Headington history: Windmill Road

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Dring’s Coaches, Windmill Road

Dring's Coaches

Dring’s Carriers, later Dring’s Coaches (originally horse-drawn, and later motorized) occupied the north-west end of Windmill Road from about 1907 to 1965. The large stable/garage was right out on the road (see above), and the family lived at No. 2 Windmill Road, which was in behind. They later also occupied No. 4, the detached house to the south. In the 1960s Nos. 2 & 4 and the garage were demolished to make way for Simon House.

Alfred Charles Dring was born in Charlbury in about 1881, the son of a labourer. By the time of the 1901 census, when he was only 20, he was already a carrier working on his own account and boarding in Church Lane, Old Headington with the widow Fanny Cooper. Within a year or so, he had married his Headington-born wife Edith Honey, and in about 1908 they moved to a new house and premises in Windmill Road.

Alfred Dring is first listed in directories as a carrier in Windmill Road in 1909, and the 1911 census describes him more specifically as a Market Carrier, which probably means he took the produce from West’s and Mattock’s Nurseries in Windmill Road down to their respective stalls in Oxford market. The above picture, however, shows that from the start he also took local Headington people on outings, and he also carried laundry.

Dring’s advertising card of 1910 showed that the horse-drawn coach the Rocket did four trips a day to Carfax, leaving Headington at the following times:

  • 10.30 am (returning at 12.30pm)
  • 2.30pm (returning at 4.30pm)
  • 5.30pm (returning at 6.30pm)
  • Saturdays only: 8pm (returning at 8.30pm)

The 1911 census shows Alfred Charles Dring (30) and his wife Edith (32) living at 2 Windmill Road with their two surviving children: Edith (6) and Alfred Edward (3), both born in Headington. (Their daughter Clara had died at the age of six weeks and was buried at Headington Cemetery on 2 April 1907.) Alfred had been baptised at St Andrew’s Church in Old Headington on 5 April 1908, and their fourth child, Walter Edward Dring, was baptised at All Saints Church on 16 April 1916. Edie and Alfred are the children standing at the front with their father in the straw hat in the above picture.

Windmill Road garage

From 1925 the business is listed in directories as “A. Dring & Sons, carriers, Windmill Road”, showing that Alfred’s two sons had joined him in the business. In 1933 they are for the first time described as “motor coach proprietors”. By 1938, Alfred Charles Dring was living at 2 Windmill Road, and his son Alfred Edward Dring next door at No. 4.

Alfred Dring senior died in 1947, and Alfred junior moved to No. 2 and his brother Walter Edward Dring was at No. 4. By 1956 they listed their business as “Dring’s of Oxford (A. C. & W. E. Dring, proprietors)”. The business closed in about 1965, and the site was empty at the time of Kelly’s Directory for 1966. By 1967 the row of shops known as Simon House had been built on the site of 2 & 4 Windmill Road.

Plans were approved in 2008 for “Demolition of the existing building and erection of new three storey building providing 2x B1 units on the ground floor, 2x 2 bedroom flats, 1x1 bedroom flat and 1x 3 bedroom flat with amenity courtyard” at the Old Bus Garage, 2 Windmill Road (08/01282/FUL). This permission was renewed in 2011 (11/01582/EXT).

The site was acquired by Keble Homes in August 2014.

See also Christine Bloxham & Susanne Shatford, The Changing Faces of Headington:

  • Book 1: p. 72 (same picture as above of the Rocket at the top of Windmill Road) and p. 85 (picture of Alfred Dring on a coach with two horses about to take a group from the Six Bells in Quarry on an outing
  • Book 2, p. 26 (Alfred Dring with his taxi, c.1940) and pp. 85–8 (gallery of photographs of the family and the business)

© Stephanie Jenkins

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