Posted - January 15, 2013
Wellington Street was originally known as New College Lane.
Wellington Street was not so named until 1862-3. Before that date, like Nelson Street before 1841, it was known as New College Lane. As the section of road west of Albert Street was not built up until the 1860s it can hardly be a case of mistaken identification that the name was transferred to an adjacent road. So it must have been applied to the eastern end of the street near the University Press where the carts from the wharves on Nelson Street turned to get to Great Clarendon Street and Walton Street because the wall of Smith’s Close still blocked its eastern end, and therefore the way to Walton Street south of the University Press. All this suggests that New College Lane pre-dated the building of the University Press. Moreover in the 1820s an open sewer ran along the north side of Wellington Street to discharge into Ward’s fields near Nelson Street.
The evidence is tenuous, but are we looking at fragments of the old rural landscape before it was built over with houses? Did the lane and sewer once flow through the site of the University Press, or did they mark the boundary of the field sold to the Delegates? There is no record of where the sewer originated; was it cut to carry the discharge from the printing works or was it a natural stream which once flowed across the fields to the Castle Mill stream? The geometrical alignment of the present streets obliterated all natural features and is obviously unrelated to them, and it is difficult to see how these two streets once had the same name unless they both lay along the approximate alignment of an old lane crossing the fields diagonally.
The origin of the western end of Wellington Street is much clearer. We have a record of one Thomas Baker, a builder from Walton Street, who bought a plot of land between Great Clarendon Street and Wellington Street in 1865 on which he built 12 houses, six facing one way and six the other. Two facing Wellington Street sold for £250 each, £10 less than Baker got for the two on Great Clarendon Street. Two were sold, one to a widow and one to a spinster and the remaining pairs were sold by his building society in 1868 after he had defaulted on his loan. It is noticeable that all these houses west of Albert Street have a couple of steps up to the ground floor to raise them above the floods which continued to bedevil the area.
A number of houses in this location needed extensive renovation in the 1970s; some had to be demolished. By 1966 part of the south side had been cleared to make way for the extension of the University Press and where the Council had cleared condemned houses, new ones were built in a compatible style though lacking in authentic detail.
Information taken from the Jericho Sketchbook