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Semi-detached Home, Norham Gardens, North Oxford, seen from the front, and from the back garden. Designed and built by George Shirley. 1873. The warm yellow-brick frontage with its gables, out-bracketed oriel, and two lower bay windows, is only mildly Gothic in appearance, without fussy detailing either in the brickwork or stonework over the windows. The steps on the unattached side lead up to an entrance porch adjoining the main building, and pleasantly breaking up its line. The vestibule opens out into a large entrance hall. The room straight ahead of this would then have been the dining room — "the most public room in the house" (Flanders 217).

Glimpses of the interior: (a) Inside the hall. (b) and (c) Two of the original fireplaces.

Off the hall also are the drawing room and another reception room, perhaps originally the morning room, where the business of the household would have been conducted. To the right of the hall is the stairwell, with stairs down to the basement, where the generously-sized kitchen and utility spaces are located. These would have been the realm of the household staff. Upstairs are three more floors with further living rooms, including a large lounge, a study or library (a particular requisite in the Oxford area), and the bedrooms and nursery.

Close-ups of the tiled surrounds of the fireplaces: a Delft windmill scene, and a floral panel.

The house has high ceilings and is amply proportioned by today's standards; most such houses are now split into flats. With their expectations of live-in domestic servants, generally including a cook and a parlourmaid, and all their living space, well-off middle-class Victorians could live in a style to which only the wealthy can now aspire. Original fireplaces are now among the most sought-after features of Victorian houses.

Related Material


Crowley, David. Introduction to Victorian Style. Royston: Eagle Editions, 1998.

Flanders, Judith. The Victorian House. London: HarperCollins, 2003.

Hinchcliffe, Tanis. North Oxford. London & New Haven: Yale University Press, 1992.

Last modified 22 July 2020