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Jericho Sketchbook

Little Clarendon Street

Little Clarendon Street
Little Clarendon Street

Although not part of Jericho, Little Clarendon Street has from Saxon times onwards played an integral part in the history of Jericho. Then it marked the boundary between Northgate Hundred and Walton Manor. The field path between the farmsteads along St. Giles and the plough lands of Walton Manor was the route to the first parish church of St. Mary Magdalene and the north gate of the city, and St. Giles after it became the parish church in 1133.

The first record we have of a name for the present street is Black Boy Lane. This seems to date from the Civil War when royalist innkeepers gave significant names to their houses. The Black Boy was the family nickname for the young Charles II because of his dark hair and skin. So there must have been an inn or tavern nearby, either in the lane, or in St. Giles, or Woodstock Road. There may have been an older house of that name where the Duke of Clarence now stands. After a workhouse for the united city parishes was built in the Wellington Square area in 1771 the lane became known as Workhouse Lane. The workhouse was not closed until 1887 when Wellington Square was built and the workhouse site converted to a garden, but before 1850 the lane had been renamed Little Clarendon Street. Clarendon Street in Jericho added the Great to its name at about the same time to prevent confusion.

Little Clarendon Street became a small shopping centre providing the basic daily essentials for local families before refrigeration was in general use. The butcher, the baker, the grocer and dairyman were interspersed between the cottages backing onto the gardens of Walton Hall which became a hall of residence for Somerville College in 1870. On the south side were stables and the back entrances of Wellington Square.

Until the mid-1970s Little Clarendon Street remained a sleepy side street. It was then completely re-built. The south side east of the passage into Wellington Square became occupied by offices with shops below and by the University Chest and Registry; west of the passage graduate residences were developed over retail premises. A few of the old shops have remained on the north side together with the Duke of Clarence but the central portion has been rebuilt by Somerville College with a shopping arcade beneath. It is now locally known as "Little Trendy Street" from the rapid turnover of retail outlets. In 1994 the last vestiges of the old Victorian side street were lost when the roadway and pavements were redesigned with parking and wide walkways to encourage pedestrians and visitors. It has long been a one-way street from west to east for vehicles but not for cycles.