Thursday, 31 May 2012

Oxford Arms

The Oxford arms was one of London's many seventeenth Century galleried coaching inns. Its demolition in 1876 was as controversial as the demolition of the Euston arch some 85 years later. Like the arch it resulted in a change of public opinion as people finally came to valve historically important buildings. The Inn was one such building. It stood in a courtyard off Warwick Lane near Ludgate hill in the shadow of St Paul's cathedral. The area around it was devastated by fire in the great fire of London but the Inn was rebuilt afterwards bigger and better than before. Its  destruction in 1876 led to the Formation of Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings a year later in 1877 set up among others by William Morris. 

The building itself is a galleried Inn on three or four sides (There is no record showing west side of inn). The East side (shown on the 1875 image consists of three floors with attic windows. The north and South side are of similar design but with one less floor. On the east side the first and second floors have a gallery where when it was used as a inn people would have had a room. In the courtyard below there would have been a stable block and most likely a pub.

The Society of Photographing Relics of old London who took visual records of buildings under threat of demolition (to which we owe the few images of the Inn) tried to lobby the owners to prevent its destruction however they could not save it. The loss galvanised public opinion and became a land mark in the conservation movement. London's most famous coaching inn was redeveloped to be replaced  by warehouses. In reality the Inn could not have been saved, for many years it had been derelict and as can be seen on the photo it was in a dire state of disrepair. In the Victorian era it would not have found another use and would have probably continued to decay until finally being demolished years later. It also would have probably been lost in the Bombings of the Second World War if it had of survived since the whole district around St Paul's was badly damaged. The only one example of a galleried Inn which remains is the George Inn south of the river in Southwark. 

Its present day location is not known but by re-creating the view shown on the picture of 1875 the area in which it once stood can be traced. Note in the picture in the middle above from Google Earth the building in the foreground is not in the same position as the Oxford arms and as it is on the opposite side of the road. The location of this image is just behind Amen corner above the modern St Paul's house. Amen corner consists of a row of seventeenth century houses which I the Oxford arms once stood behind. On the picture of 1875 on the top right corner there are several chimney stacks which I believe to be part of the Seventeenth century row of houses which still remain today. The red circle on the image bottom above shows the approximate location of the former Oxford arms where the modern St Paul's house is today. 

left  an image showing the North east corner of the Inn


  1. Just discovered your blog and found it really interesting. I'll look forward to future posts!

  2. I had always assumed, and wrongly, that this towars the river from St. Pauls. Thanks for this, I can place it exactly now.

  3. You are not alone, I too assumed this until I did some research, it is probably a common misconception.

  4. The exact location is known and is shown on the 1875 OS map.


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