Headington history: Streets

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Gardiner Street (formerly South Street)

Gardiner Street was originally known as South Road or Street, which was a description of its position in New Headington village rather than a real name.

Despite being laid out as early as the 1850s, the 1876 OS map (below) shows only four houses there, all on the west side. Iimmediately south of Windsor Street are the present Nos. 2 and 4A, and half-way between Piper Street and Wilberforce Street is another pair of houses called Shotover Prospect which no longer exist.

Gardiner Street in 1876

Even by the time of the 1898 map there were only six houses altogether, the new ones being a second pair just north of Piper Street (Nos. 6 and 8), a large detached house opposite Windsor Street (No. 3A), and a house surrounded by a sizeable market garden opposite Piper Street (No. 17, "Villa Lugano"). This market garden survived until the 1920s.

The main development of Gardiner Street took place in the twentieth century: the 1921 OS map shows ten additional houses: Nos. 1, 11, 13, 15, and 25–35 inclusive. By 1930, another eight had been built: Nos. 5, 7, 9, and – in the former market garden – 19, 19A and 19B (Nortonbury and Lilymead), 21 and 23. All these houses are shown on the 1939 map below.

1939 map of Gardiner Street

In 1959, Oxford street names were rationalized to avoid duplication, and – as usual – it was the Headington name that had to change. South Street became Gardiner Street, to avoid confusion with South Street in Osney. The name was suggested by local residents to commemorate the Gardiners, a prolific New Headington family.

Who were the Gardiner family?

The Gardiner family originated from Old Headington, where they had lived since at least the beginning of the eighteenth century. The sole patriarch of the large New Headington branch was Charles Gardiner, born in Old Headington in about 1826. On 2 March 1851 he married Eliza Jones in St Andrew's Church: neither of them was able to sign the marriage register. Three years before, as a single girl of 18, Eliza had given birth to a son, John Jones, in Headington Workhouse; and three months after the wedding her next son, George Gardiner, was baptised in St Andrew's Church. The couple began their married life in the hamlet of Barton, moved to Quarry, and then in about 1858 finally settled in Wilberforce Street with their family of five children (which over the next decade increased to ten). Charles Gardiner worked as a farm labourer at Highfield Farm (of which only the farmhouse now survives, at 23 Highfield Avenue). All seven of his sons became labourers at an early age: the 1861 census shows John Jones Gardiner already working at the age of 13. As with most labouring families in New Headington, money was short, and an entry in the log-book of the National School on the London Road (now St Andrew's First School) for 3 April 1865 briefly explains the absence of one of the three daughters, then aged 10, with the statement: "Ellen Gardiner no shoes." In 1884 Charles Gardiner's mother died in Headington Workhouse at the age of 83, and three years later his wife died at the age of 57. The 1891 census shows just the youngest daughter, Martha (21), keeping house for her father and one remaining brother, Edward (24), in the house in Wilberforce Street.

A separate family, which spelt its name "Gardner", originally had no local roots, but also came to have strong associations with New Headington and Gardiner Street. Robert Gardner (born in Adderbury) and his wife Eliza (born in Bristol) lived in New High Street in 1881, and by 1891 had settled in 29 Bateman Street. Their sixth child, Arthur E. Gardner (born 1884/5) ran a coal merchant's business from 8 Gardiner Street from 1911 to 1921, and the business remained in the Gardner family until the late 1920s.

© Stephanie Jenkins

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