Headington history: Streets

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Pullen’s Lane: The Pullens (later Fairfield)

FairfieldFairfield in the mid-1960s: © Arpad Turmezei
Pevsner described this as “an unpleasant house of 1879”

This large house (known first as The Pullens and later as Fairfield) was demolished by Plater College in the mid-1970s, and its site is now occupied by the EF Language School (below).

EF Language School

The Pullens


The Pullens was built in 1879/80, and marks the beginning of the development of Pullen’s Lane as a residential area.

This detail (left) from the 1898 map of Headington shows how Pullens occupied the triangular corner between Pullens Lane and Cuckoo Lane.

Only its lodge (now Elmgate Cottage) remains today.


The Pullens was built by Sir William Markby, kcie, ma, dcl, jp (1829–1914). Markby had been a Judge in Bengal, but returned to England in 1878 with his wife Lucy to take up the newly created readership in Indian Law at Oxford. He was also Tutor and Senior Bursar of Balliol College under Jowett.

In March 1879 Markby bought the southernmost plot of land to the east of Pullens Lane that was being sold by John Marriott Davenport. Lady Markby, in her Memories of Sir William Markby, kcie, by his Wife, says:

We soon decided that Headington Hill was a desirable spot whereon to pitch our tent and so it came about that we bought a few acres of land within the sacred limits of the University and built the house that was to be our home for so many years to come.

Pullens Lane was no more than a farm track at this time. Markby wrote:

When I came in 1879 there was no properly made road up to my front gate [i.e. the gate of the lodge, now Elmgate Cottage]. Willert shortly after continued it up to his front gate [The Croft, now part of Rye St Antony School] and Henderson to his [Pullen’s End, formerly Torbrex].

Sir William continued to be “Tutor to the Indian probationers” when he retired from being Reader in Indian Law,. By the time of the 1911 census he was 81 and retired, and living in the house with his wife Lucy (64) and five servants. He remained there until his death at the age of 85 on 15 October 1914.

For some unknown reason, after her husband's death his widow, Dame Lucy Markby, renamed the house “Fairfield”. She is listed there in directories until her death there on 23 December 1928. She and her husband had no children.

From 1929 Fairfield was occupied by Herbert Stansfield Williamson, ma and his wife Winifred Lilian Williamson. He died there on 31 January 1955, and Mrs Williamson then appears to have had the house divided into three flats, living in one of them herself. She moved away in about 1968, and the last flat remained occupied until 1972.

Plater College

The house was then empty for several years until it was bought by Plater College in 1975. They demolished it in order to redevelop the site for themselves.

In 2005 the college's 2.67 acre site was sold to the EF Language School for £5.6 million.

Pullens Coach House (later Pullens Lodge, then
Fairfield Lodge/Cottage, and now Elmgate Cottage)

This lodge (unlike the house it served) is still standing.

Elmgate Cottage

In the 1881 census it was described as “Joe Pullen’s Coach House” and was occupied by Sir William Markby’s coachman James Miles and his family.

In the 1891 census it was simply called the Lodge, and was occupied by a different coachman, Charles Bodimeade and his wife. Bodimeade was still there in 1901, but was then described as Sir William’s servant-gardener, suggesting that his master no longer kept a coach; and by 1911 he was the head gardener. He remained in the house until 1925, by which time it had been renamed Fairfield Lodge to match the new name of the main house.

From 1926 to 1929 Fairfield Lodge was occupied by William Beckett.

From 1930 it was known as Fairfield Cottage rather than Fairfield Lodge, but was still occupied by an employee of the big house, namely Harry J. Pennicard, who was described as “gardener to Herbert Stansfield Williamson Esq”. He remained there until 1937.

Charles Surman then occupied the cottage briefly, followed by Leslie Bateman from 1941 to 1953.

The house is first described as Elmgate Cottage in 1954, when Eric L. Tugwell moved in: he was probably its first owner-occupier, and remained there until the late 1970s.

From 1977 to 1980 Elmgate Cottage was owned by Dr and Mrs Boughton, who extended the building and protected the beech trees which were growing to full maturity.

The cottage was owned by Ian & Jean Aitchison from 1980 to 2007. They replaced the old garage with a new one and generally improved the garden.

Elmgate Cottage was sold to the EF Language School in 2007.

© Stephanie Jenkins

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