Headington history: Streets

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Headington Hill & Road: North & South House

The present North and South House on the private road at the top of the north side of Headington Hill were originally a pair of houses called Victoria Villas. They were private houses from the 1860s to 1876, and then at the beginning of 1877 Mrs Morrell of Headington Hill Hall set up a Training School for Servants in these houses, which survived until the 1940s, when it became a remand home for girls. This reverted to being two private homes called North and South House in about 1953.

(1) 1 & 2 Victoria Villas (1860s to 1876)

Directories show the following occupants of Victoria Villas:

  • 1866: Mrs Haynes at No. 1, and Mrs Davies at No. 2 Victoria Villas
  • 1867: John Rivington at No. 1, and Mrs Davies at No. 2 Victoria Villas
  • 1869: “Mr Saunders” living at “Victoria-villas”. The 1871 census shows the son of the house, John Sanders (24), an unmarried bank clerk, living here with his two sisters.

On 13 July 1872 an advertisement appeared in Jackson’s Oxford Journal offering the pair of villas for auction at the Golden Cross on 31 July 1872. It promised further details the following week, but in the event these details were not supplied in the advertisement that appeared in the next two weeks, but instead people were advised to consult the solicitors or auctioneers, as shown below in the advertisement of 20 July 1872.

JOJ 20 July 1872

It appears that no buyer emerged at the auction, as the following notice appeared in Jackson’s Oxford Journal for 10 August 1872:

Victoria Villas, Headington Hill
Mr John Fisher begs to announce that this Property not having been sold at the Auction, he his [sic] open to treat for the same by private contract.
8, High-street, Oxford, 9th August, 1872

In a directory for 1875, Stephen Bendall is listed as living at “Victoria Villa”.

The laundry on Gipsy Lane

When James Morrell built Headington Hill Hall, in the 1850s, a laundry building for the Hall was built on the other side of the Headington Road. It was reached by a footpath on the west side of Gipsy Lane, at the southernmost point of the present Oxford Brookes University. It is shown on the 1876 OS map of Headington (below), and the land to the west of it (marked with the red arrow) is labelled “Drying Gd”. North and South House (coloured red) are clearly marked as “Victoria Villas”.

Drying ground in 1876

At the time of the 1861 census the road contractor William Bradwell and his family are listed as living in Gipsy Lane. His wife Mrs Hannah Bradwell (37) is described as a laundress, and as three laundress servants (aged 14, 19, and 20) are also living in the household, it is fairly certain they lived at the laundry building itself.

James Morrell died in 1863 and his wife Alicia in 1863, leaving their daughter Emily a ten-year-old orphan. The Hall was let to a blind landowner from Shropshire, Richard Corbet, who greatly reduced the number of live-in servants. Laundry Cottage was occupied as follows in the censuses:

  • 1871: there was just one laundress, Mrs Jane Hutchinson (36), living at the laundry with her husband Luke (50), who was a grainer, and their young children. Their eldest children had been born in Michigan and Nova Scotia, but the youngest were born in Headington. Luke Hutchinson had been listed as living at Headington Hill in the electoral register of 1868.
  • 1891: the laundress Mrs Emma Harman, a widow of 50, lived here with her daughter Rose (21) and her niece Annie Chandler (14), who were also laundresses.
  • 1901 the laundress Mrs Margaret Brown (46) lived in Laundry Cottage with her husband Thomas (56) who was a waiter, and their niece Louisa Watkins, who is described as a domestic servant.
  • 1911: Miss Annie Highett (58), assisted by Miss Louisa Abel (54), lived in the house, with their occupation described as “laundry work”.

(2) Training School for Servants (by 1877–1940)

Emily Morrell had married her cousin, Herbert Morrell, in 1874 when she was 20, thus retaining her surname. She had set up a school in the former Victoria Villas, which by the beginning of 1877 had become a training school for servants. The following report appeared in Jackson’s Oxford Journal of 3 February 1877:

Mrs Morrell’s School has been removed outside the School Board, but as it has been converted into an Industrial Training School for Servants, it may be hoped that the benefits will not be wholly lost to Oxford children.

This implies that it was a replacement for another school within the city boundary, probably in St Clement's (and possibly the free school for the girls of St Clement’s which Emily’s mother had opened in the Marston Road near the church in 1858 as an alternative to the parish school). The girls at the training school wore servants’ uniforms and were taught the skills necessary for a life below stairs: this included doing all the washing and ironing for Headington Hill Hall. The school was usually known as “Mrs Morrell’s training school”, but was also referred to as Headington Hill Hall School.

The 1881 census shows Mrs Sarah Weller (62), the Matron, living at the training school with Miss Sarah Drake (25), the school’s governess, and eleven girl “scholars” aged between 12 and 16, most of them born in or near Oxford.

Ten years later in the 1891 census, Miss Sarah Drake had been promoted to Matron, and the number of girls in training remained the same: the fact that the youngest trainee was only 8 years old and that the birthplace of one of them was unknown suggests that they could have been orphans.

In 1889 the municipal borough of Oxford was extended eastwards, bringing Headington Road and the Training School for Servants into the city of Oxford. In 1894 this area was taken away from the parish of St Andrew’s Church in Old Headington and annexed to the parish of St Clement’s.

The map below shows the Training School in 1899.

Training School in 1899

In the 1901 census Sarah Drake is still listed as Matron of the Training School, and Miss Alice Brown (49) is the schoolmistress. Miss Drake continued as Matron until 1904. In Kelly’s Directory, Miss Cooke is listed as Matron in 1905; Miss Waghorne from 1907 to 1912; Miss Brown from 1913 to 1918; and Miss MacMillan from 1919 to at least 1923. (After that date, directories do not give the name of the Matron.)

The 1911 shows Miss Edith Mary Waghorne (37), the housekeeper and instructress, and Miss Alice Brown (59), the governess, living at “Headington Hill School” with eleven girls. The occupation of those aged between 10 and 13 is given as “school”, and of those between 13 and 15 as “school & training for domestic service”.

Girls at the training school for servants in 1913

The training school continued to operate until the second world war, and is marked as such on the 1939 OS map of Headington below. It was latterly known as Mrs Herbert Morrell’s Training School for Servants.

South side of Headington Hill in 1939

(3) 1941–c.1947: Remand home for girls

The the 1940s the present North and South House appear to have been used as a remand home for girls, but it is not listed in Kelly's Directory

The old laundry off Gipsy Lane was probably demolished around this time , and the Oxford College of Technology was later built on part of its site, which was adjacent to Gipsy Lane.

(4) 1949–present: Two private houses called North and South House

In the 1840s the former training school reverted to being two private houses, which were named North and South House.

In 1949 Bernard C. Foster is listed as living in North House, but there is no listing for South House until 1954, when Michael F. Young became Foster's next-door neighbour.

© Stephanie Jenkins

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