Headington history: People

Tour backwards
Tour forwards

Josiah Pullen (1631–1714)

Josiah (“Jo”) Pullen matriculated at the University of Oxford from Magdalen Hall on 15 November 1650, when he was about 19. He obtained his BA on 26 May 1654 and his MA on 9 April 1657. He was also incorporated at Cambridge in 1659.

Pullen was was Vice-President of Magdalen Hall (then still situated in the grounds of Magdalen College) for 57 years, from 1656 until his death. He was also simultaneously Vicar of St Peter-in-the-East Church for 39 years from 1675 and Rector of Blundson St Andrew, Wiltshire from 1684.

Pullen's footpath


Pullen was responsible in around 1700 for the building of the terraced footpath (left) that still exists on the north side of Headington Hill. It was paid for by a general subscription of the University: hence the joke that Pullen had “made a-way with public money”.


His other legacy to Headington was Jo Pullen’s tree. Pullen used to walk daily to the top of Headington Hill, where the road petered out into a footpath after swerving right into Cheney Lane and Old Road (the present Headington / London Road did not exist before the late eighteenth century). In about 1700 he planted an elm tree at the turning point of his walk.

Although the tree itself no longer survives, the lane where it stood still bears his name.


Image of Josiah Pullen in
the National Portrait Gallery

Pullen died at the age of 81, and was buried at St Peter-in-the-East Church on 7 January 1714/15. The “Will of Josiah Pullen, Master of Arts of Saint Mary Magdalene, Oxfordshire” (date of probate 15 February 1715) was deposited at the Prerogative Court of Canterbury (ref PROB 11/544); it was also proved in the Chancellor’s Court on 11 May 1715.

There is a half-length portrait of Josiah Pullen at Hertford College. (Magdalen Hall took over the buildings of the abortive Hertford College in 1820 and remained there until 1874, when it came to an end on the refounding of Hertford College.)

There is a much fuller entry on Josiah Pullen in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography
The ODNB online is available free to many public library users, including those in Oxfordshire:
enter L followed immediately by your library ticket number in the “Library Card Login” box

© Stephanie Jenkins

Headington home Shark Oxford History home