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The Slade north of Wood Farm


The Slade

The word “slade” corresponds to the Old English slæd meaning a slope or hollow (although the Danish dialect word slade means a piece of level ground). According to the Oxford English Dictionary the meaning of the word varies in different localities and can be any of the following: “A valley, dell, or dingle; an open space between banks or woods; a forest glade; a strip of greensward or of boggy land”. None of them quite fit the nature of The Slade in Headington, which today runs southwards from the Old Road crossroads down to the junction of Hollow Way and Horspath Driftway.

In the nineteenth century the section of The Slade north of Wood Farm was considered part of Headington Quarry village. This area originally lay in the parish of St Andrew's Church, but was taken into the parish of Holy Trinity when that church was consecrated in 1849. From about 1876 to 1930 the ancient name of The Slade was abandoned and it was called Barrack Road, so that the houses built there in the late 1920s began life with that address; but in 1931 it was renamed The Slade.

The 1805 Enclosure Award describes four plots of land adjoining The Slade as far south as Wood Farm: see full details at the foot of this page. In that Award, The Slade (which was given no name and was considered to be an extension to Windmill Road that led to Horspath Driftway and eventually to Garsington) was described as follows:

Also one other public Carriage Road and Driftway of the like breadth of forty feet numbered III likewise branching out of the said new Turnpike Road [London Road] at High Cross Bush aforesaid and extending in a Southward direction across Wood way furlong into the antient Turnpike Road leading from London to the City of Oxford [Old Road] and continuing over a certain place called “Harry Bears Bottom” [site of Slade Close] and extending from thence along the Slade near to a Farm house belonging to the President and Scholars of Magdalen College and their Lessee John Townsend [Wood Farm] being part of the public Road leading from Headington aforesaid towards Garsington.

After Old Road was superseded by the new London Road near the end of the eighteenth century, the area to the south of it would have been relatively quiet. The people of Quarry, however, would have travelled frequently along The Slade to get their furze from the Town Furze area and their wood from the Open Magdalen.

Gipsies regularly camped alongside The Slade in the nineteenth century. R. D. Blackmore (the author of Lorna Doone), set his book Cripps the Carrier back in the year 1837, and wrote of the beautiful Queen of the Gipsies called Cinnaminta who lived in an encampment off The Slade (and of course Cinnaminta Road is named after her). In Village Life and Labour (1975), Raphael Samuel writes about the gypsies of the Slade:

... the gipsies on the Slade were blamed for the supposed murder of Thomas Buller, a Cowley furze-cutter, while making his way to Shotover on Pancake Day, 1844. The settlement showed great tenacity – indeed traces of it can be seen on the Slade to this day. In the 1920s the Slade is remembered as being “full of gypsies from one end to the other”, “all caravans”. A number of families used it as a regular winter camp and seem to have succeeded, over the years, in acquiring an informal title to the land on which their wagons were drawn up, staking out fences and putting up sheds or huts. One of them was the Bucklands, a well-known family of travelling showmen, who arrived in Quarry about the turn of the century. They became so well established on the ground that they are said to have been paid £200 by the City Corporation when some of their land was taken away for a road-widening scheme.

The area on the north-east side of The Slade adjoining Old Road that had been allocated to the Vicars of Headington under the Enclosure Award of 1805 was known as Harry Bear's Bottom, and to the south of this area (on the site now occupied by Slade Close) was Harry Bear's Pit.


The Slade 1876–1928: “Barrack Road”

The road must have become much busier after Cowley Barracks opened in 1876, The orientation of the road changed now: whereas once it was the part of Windmill Road that led straight on to Horspath Driftway, it now made a sharp right turn to the Barracks, as shown in the 1878 map below, where it is named as The Slade.

1876 map

Soon after the barracks were built the road acquired its new name of Barrack Road. Soldiers would have marched this way to reach the London Road, and Howard Kingscote, Colonel of the barracks who lived at Bury Knowle House from 1895 to 1899, would probably have ridden this way daily.

It was to be another 52 years, however, before houses appeared on the Headington part of the Slade. The map below shows this area in 1921, with the Wingfield Convalescent Home on the site of the Nuffield Orthopaedic Centre and Rock Edge marked “Old Quarry”. There are some houses on Girdlestone Road to the south-west, but none whatsoever on The Slade itself.

North end of the Slade


The north end of the Slade after 1928

The north end of the road started to be developed in 1928. At the same time the Bulan Road estate was created (see aerial view), which must have meant more footfall on The Slade.

The first house to be occupied at the Headington end of the Slade was Sunnyland (now No. 126) at the north-east corner of the road. Miss Marie Luise Christlieb, a German-born retired missionary, is listed at this house in Kelly's Directory from 1928 until her death in 1946 (with her address given as Barrack Road rather than The Slade in 1928, 1929, and 1930).

In 1929 The Slade (along with the rest of Headington and Cowley) was taken into the City of Oxford. The city rationalized many street names in the new suburbs, removing duplications, and in 1931 Barrack Road became The Slade again, probably to avoid confusion with Barracks Lane.

It was not until about 1954, however, that the houses at the Headington end of The Slade were numbered for the first time. Until then they were listed in directories under the following names:

East side of The Slade
from Old Road to Wood Farm Road

West side of the Slade
from Old Road to the north of Peat Moors

126: Sunnyland

124: Woodcote
(formerly called South View)

122: Cuckmere

120: Glebe Cottage

118: Stowe

116: Auberts
(now Conifers)

114: The Bungalow

112: Roxton

205: Quarry End

203: Cramond

201: Silver Grays

199: Moor House

197: St Ives

195: Gate House

193: Chelwood

191: Colve's

175: Lavenden

173: Asthall

Blue plaqueIn 1929 John Henry Brookes (after whom Oxford Brookes University is named) moved into his new house at 195 The Slade, which he named the Gate House. It was designed by Thomas Rayson, but Brookes himself helped with the design, and he took a great pride in its fine garden. It now has a blue plaque (right).

By 1930 the following nine houses in The Slade were occupied:

  • East side: Nos. 126, 124, 122, 120, and 118
  • West side: Nos. 203, 197, 195, and 191.

By 1935 there were three more houses (116, 114, and 112) on the east side and four more houses (205, 193, 175, and 173) on the west side.

By the time the 1939 map of Headington was published (see extract below), another two houses had been built: Nos. 199 and 203 on the west side. There were now eight detached houses on the east side of The Slade (Nos. 112–126 inclusive) and seven houses on the west side (Nos. 173 & 175, Nos 191–199 inclusive, and Nos. 203 and 205). There were also two farm cottages that had been built on Harry Bear's Pit to the south-east: they were called White's Cottages (named after Thomas William White, the farmer at Wood Farm), and these were demolished in 1954 to make way for Slade Close.

The Slade

During the Second World War prisoners of war were kept at Slade Camp on land at Wood Farm: see memories of Pauline Gibbs. The entrance to this camp was not from The Slade, however, but from Old Road, near the Crown & Thistle.

This aerial view of the Slade from the north (with Rock Edge in the middle of the foreground) was taken in 1947 and shows The Slade and the Bulan Road area still surrounded by countryside. Slade Camp was occupied by civilians after the war, and can be seen on the left:

Slade in 1947

This tranquillity began to change in 1953 when the building of the Wood Farm council estate began on the lands of Wood Farm: this aerial view shows the start of the building work:

Aerial view of Wood Farm in 1953

From 1958 another 260 council houses were built at Town Furze, and from 1974 another 320 new houses were built on Slade Park, again increasing the traffic on The Slade.


The Slade in the Headington Enclosure Award of 1805

The Enclosure Award starts on the outskirts of Headington to the south. Plots 1 and 2 were situated in Town Furze area and the land to the west, and then the next four plots adjoined the Slade itself, southwards to Wood Farm, as follows:

Plot 3 (on the west side of the Slade, opposite Plot 5 below)

And the said Commissioners in further pursuance of the said Act have set out and allotted and by these presents do award unto the Lord of the Manor of Headington and the Vicar Minister and Church Wardens of the said Parish of Headington for the time being as Trustees for the Poor Inhabitants of Headington aforesaid for the purposes mentioned in the said Act One Plot of Land and ground numbered 3 containing five acres situate in the Peat Moor bounded on part of the South West and on the North West and the North by the Allotment numbered 2 on the East by the public Road numbered III and on the South East and remaining part of the South West by lands called Hundred Acres in the said Parish of Cowley Which said Plot of Land or Ground numbered 3 is in the judgement of the said Commissioners a full and ample equivalent and satisfaction for certain indulgencies usually had by the said poor Inhabitants in cutting taking and carrying away Furze and Fern and digging and carrying away Peat for their own use from certain parts of the said commons or waste grounds by the said Act intended to be divided and allotted

Plot 4 (on the east side of the Slade near Wood Farm)

And the said Commissioners in further pursuance of the said Act have set out and allotted And by these Presents do award one Plot of Land or Ground numbered 4 on the Plan hereunto annexed containing one acre situate in a certain part of the common called the Slade near to a Farm house belonging to the said President and Scholars of Saint Mary Magdalen College in the occupation of John Townesend bounded on the North by the Allotment numbered 5 On the East by the Old Inclosures belonging to the said President and Scholars of Saint Mary Magdalen College and their Lessee the said John Townesend on the South by other part of the said Common called the Slade and on the West by the Road numbered III [The Slade section of Windmill Road] which said allotment is hereby set out allotted and awarded with Stone, Sand and Gravel Pits to be used in Common by the Proprietors of Lots and Estates in the Parish of Headington aforesaid and their tenants as well as for their own necessary uses as for repairs of the Turnpike Roads or other public and private Roads in the said Parish

Plot 5 (immediately to the south of Plot 6, on the east side of the Slade)

And to and for John Townesend the eldest son and Heir at Law of the late Stephen Townesend deceased in lieu of his copyhold Lands held under the Manor of Headington and certain right of Common thereto belonging One Plot of Land or Ground numbered 5 containing four acres and sixteen perches situate in the Slade bounded on the North East by the allotment numbered 6 on the South East by the old Inclosures belonging to the said President and Scholars of Saint Mary Magdalen College and their Lessee John Townesend on the South West by the allotment numbered 4 and on the North West by the Road numbered III [The Slade section of Windmill Road]

Plot 6 (on the north-east corner of the present Slade, adjoining Old Road)

And the said Commissioners in further pursuance of the said Act have set out and allotted and to these Presents to award unto and for the Reverend John Wills Doctor of Divinity and his successors Vicars of the Vicarage of Headington aforesaid for and in lieu of Vicarial Tithes (except Mortuaries Easter offerings and Surplice Fees) two several Plots of Land or Ground next hereinafter mentioned and described (that is to say) .... [description of Plot 2 at Town Furze omitted]
One other Plot of Land or Ground numbered 6 containing six acres one rood and three perches situate in Harry Bears Bottom bounded on the North by the Road numbered VII [Old Road] on the South East by an old inclosure belonging to the President and Scholars of Saint Mary Magdalen College and their Lessee the said John Townesend and on the South by the Allotment numbered 5 on the West by the Road numbered III [The Slade section of Windmill Road] Which said two several Plots of Land or Ground hereinbefore awarded for rectorial tithes and the said two last described Plots of Land or Ground allotted for vicarial tithes taken collectively are in the judgement of the said Commissioners and they do hereby adjudge the same to be (quantity quality and situation considered) equal in value to one fifth part of the arable Land and one ninth part of the meadow pasture or greensward Ground within the Parish of Headington that are subject to the payment of tithes after deducting the Allotments hereinbefore awarded for Roads and quarries pursuant to the directions of the said Act but no glebe Land having been claimed or ascertained as aforesaid (Mortuaries Easter offerings and surplice Fees due to the said Vicar excepted).

© Stephanie Jenkins

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