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Pullen’s Lane: Torbrex (later Pullen’s End)


Pullens End

Pullen’s End, as its name implies, stands at the end of Pullen’s Lane, on the east side where it merges into Jack Straw’s Lane. It is a large red-brick house with an imposing tower set well back from the road in 1.7 acres of grounds. It was known as Torbrex until 1930.

Torbrex in 1899

The Oxford Chronicle for 11 October 1884 (p. 7f) reported:

On Headington Hill, to the left of Joe Pullen’s tree, a large villa has been erected for the Rev. J. [sic] Henderson.

Right: Extract from 1899 map of Headington, showing Torbrex


From 1884 to the 1920s:
Patrick Arkley Henderson, later Wright-Henderson, and his wife Ann

This house was built in 1883/4 for Patrick Arkley Henderson, then a Fellow and from 1903 the Warden of Wadham College, and his initials and those of his wife Ann, together with the date 1883, can be seen in its porch. He was born in Stirling in Scotland in 1841, and presumably named the house Torbrex after his home area.

Henderson was elected a Fellow of Wadham College in 1867. He and his wife Ann Wood had been living at 6 Norham Gardens since 1870, and while there they had five children baptised at St Giles’ Church: Annie Gray Henderson (September 1871); Hamilton Frances Henderson (December 1872); Robert William Henderson (June 1874); John Ogilvy Henderson (July 1875). and Lilian Janet Henderson (April 1880).

The 1891 census shows Henderson at the age of 50 living in Torbrex with his wife Ann and his 11-year-old daughter Lilian; presumably the other children were away at school. The family had four servants (a ladies-maid, cook, table-maid, and a housemaid, all Scottish-born).

Charles Dodgson (Lewis Carroll) appears to have been a visitor to this house, as on 8 May 1896 wrote in his diary: “Took Violet, Beatrice, and Gladys [his nieces] for a walk – up Headington Hill, and to call on the Hendersons: but they are still away.”

By 1897 Henderson had changed his surname to Wright-Henderson, and in addition to holding the posts of Chaplain and Fellow & Tutor in Divinity, was also Sub-Warden of Wadham College. At the time of the 1901 census the house was left in the charge of the cook and parlourmaid.

In 1903 Wright-Henderson was elected Warden of Wadham College, and must have moved into the Warden's Lodgings, as Torbrex was let out. In Kelly’s Director for 1905 and 1907 Major William Herbert Nicol is listed there.

Chichester A. Bell is listed there from 1909 to 1920.

Henderson resigned as Warden of Wadham at the end of 1913. He died in 1922, and was buried in Headington Cemetery.

The house was occupied by A. J. Marriott from 1920 to 1928.


From 1930 to c.1980
Francis Edward Maitland and his wife Joan

Francis Edward Maitland, another Scot, was the next owner. Born in Broughy Ferry near Dundee in 1874, at the time of the 1911 census he was the manager of the London Office of a linen and jute manufacturer.

He changed the name of the house from Torbrex to Pullen’s End when he bought the house in 1930.

On 9 July 1945 when he was over 70, he married Joan Tempé Ryder (born 1902) of Lathbury Road at St Andrew's Church in north Oxford

Maitland died on 26 December 1963 and his widow Joan (listed simply as “J. T. Maitland” continued to live there until 1980, letting out the servants’ quarters and the first floor of the house (which was closed off from the ground floor by a partition at the top of the grand staircase) to a long line of students. One of those students writes: “It was wonderful, as an impoverished student in the early seventies, to enjoy such splendour. Fully furnished we paid £15 per week … even then Mrs Maitland was seriously concerned that we might be struggling to meet this huge cost!”

She sold the house in c.1980.


Since 1980

The historian James Howard-Johnston and his wife, the novelist Angela Huth, lived at Pullen’s End from 1980 to 2006, and Princess Margaret used to visit them there.

In 2006 the Church of England planned to buy the house for £2.5 million for the Bishop of Oxford, but the deal fell through because a covenant prevented offices from being built in its garden, and it remained in private ownership:

Ten years later in May 2016 the house was put up for sale again, by John D. Wood, with the asking price doubled to £5 million.

Pullens End from lane
View of Pullens End from Pullens Lane

© Stephanie Jenkins

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