Advice given to Charles Ryder: “… Keep clear of Boar’s Hill” from Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh.
“And that sweet City with her dreaming spires. She needs not June for beauty’s heightening” Matthew Arnold – Describing The View From Boars Hill
Boars Hill in the 1890s
On May Day 1941 Mary Bright Rix, a local resident, wrote some short articles on the history of Boars Hill. These were published shortly afterwards and dedicated to Mary’s mother and father: Emma and Angelo Mathews.
The link below will take you to a scan of the original booklet.
Part One is titled “Boars Hill Half-a-Century Ago”. Bear in mind that half a century before 1941 means this is an account of life on the Hill in the 1890s!
Old Postcards of Boar’s Hill
The below postcard was posted on 25 June 1907 from “M.K.M.” to Miss Tudor of St Hugh’s Hall, Oxford, proposing a visit “up the Hill” the following day.
The view is along Jarn Way looking east towards the junction with Berkeley Road, and on the right is The Heath, also known as “Berkeley Castle”, and later as Foxcombe Hall. The main building was acquired in 1933 as Ripon Hall, a theological college. (Ripon Hall amalgamated in 1975 with Cuddesdon College, and the name survives in “Ripon College Cuddesdon”.) The Open University bought the property in 1976.
The baby in the perambulator could well be the grandson of George, 7th Earl of Berkeley. An elderly resident’s father recalled that Lennox Berkeley, who was born at Boar’s Hill in 1903, was regularly taken out by his nanny.
The below postcard shows “Sandlands”, Foxcombe Road, Boar’s Hill, near Oxford (then in Berkshire). It was postmarked at Abingdon on 5 January 1905, and was sent by M. Perrott to Miss Berry at Hyde Park, London. It was produced for advertising purposes by the architect of Sandlands, namely Stephen Salter, whose offices were above the Lloyds Bank on the north-west corner of Oxford’s High Street. He had himself designed this ornate bank at 2 and 3 High Street in 1901, as well as the timber-framed building at 94 High Street (now occupied by Quod restaurant) in 1902.
The postcard below, which shows a different view of Sandlands, was sent by the architect himself to H. B. Cooper, Esq., M.A. at Linton Road. Henry B. Cooper was a Fellow of Keble College and lived at Costessey House, 14 Linton Road. The card was postmarked at Oxford on 19 December 1906, and has an interesting message on the other side, apparently written in the architect’s own hand, also reproduced below.
The below message reads:
I have now the last site on main road at Foxcombe Hill to let. Earl Berkeley has taken up all other main road sites to stop building. It is an ideal site for health which after all is the chief thing. Deep redsand subsoil. About 500 ft above sea level. Sheltered from east, on 999 years lease, £8 per acre. It is close to Sandlands this green roofed house and only £1000. Pleased to show anyone over it. They would save time and money by so doing if they thought of building. SS
By 1930 Sandlands was occupied by Arthur Leslie Johnson; in 1935 by Mrs Grierson, and in 1942 by Dugall Sutherland MacColl (1859–1948). It still exists, but is now known by another name.
Gladys Hall wrote on the back of the above postcard, “This is a photo of where I work.”
Kelly’s Directory for Berkshire for 1891 lists the following people who lived on Boars Hill under the heading of Wootton:
Hedderley Mrs, [The Lodge], Boars hill
Hughes Jesse, Boars hill
Mathews Angelo Alfred, West view, Boars hill
Shrimpton Arthur T., [Uplands], Boars hill
Wootten Wootten Gilbert R., Swiss cottage, Boar’s hill
Cotmore Charles, market gardener, Boars hill
By the time of Kelly’s Directory for Oxford 1894/5, the Earl of Berkeley had moved into Foxcombe Hall (then known as The Heath or “Berkeley Castle”), Arthur Evans had moved into Youlbury, and Miss Mathews had moved into Holycote.
Essay on Boars Hill in 1905
William Warde Fowler wrote an essay on Boars Hill in The Oxford Country (1905), and Sandlands must have been one of the new houses he observed. Here are a few of extracts:
And as I approach the colony, where I have not been for months, new houses of all shapes and sizes tempt me to count them, but I soon get lost; … and the linnets that used to dance about on the gorse are not here to-day, while human beings and bicycles are everywhere. The thought comes into my mind that the colonization of the hill is really due to the bicycle, for without it the colonists could not speed down to their daily duties, learned or unlearned, in the misty valley below….
Nor is the peculiar Berkshire character of the hill as yet wholly vanishing. Boar’s Hill with its appurtenances is geologically an island; but it is an island in another sense too. It is an insulated bit of one type of Berkshire country – the country of Scotch firs, bracken, and gorse, with cottages of old red brick and tiled roofs covered with yellow lichen, and you must cross the plain and a good part of the Ilsley Downs before you come again upon such a combination of colour. The old cottages on the hill are not so obvious as they were, but all the rest is there, and neither on Shotover nor at Stow Wood, not anywhere on the Oxfordshire side can I feel as I do on these heights that I am in Southern England. At Beckley or Forest Hill I am in the Midlands; here I am in the sunny South.
… What will it all be like fifty years hence, and where will the Scholar Gipsy of that day find his rest? Will such a creature be suffered to exist?
Kelly’s Directory for Oxford for 1914-15 lists under “Neighbourhood of Oxford: Wootton” fifteen private households and ten businesses:
Berkeley Earl of, Foxcombe, Boars hill
Bridges Robert, M.A., M.B., D.Litt., Chilswell, Boars hill
Burton Charles V., M.D., Heath Cottage, Boars hill
Butt Miss, Willow gate, Boars hill
Candy Mrs. Boars hill
Evans Sir Arthur John, D.Litt., F.R.S., F.B.A., Youlbury, Boars hill
Fanshawe R. M.A., D.Litt., Boars Hill house
Hart Horace, M.A., Hillcrest, Boars hill
Hedderley Misses, Boars hill
Mathews Angelo Alfred Hankin, West view, Boars hill
Mathews, Wilfrid, Hollycote, Boars hill
Morgan Lieut.-Col. Jerome, Elcot lodge, Boars hill
Pearce James, Whitebarn, Boars hill
Stride Rev. William John Francis Keatley M.A. [vicar], The Parsonage, Boars hill
Thursby Francis, Boars Hill heath
Butterfield Mary (Mrs.), aparts., Boars hill
Cotmore Charles, market gardener & carrier, Boars hill
Dossett Annie (Mrs.), apartments, South view, Boars hill
Grimsdale Frederick John, carrier, Boars hill
Miller Jane (Mrs.), apartments, Hill view, Boars hill
Osborn John Thomas, gardener to Sir Arthur J. Evans, Boars hill
Phipps John, gardener to the Earl of Berkeley, Boars hill
Smith Stephen S., market gardener, Boars hill
Trinder Joseph William, sub-postmaster, Boars hill
Trinder O. (Mrs.), apartments, Boars hill
Kelly’s Directory for 1935 states: “Boars Hill is a residential district, partly in the parish of Sunningwell and partly in the parish of Wootton. It is recommended as a health resort.”
John Betjeman in “Myfanwy at Oxford” (1940) writes of “Bicycle bells in a Boar’s Hill Pine”.
The above article and the old postcards on this page are reproduced by kind permission of Stephanie Jenkins see: Oxford History
Ordnance Map of Boars Hill in 1919
For more maps please visit the maps page.
The Fox Inn
Foxcombe Hall is located along Berkeley Road and is now owned by Peking University.
At the time of writing in 2018 there is much local concern about plans to build a large block containing c. 100 residential student units. It is feared that this will adversely affect the quiet and peaceful nature of this part of Boars Hill.
A Boars Hill Anthology
Boars Hill Anthology – An excellent illustrated guide book about the history and houses on the Hill. This book is available for purchase at £20, please enquire via the Contact form.
“The Boars Hill Trilogy” – A three part history of Boars Hill on DVD (total running time 3½ hours) seen through the memories and recollections of some of its residents. The story starts a few thousand years ago, but focuses more on the past one hundred and twenty years as it develops from a heath to a vibrant community – not without its issues. Available at £25 please enquire via the Contact form.
Boars Hill Present Day
The population of present day Boars Hill is estimated at about 800 spread among some 360 dwellings.