What makes the West End special

The West End is at the heart of Oxford, a city full of history, of dreaming spires. Renowned for being home to one of the oldest universities in the world and a place of learning. Its also notable for historic events like being the capital city during the Civil War, for achievements like the first four-minute mile, and its industrial and manufacturing heritage.

Oxford has a thriving arts scene of theatre, exhibitions, museums and events. With one of the youngest populations of any British city, Oxford’s historic buildings are not facades nor museums, but places of work and enterprise.


Our history

Oxford has always been a place where old and new meet.

Commerce, industry and housing has evolved here since the 19th Century. There used to be a network of small streets and old houses near to the River Thames for people who worked at the now-closed Morrells Brewery and Frank Cooper’s jam factory, home of the original Oxford Marmalade. The area gained a reputation as ‘the Oxford slums’, and many homes were demolished from the 1860s onwards, and St Ebbe’s was cleared further in the 1960s. The West End redevelopment takes this area back to its original mix.

  • 9th C


    Oxford was founded when the Saxon, Alfred the Great, created a network of fortified towns called burghs across the kingdom.

  • 11th C


    By the time of the Normans, Oxford was a large and important town (population of 5,000). St Thomas’s, in the West End, was one of the earliest areas outside the medieval city walls to be inhabited, probably because it lay on the direct route between Oxford Castle (founded 1071 at the city’ Western Gate) and Osney Abbey (founded 1129 and later one of the wealthiest in medieval England).

  • 12th C


    Friaries dominated the area until the Dissolution of the Monasteries in the 1530s.

  • 14th C


    Oxford was a key manufacturing town noted for cloth and leather. The University of Oxford was founded and soon began to dominate the city.

  • 15th C


    The line of the High Street was established, as a tightly-packed and lively neighbourhood, with a maze of courts and yards.

  • 16th C


    Oxford significantly declined in national importance and had a population of around 3,500 people. Tudor Oxford was economically dependent on the university and students provided a large market for beer, food, clothes and other goods.

  • 17th C


    Oxford became established as a market town with a key High Street and a density of coffee shops.

  • 18th C


    The population grew enormously in late 18th Century, with the arrival of the canal (1790) and railway (1844).

  • 19th C


    St Ebbe’s Gas Works was in operation from 1818-1950. Terraced housing was built around the works site. Tight rows of terraces emerged at Osney Island. Osney Cemetery was established in 1848 as a result of central Oxford churchyards becoming full.

  • 20th C


    The city continued to prosper and became an important manufacturing centre spearheaded by Morris Motors.

  • 1920s


    Trade dried up on the canal, and Nuffield College was built on part of the site of the canal basin.

  • 1930s


    The city boundaries extended, new housing was built Westwards in Botley and to North Hinksey, and Oxpens Rd was constructed.

  • 1950s


    St Ebbe’s Gas Works ceased operation and the area started to be redeveloped.

  • 1960s


    Osney Mead Industrial Estate was developed.

  • 1970s


    The Oxford Green belt was formally approved in 1975.

  • 1980s


    Botley Retail Park was developed from the 1980s. In 1984 Oxford Ice Rink opened, a distinctive 1984 building by prominent British architect, Sir Nicholas Grimshaw, noted for his modernist designs such as Cornwall’s Eden Project.

  • 2000s


    Saïd Business School, (2002) made a welcome addition to Oxford’s skyline with a Ziggurat tower (temple tower of the ancient Assyrians and Babylonians).

  • 2010s


    In 2017, Westgate retail redevelopment brought almost 800,000 square feet of retail, restaurant and leisure space, including a rooftop dining terrace with views across Oxford’s famous ‘dreaming spires’

  • Today


    The population of Oxford is more than 152,000 and the main industries are car manufacturing, publishing, higher education and biotech.

Old Power Station

Old Power Station – history meeting the future as this iconic building is transforming into an inspirational Global Leadership Centre. Oxford University’s Saïd Business School is adopting cutting-edge principles for energy efficiency and the wellbeing of users.

Image: John McAslan + Partners

Northgate House

Northgate House – designed to preserve Cornmarket as the city’s central shopping street and improve Market Street, leading to the Covered Market.

Bridges Cross

Bridges Cross – a new housing development nearby on Speedwell St, references the Blackfriars’ black and white coat of arms by using light and dark building materials throughout. An archaeological excavation last year unearthed new evidence of a Blackfriars friary which sat on the site from 1246 until the dissolution of the monasteries by Henry VIII in the 1530s.


Boswells – a former department store is being reinvented as a hotel by Reef, with La Salle Investment Management and Oxford City Council. Retaining the historic facades, and adding rooftop bar space to give a new outlook over Oxford that will be open to the public.

Oxford of tomorrow

There is great potential to develop interlinked and highly productive specialisms in creative, tech and R&D industries, provided the commercial floor space and housing required to sustain growth comes forward.

A series of exciting development proposals are currently coming forward in the regeneration of the area.

Development opportunities

Beaver House, Hythe Bridge Street

Located at the gateway to Oxford City centre, and just 200 metres from Oxford railway station, Bridge Labs is an Learn more about Beaver House, Hythe Bridge Street

Mission St + BGO

Inventa and Fabrica

Mission Street and BGO are delivering the first two commercial sciences developments in the West End.

The schemes comprise Inventa, a Learn more about Inventa and Fabrica

Oxpens development


Oxpens is one of the largest brownfield sites in the city centre. Currently home to a car park, several buildings, Learn more about Oxpens

Osney Mead map

Osney Mead

A 44 acre under-developed industrial site, with the University of Oxford as a major landowner.

Learn more about Osney Mead
Osney Lane development

Island site, Frideswide Square South and Worcester Street Car Park

Nuffield College is bringing forward a number of sites in prominent locations in the West End, including Worcester Street Car Learn more about Island site, Frideswide Square South and Worcester Street Car Park

Becket Street Car Park development

Becket St enabling development

Currently underused as a surface level car park, with scope to better serve the station and transform this city centre Learn more about Becket St enabling development

Osney Lane: Christ Church site

Osney Lane

Properties owned by Christ Church on Osney Lane.

Learn more about Osney Lane