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Sandhills estate, Headington


Sandhills
Merewood Terrace, with F. Morris (newsagent & tobacconist) on the left

Merewood AvenueMerewood Avenue

Delbush Avenue
Delbush Avenue, with Alfred Horwood's shop at No. 2 on the left

Sandhills before the estate was built

In 1298 there was a perambulation to establish the boundary between Shotover Forest and Headington, and one of the places visited was Sanden (understood to be the present Sandhills).

Historically most of Sandhills (earliler Sand Hill or Sandhill) was part of Headington and is listed under Old Headington in the censuses, although some of Sandhill Farm spread over into Forest Hill. In the nineteenth century the only buildings were Sandhill Farm and four workers' cottages.

Map of Sandhills in 1900, side-by-side with a recent aerial view
(Close pop-up box in front, and drag map to what you want to see: both will move)

Sandhill is mentioned in the Headington Enclosure Award of 1805 which describes the bridle path leading from the London Road to Forest Hill via the present Sandhills area thus:

Also one other public Bridle Road of the breadth of fourteen feet numbered XIII branching out of the Turnpike Road numbered I [London Road] to certain cottages and gardens called Sandhill and extending in an eastward direction through Taggs Gate in the Parish of Forest-hill being part of the public Bridle Road from Oxford to Forest Hill.

Four plots of land in the Sandhills area (42, 43, and 44) were allocated in that award to Magdalen College and their lessee Mary Jones of Headington House. Plot 44 (which included Bayswater Mill) is described as being in “Sandhill Field”:

One Other Plot of Land or Ground numbered 44 containing thirteen acres two roods and twenty nine perches situate in Sandhill Field bounded on the North East and South East by lands in the Parish of Foresthill on the South by the Road numbered XIII on part of the North West and on part of the South West by certain cottages and Gardens near Sandhill on the remaining part of the South West by the Allotment numbered 43 and on the remaining part of the North West by the Road numbered IV [Bayswater Road].

There were Taggs at Sandhill Farm as early as 14 April 1814, when William Hart Vincent, a yeoman of Headington, married Elizabeth Tagg of that farm at St Andrew's Church. In 1844 Mr Tagg of Sandhill Farm was breeding old Down sheep.

In 1876 James Tagg put up for sale Sandhill Farm and its four cottages along with Bayswater Mill. This advertisement in Jackson's Oxford Journal on 6 May that year shows that the farm covered almost sixty acres.

Sandhills Farm for sale in 1876

Sandhill in the Headington censuses
(listed in the Headington Quarry census book in 1841 and 1851, and from 1861 to 1911 in the Old Headington census book)

This shows how very thinly populated Sandhills was before the estate was built:

  • 1841: Joseph Morris was the farmer at Sand Hill Farm. Only one farm cottage is mentioned, and that was unoccupied.
  • 1851: The widow Ann Coombs (70) was living at Sand Hill farmhouse with her grandchildren James Tagg (17) and Elizabeth Tagg (14). There were four farm cottages: (1) general dealer Thomas Jacob, (2) shepherd Henry Woodley, (3) agricultural labourer William Soanes, and (4) agricultural labourer James Ing, and their families.
  • 1861: Ann Coombe (86), a farmer's widow, was living at Sandhill farmhouse with her two grandchildren William and Maria Tagg, described as a farmer's son and daughter. There were also three cottages, occupied by James Ing and James Colwell (both shepherds) and the agricultural labourer John Hudson, and their families.
  • 1871: James Tagg (37), a farmer of 100 acres employing two men and three boys, was living at Sandhill farmhouse with his sister Maria (28): both were unmarried. Living in the cottages were the carman John Hudson, the agricultural labourer James Bannister, and the shepherd James Ing, plus their families.
  • 1881: Four cottages: (1) corn-mill labourer Henry Luker, (2) agricultural labourer William Horwood, (3) farm labourer James Bannister, and (4) agricultural labourer James Drewett, plus their families
  • 1891: Four cottages: Henry Luker (mill labourer), James Bartlett (agricultural labourer), W. Jonathan Ing (labourer), and James Drewitt (agricultural labourer), plus their families.
  • 1900: Listed for the first time as Sandhill Cottages. Occupied by (1) mill labourer Henry Luker, (2) vacant, (3) farm carter Job Warwick, and (4) vacant.
  • 1911: Only the four Sandhill Cottages are listed: (1) miller's carter Frederick Luker, (2)  bricklayer's labourer J. F. Wharton, (3)  farm labourer James Drewitt, and (4) old-age pensioner James Luker, plus their families.

The new estate

The Sandhills estate was built on farmland by the Bush Building Company in the early 1930s. The first four new roads were:

  • Burdell Avenue
    Named after the estate's developer (Frank Guy Bursill) and Mr Dell, who had sold some of the land for the estate
  • Delbush Avenue
    Named after Mr Dell again, and Selina Mary Bush, who had married Frank Guy Bursill in 1918
  • Hill View
    Origin of name obvious
  • Merewood Avenue
    Origin of name uncertain: possibly describing a pond (mere) and the nearby woods.

By 1935 there were 140 families living these four roads. Alfred Horwood was a grocer, tobacconist, & confectioner at 2A Delbush Avenue; Dudley Herbert Jeffs was the grocer at 2 Burdell Avenue; John Mawer was a dairyman at 2 Merewood Avenue; and D. Smith & Co Drug Stores were at 22 Merewood Avenue. The developers, the Bush Building Company, were based at the Sandhill Estate office.

Sandhills 1934

Right: Advertisement in the Oxford Times of 1 June 1934 offering houses on the Sandhill Estate (“Oxford’s Garden Suburb”) at prices between £415 and £595

Another advertisement that appeared in the Oxford Monthly five months earlier on 11 January 1934, at prices between £415 and £675.

There are eight aerial views of Sandhills in 1935 on the “Britain from the Air” website.

The first school in Sandhills was the Forest Hill Council School, which began in temporary accommodation in 1934. A permanent building was erected in Delbush Avenue in 1939, and in 1954 the School was renamed Sandhills County Primary School. It is now known as Sandhills Community Primary School.


Headington End (later Headington Hall)

Lieutenant-Colonel Redmond Edward Watt lived here in 1930.

By 1935 Frederick Ernest Moss of N. Moss & Sons (the speculative builders who developed the Florence Park Estate) lived here. Moss, who was the City Councillor for Cowley & Iffley Ward, gave to the city the land for Florence Park in memory of his sister Florence.

Then the estate's developer Frank Guy Bursill moved in with his wife Selina and confusingly renamed it Headington Hall.

The 1936 map below shows part of the new Sandhills estate before Headington Hall was demolished:

Sandhills in 1936

Headington Hall was demolished to make way for Bursill Close.


Sandhills had its own mission church of St Mary, which was licensed for divine worship on 22 December 1948. This survived until St Mary's Church was consecrated on the Bayswater Road in 1958.

The Sandhills estate is not listed under Oxford in Kelly's Directories, as Risinghurst and Sandhills were not taken into the city of Oxford until 1991 (see new boundary stone). It can be found in the section at the end of the Oxford directories listing surrounding villages. Initially it was listed under Forest Hill, and later under Risinghurst & Sandhills.


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© Stephanie Jenkins

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