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Univ North Tour – History of Stavertonia

Robin and OMs in the sunny Univ North gardensOn 1 April, Univ’s Archivist, Dr Robin Darwall-Smith (1982, Classics), presented the tale of Stavertonia to a group of Old Members, students and friends. He guided the group around the site while sharing both its secrets and some amusing stories.

“It was a pleasure to do a historical tour of the Stavertonia site, not least with so many interested people. I myself really enjoyed trying to imagine the site as it was before we developed it, and to find traces of that lost world.” Robin Darwall-Smith (1982, Classics), Archivist

Beginning the tour with an explanation of the earlier history of the site, and hearing about the rising need for accommodation and the expansion of Oxford colleges across the city, the group set off for Woodstock Road and gathered in the garden of the houses that remain.

Robin talked about the acquisition of 104 Woodstock Road and 25 Staverton Road, each having been brought in the 1950s for under £10,000! The growing numbers of students and staff affiliated with the College meant that a need had arisen to expand beyond the High Street site. Robin explored the dilemma facing the Master and Fellows at the time, when deciding on whether Univ’s new annexe should be based around the Old Parsonage Hotel in Banbury Road or around its new purchases in north Oxford

OMs and Robin discussing Univ North development in the sunIn 1966, the then Estates Bursar, Sir Maurice Shock, came down in favour of the Staverton Road site after 102 Woodstock Road came up for sale and was bought by the College, shortly followed by 100a Woodstock Road (now known as Redcliffe-Maud House). This expansion led to the decision being made in 1967 that this is where the new Univ annexe should be developed.

Wrapping around to the Bennett, Skirlaw and Percy student accommodation buildings, Robin began to connect the modern Stavertonia site to the pre-history through the description of the design and building of those blocks of flats.

You can read more about Robin’s interaction with Sir Philip Dowson, Architect of “Stavs”, here.

It was so interesting to be told about the history of this vital North Oxford “outpost” of our College and it was also reassuring to learn that future generations of Univ students will be able to enjoy comfortable accommodation there. I thoroughly recommend the Univ North Tour!” Anthony Ellison (1981, Education).

Robin ended the tour with an overview of Univ’s situation today. He talked about the fundraising for Stavertonia, which began in 1969 with an appeal for £400,000, and its parallels to the College’s current Univ North project.

OMs listening to Robin in the sunny Univ North gardensUniv North will support the growing need for student accommodation in Oxford, as well as providing modern amenities, such as a gym and café. Not only will it provide them in a beautifully landscaped garden setting with a rejuvenated historical orchard, but it will also enable an intergenerational community to thrive in a sustainable environment.

Keen to see where some of the largest changes to the site would occur, members of the group were later guided around the Banbury Road side of the area by Harriet Bayly, Interim Development Director, and Alina Nuta, Donor Relations Officer.

“It was a great event. We thoroughly enjoyed learning more about the history of Univ’s property portfolio (and Staverton Road in particular) from Robin, and were impressed with the scale and ambition of the proposed development. As a former OMT trustee it has been lovely for me to see this project moving forward over many years. We thought the design and facilities that will be offered were tremendous and look forward to seeing it take shape over coming years.” Helena (1985, Law) and father Keith (1959, History) Miles

“The Univ North tour was an eye-opening experience to see how Univ Old Members reflect on their journey with passion, joy and gratitude, and how supporting this home for students help the new generations fulfil their potentials as it has been since it all began.” Naseem AlKhoury (2021, Health Science), current student

“The combination of on-the-spot history, seeing the newly-acquired land and unexpectedly meeting some old friends was a great pleasure. We are looking forward to seeing the project progress.” Paul (1979, Engineering) and Dorothy Anne (1979, Maths) Quincey

“Unfortunately, members of my family were unable to join me for this tour, so I attended alone. Little did I know that I would arrive and find plenty of Univ family already there!” Peter Wolstenholme (1980, Maths)

The Univ North scheme has been shortlisted in the Project Category for the Housing Design Awards 2022.

You can read more about the College’s vision for its complementary community, and our latest developments, on the Univ North microsite.

Published: 6 May 2022

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