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Oxford Local History Pages - The Cutteslowe Walls

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Summertown School
Summertown School photographed by Henry Taunt

This Account of the Cutteslowe Walls is taken from: The Cutteslowe Walls a study in social class by Peter Collison published by Faber and Faber in 1963.

Construction of the Estates and the Walls

When the Corporation of the City of Oxford bought Summertown in 1925 it consisted of orchards and agricultural land with a few farm buildings. There were public rights of way extending eastwards from the Banbury Road but these were later terminated by the Corporation using the provisions of the Oxford Corporation Act of 1933.

The Corporation began using the land for residential use and constructing the Cutteslowe Estate in 1931. This was done in 2 stages with the first phase: comprising 160 houses to the east, known as "Cutteslowe Number One"being started in May 1931. All these houses were completed and occupied by December 1932. "Cutteslowe Number Two" started in August 1933 and the 138 houses of this development to the east were completed and occupied by October 1934

Early in 1933 the Corporation advertised for sale a strip of land along the Banbury Road and various other plots of land in the vicinity. They were approached by Messrs Saxton, Shaw, Brown and Co, a firm of accountants in Barnsley acting on behalf of The Urban Housing Company. The Council informed them that they wanted to reserve the Banbury Rd frontage for large housing costing about £1,200 but would consider favourably schemes to develop the land behind for smaller housing.

Clive Saxton, a partner in the firm and the managing director of The Urban Housing Company came to Oxford to discuss the proposal. He was 34 years old and is decribed by Peter Collison as " a natural leader by reason both of his temperament and his abilities."

Clive Saxton suggested a development similar to the Cutteslowe Number One Estate while the Corporation representatives wanted something larger and more expensive. According to Saxton, he asked about the plans for Cutteslowe Number Two Estate which would abut onto the land he was planning to buy and was told that it would not be used for rehousing people from slum clearance areas. He also maintained that he was told that he could keep the roads on his own estate private if he wished. He offered to buy the land immediately after a meeting on 2nd June 1933 and the building of the Urban Housing Estate started soon afterwards even though conveyancing was not completed until 19th September.

Clauses were inserted into the conveyance to ensure that the Company built a housing estate to match the Corporation's expectations. It was stipulated, for instance, that the houses should cost not less than £650.

The Urban Housing Company contracted with the Corporation to build the roads and sewers on its estate and with Mr Longbottom to build the houses. Saxton intended that work should start at the western end of Carlton and Wentworth roads so that if the building of the Cutteslowe Number Two Estate was not to his liking he could modify the road layout. However, while he was away looking after business interests elsewhere, the Corporation's engineer approached Longbottom and suggested that it would be more reasonable for the work to start at the eastern end. According to Saxton, Longbottom was told that the Company had agreed to this change of plan although this was not the case. In any case, by the time Saxton returned he found that the work already done on the eastern part of the estate would prevent any subsequent modification of the road layout between the Cutteslowe Number Two Estate and the Urban Housing Estate.

Relations between the two sides deteriorated as the work progressed. Much of this was due to the fence seperating the estates. under the conveyance the Company had fenced the north and west sides of its estate and the Corporation had erected a fence along the eastern side where the two estates met. This fence was continuous and ran over the sites of Wolsey and Aldrich Roads at the points where they were to meet Carlton and Wentworth Roads. In order to bring building materials into the Urban Housing Estate the Corporation engineers had to remove sections of this fence although they were always replaced and do not seem to have been down for long.

However, Saxton complained that people were vandalising the houses being built and the Urban Housing Company replaced the Corporation's fence with one of its own. They refused to allow this to be taken down when work was carried out on joining the roads that ran through the Cutteslowe Number Two Estate with those of the Urban Housing Estate which meant that the work on the road near the fence had to be completed using hand-rammers insteatd of the Corporation's steamroller.

There had also been disagreement about the naming of the roads. The Corporation wanted to keep the same names, Wolsey and Wentworth when the road entered the Urban Housing Estate but the Urban Housing Company wanted the names to be changed. When the Corporation suggested Cardinal and Aldridge as the new names the obvious correspondence between Cardinal and Wolsey merely inflamed the situation.

The Chief Constable of Oxford wrote to the Urban Housing Company in August 1934, asking it to remove the barriers across the roads as they made it difficult to police the area and also represented a potential danger in emergencies since fire-engines and ambulances could not pass through them.

On September 22nd 1934, the Company wrote to the Town Clerk to say that it had decided to keep the roads on its estate as private roads and also to enclose the whole estate by building walls across the Carlton and Wentworth roads at the points where they met the Cutteslowe Estate. The letter claimed that this decision was in response to pressure from the tenants on the Urban Housing Estate and was because of the presence of slum-clearance tenants on the Cutteslowe Estate. The Company also suggested that it be allowed to buy the strip of land along the Banbury Road.

The Corporation ordered the Company to open the streets in accordance with the City's by-laws. A meeting took place between the Company and the Highways, Sewers and Lighting Committee in November 1934 but no agrement was reached.

In December 1934, the Company built the two walls across the roads

The Cutteslowe Wall on Aldrich Road.
The Cutteslowe Wall on Aldrich Road.