Posted - January 15, 2013
Until 1840 Nelson Street was little more than a muddy track.
At that point it was known as New College Lane, cut off from direct access to Walton Street by the wall of Smith’s Close (see entry for Richmond Road). The Ward family had bought the marshy land along the canal when Walton Manor farm was sold and in 1829 Henry Ward, a coal merchant, built his wharf on the canal at the end of the lane. From here the coal carts came up by Wellington Street and High Street, as Great Clarendon Street was then called, to Walton Street. Henry Ward also owned the Lord Nelson public house at the east end of the lane until 1830. Its isolated position and name suggest it was built before the turn of the century to serve the bargees working the canal.
The first building plots, opposite the Lord Nelson, were put up for sale in 1840 and the first houses built with rubble from the buildings demolished to clear the site for the Martyrs’ Memorial at the bottom end of St. Giles. Further building was delayed by the waterlogged nature of the ground. Until 1849 open drains bringing the sewage from the Radcliffe Infirmary and overspill of the cesspits of Jericho discharged into this area. Flooding was also a chronic threat until the land was drained, so that it was not until the 1860s that building resumed.
By the 1860s the building trade had become the largest employer of labour in Jericho of both skilled and unskilled men, a change reflected in the renaming of the Lord Nelson as the Carpenters’ Arms and in the coal wharf becoming a stone mason’s yard. In 1876 the wall of Smith’s Close was demolished and Walton Crescent and Richmond Road extended to join Nelson Street and Albert Street. Direct access to Walton Street was now possible, a greater accessibility resulting in the Revd. Henry Baseley from Brasenose College building in the street a Presbyterian chapel for his students in 1879. On his death in 1883 the Quakers moved in to the premises for a short time but sold it to St. Barnabas for use as a parish hall in 1887. At about the same time Worcester College agreed to open a gate in its boundary wall to allow Jericho residents access from Nelson Street during the long vacation. The children were allowed to play in the college grounds under the supervision of pensioners.
After the 1939-45 war the chapel became a store for the University Press for some years and was eventually demolished. The stone mason’s yard at the end of the road became a Council depot when the canal was closed to commercial traffic in 1956. Most of the houses in Jericho have been bought by outsiders and, as new school playgrounds have become available, the gate into Worcester College grounds is no longer opened.
Information from the Jericho Sketchbook