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Boundary and other walls, Brewer Street, Oxford

Gill, Jon and Amadio, Lynn (2008) Boundary and other walls, Brewer Street, Oxford. Project Report. Oxford Archaeology. (Unpublished)

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In advance of the proposed development of parts of the western section of Brewer Street, Oxford, Oxford Archaeology have undertaken assessment and recording of a number of boundary and other walls likely to be affected by these development proposals, to ascertain the age and significance of these structures. The work has included assessing free-standing boundary walls and external walls from some standing buildings. Numbers 7 and 8, Brewer Street are both grade II listed buildings and are therefore not included in the present development plans or in the current study.
The walls on the site divide into three distinct groups: i) modern walls (eg No.s 2, 3, 6, 9, 10, 12, 17, 18); ii) surviving elements from historic or former buildings (5, 7, 8, 19); iii) potentially historic boundary walls (1, 4, 14, 15, 16). Other than Wall 1 the potentially old boundary walls are all either side of a long plot to the rear of No 6a Brewer Street which is the only plot on the site to remain largely intact from Brewer Street to Rose Place (formerly the Trill Mill). Loggan’s map from 1673 suggests that this plot had been established by this date and the boundary layouts are likely to be significantly older than this. Although there is an element of uncertainty with interpreting early maps it is possible to pinpoint this plot with reasonable confidence on the Loggan map as there is a long north to south range (stables?) shown on the plot immediately to the west (to the rear of No.7 Brewer Street).
Although the layout of this plot and the alignment of the boundary walls are likely to be old it is very difficult to accurately assess the date of construction for the actual walls either side of the plot today. As with any similar rubble stone walls this is partly due to the lack of
diagnostic features found in timber framed or brick constructions and well-weathered, later 19th-century rubble stone walls can sometimes appear very similar to 16th or 17th century walls. It is also difficult because the walls show areas of repair, patching and rebuild so that even if there are old elements they cannot reliably be classed as old walls. Boundary walls such as these are relatively basic constructions which would be very likely to require periodic rebuilding and it is significant to note that part of Wall 16 has collapsed and requires rebuilding.
It is likely that most of the fabric in these stone walls dates to a construction not earlier than the 18th century (albeit possibly reusing older stones). However, due to the difficulties with dating these structures we cannot be certain of this and there is the possibility that sections do survive from the 17th century or earlier.
They are relatively basic constructions but the interest of boundary walls and tenement plots is usually not so much in their fabric than as topographical features and particularly when they survive as well-preserved groups of adjacent plots. The proposed development site does not represent a coherent well-preserved block of tenement plots and this fragmentary nature reduces the significance of the walls (as does their generally poor condition. Rev Salters map of the medieval tenements in Oxford suggests that the block to the south of Brewer Street was filled with north to south tenements almost as far east as St Aldates. Immediately to the east of the development site these tenements have been lost by the construction of Campion Hall and at the west end of this block (partially within the development site) they have been replaced by east to west plots facing Littlegate. These plots at the west end are well shown on the 1673 map. The plot referred to above to the south of No 6a Brewer Street, together with the partially surviving plot to the rear of No. 7 are the only plots which survive in this area.
Apart from the boundary walls there also survives sections of wall from two buildings of some interest. These include the rear and east gable walls of property number 6 which appear to survive from a significant, heavily rebuilt building which may have been of 17th or 18th century date. This structure warrants further investigation and recording prior to its possible demolition to determine whether the roof or any internal walls survive from the older building. The rebuilt brick gable in the east wall would suggest that the roof was probably reconstructed in the 19th or 20th-century. Also of interest are surviving stone fragments from a former malthouse along the southern boundary of the site and further recording of this (possibly during its demolition/dismantling) would be of value.
It is not considered that any of the walls are of such significance as to require their preservation in-situ in the project development although it would be desirable to retain some of the older fragments where they can be practically incorporated into the new design. There is probably greatest scope for this along the edge of the site and particularly the corner of the former malthouse. In addition if the condition of the wall dictates that it must be taken down then it could be rebuilt on the same alignment reusing some stones such as the larger blocks which form the quoin. The interest of these surviving fragments from the malthouse is increased due the historic use of the area by Breweries and by the name Brewer Street. Two sections of the potentially old stone boundary walls are also located along the edge of the development boundary (Walls 1 and 4) so these property divisions will remain.

Item Type: Monograph (Project Report)
Uncontrolled Keywords: Historic Building
Subjects: Period > UK Periods > Modern 1901 - present
Geographical Areas > English Counties > Oxfordshire
Period > UK Periods > Post Medieval 1540 - 1901 AD
Divisions: Oxford Archaeology South > Buildings
Depositing User: Rawlings
Date Deposited: 16 Mar 2010 18:07
Last Modified: 22 Dec 2011 14:22
URI: http://eprints.oxfordarchaeology.com/id/eprint/105

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