Headington history: Streets


Headington Hill & Road: Davenport House

Davenport House

Lamp bracket at Davenport House

Davenport House stands at the summit of Headington Hill, on the corner of Headington Road and Pullen’s Lane, and was built in the 1840s by the Oxford solicitor John Marriott Davenport. It had its own two-acre garden. and Davenport also owned the adjoining 19-acre “Oxford Field”, which stretched from Davenport House to the Boundary Brook (which ran beside the White Horse).

The house and adjoining farmland were purchased by Headington School in 1920, and the estate remained intact until the 1950s, when Headley Way was cut through it near the eastern edge.

The present Headington School was built in 1930 on the Davenport lands, and since that date Davenport House itself has just been an annexe.

On 3 August 1836, when the lands of Headington Manor was put up for auction, George Davenport (1782–1846) an Oxford surveyor, bought most of the land along the north-east side of Pullen’s Lane and all the land facing the Headington Road.

Lot 18, a corner lot of 4 acres and the site of the present Davenport House, was described as:

“A very valuable Plot of Garden Ground, with a newly erected Cottage or Dwelling House upon it, now let on lease, four years of which are unexpired at Michaelmas next.”

The copy of the auction catalogue held by the Bodleian Library has a pencil note against this corner plot saying “4 acres Foy’s”, which is likely to indicate the name of the person whose lease was due to run out in the autumn of 1840.

On 4 July 1836 George Davenport's wife Eliza died at this house of pulmonary consumption at the age of 30.

The preamble to the 1841 census refers to “All that part of Headington north of the Turnpike Road including … the houses in the field leading to Oxford belonging to Mr Davenport”. This implies that there was now more than one house on the Davenport land. One of them is shown below.

Davenport cottages

On the death of George Davenport in 1846, John Marriott Davenport (1809–1882) inherited his land in Headington. In 1847 he bought the site of Jo Pullen’s tree from the new Lord of the Manor, William Peppercorn, and in an article about the tree in the Oxford Herald it is stated that the house on this corner plot was let out to a gardener. This can hardly be the present Davenport House; but it appears that it was built within the next three years.

The 1850 Rate Book lists the following property, all owned by John Davenport:

  • A house and land on Headington Hill measuring 2 acres
    Occupied by Miss Davenport
    Gross estimated rental £40, rateable value £34
  • A house and garden on Headington Hill (no measurement given)
    Occupied by Henry Burrows
    Gross estimated rental £5, rateable value £3-10-0
  • A house and garden on Headington Hill (no measurement given)
    Occupied by Phipps (late)
    Gross estimated rental £12, rateable value £9
  • Land called “Oxford Field” measuring 16 acres 3 roods and 29 perches
    Occupied by John Davenport
    Gross estimated rental £40, rateable value £39
  • Land on Headington Hill measuring 3 acres 2 roods 11 perches
    Occupied by Joseph Phipps
    Gross estimated rental £8-7-0, rateable value £8-5-0
  • A house and garden on Headington Hill (no measurement given)
    Occupied by Alfred Taylor
    Gross estimated rental £5, rateable value £3-10-0

The three small houses listed above were no more than small farm cottages, all probably in the Oxford Field facing the Headington Road. But one stood in two acres and was occupied by a Miss Davenport, and its high rateable value shows that it can only be Davenport House. John Davenport initially let the house out to his two sisters, Miss Maria Davenport (born 1812) and Miss Rhoda Grace Davenport (1816–1904). Maria married Robert Brough-Watson, Esq of Swanland Manor, Yorkshire at St Andrew's Church on 23 June 1855.

Memorial to John Davenport, St Giles



John Marriott Davenport himself lived in St Mary Magdalen parish at 62 St Giles’ Street, where he practised as a solicitor for most of his life. He may have used Davenport House as a country retreat, but he does not seem to have spent much time there.



Davenport’s memorial plaque in St Mary Magdalen Church (right) states that he was a resident in that parish for fifty years.

The plaque lists some of his many roles: Clerk of the Peace for the County of Oxford 1831–1881; Secretary to two successive Bishops of Oxford; and District Registrar of the Court of Probate. He died on 31 January 1882, aged 72. His widow Sophia lived to be 98, and died at 62 St Giles on 1 December 1916.

In 1869 Francis Henry Davenport (1846–1915), the third of John Davenport’s sons and the only one not to study at the University of Oxford, was listed as joint occupant of Davenport House with his father. By the time of the 1871 census, Francis (24) was the head of the household, living there alone with three servants and described as a “farmer of 111 acres employing 5 men, 2 boys, and 1 woman”. About half these acres were probably rented by the Davenports, and they included Joe Pullen's Farm.

In 1871 John Mattock of Mattock Roses fame was taken on as a servant gardener at Davenport House, but he soon moved on to start his own business.

On 28 July 1874 Jonas Paxton & George Castle held an auction at Davenport’s farm, which implies that Francis Davenport had given up farming here. The sale included two “very valuable” cart horses, two nag colts, two new milch cows, one in-calf heifer, sturk, calf, pigs, poultry, wagons, carts, ploughs, harrows and various other agricultural implements, dairy utensils and miscellaneous effects; also six ricks and stumps of hay and two stacks of straw, and 43 acres of what, beans, and barley. All could be viewed on application to Mr Hopkins, the farm bailiff.

From the time of his father’s death in February 1882 to his own death in 1914, Francis is listed at his old house at 62 St Giles, but in fact spent much of his life as a farmer in Queensland, Australia. He died in 1915 at the age of 69, and is buried at St Sepuchre’s Cemetery in Walton Street.

On 17 April 1875 Jackson's Oxford Journal reported that John Marriott Davenport had for £1,150 bought “four closes of freehold and tithe free pasture land, situate on Headington Hill, and commanding extensive views of the surrounding country, and well adapted for building purposes, in all about 10A. 1R. 1P”. The Return of Owners of Land of 1876 shows that John Marriott Davenport then still owned just over 53 acres of land in the Oxford area. But soon afterwards Davenport started to sell off his land along Pullen’s Lane.

The 1876 map of Headington (below) shows Davenport House and the cottages on its farmland:

Davenport House in 1876

In 1882 Francis’s eldest brother, Thomas Marriott Davenport (1841–1913) moved into Davenport House with his wife Emily and their four eldest children. They had another eight children baptised at St Andrew’s Church between 1883 and 1895. A graduate of Pembroke College and a solicitor, Thomas succeeded his father as Clerk of the Peace in 1881, and also became Clerk to the County Council in 1889. He acted for many years as Under Sheriff of the County, and as Registrar of the Diocese of Oxford.

His son Henry Reginald Davenport died at the age of 21 at the Acland Home in Oxford and was buried in Headington Cemetery on 13 January 1900.

Thomas Davenport’s grave


Thomas Davenport (69) is listed at Davenport House at the time of the 1911 census with his wif Emily (60), five of their children, and five servants. He remained at Davenport House until his death at the age of 71 on 1 September 1913.

Mrs Davenport outlived her husband by less than two years: she died at the Acland Home and was buried in Headington Cemetery of 17 August 1915.

Miss Davenport was then the householder until 1920. Two of her brothers were killed in the First World War: Leonard Marriott Davenport in 1916, and Hugh Nares Davenport in 1918.

In 1889 the municipal borough of Oxford was extended eastwards, bringing Headington Road and Davenport House into the city of Oxford. In 1894 this area was taken away from the parish of St Andrew’s Church in Old Headington and annexed to the parish of St Clement’s.



Right: Gravestone of Thomas Marriott Davenport and his wife Emily Emma in Headington Cemetery. Their son Henry and daughter Violet are remembered on the two sides

In 1920 Headington School purchased all the Davenport estate fronting the Headington Road from Pullens Lane to the White Horse. The senior school moved from Brookside into Davenport House, and from 1921 Miss M. M. Bexfield of Headington School is listed under that house in directories.

In 1930 the present main block of Headington School was built at the eastern end of the land attached to the house. Davenport House was then relegated to serving as a school boarding house, and during the second world war it was taken over by the Oxford Corporation Emergency Evacuation Maternity Home.

Initially the Headington Hill Riding School rented the land between Davenport House and the new school building, but now the whole Davenport estate is used by the school, except for a strip of land next to the White Horse that was lost when a brand new road, Headley Way, was cut through to Headington in the 1950s.

Davenport House in 1898


The map on the left shows Davenport House in 1898.




© Stephanie Jenkins

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