South Oxford Community Centre

Lake Street, Oxford, OX1 4RP 01865 242666

Twentieth-century development in South Oxford

Housing development on Norreys Avenue and Sunningwell Road was almost complete by 1914. The area had been given a boost in 1908 by the opening of Hinksey Halt, a small railway stop reached by a path from the northern end of Wytham Street. In June 1914, at a time of deep recession in the building trade, the City Council approved a plan by R Bartlett to lay out the field south of Sunningwell Road in 204 building plots, with roads named Lincoln, Monmouth, Northampton and Oswestry coming off an extension to Wytham Street. The outbreak of World War I postponed any progress on Bartlett's estate, and in 1917 the area was being used as allotments, but housing (much of it built by the firm TH Kingerlee) spread rapidly in the 1920s, helped by the development of motor bus services from the centre of Oxford out to the suburbs. Originally there was to be a crescent of houses - Chatham Crescent - coming off the western side of Wytham Street, on the section between Lincoln and Monmouth Roads, but this was never built. As a result the houses which are now on this section of Wytham Street have extremely long gardens.

There was further housing built at the southern end of the Abingdon Road, in the area known as Cold Harbour (or Arbour), in the 1920s. Here the City Council began to build council houses on and around Weirs Lane on land bought from University College. There were a few 19th-century cottages here already, some with paper roofs. Weirs Lane led originally to the Weirs paper mill and to a footbridge over the weirs on a loop of the river which rejoins the main Thames further south at Kennington. From 1897 there was a free punt ferry to take people across the river to Iffley. Much earlier there had been a ford crossing Weirs mill stream, lining up with the Roman road which came down Boars Hill and past where Red Bridge is now, on its way towards Alcester (see M Henig & P Booth, Roman Oxfordshire (Sutton, 2000)). In 1937 a high-arched concrete footbridge was built which, in 1962, was replaced by Donnington Bridge. This was the first road bridge to be constructed over the Thames in five centuries, and it allowed motor traffic to cross the river here for the first time. Hence Weirs Lane ceased to be a cul-de-sac.

South Oxford  Cold Harbour seamless OS 1938 fixed

This extract from the 1938 Ordnance Survey map (left) shows housing development south of New Hinksey and in Cold Harbour. None of these terraced houses existed when the previous Ordnance Survey map was drawn in 1921. Notice the Bowling Green at the western end of Sunningwell Road, which was laid out by the South Oxford Bowls Club in 1932. The City's Infectious Diseases Hospital can be seen in the bottom right-hand corner.

The Cold Harbour area was served by St Luke's church, which opened in 1933 as a mission hall under the patronage of St Matthew’s church on Marlborough Road.

In 1933-6 further council housing was built at the southern end of the Abingdon Road, where it curves south-westwards, to form the Glebe Estate, part of which is Bertie Place. In 1938 the South Oxford Baptist church opened on Wytham Street (though after the map left was drawn). In 1997 it was discovered that land around Bertie Place was contaminated and major work was carried out to remove and replace the top soil.

Wytham Street houses corner of Oswestry Road smaller

These houses at the southern end of Wytham Street, on the corner of Oswestry Road, do not appear on the 1938 map above and must therefore have been built after that date.

Most of the land on the western side of the Abingdon Road (apart from Hinksey Park) was built up by the eve of World War II. Meanwhile the eastern side of Abingdon Road has remained largely as farmland, allotments and college playing fields, mainly due to the ongoing problem of flooding.


Coronation party Chilswell Road 1953 William Willmott

A street party on Chilswell Road to celebrate the Coronation, June 1953. Image courtesy of William Willmott.

Weirs paper mill shown (left) on an extract from the 1900 Ordnance Survey map and (right) in a painting of unknown date.
Painting copyright John Burbank, and reproduced with his permission. There is another painting of the mill here.
(Click on either image to close)

[Cold Harbour OS 1900 Weirs mill highlighted] [Towles paper mill Cold Harbour Weirs Mill Stream]

The free ferry footbridge over the Thames at the end of Weirs Lane in 1961, just as work was starting on the Donnington road bridge.
Image from Carole Newbigging, The Changing Faces of South Oxford and South Hinksey, Book 3 (Robert Boyd Publications, 2003). (Click image to close)

[Donnington free ferry footbridge 1961]

Looking north along the the Abingdon Road during floods in 1905.
Photograph by Henry Taunt, image © Oxfordshire County Council, Oxfordshire History Centre, ref: HT6798. (Click image to close)

[Abingdon Road flooded 1905 Taunt]

On 17 February 1926 the Oxford Journal Illustrated reported the replacement of the "unstable" wooden bridge with a new iron one, "A development much appreciated by users of the footpath from the Abingdon Road to the Free Ferry". (Click image to close)

[Footbridge from Abingdon Rd to Free Ferry rebuilt OJI 2017-02-1926]

Proposed layout of the Abingdon Road Estate in 1910, showing Chatham Crescent, which was never built.
Image © Oxford City Council, Town Hall archives, estate plans ref: 8508. (Click image to close)

[Abingdon Road Estate]" height="817" width="810" />