very interested in farming, and was elected a vice-president of the Oxford agricultural Society in 1876, the year he greatly extended his farm when he acquired the present South Park. This appears to have been occupied by sheep, while cattle were kept in Headington Hill Park.

Dairy Lodge was occupied as follows in the censuses:

  • 1861 and 1871: William Luker (44), a labourer, was living here with his wife Jane (43) in 1861. In 1871 their surname is spelt “Looker”, the house is specified as”Middle Lodge”, and William is described as a dairyman and Jane as a dairywoman.
  • 1881: Thomas Pell (44), a farm bailiff, lived in “Middle Lodge” with his wife Sarah (47) and his two children and mother-in-law.
  • 1891: the cowman Joseph Lane (52) lived here with his wife Sarah (56), who is described as a dairywoman.
  • 1901 and 1911: John Axtell (41), a dairyman, lived here with his wife Emma (52) and his niece. John was still a dairyman here in 1911: his wife was now described as a dairywoman, and the house was for the first time named as “Dairy Lodge”.

The following are listed at Dairy (Middle) Lodge in directories:

  • 1930: Arthur Richard Sellar
  • 1938: William C. Oliver
  • 1940–1952: Mrs L. M. Mason
  • 1954–1956: Norman R. Mobey
  • 1962–1967: Percy Buckingham.

Inside the dairy

Above: The inside of the dairy, showing the drainage channels, which empty into a main drain. Below: close-up of the fixed cattle stalls, formed by iron panels and post. Both photographed in February 2011.

Cattle stalls in the dairy

In March 2011 the North-East Area Committee approved planning application 11/00283/CT3 for the conversion of the above dairy barn into two one-bedroomed properties.

The third dairy building (below) has already been radically altered to form a sitting area and toilets. The above planning application also includes turning this building into a studio apartment.

Toilets in dairy building

An earlier application 10/02885/FUL by Portico Property to convert the adjacent garage and workshop of Dairy Lodge into three one-bedroomed dwellings was refused on the grounds that the principle of car-free status could not be enforced. A later plan for “Conversion of workshop and garage to form 1x1 bedroom dwelling and 1x2 bed dwelling” (12/00155/FUL) was approved in March 2012.

The freehold of Dairy Lodge was purchased by Eurocomm Holdings Ltd, a Jersey-registered company, for £650,000 on 29 January 2014.

Marston Lodge

Gate of Marston Lodge

Marston Lodge on the Marston Road beside Cuckoo Lane has been demolished, but its gate (above) has survived. It was occupied as follows in the censuses:

  • 1861: William Edney (51), a lodge-keeper, and his wife Sarah (36)
  • 1871: “Marston Lodge” was occupied by Samuel Parker (32), a coachman, and his wife and three sons.
  • 1881: the herdsman Richard Hirons (65) lived in “Marston Lodge” with his wife Jane (64).
  • 1891: John Jones (38), a farm servant lived here with his wife and two children; by 1893 the Axtell family was here.
  • 1901 and 1911: Edward Henry Harris (39), a domestic gardener, lived here with his wife Emma and daughter Edith (7) in 1901; he was still at “Marston Lane Lodge” in 1911, a widower with Edith (17) listed as his housekeeper.

Fifth entrance to Headington Hill Hall

Fifth entrance to Headington Hill Hall

A fifth entrance to Headington Hill Hall (above), which had no lodge, was on the Marston Road immediately opposite to St Clement’s Church. The Morrell family would have walked to their parish church this way, along the path through the park lined with lime trees.

Headington Hill Park

The following extract is taken from Jackson’s Oxford Journal of Saturday, July 24, 1880. It comprises a transcript of a description of Headington Hill Hall and Park by Mr Greenfield, Secretary of the Oxford Rose Society, that was published in a contemporary Gardener’s Magazine:


One mile and a half eastward from the centre of the “classic” city stands Headington Hill Hall, the property and residence of George Herbert Morrell, Esq. The mansion is in the Italianate style – massive and rich in architectural embellishments – and was erected some twenty years since from a design by Mr Thomas, architect, of London. The grand entrance presents a very plain appearance, every view being shut out by a fine semicircular laurel bank, two hundred yards long, and rising from the ground to the edge of the terrace, about twenty-five feet. A piazza supported on Ionic pillars surrounds the house on the south and west, and is approached by three steps. From here the flowerbeds on the principal terrace with the fountain have a charming effect. The fountain is formed by four nymphs’ heads supporting a shell, down which the crystal fluid descends in copious streams to the basin below.

The house occupies a commanding position on the crest of the hill in the midst of gardens, and surrounded as it is by a series of grandly-formed terraces, walks, and shrubberies, forms a noble adjunct to the old University City, whose ancient and modern buildings lie comfortably at its feet enshrouded with the foliage of the stately elms in the several college gardens and groves.

Headington [Hill] Hall Park possesses many fine timber trees, but it is most famous for the splendid collection of conifers planted under the direction of W. H. Baxter, Esq., Curator of the Botanical Gardens, Oxford, in 1854–7. There are four lodges, but the “upper” and “lower” form the principal entrances. These are furnished with noble wrought-iron gates in rich design, affording the passer-by more than a glimpse of the ornate interior.

The area of the Park has received considerable additions of late, two separate tracts of land having been added. These are situated on the south side of the London-road (which bounds the old Park), and are known as the South Park, and are again divided by the “old London-road”, called at this part Cheney Lane, along which road hasted Charles I with his troops after the capitulation of Oxford in 1646, and the first coach from Oxford to London travelled over it in 1669. The upper portion has been laid out by Mr Baxter, and is well furnished with young growth of conifers and forest trees, but the lower part is kept more as an open space for the purposes of holding agricultural and other large meetings, in which the liberal proprietor takes considerable interest. Here the Bath and West of England Society held their show in 1878, and the Oxfordshire Agricultural Society in the present year of grace.

The two Parks are connected by a spacious girder bridge of ornamental work in rich design, which spans the terrace walk and London-road, the girders resting on solid towers of rugged-like masonry, in keeping with the geological character of the neighbourhood. As the grounds abound in gracefully-curved walks and drives, we propose following the walk chiefly used by visitors who enter from the Oxford lodge.

Once inside the gates, objects of beauty meet the eye at every turn, and in our endeavour to note down the best things we start with a magnificent Thuja gigantea [giant red cedar] standing on our right; to the left a large group of golden yews, cedars, Austrian pines, spruce firs, hollies, phillyreas, &c., which form a dense mass of rich leafage. Further on a weeping ash, whose pendulous branches repel the sun’s rays; then a weeping elm, a fine example of Cryptomeria japonica [Japanese cedar], a noble Cedrus deodara [deodar cedar] clothed to the ground, and a grand specimen of Thujopsis borealis [thujopsis]. A few yards farther up is a terrace walk two hundred yards long, on the sides of which a dozen bay trees in tubs are ranged; these possess great beauty, with umbrella-shaped heads seven feet in diameter.

Passing these, we come to the semicircular walk leading to the upper terrace, where is an evergreen oak inviting attention, as does a stately lime with branches nearly fifty feet in diameter sweeping the turf. The flower beds on turf are of a novel and pleasing design, simple, yet elegant. The other bed describes a bold semicircle marking the outline of the terrace, sweeping round the curved ends, which join the inner lines – an alternating series of flat curves and small semicircles projecting inwards, and each containing a specimen standard variegated holly. These hollies have good heads seven feet through, of which there are six, and at each corner a Wellingtonia gigantea [sequoiadendron]. The large bed is the key of the design, which in reality contains only two other large beds with half a dozen intervening circles. In the centre is a Pampas grass, a trifle formal; but ample relief is afforded by the lawn sloping gently down among shrubs and fine old elms. The next terrace is planted with yuccas, some of which are in flower at this season; again, a terrace of Irish yews, the flower beds being dispersed on all the terraces. On the central terrace are some fine examples of Acacia inermia [unarmed or thornless acacia], with umbrella-shaped heads, producing a fine effect as viewed from the fountain.

Another flight of steps brings you to a terrace, on which are noble examples of Araucaria imbricata [monkey-puzzle tree], the edges of the terrace being planted with Thuja aurea [golden thuja]. The whole of the beds are planted with soft-wooded subjects in variety, giving an air of elegance not at all common to terraces, which, as a rule, have too many straight lines and sharp curves to harmonize with surrounding objects. Steep banks run parallel with the Ionic piazza, but stone steps at intervals relieve the smooth outline of these close-shaven turfy slopes.

We now ascend the steps in the centre of the laurel-clad bank, when the “antique towers and spires of Oxford” burst full upon the view, with many a mile of country – Nuneham, Bagley, and Wytham Woods – with the “shades of Blenheim” stretching round to the right, while right ahead the clumps of firs which crown Cumnor Hurst and Faringdon Folly mark the horizon. From this point the view of Oxford is grand.

Moving towards the upper lodge, a lawn, with enclosing shrub borders, sweeps pleasantly in the direction of the winding carriage drive, which passes its circuitous length amid a splendid avenue of Cedrus deodara, trees not known to be surpassed in the country.

Proceeding out of the upper lodge, and crossing the road, at a few paces stand some four acres of rich light soil, forming the kitchen garden. On this plot are erected lofty vineries, stove houses, pits, &c.: grapes, peaches, nectarines, strawberries, &c., being cultivated on a somewhat extensive scale. In the stove-house a novel appearance is seen: from end to end of the house is a zigzag path, describing a series of graceful curves around the mounds of earth alternating from front to back, the mounds forming beds in which pots are plunged or the plants turned out to grow at will. It is a veritable tropical garden, trailing creepers and exotic mosses and ferns fringing either side of the paths.

The kitchen garden is well stocked with healthy young fruit trees, pyramid apples and pears, standard plums and cherries, and clean bright bushes of gooseberries and currants, all so arranged as to secure light and heat, the whole presenting a wealth of fruit and leafage. The soil is a light sandy loam. There are a goodly number of roses cultivated here, chiefly as standards, which do well. Peaches and nectarines and plums are all well grown in pits and frames.

Retracing our steps, we again enter the Park, and in a stroll in and out among the many winding walks, we dotted nearly two hundred varieties of ornamental trees and shrubs employed in the grouping and bedding, and without giving the names just notice among other good things that there are of Abies 12 varieties, Acers 6, Cupressus 8, Junipers 25, Magnolias 6, Piceas 10, Pinus 40, Thuja 5, and a dozen Wellingtonias: these last are in fine condition, rising forty-five and fifty feet high, and forty feet in circumference of the lower branches.

But we cannot close this short description without referring to the “classical” associations of the neighbourhood: and the first thought is that of “Joe Pullen’s Tree”, whose branches overhang the boundary wall of Headington Hill Park at the north-east corner. This tree (a noble elm of immense girth) was said to have been planted about 1700 by Pullen, a Vice-Principal of Magdalen Hall, Oxford. He was wont to take a walk to this spot twice daily. Up till very recently a seat was placed around it, and from here a charming view was obtained of the “vale of the Cherwell”: and here too the visitor could rest and ponder on the beauties of “Oxford in the watery glade”; while half a mile to the right, following a well-trodden path, the ancient village of Headington is reached.

Headington was the seat of a royal palace in the reign of King Ethelred, and it is said that several Saxon monarchs anterior to Ethelred chose Headington on account of its healthfulness as a nursery for their children. Some ruins of the palace were discovered in the 17th century in a field now known as Court Close. The villages of Old and New Headington and Headington Quarry form a kind of midway between Oxford and “the heights of Shotover”. These villages (with Horspath, Stanton St John, Forest Hill, Stow Wood, &c.) were included in the vast forest which originally extended to the top of the hill, the point where Headington Hill Park commences its grassy slopes.

Having re-entered the Park, we descend to the archery ground, the spot assigned for holding floral exhibitions. Of these only two have been held previous to the present occasion: the first on August 27, 1862, when the prizes and expenses of a large horticultural show were paid by the late James Morrell, Esq. Thousands of tickets were issued to all who chose to avail themselves of the great treat, and never did the citizens gather in larger numbers, the occasion being in very truth a “people’s show”.

© Stephanie Jenkins

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