A short history of Oakley House

McGills has occupied Oakley House since early 1979, when it was purchased from The Bathurst Estate. At that time, it was known as Oakley Cottage but our predecessors felt that the property was too large to be called a cottage and renamed it Oakley House. It certainly doesn’t feel like a cottage.

Answering the basic questions about the property, like when was it built and who lived in it, has proven difficult.

Looking at the property, it is clear that it was built in at least 2 sections; the first being alongside the road, the second being the wing that runs perpendicular to the road. The older section has a cellar with entry for coal and wine storage! It is possible that, at one time, the property was subdivided even further, with some of the early records referring to a ‘One Oakley Villas’ within the property.

The earliest resident we have discovered so far is Robert Ellet, a solicitor, although it is unclear as to whether he practiced from Oakley House. Many contemporary newspaper cuttings refer to him and his legal work and a link to Oakley House. However, he was a partner in Sewell Ellett, which still exists today in the guise of Sewell Mullings and Logie in Dollar Street. The 1871 census shows him as living in the property at the time.

We are currently researching how the property was used by its previous owners, The Bathurst Estate. We have discovered that it has been owned by them since at least 1926, when we have a record that it was being used as accommodation for the Estate Manager.

The 1939 register tells us that the property had 6 residents, with the main occupant being Anthony Turner, a 49 year-old living with his wife, Moira, and their cook and parlour maid. The 2 other occupants remain a mystery.

There is also reference to the dwelling being used as a dower house for The Estate.

By the mid-1950s, the house was no longer used by The Estate and was sub-let. Various uses where made of the house including as an artist’s residence.

1939

Cirencester Station

A prominent feature of Oakley House is the high wall running along the boundary with what is now the Old Station Car Park. The wall is obviously highly-regarded by the authorities, as it is listed.

Nowadays, it is easy to forget that there was a large station next door to the office and, in the days before the road network we have today, this would have been the heart of the town.

The image below shows Oakley House and the station.

Oakley House is in the top right hand corner. As always, with these type of pictures, the interesting thing is what is not there!

  • There is no by-pass, as the main road to Tetbury still runs directly in front of Oakley House
  • The cattle market is visible but obviously not Waitrose or SJP

The station opened in 1841 and was a branch line from the Swindon to Kemble line. There was, in fact, a second line which ran through Cirencester and, at one time, the town boasted no less than three stations:

  • Cirencester Town
  • Watermoor
  • Chesterton

The line was, part of Brunel’s broad-gauge railway and the station is believed to have been designed by the man himself. It closed in 1964 and below is one of the final steam specials at that time.

The branch line was the centre of an experiment in low-cost, lightweight trains, with diesel railcars being trialled as a way of reducing costs and keeping the line going. These are well-known in the railway world. Alas, they were not a success; one of the issues being that they were too light to record on the track monitoring circuits.