The history of Jericho

Jericho expands

Posted - May 01, 1981

In the early l830’s, Jericho consisted of a few streets clustered round the University Press, on land which had come available for building in a series of auctions in the later 1820’s. Half a century later - by the mid 1880’s - the expansion of Jericho had come to a close, and the street map of Jericho then looks similar to that of today. In the intervening years, developers and speculative builders piece-by-piece added to the original nucleus of Jericho, and whilst in 18^1 there were 260 inhabited houses in Jericho, in 1881 the number would have risen to over 600.

The first building to the west of Albert Street started in the early 1840’s. The extension of Wellington Street began in 1840, and this year also saw the construction of the first houses on Nelson Street, though this street was not fully developed until the 1850’s. Further development was hindered by a major geographical obstacle, the high flood level of the land near the river and canal.The expansion of Jericho effectively came to a stop between the early 1840s and the later 1850’s as developers considered how to prevent flooding. And the measures they did eventually take were not entirely adequate- an entry in the St. Barnabas School log for January 1873 reads,” the school thinner than usual, the -heavy rains flooding the streets and preventing the children getting out of doors.”.

The mid-1860’s saw further westerly extensions of housing on Wellington Street, Clarendon Street,and Cardigan Street And-Jericho expanded not only to the west, but also north wards towards Walton Well. The south side of Jericho Street was built in the early 1840’s, but the building of houses north of the street had to wait another twenty years. Cranham Street came into existence in the late 1860’s, Mount Street and the northern end of Cranham Terrace in the late 1870’s, and the construction of Juxon Street around 1880 ended Jericho’s growth. Indeed there was now no further room for expansion - Walton Street, the Worcester College Grounds, the canal, and to the north St. Sepulchre’s cemetery and the foundry became Jericho’s boundaries.

The early development of Jericho was sponsored by the decision of a Devon clergyman to sell some land for building. The later growth of the area was encouraged by other landowners, the members of the Ward family. George, Henry, and William Ward sold land in the west of Jericho, on the canal side, from the late 1830’s through to the late 1860’s But the Wards were something more than just speculative land developers, profiting from Oxford’s development They also donated the land on which St. Barnabas was built. Just as the opening of St Pauls in 1836 signified the birth of Jericho, so the building of St. Barnabas in 1869 marked the development of the area into something more then a dormitory for the workers at the Press.

As Jericho grew, more and more residents found employment in a wide variety of occupations. But St. Barnabas was also in some ways an extension of the paternalism exemplified by the University Press. And this Church became well-known as an example of the local influence of the controversial Anglo-Catholic movement. “Barnabas Junction - change here for Rome” one popular Victorian cartoon read. And the church appears as the ‘ritualistic’ St. Silas in Thomas Hardy’s novel ” Judo the Obscure”.

The churches of St. Barnabas and St. Paul were built to serve a working class community which for the most part lived in modest but sound houses. Not for Jericho the back-to-backs and the squalid courts which plagued many nineteenth century towns. But Jericho did have its streets of bad housing, and the most notorious of these, Jericho Gardens, will be the subject of the next article.

Author: Andrew Whitehead