Headington House, 52 Old High Street
Headington House in Old High Street dates from 1783, soon after the new London Road was cut through its land, which originally stretched southwards to include the whole New High Street/Kennett Road area and the small roads to the south.
It must not be confused with Headington Manor House, which in the first half of the nineteenth century was often described as “Headington House”.
Headington House's main lodge used to be on the London Road (between the present Osler and Stephen Roads), with a good view of the Britannia coaching inn. Following the sale of its park to the south as building lots soon after 1912, it is now hidden behind high walls facing on to the Croft, and all that can be seen from the its Old High Street entrance are its gates with their pineapple finials (above) and its secondary, relatively new lodge.
William Jackson, the founder of Oxford’s first newspaper, Jackson’s Oxford Journal, built Headington House between 1775 and 1783, on land formerly known as Plants which was purchased from the Lord of the Manor of Headington in 1775. Rather confusingly, Headington at that time had a second, smaller manor (always spelt as “Manor of Heddington”), and when in 1786 Jackson succeeded George Foot and Mary Coxhead as Lord of the Manor of Heddington, Headington House became its mansion house.
It is possible that William Jackson moved back down to Oxford in his latter years and rented the house out, as in the Game Duty lists of 1791 and 1792 the address of Sackville Francis Lloyd is given as “Heddington House”. This is probably Francis Sackville Lloyd (1762–1812), who changed his name to Francis Sackville Lloyd-Wheate after inheriting Glympton Park in Woodstock from his uncle.
On his death in 1795, William Jackson bequeathed the house and all his land in Headington to his friend and employee Mary Jones, the daughter of an Oxford fishmonger. Under the Headington Enclosure Award of 1804 Miss Jones was given plot 62 (eight acres running south of the house from Cuckoo Lane to the London Road) and Plot 25 (76 acres of land on the other side of the road), as well as vast allotments elsewhere throughout Headington.
Headington House evidently remained in the hands of the Lloyd family, as Richard Lloyd died there on 26 October 1796 and was buried at Glympton Park.
Miss Jones appears to have remained in her home in the High Street, Oxford until her death in 1815. She left everything to her niece, Mrs Elizabeth Latimer and her husband Edward, and they in turn became Lord and Lady of the Manor of Heddington.
The Latimers at first used Headington House as their country retreat, but in August 1818 they moved up there permanently from All Saints parish in Oxford. Edward was a well-known Oxford wine-merchant, and his twelve surviving children grew up in Headington House. His eldest child, Mary, kept a diary between 1817 and 1825, and his wife took one up between 1830 and 1836: both diaries survive, and give a fascinating account of the life of Headington gentry of the period.
Edward Latimer died in 1846 and in 1848 the Manor of Heddington was broken up and sold. The following advertisement appeared in Jackson's Oxford Journal on 11 March 1848:
HEADINGTON, WITHIN TWO MILES OF OXFORD
FAMILY MANSION, DELIGHTFUL PLEASURE GROUNDS,
And 50 Acres of capital Arable, Pasture, & Meadow Land, AT HEADINGTON.
MR. R. PIKE respectfully announces that he is favoured with instructions from the Executors of the late Edward Latimer, Esq. to SUBMIT to PUBLIC AUCTION, early in June,—All that capital Stone-built FAMILY MANSION, replete with every convenience, suitable for the residence of a family of distinction, surrounded by about Twelve Acres of Ornamental Gardens and Pleasure Grounds, the whole belted with thriving Plantations, and approached by a carriage drive through a noble avenue having a Lodge Entrance; also (in lots) several INCLOSURES, containing about 50 Acres of capital Arable, Pasture, and Meadow Land, all late in the occupation of the deceased Proprietor, and situate at Headington, near Oxford, a village pronounced by the faculty to be one of the most salubrious and healthy spots in the county.
On 29 April 1848 a fuller description of the house was published, advertising the auction at the Star Hotel in Cornmarket on 2 June:
All that substantial Stone-built FAMILY MANSION, situate at HEADINGTON, late the residence of the deceased proprietor; comprising entrance hall, breakfast room, dining room, drawing room, and study; 14 principal bed rooms, bath room, water closets on the first and second floors; capital wine and beer cellars, store rooms, china closets, butler's pantry, dairy, and all suitable domestic offices; also detached stable yard, with coach-house, stables and loose boxes, cow-house, piggeries, farm yard, barn, cart sheds, labourer's cottage, extensive ornamental pleasure garden, planted with the choicest flowers and shrubs; also two large and productive walled fruit and kitchen gardens, with about 8 Acres of Lawn and Paddock, well stocked with thriving shrubs and plantation, the whole occupying a site of 11A, 0R, 11P., the principal part of which is Freehold, and the remainder Copyhold of Inheritance of the Manor of Headington.
On 6 June 1848 there was another auction of the contents of the house, which are listed in detail in Jackson's Oxford Journal for 27 May 1848.
The house does not appear to have sold at the auction, as on 23 December 1848 it was advertised for sale by private contract.
Headington House was bought by the Oxford banker William Wootten Undershell, and he and his wife Sarah had nine children there between 1851 and 1866, all baptised at St Andrew’s Church. Between 1867 and 1871, he changed his surname to Wootten, thus becoming William Wootten Wootten).
The following notice published on 8 September 1849 shows that he soon had the new wing of Headington House demolished:
TO BUILDERS AND OTHERS,
EXENSIVE SALE OF First-rate BUILDING MATERIALS, AT HEADINGTON,
Comprising the newly-erected East Wing of the residence of the late Edward Latimer, Esq.,
TO BE SOLD BY AUCTION, By Mr. R. PIKE,
On Tuesday next the 11th of September, at Eleven o'clock, upon the premises, in lots; consisting of upwards of six tons of sheet lead and lead piping, a 500-gallon lead tank, a water closet and fittings, upwards of 150,000 bricks, the whole of the Bath-stone front, capital four and six-panel doors, with mortice locks, double-hung sashes, handsome moulded cast-iron chimney pieces and Register stoves; together with the joists, beams, and flooring of eleven rooms, all of first-rate workmanship and materials, and erected within the last few years; also the materials of a dairy, larder, barn, cow and wagon sheds, stables, and other offices.
The Headington Rate-Book for 1850 shows that the rateable value of Headington House and its land (estimated to be just over 7 acres, without the paddock) was then £100. The Return of Owners of Land of 1873 shows that the curtilage of Headington House then comprised 13 acres in all (including the paddock between Cuckoo Lane and the London Road, then known as “Wootten’s Field”).
It was probably the Woottens who built a second lodge in Old High Street some time before 1876, and who narrowed Cuckoo Lane in order to conceal it and built the two bridges over it to afford easy access to their parkland to the south.
Cuckoo Lane (which had once been the main route to Old Headington) was reduced to the barest possible width and height between Old High Street and Osler Road, and this narrow stretch became known as “The Hawthorns”
On Monday 17 January 1887 William Wootten-Wootten dropped dead at the age of 67 on arriving for a meeting at his bank in St Aldate’s. He had a splendid funeral at St Andrew’s Church, attended not only by the dignitaries of Oxford (including the Mayor) and of Headington (including G.H. Morrell), but , as Jackson’s Oxford Journal reports, “The church was well filled, a large proportion being of the poorer classes, who claim to have lost a helper in time of need”. He left a personal estate of £269,000. His widow Sarah continued to live in the house with her two unmarried daughters, Elizabeth and Alice, until her death at the age of 82 on 24 June 1904.
After remaining empty for two years, Headington House was put up for auction at the Golden Cross Hotel in Oxford 6 June 1906. The catalogue for that auction in the Bodleian Library (G.A. Oxon b 91(6)) gives a good description of the house:
This house is of the Georgian period, and very substantially built of Stone, with a south aspect, and approached by a carriage drive through a beautiful avenue of trees
THE HOUSE contains large Entrance Hall, Dining Room, and Drawing Room, Study, and Morning Room, Eleven Bed and Dressing Rooms, and Three w.c.’s; excellent Offices, comprising large Kitchen, Scullery, Butler’s Pantry, Larder, Dairy and extensive dry Cellarage.
THE GROUNDS are about 11½ Acres in extent, are well timbered and comprise Old English Pleasure Garden, with many specimen trees; a high-walled Kitchen Garden, the walls being covered with choice Fruit Trees, and the whole Garden is in excellent condition; large Tennis and Croquet Lawns, charming and well shaded walks and avenues around the property
A PADDOCK of about six acres, with fine old Trees, giving the whole a park-like appearance; and there is an old rookery on the property
The OUTBUILDINGS consist of two modern and well built Lodges, a large and convenient Laundry, excellent Stabling for Four Horses, Coach Houses, Cart sheds, Cow Houses and three large Glass Houses
There is an abundant supply of Water from the City Water Works, the drainage is modern, and the House may be readily supplied with gas from the Oxford Gas Company
There is no Tithe or Land Tax…. The House stands well back from any roads.
The Property will be offered in one Lot, but if not sold then the House, Stables, Lodge, and Gardens, coloured yellow on the Plan, will be offered alone, without the Lodge and Paddock, coloured pink on the Plan.
From 1912 Albert Henry Franklin is listed in directories as the occupier of Headington House. In the census of the previous year Franklin, then a solicitor of 47, had been living in a much more modest house in East Oxford (2 Stanley Road) with his wife Caroline Amy, his children Albert Victor, Frank Cyril, and Margaret Amy, and one servant. According to Iris Masters in Within Living Memory, Franklin bought Headington House and all its park to the south of Cuckoo Lane for just £1,000.
Despite a petition started up by Dr Hitchings to preserve Headington House Park to the south of Cuckoo Lane for Heading, Franklin sold it as low-priced building lots (£10 each). The 1921 map of Headington shows the south-west end of Old High Street already being built up, and Stephen Road laid out. Only two houses had been built on the London Road edge of the park, and the south-east end of Osler Road was yet to be developed.
Albert Franklin remained in Headington House until about 1931. He was Chairman of Headington Urban District Council from 1928 to 1930, and Franklin Road was named after him.
From 1932 to 1953 Walter Stoye is listed as the occupant of Headington House.
In 1953 the house was bought by Mrs Aline Halban, who married Isaiah Berlin in 1956. On 10 June 1956, Hugh Trevor-Roper wrote to Bernard Berenson, “Isaiah we have hardly seen. He lives withdrawn in Headington House and, except to meet Bulganin and Khrushchev, hardly emerges.”
Sir Isaiah lived there until his death in 1997, and Lady Berlin remained in the house until 2005.
The Ordnance Survey map of 1898 shows how the grounds of Headington House stretched as far south as the London Road, where there was a second lodge.
The Oxford Journal Illustrated of 3 August 1927 has two photographs of an Elizabethan Joyance by Bernice de Bergerac held in the grounds of Headington House.