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Annmarie Adams on North Oxford

16 December, 2020

This annotation is an extract from Annmarie Adams (2016) review ‘North Oxford’, Design Book Review, No. 31 1994

As architectural historians, we often think of Oxford, England, as a stunning array of university colleges, libraries, churches, and museums, designed by the ‘great masters’ of English architecture: Christopher Wren, James Gibbs, Thomas Deane, and Benjamin Woodward, among others. The buildings surrounding Oxford, however, designed by unknown architects or anonymous builders, have received much less scholarly attention, overshadowed by the stature of their monumental neighbors. Tanis Hinchcliffe’s recent book, North Oxford, addresses this imbalance, while at the same time providing a skillful analysis of one of England’s most significant Victorian suburbs.

In eight chapters, ordered largely thematically, Hinchcliffe traces the complex relationship of St. John’s College, the owner and developer of the extensive property, to the romantic, Victorian domestic architecture and the various religious and educational institutions constructed between 1850 and 1930. Drawing on the methods of John Summerson, Donald Olsen, and H. J. Dyos, whose pioneering work in the 1960s laid the foundations for the history of suburbanization in England, Hinchcliffe sees the development of North Oxford as a product of dynamic social forces.

Indeed, one of the most important contributions of the book is its refreshingly interdisciplinary approach. In addition to the relevant secondary sources in urban and architectural history, such as those suggested above, the author is well versed in recent theoretical debates in the histories of women, real estate, and banking, all of which have strengthened her multifaceted analysis of North Oxford architecture.

Annmarie Adams on North Oxford

This annotation is an extract from Annmarie Adams (2016) review ‘North Oxford’, Design Book Review, No. 31 1994