Issue 54 — January 2004
Who works there?
An introduction to activities in Jericho
6a King Street – Family Publications and the Chesterton Institute
One of Jericho’s most unusual buildings is at 6a King Street, overlooking the school. This has had a remarkable variety of occupants over the years – from chimney sweeps, to builders, to cycle repairers. In 1983 it was bought by furniture designer Lucinda Leech. She made the distinctive modern frontage and used the lower floor as a workshop, while letting off the upper floor to antiquarian bookseller Robert Clark. Lucinda left a couple of years ago, but still owns the building.
Lucinda let the ground floor space to Family Publications, a publisher and distributor of Catholic books, whose recent publications include a Catholic Student Guide. The company had previously operated from a house in Banbury Road. Then after Robert Clark’s death last year it also took part of the first floor.
Editor Richard Brown says that Oxford is a good place for this kind of work, given the city’s dyanamic and literate community of Catholics, which includes the Oratory in Woodstock Road, the religious orders, and the large number of overseas students. He says they enjoy working in Jericho. Initially they had some problems with vandalism but the Council helped with the supply of shutters and things now seem to be much improved.
The other half of the top floor of the building is occupied by the Chesterton Institute for Faith and Culture. Named after the writer and journalist G.K. Chesterton, this is the Oxford branch of a charity that organizes publications and conferences on Christian Humanism.
The Institute also has a small archive of memorabilia of G.K. Chesterton, including a hat, walking sticks, souvenirs of Chesterton’s various trips, and many of his own books with numerous scribbles and cartoons in the margins. In addition it has the typewriter on which he wrote such books as The Outline of Sanity. Curiously the items also include a rather uncomfortable looking barber’s chair in which the great man sat to get his hair cut – donated by his barber in Beaconsfield where he lived.
Stratford Caldecott, the European Director of the Institute, says they get visitors from all over the world to see these items, although the collection is not on public view except by appointment. Stratford has many other literary interests and has just published a book on J.R.R. Tolkien called Secret Fire.