Headington history: Listed Buildings/Structures

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The Court, The Croft

The Court

List entry for The Court: 1186122
List entry for The Court boundary wall: 1369346

The Court dates from the seventeenth century, and still has original leaded cross-casement windows and end stacks. It was just a three-bedroomed cottage until the late 1920s, when it was remodelled. It was described thus by the Royal Commission on the Historical Monuments of England, published in 1939:

(272) The Court, house 200 yards S.S.W. of the church, is of two storeys with cellars and attics; the walls are of rubble and the roofs are tiled. It was built probably early in the 17th century but has been extensively modernised. In the hall is an original fireplace with moulded jambs and four-centred arch in a square head. Condition—Good.

This house was originally part of the Manor of Heddington. In the nineteenth century it was owned by the Latimer family of Headington House, then by Charles Tawney of Headington Lodge, and finally by the Wootten-Wootten family of Headington House. All three owners rented it out.

This view of the back of The Court in a painting by Malchair dated 19 May 1773 (Ashmolean Museum, WA 1925.26) appears to show an inn sign hanging from the side of the building. It appears that at this time the Court was the Rose & Crown pub, and in the Headington Enclosure Award of 1804 the part of the Croft leading from Osler Road to Old High Street is described as passing “near the Public House called the Rose and Crown”.

This name was sometimes shortened to The Crown, as when an auction was held here in 1811: it was then occupied by a Mr Bryant. In 1819 auctions are described as being held at both The Crown and the Rose & Crown; and in 1824 there was an auction at the Crown.

In the 1841 census there is a listing for "Crown & Thistle House", which was occupied by the carpenter George Crickmay and his wife and their six children, plus a servant girl. Crickmay was described as a publican when he had his daughter Jane Jemima baptised at St Andrew's Church a month later. This is very likely to be the Crown, with the name wrongly recorded. (This is definitely in the right area of the Croft, as that census lists Manor House Cottage in Osler Road, then six cottages described as being near the Crown & Thistle followed by "Crown & Thistle House" itself, followed by another five cottages again described as being near the pub, and then the entry for Miss Hanwell's Seminary in St Andrew's Road.)

By 1850 the Court was occupied by William Wilkins, a butcher and dealer who came from Shipton in Gloucestershire. The Headington Rate Book of that year shows that Wilkins rented the house from Charles Tawney, and that its rateable value was then £20 and its gross estimated rental £24. Wilkins also then rented 24 acres of meadow to the north of the house from Miss Latimer.

At the time of the 1861 census, Wilkins (a butcher and grazier employing one man and two boys) can be seen living at The Court (not named, but described as being “Near the Pound”) with his wife Anne and six daughters one son, and a servant. By the time of the 1881 census, Wilkins was a widower, living in the Court in partnership with his 26-year-old son, William Robert Loder Wilkins (a butcher and farmer of 30 acres, employing one man and two boys), and his four unmarried daughters: Mary Claudine (30), Rose Fanny (28), Laura Elizabeth (24), and Minnie Angelina (22). By 1891 only William Wilkins (79) and three of his daughters were in the house: Mary (34), who was a ladies’ companion, Minnie (26), and Laura (22).

William Wilkins died at the age of 80, and was buried at Headington Cemetery on 19 December 1893. According to Within Living Memory, in the 1890s the Misses Laura and Minnie Wilkins ran the farm as a dairy and sold butter and milk to the people of Old Headington.

From 1901 to 1909 the Wootten-Woottens owned The Court and used it to house their coachman, Joseph Hicks, who came from Woolstone in Berkshire. The census that year shows the Hicks family in residence: Joseph (47), his wife Mary (41) and their three children: Norah (17) was working as a housemaid, Ephraim (15) as a groom, and Dorothy (4) was at school. Another groom and probably a relation, Horace Hicks (21) was boarding with them.

When the Wootten estate was sold in 1914, Within Living Memory states that Miss Gertrude Drage bought the house, and that subsequently Mrs Dowdenay lived there, but there is no listing at this time in directories.

From 1925 to about 1929, Sholto Theodore Douglas, a bachelor who called himself “the last of the Stuarts”, is listed as living at the Court: he remodelled the house extensively and added a Roman Catholic chapel, which is now a bedroom. He then moved to The End House, 34 Highfield Avenue, Headington, where he died on 5 January 1943.

Mr R. Snow lived at the Croft in 1933, and Henry O. Quin is listed there in 1935–1938.

Harry Richardson Creswick, Bodley’s Librarian, lived at the Court from 1940 to 1947.

In 1948 Gabriel Turville-Petre, the Vigfussen Professor of Ancient Icelandic Literature and Antiquities moved in, and his widow was still there in the 1980s.

© Stephanie Jenkins

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