Headington history: Non-listed buildings


Brookside House, London Road

Brookside in 2005The house formerly called Brookside, photographed in 2008.
The original boundary wall has now been replaced with a low brick wall and fence

The present Junior Section of Headington School was originally a large private house called Brookside. This was a mansion built on the Highfield Estate,

The following extract from Jackson’s Oxford Journal of 16 October 1886 gives brief details about the origin of the building:

On the Highfield Estate, Headington-road, a new residence from designs by Messrs. Wilkinson and Moore, architects, has been erected for Mr T. Arnall. Mr Kingerlee of Oxford was the contractor.

1898 map showing Brookside


The house was named Brookside after the Boundary Brook, which ran along the western edge of the house’s grounds and marked the old county and parliamentary boundary of Oxford. The map on the left shows the house and its estate in 1898.

The brook is now diverted underground from the north of the John Radcliffe via the gardens on the west side of Valentia Road to the Churchill Hospital area. As late as the 1930s it could be seen running beside the White Horse, under the London Road, and then through the gardens of 236/238 London Road. At that time the present cycle track outside the wall of Headington Junior School was an open ditch running into the brook.

The Yorkshireman Thomas Arnall, for whom the house was built, can be found living alone in this large house at the time of the 1891 census, with a housekeeper. Aged 57, he was then a widower and described as Head Postmaster for Oxford; by the time of the 1901 census, he was retired and still living alone with the same servant. He remained in the house until 1908. It was Arnall who started to build up what eventually became the Brookside Nurseries, as this extract from Jackson’s Oxford Journal of 22 December 1888 shows:

Brookside gardens in 1895

Thomas Arnall died in 1908 and was buried at Headington Cemetery on 12 May.

Mrs Edwards is listed at the house from 1908 to 1911, and Robert Kent Tucker from 1911 to 1916. The latter appears to have been Mrs Edwards’s son-in-law: the 1911 census shows Robert Kent Tucker (36), a nursery seedsman and florist, living at Brookside with his wife Maria Harriet (38) and his daughters Freda Mary (8), Constance Betty (5), and Ruth (3), and his mother-in-law Maria Clarinda Edwards, a widow of 64. The family had a cook and a housemaid.

In 1916 Headington School moved from White Lodge in Old Headington to Brookside House,

  • Oxford Journal Illustrated, 4 July 1917, p. 9: Photograph of the Headington School Festival, showing Brookside House.

It was probably at this time that the adjoining Brookside Nurseries, which occupied the whole area of the road now called Brookside, became a separate enterprise. The postcard below shows that the nurseries were now run by R. Tucker & Sons, by appointment to the Prince of Wales. They evidently sent plants to gentlefolk some distance away, as it was posted on 5 August 1924 to Mrs Palin of Aylesmore Court, St Briavels, Gloucestershire, who wanted a Lathyrus rotundifolia (everlasting pea) added to her order.

Brookside Nurseries postcard

In 1930, when Headington School opened its present building on the other side of the London Road, Brookside became the junior section of the school, as it is today. Rather confusingly, it was renamed Napier House, after the house in Pullen’s Lane built by Professor Arthur Napier (now Cotuit Hall) that the school had acquired in 1917 but sold in 1930.

The land attached to Brookside House was sold for development and became the road now called simply Brookside. (Brookside Nurseries moved across the London Road, where they remained until c.1950, when Franklin Road was built on their site.)

© Stephanie Jenkins

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