This short piece was revised in 2020 as a result of a correction and further information about Ethel Hatch's father, sent in by local historian Kerstin Jeapes, who also supplied the information about Prince Leopold's stay in North Oxford. Many thanks!
House history is more popular now (2020) than when this piece was first written in 2007. The houses in North Oxford often have interesting pasts, and this one is no exception. Part of the development in Norham Gardens, it was first leased in 1873 by Arthur Johnson, the chaplain of All Souls College, and a tutor of history — remembered now as one of the "Oxford tutors to whom students felt the greatest debts from the 1870s until the 1920s" (Aston et al. 374). He married in 1873, and it is very likely that the young couple had parental help when setting up home together. They were a worthy pair. Bertha was to prove even more influential than her husband, becoming a prime mover in the establishment both of Lady Margaret Hall and of St Anne's College, Oxford. She was one of the first few women to receive a degree from Oxford herself, and the first woman to hold a senior appointment there.
They were not an exceptional couple in the North Oxford of that era. Several other distinguished academics lived in the same road. These included fellows, professors, a tutor, and the bursar of Keble College, the Hon. W. Sackville-West. But the residents were by no means all academics. Alongside them lived a solicitor, an auctioneer, a hatter, a commercial traveller, and others whose occupations are recorded at the end of Tanis Hinchcliffe's book as "gentleman," "widow" and "spinster."
On Banbury Road, which runs past the very end of Norham Gardens, is the very fine and much more obviously Gothic-style Wykeham House — complete with arched windows, tower, and turret with statue niche — which was let to Queen Victoria's youngest son, Prince Leopold, in 1872, and which he occupied until he completed his undergraduate time in Oxford in 1876.
The mix of people in the neighbourhood is brought to life for us in the childhood memories of Ethel Hatch, one of the Rev. Charles Dodgson's young friends, who also lived in the area. Ethel was the daughter of the Revd. Dr. Edwin Hatch (1835-1889), of Clevedon House, Park Town (the present 10 Park Town, just off Norham Road). Her father would die in his early sixties at Marchfield, 6 Canterbury Road, only a couple of minutes away ("Births, Deaths..."). Solidly settled in the local community, the Hatches mingled with the some of the most illustrious names of the day. The Humphry Wards, for example, lived in Bradmore Road, the first turning off Norham Gardens after Banbury Road, and Ethel remembered Mrs Humphry Ward's sisters, Julia and Ethel, coming over in the Christmas holidays to tell her mother "about the visit they had just paid to Uncle Mat, who seemed to be an amusing old gentleman who had played pranks with them." Uncle Mat was their father Tom's brother Matthew Arnold, whom Ethel would later meet at Julia's wedding, when he sat next to Thomas Huxley, the groom's father. When the Rev. Hatch died unexpectedly in 1889, a "large and representative gathering of senior and junior members of the University, local clergy, and others" attended his funeral ("University Intelligence," 5).
Ethel also recalled the Liddells from Christ Church passing by in a "high wagonette," from which "Alice [the original of Dodgson's Alice] and her sisters would wave to us." Then there was Walter Pater, "wearing a black tail coat and a peacock blue tie through a gold ring" who came over to ask after her brother, after he had had an operation. At the first house on one side of Norham Gardens (number 2), Ethel remembered, lived the Professor of Politics and Economics, Bonamy Price, who had once been Thomas Arnold's favourite pupil at Rugby. Amongst others who visited her house were Mark Pattison, Benjamin Jowett, and Dr Spooner. She herself would go on to become a well-known society figure, and also a watercolourist known for her landscapes and flower-paintings. North Oxford is still a lovely place to live, but those early years must have had a special magic about them.
To complete the picture of Norham Gardens: right at the east end of the road lies Lady Margaret Hall, the pioneering Oxford women's college promoted by Bertha Johnson, which admitted its first seven students in 1879 and was listed that year as the leaseholder of number 21 (Hinchcliffe 232-33; Lady Margaret Hall, "History"). It may be significant that Bertha Johnson's father, Robert Bentley Todd, himself an important educational reformer in the field of medicine, had been a Professor of Physiology at King's College London. This was very active in promoting higher education for women. See "The University of London and Women Students."
- Semi-detached Home, Norham Gardens, North Oxford
- Gunfield, 19 Norham Gardens
- Housing in North Oxford (more details about the building development here)
- Women at the University of Oxford
Aston, Trevor Henry et al. The History of Oxford University. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1984.
"Births, Deaths, Marriages and Obituaries." Jackson's Oxford Journal, 16 November 1889: 5. British Library Newspapers. Web. 22 July 2020.
Dodgson, E.O. "Notes on Nos. 56, 58, 60, 62 and 64 Banbury Road." Web. 22 July 2020.
Hinchcliffe, Tanis. North Oxford. London & New Haven: Yale University Press, 1992.
Matthew, H. C. G. "Hatch, Edwin (1835–1889), theologian." Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Online ed. Web. 22 July 2020.
"Miss Ethel Hatch." Third Programme BBC Radio Broadcast, Easter Sunday 1967. Archival transcription from the McGowin Library, Pembroke College, Oxford.
"University Intelligence." Jackson's Oxford Journal, 22 November 1889: 5 British Library Newspapers. Web. 22 July 2020.
Last modified 22 July 2020