South Oxford Community Centre

Lake Street, Oxford, OX1 4RP 01865 242666

Industries, businesses and shops

[Harris  Son oar  scull works Jubilee Terrace Changing Faces book 1]

Harris & Son's oar and scull works at 2 Jubilee Terrace. Image from Carole Newbigging, The Changing Faces of South Oxford and South Hinksey, Book 1 (Robert Boyd Publications, 1998).

There were several industrial premises in South Oxford which employed local people as well as those from outside the area. These included Salter's Steamers, the St Ebbe's gasworks and the city waterworks at Lake Street. As well as Salter's, there were other boat-builders including George Harris & Son, established in the 1880s. Their offices were in what had been the Folly Bridge tollhouse and their oar and scull works (left) were at 2 Jubilee Terrace. The firm also sold secondhand boats and equipment, housed and varnished boats, and hired out punts from Folly Bridge, as shown in this advertisement of 1928.

There were several wharves along both banks of the river, between Cobden Crescent and the gasworks. On the southern side was Basson’s Baltic Timber Wharf which was run by the timber merchant Tom Basson (1861-1930). Scandinavian timber (mostly pine) was brought here by boat from the London docks: this was a period when many new houses were being built locally and there was a great demand for timber for joists, floors, doors, window frames and so on. Basson also had a yard on the site which is now occupied by Pembroke College’s Sir Geoffrey Arthur Building and a steam-driven saw mill and joinery on St Aldates.

On the night of 20 November 1913 Basson's timber yard suffered a dramatic fire, believed to have been started by the suffragettes, in which over 1,000 tons of wood were destroyed.

Basson's Wharf is now the site of the Baltic Wharf housing development.

[Cobden Crescent Norths mineral water factory smaller]

North's Mineral Works on Cobden Crescent. Image from Views and Reviews: Oxford, WT Pike & Co, 1897, courtesy of Oxfordshire County Council, Oxfordshire History Centre.

On the corner of Cobden Crescent and Buckingham Street, overlooking the river, was North's Mineral Works (left), established in 1896. The proprietor was WJI North, whose family had been connected with the trade for three generations. North's brewed'Non-alcoholic Hop Bitter Beer & Stout, Pure Home Brewed Ginger Beer, Non-Alcoholic Wines, Cordials, Fruit Syrup and Mineral Water.' The demand for non-alcoholic beverages was encouraged by the growing Temperance movement, and mineral water manufacturers in particular were surprisingly common in Oxford. North's factory (left) was reported as being 'the most complete and modernly equipped of its kind in the city, or for many miles round. The building is of solid two-storeyed construction, and is a striking feature on the 'Up the River' side of Folly Bridge. It has an inclined concrete floor, and the drainage and sanitary arrangements may be regarded as the most perfect of their kind. The factory is supplied with a steam plant of the most recent pattern, capable of output of over 1,000 dozens of bottles per day of mineral waters.' [Views and Reviews: Oxford, WT Pike & Co, 1897]. In the 1960s the building was used as a Coca Cola factory. It was demolished in 1970 and replaced with a block of flats on the same footprint. Here is a picture of a North's ginger beer bottle, taken by local resident Anne Lyons, in front of the flats.

Nearby, furniture makers The Oxford Cabinet Co had their premises at 40a Marlborough Road in the 1930s. The building has since been demolished and flats built on the site, around what was the company's yard.

[Varsity Works Wytham Street 1993 Changinf Faces Bk 2]

The Varsity Works on Wytham Street, shortly before demolition in 1993. Image from Carole Newbigging, The Changing Faces of South Oxford and South Hinksey, Book 2 (Robert Boyd Publications, 1999).

South Oxford's other main industrial site was the Varsity Works on Wytham Street. The works were built as a glove factory but were requisitioned during the Second World War to produce electrical parts for military vehicles operated by the Goodrich Company. Later the building was used for manufacturing ice cream by the Haines family (see below) before becoming H&E Engineering, a heating and electrical contractor. The works were demolished in 1993 and flats built on the site, which is now called Varsity Place.

[186 Marlborough Road smaller]

The window of JA Hancox's Handy Stores at 186 Marlborough Road in about 1922. Image courtesy of Keith Palmer.

As well as the industries described above, there were lots of smaller businesses and shops in Grandpont, South Oxford and Cold Harbour. Miss Brenda Horwood, who lived on Marlborough Road from the age of six until her death in 2014 at 92, remembers there being 16 shops in Grandpont when she was a child. The Grandpont Steam Laundry was at 42 Marlborough Road and there was a general shop and Post Office at 66. In the 1930s this was run by Cyril Taylor. At 120 Marlborough Road was the premises of Frederick Gibbs, wholesale confectioner, who also had branches at 104 Cowley Road, 45 St Ebbe's, 87 St Aldates, 57 St Giles, and in the Covered Market. The building was known as the Old Toffee Factory until its conversion into flats in 2004.

At 186 Marlborough Road was JA Hancox's Handy Stores (left). See more photos and read a description of the shop by Joe Hancox's grandson Keith Palmer. The shop later became Bowell's the grocer's. There was another general shop at 208 Marlborough Road.
[Charlie Crapper from Changing faces bk1 cropped]

Charlie Crapper outside his yard on Marlborough Road. Image from Carole Newbigging, The Changing Faces of South Oxford and South Hinksey, Book 1 (Robert Boyd Publications, 1998).

On the eastern side of Marlborough Road, just north of St Matthew's church, Charlie Crapper (left) had a grocer’s shop and coal merchant’s yard. Next to the shop (at 59 Western Road) he had the Grandpont Bakery. Local people would buy dough from the bakery, take it home to knead into a loaf, or to add fruit for a lardy cake, and then take it back in a tin to be baked in the bakery's ovens. When Charlie Crapper died in 1937 the bakery was taken over by a former employee, Mr Backs. Part of the bakery premises was leased in 1948 by Arthur Carter who established the Grandpont Creamery, making and selling ice cream to locals, around the villages of Oxfordshire and at St Giles' Fair. Crapper’s yard was sold in 1992 to St Matthew's church for the building of St Matthew’s Parish Centre.

At Eastwyke Farm was the Alden's the butchers, and another branch of the family had Alden Motors, a second-hand car dealership and garage, at 60 Lake Street.

After the First World War James Haines (1868-1950) lived with his wife and seven children at 69 Norreys Avenue. He had a horse and cart from which he sold fish and chips. In the late 1920s his son Bert bought a shop on the corner of Abingdon Road and Lincoln Road, and established a fish and chips shop there, which is still going strong as the Mediterranean Fish Bar. He and his wife Lilian lived in the flat above. Two other sons, Bernard and Reg, made ice cream at Norrey's Avenue.

[Haines fruit  ice cream van from Changing Faces bk1 cropped]

Haines' fruit and ice cream van in the 1930s. Its driver Bert Haines named it 'Little Plum'. Image from Carole Newbigging, The Changing Faces of South Oxford and South Hinksey, Book 1 (Robert Boyd Publications, 1998).

After Reg's marriage the brothers continued to make ice cream at Reg's house in Wytham Street, and to sell this, together with fruit, from mobile vans (right). During the Second World War, American soldiers would bring tinned fruit which the Haines would add to the ice cream and then sell it back to them. Reg carried on selling from his mobile shop until he retired. Meanwhile Bert continued the family tradition of making ice cream at the rear of the chip shop, later moving to the Varsity Works on Wytham Street (see above).  The brothers' sister Sadie married Arthur Carter and he worked with Bert making ice cream. In the late 1940s Arthur rented a property next to St Matthew's church - the Grandpont Creamery (see above) - and continued making ice cream from there.

Much later, this Haines ice cream sign was found by the new owners when they moved into 87 Sunningwell Road.

Post Office Sunningwell Road Victoria cartouche

There were numerous shops and businesses on the Abingdon Road, including at 258 (on the corner of Sunningwell Road) a general store and Post Office which was run in the 1960s and '70s by the Bayliss family. This attractive cartouche of Queen Victoria (left) is high up on the southern wall of the building. More recently a memorial to Princess Diana has been added on the eastern wall. At 292 Abingdon Road, on the corner of Northampton Road (where the Skoda Garage is now) was Rainbows Removals and Storage Contractors, who had a fleet of lorries.

Further along the Abingdon Road, where it bends around to the west, was the Redbridge Garage, which was where Go Outdoors is now. The garage repaired vehicles and sold petrol, and traded from the 1920s until 1970. The site was then bought by George Clare, who transformed the former garage buildings into a camping supermarket, Touchwoods (named after the bungalow in Harwell from which he had previously run a mail-order camping equipment business). In 1980-1 the waste ground at the back of the shop was developed as a touring caravan park. Opposite this site is a now derelict shop with a large front window, built in the 1930s or 1940s by butcher John Revell (who lived on the Abingdon Road and whose family had run the Farriers Arms pub).  Later it was a cycle repair shop. Further along to the west, on the opposite side of the road, was a dairy run by farmer Andrew Turner who kept his cows in the field behind the Red Bridge Garage. He and his wife lived in the adjacent Paisley House, which was made of paper. Here Don Bennett recalls Mr Turner and his dairy business. The dairy is still there, now trading as Dairy Crest.


Read about the history of Oxford shops and shopping in:

A car passes what was Alfred Revell's butcher's shop, later a cycle repair shop, at the southern end of Abingdon Road in 1981. Opposite was Touchwoods Sports; the two buildings to the left are Red Cottage (sideways on to the road) and The Haven.
Image from Carole Newbigging, The Changing Faces of South Oxford and South Hinksey, Book 3 (Robert Boyd Publications, 2003). (Click on image to close)

[Red Cottage Redbridge 1981 cropped]

An advertisement for North's Grandpont Works. Image courtesy of Simon Somerscales. (Click on image to close)

[Norths Mineral Works sign]

Sign found at 87 Sunningwell Road by the new owners. Image courtesy of Paul and Wendy Spray. (Click on image to close)

[Haines ice cream sign 87 Sunningwell Road Paul Spray Oct 2019]