Headington history: People

Tour backwards
Tour forwards

Thomas Rayson (1888–1976)

Thomas Rayson was a well-known Oxfordshire architect who lived at The Ridings in Headington for nearly fifty years. He was born in India on 5 December 1888 where his father William John Rayson was a railway engineer, but returned to England with his parents at the age of two and lived in London, where his father kept the Union Flag pub at 178 Lambeth Road.

Rayson served articles with Robert Curwen of Bishopsgate Street in London, and first came to Oxford in 1910 as an assistant to the architect Nathaniel Harrison. By the early 1920s he had set up his own architectural practice in central Oxford, and was elected ARIBA in 1918 and FRIBA in 1927. He lived at Roundabouts in The Ridings, Headington from 1930 until his death in 1976.

The 1939 register shows Thomas Rayson, described as a qualified architect, living at Roundabouts with his wife Helena (born 1905) and their two children, plus a children's nurse.

For a general list of Rayson's architectural works, which include the Oxford War Memorial in St Giles' and work at Oxford colleges and churches, see his Wikipedia entry. Shown below are eight buildings in the Headington area that he designed.

1. Shotover Edge (1914)

Shotover Edge

This large house called Shotover Edge is on the south side of Old Road as it ascends the steep part of Shotover Hill. It was built in 1914 for Dr Lawrence Pearsall Jacks and his wife Olive (whose name lives on in Olive Jacks' Field in Risinghurst).

2. Shop, 69 London Road (c.1924)

Oddy's chemist shop

Rayson designed this shop on the corner of Osler Road (then called Manor Road) for the chemist Herbert O. Oddy, who is first listed here in Kelly's Directory for 1925. In 1936 Bellamy's the Chemist took over this shop (photograph), and they called it the Manor Pharmacy, which is now near the Manor Surgery. The building is now occupied by S. & R. Childs Funeral Services.

Originally numbered 9 London Road, its address is now 69 London Road. The photograph below shows the shop in earlier days, probably the 1930s.

Old view of Oddy the Chemist

3. The Gatehouse, 195 The Slade (c.1928–1929)

195 The Slade

This house was designed by Thomas Rayson for his friend John Henry Brookes, after whom Oxford Brookes University is named. Brookes lived here from 1929 until his death in 1975, and is remembered with a blue plaque. This house was once renowned for its beautiful garden.

31 Bickerton Road

4. 31 Bickerton Road

This house was originally called Hazeldene and then numbered 15A Bickerton Road, but by 1935 the street had been renumbered and it became 31 as it remains today.

Kelly's Directory for 1930 shows William Banbury living at No. 15 to the left (now No. 29) and Mark Robert Clapton living here at 15A (now No. 31).

Back in 1925 to 1929 inclusive, Mark Robert Clapton was listed at 15 Bickerton Road (No. 29), suggesting he had this house built by Thomas Rayson on land to the south of his house in 1929 and then moved into it.

5. Headington School (1928–1930)

Headington School

This postcard shows the original Headington School building soon after it opened in 1930; in the 1980s a large wing was added to each side. It is usually stated to have been jointly designed by Thomas Rayson and Gilbert T. Gardner, but Rayson used to say that “Gardner's only actual designing was to insist on vases on the roof”.

6. Roundabouts, The Ridings (late 1920s)


Rayson designed this house at the foot of Shotover in the late 1920s, and is already listed as living there in Kelly's Directory for 1930. He married Helen Hilton in 1933, and they brought up their two children here. He lived at Roundabouts until his death in 1976.

7. Old Headington Village (formerly Parish) Hall (1959)

Old Headington Village Hall

Until 1959, Old Headington's only hall was an iron room set up in the garden of the original vicarage. Members of the public raised £7,000 for the Old Headington Parish Hall, which was designed by Thomas Rayson and opened in 1959 by the Bishop of Dorchester, the Rt Rev. D. G. Loveday. In 1962 the Headington Women's Institute started up here, with Elizabeth Bowen as its President. It changed its name to Old Headington Village Hall in 2016.

8. Rayson House, Eden Drive (1964)

Rayson House

This photograph shows part of the sheltered housing in Eden Drive designed by and named after Thomas Rayson. Plans submitted by the Oxford Cottage Improvement Society (O.C.I.S.) for 22 old people's flats were approved on 16 October 1962. The sign between the windows on the left reads: “O.C.I.S. 1964 / THOMAS RAYSON ARCHITECT”. An additional block of six two-person flats was approved in 1983. There are now 27 flats, each with its own kitchen and bathroom.

© Stephanie Jenkins

Headington home Shark Oxford History home