Headington history: Streets

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Kennett Road (formerly New Road)

Kennett Road area in 1899

Kennett Road, as the sign at the south end of the street still indicates, was originally known as New Road. The name was appropriate: despite being situated on land in the very heart of New Headington village, the road was not laid out until the mid-1920s, 75 years after the other village streets. There is a simple explanation for this: when back in 1848 the Latimer family of Old Headington sold 22 acres of their land to William Mead Warner of Banbury, the man who developed the new village, they retained a field bordered by London Road to the north, Bateman Street to the south, Windmill Road to the east, and the back gardens of New High Street to the west.

In 1878 the Revd William Banting bought this field from the Revd William Latimer.

The 1899 Ordance Survey map (right) shows the field virtually untouched.

Kennett Road 1921

Building on this field began in around 1908, with a row of houses along the London Road to the north and Nos. 2–58 Windmill Road to the east, as shown on the 1921 Ordnance Survey map (left).

The short stub of road near the top was simply the rear access for the big houses facing the London Road. After 1908 the main vehicular entrance to what was left of the market garden was from Windmill Road (where No. 34A is now).  There was a footpath running down to Bateman Street towards the west of the field, and the map shows glasshouses here.

The old apple trees in many of the back gardens of Kennett Road bear witness to the fact that this central (almost enclosed) area remained a market garden/orchard well into this century.

On 4 March 1924 Arthur Edward Vallis (the builder at 61 Windmill Road and the forerunner of Blanchford's) bought the field from William and George Preston Banting. He laid out Kennett Road and started selling off plots to individual builders: for instance, on 1 October 1926 the plots for Nos. 39 and 41 were sold to Harold William Jacobs, a builder from Barton, at £150 for the pair. The Kennett Road houses were to be of good quality: a minimum of £250 per house was to be spent on labour and materials. No alcohol was to be sold from any house, nor any “noisome or dangerous trade” allowed.

It was agreed that Arthur Edward Vallis would:

before the thirty first day of July One thousand nine hundred and twenty seven at his own expense properly sewer level metal kerb channel and make the new road called “New Road” and that on completion of the said works the liability of the said Arthur Edward Vallis in respect of the same or for the condition maintenance and repair thereof or otherwise in respect thereto shall absolutely cease and determine.

Kennett Road was built in the second half of the 1920s, except for Nos. 4 and 6 at the north-west end, which were built by the mid-1930s.

At first the houses only had names: for example Lulworth (13), Malvern (15), Camcor (35), Chilton (51), Hilbre (55), Aynho Villa (57), Glenada (20), Carnbrea (34), Vancouver (52), Ranikhit (54), and Kinsey (60). The road was numbered in 1928, but a few names can still be seen, e.g. St Budeaux (12) and Cartref (30).

Originally, Kennett Road had two corner shops at the south end (see details below). Other commercial activity in the 1920s and 1930s included a printer at No. 14, a tailor at No. 28, and a music teacher at No. 58.

From 1934 to 1937 the physicist Heinrich Gerhard Kuhn lived at 8 Kennett Road after leaving Germany (see Oxford Dictionary of National Biography).

Britain from Above: View of Kennett Road in 1948
(Register and log in to enlarge the image)

To avoid confusion with New Road in the centre of Oxford, the road name was changed in 1959 (at the same time as many other Headington streets) to Kennett Road, after a fifteenth-century local quarryman.

In the 1950s No. 11 Kennett Road was built across the space allocated for Nos. 9 and 11 (which had been left as the back entrance to this grocer's shop at 8 Windmill Road). In 1987 planning permission 87/00531/NF was granted to convert this house into three self-contained flats.

In 1957 planning permission 57/60172/A_H was granted to build 16 Bateman Street on the land adjoining 62 Kennett Road.

Planning permission (71/24332/AA_H) was granted in 1971 for a new house to be built between Nos. 38 and 44 Kennett Road (on the site of two derelict garages where children in the street used to play), and this is now numbered 40.

Around this time Kennett Road became a one-way street, running up to the London Road.

Planning permission 83/00107/NO was granted in 1983 for a new house in the long vegetable plot to the south of 43 Kennett Road, and the result was 45 Kennett Road, the last house built in the road. This is not the newest house, however, as 53 Kennett Road was demolished in 2011, and Oxford’s first passive house was built on the site.

A residents' association was formed in the area in 1983 (originally called the Quarry Field Residents' Association and later renamed the New Headington Residents' Association) to ameliorate the traffic problems in Bateman Street and Kennett Road. Traffic used to cut through Bateman Street and Kennett Road to avoid the Windmill Road traffic lights; and the entire length of Kennett Road was then one-way, which meant that to get to the loading bays of the London Road shops, lorries had to travel down New High Street, along Bateman Street, and back up Kennett Road. The Association conducted a traffic survey, and as a result the council erected the present barrier in Bateman Street and made the top section of Kennett Road two-way.

In 1995 planning permission was granted for a payphone to be sited at the top of Kennett Road.

The expansion of Oxford Brookes University means that Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs) are now appearing in Kennett Road. Nos. 5, 6, 17, 48, and 50 were automatically granted C4 planning permission when the new city council rules were adopted on 6 April 2010. Since then No. 5 was granted C4 permission in 2015, and No. 23 in 2016. Other houses such as Nos. 11 and 62 have been subdivided into flats.

Map of Kennett Road (then New Road) in 1939

Below is an Ordnance Survey map showing Kennett Road in 1939, with 55 houses. The house numbers as they were then (and still are now) have been marked in red. Three new houses (11 and 45 to the east, and 40 to the west) were built subsequently. There is and never has been a No. 2, 9, 42, or 47. There is a letter box marked L.B. outside No. 62, which was then still a shop.

Kennett Road in 1939

The two corner shops at the south end of Kennett Road

(1) South-east corner (No. 59)

This shop is first listed in Kelly's Directory for 1928, when Harry Brockland had a grocer's shop here. He was still there in 1930. By 1935 the grocer was Francis B. Harris, who remained until 1938, and in 1941 Philip T. Powell.

The grocer between 1943 and 1945 was John Henry Smith, and from 1947 to 1954 Arthur E. Willatts.

Donald Garner was the grocer here from 1956 to at least 1976, with Robert C. Janes also listed between 1966 and 1968 and V. I. Janes between 1970 and 1976. By 1980 the grocer here was Rodney Janes. The shop closed in about 1982 and is now a private house.

(2) South-west corner (No. 62)

This shop is also first listed in Kelly's Directory for 1928, when Charles Ernest Scivyer was a bootmaker and his wife Louisa Scivyer a draper here. Charles died on 15 November 1934 at the age of 54, but both he and his wife continued to be listed in Kelly's Directory until 1936. Louisa died in Oxford at the age of 87 in 1964 and was buried with her husband Headington Cemetery.

From 1938 to 1941 James Clifford Parker was listed as the shopkeeper here. He died that year at the age of 39, and Mrs Parker lived here privately from 1943 to 1947.

It never reopened as a shop. Henry J. Bruder lived here in 1949, and Christopher James Creed from 1952 to 1956. By 1958 it had been rebuilt as two flats, numbered 62A and 62B.

The two parking bays at the top of Kennett Road

These were formerly the back gardens of fine houses on the London Road.

(1) West side (98–106 London Road)

From 1908 to 1961 there was a large house (below) facing the London Road at the north-west end of Kennett Road, and its garden was where the Sainsbury delivery bay is now. It was built for Dr Hitchings, who, along with the Vicar of St Andrew’s Church, had founded Headington (now Oxford) United in 1893.

Hitchings house

In November 1961 planning permission was granted to the Oak Property Company Ltd to replace this house and garden with a three-storey block of five shops and six maisonettes above (61/11497/A_H). The beautiful garden of Dr Hitchings became a delivery bay.

The first five occupants had moved in by 1966: Fine Fare Supermarket was at No. 98 to the right, then came Sketchley Dry Cleaners Ltd, Parslows Bakers, Reeve's wallpapers, and the Southern Gas Board on the corner.

In 2017 the five occupants were Sainsbury, Holland & Barrett, the Card Factory, Headington Fairtrade, and Up & Running.

(2) East side: Kennett House, 108–110 London Road

From about 1915 to the mid-1960s this area was the back garden of two grand houses on the London Road, shown on the right in the photograph below. (The house with the twin gables to the east of them has survived and is now Savers and a charity shop.)

Houses on Iceland site

The detail below taken from a postcard dating from the early 1950s shows on the right the top of Kennett Road (labelled NEW ROAD).

Iceland site in the 1950s

In 1963 planning permission 63/12893/A was granted for a supermarket, two shops, and a bank with offices over car park on the site of these two large villas, and once again a delivery bay replaced a garden facing Kennett Road.

By 1966 the ground floor was occupied by Midland Bank Ltd on the corner, then British Road Services and Visionhire televisions, and on the left the Elmo supermarket.

In 2017 the occupants were the HSBC Bank on the right, then two charity shops, and Iceland.

The freehold of Kennett House was sold to Clerkenwell Properties for £2,500,000 on 3 December 2012 at an Allsop auction (title ON7396). (The longest remaining lease is that of Bejam, which underlets its shop to Iceland: this 63-year lease dating from Christmas Day 1963 does not revert until 2026.)

In 2015 the city council granted prior approval to Clerkenwell Properties Ltd for change of use from offices to flats (15/00189/B56) for the upper two storeys, which are accessed from Kennett Road. Work started in October that year and was completed in June 2016. These twelve flats are excluded from eligibility for residents' parking permits.

© Stephanie Jenkins

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