Jericho’s links with OUP

Jericho seen from OUP around 1890, with Wellington Street in the foreground.

Image: © Oxford University Press - reproduced by permission

A suburb grows around the Press

Posted - May 27, 2014

The establishment of the vocal and instrumental bands, the theatrical society, and the night school [by OUP from the middle of the 19th Century] greatly strengthened Press links with the local community. Free performances given at the Press and at the Town Hall were widely praised and helped to improve Jericho's image within Oxford. The boys were invited to feasts given by the Mayor for pupils at all the Oxford schools, and the sight of Press employees marching through the streets accompanied by banners, fifes, and drums became frequent.

Local tradesmen and craftsmen provided a huge range of goods and services to the Press, which frequently employed carpenters, smiths, chimney sweeps, glaziers, and gardeners; it also routinely bought lead, gas, coal, glue, paste, calico, flannel, leather, wood, cords, faggots, tools, and stationery.

The Press's closest links were with the inhabitants of Jericho, one of Oxford's earliest suburbs; it had grown around the Press since the Walton Street premises were built. Previously there had been a few waterside businesses and the Jericho Iron & Brass Foundry (later, Lucy's Ironworks) had been established in 1770, but the area was otherwise sparsely populated. During the early 1830s there were numerous advertisements in Jackson's Oxford Journal for homes and shops in Jericho, and these often mentioned the Press as a selling point: 'Free-hold dwelling house, in a good situation for business, near the New Printing Office, Jericho; containing a spacious double-fronted shop, with parlour behind; large dining and bed room on the first floor, two good bed chambers on the second floor, and large attic; a good kitchen and cellar in the basement, with front area, court yard, and other conveniences.'

By 1833 nearly 1,600 people lived in Jericho, many of them Press employees and their families: a community living and working together. Small businesses sprang up to provide goods and services for Jericho's inhabitants, including butchers, shoemakers, a barber, a tailor, a surgeon, and an apothecary. Jericho's geographical separation from the rest of Oxford, with the Press at its heart, enabled Combe to effect real change.

Jericho had been built quickly and to minimum standards—the earliest houses had shared privies and communal wash-houses; in the early years the area was a deplorable sump of poverty, disease, and destitution. A survey of sanitary conditions in Oxford in 1848 cited Jericho as a centre of disease, first visited by cholera in 1832 and often troubled by outbreaks of fever and diarrhoea. Employing miasmatic theory, the survey surmised that this resulted from the large open drains 'full of decomposing matters, with sluggish streams of the foulest kind'. The lack of an efficient sewerage system in the poorer parts of Oxford was exacerbated by infrequently cleaned cesspools, and by the location of bone- and slaughter-houses, pigsties, cowsheds, and manure repositories in residential areas. Later residents recalled a tallow factory at the end of Canal Street, 'which all agreed smelt to high heaven. The small boys liked it because you could get lots of maggots there with which to fish, but no one else did.'

It was not the living conditions in Jericho that primarily interested Combe, but the spiritual health of its inhabitants, though the two interacted: the Press's social and educational initiatives, which impinged on Jericho's large Press population, benefited the entire community. Some of Combe's paternalist projects were not targeted just at Press employees, but aimed to improve the lives of all the citizens of Jericho or Wolvercote. He donated large sums to St Paul's, where he was churchwarden and 'took a great interest in the village of Wolvercot [sic], and the rebuilding of the Parish Church was almost wholly the result of his spirit and liberality.' He also contributed £3,000 to build the Radcliffe Infirmary Chapel, which was designed by the architect Arthur Blomfield and consecrated in 1865. J

ericho expanded rapidly. By 1845 the population of St Thomas's Parish (which included most of Jericho) was 2,640, and by 1850 Jericho had reached more or less its current extent. St Paul's Church could no longer accommodate all those wishing to attend services, and an extra service had to be introduced at St Sepulchre's Cemetery Chapel for Press employees. This resulted in the grandest expression of Combe's religious beliefs, and of his efforts at moral and spiritual improvement: the building of St Barnabas Church. It could provide for all Press employees and was in keeping with Tractarian doctrine. Combe, with Arthur Blomfield again as architect, modelled the new church on an early Italian basilica. According to Blomfield, Combe's instructions were 'that I should design a church to hold a thousand persons for as small a sum as possible, and so far they were common enough; but to them you appended the much less usual conditions, that while you hoped I should be able to produce a dignified interior, no reasonable expense was to be spared in first securing strength, solidity, and thoroughly sound construction in every part; and not a penny was to be thrown away on external appearance and decoration. The Tower was consequently to be left as a more or less ornamental and unnecessary feature to be added hereafter.'

This is an extract from the History of Oxford University Press, Volume II, 1780-1896. Edited by Simon Eliot, OUP 2013. Reproduced by kind permission of OUP -- www.oup.com. This is copyright material. Anyone wishing to use it must have permission from Oxford University Press to do so.

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