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(History of Oxford X)


The economy of Oxford continued to flourish in the 20th but development brought with it new issues that had to be broached. Although Oxford had of course its own particular problems there were others it had in common with other cities: rapid industrial growth and the thorny problem of traffic in the inner city areas. Furthermore, at the turn of the century the city and its economy were still largely dependent on the University; now this was all about to change.


Industry in Oxford

Oxford had been relatively uninfluenced by the Industrial Revolution and industrial development in the Victorian era. The citizens of the city sought employment essentially in trades associated with the University, mainly in the prestigious, centuries-old Oxford University Press, in the building trade, and in local shops. Employment was also available in brewery trade, which, in Oxford, dated back at least to the 13th century. In more modern times this trade was continued by Hall's Oxford Brewery, (located in the present Oxford Museum of Modern Art) and St Clement's Brewery to name but two. The Brewery Trade in Oxford, however, came to a halt in 1998 when Morrell's ceased trading.

The lack of large-scale modern industry in Oxford meant that the city was heavily dependent on the academic institutions. This situation began to change only with the advent of the car industry at the beginning of the century, begun by William Richard Morris, later Lord Nuffield.

From the construction of bicycles(1892) and later of motorcycles (motorised bicycles) Morris progressed to the manufacture of low cost cars assembled from parts purchased from other companies (1912). This work was initially carried out in the inner city of Oxford itself but soon moved, in 1913, to Cowley, one of the city's suburbs. Cars were still assembled in the city centre, in the Morris Garages, but on a smaller scale. The first car produced was the "Morris Oxford", the first of a whole range called "Bullnose" because of the shape of the radiator. Nine hundred of these were sold in 1914, in 1925 55,000 of them were produced and in 1938 the plant employed around 10,000 workers. The name of the manufacturers changed from WRM Motors to Morris Motors in 1919. The Morris Garages in the city centre produced the MG models (Morris Garages) and the MG Super Sports models became so popular that a special factory had to be built to cope with the demand. This was first located at Cowley but later moved to Abingdon.

The Morris enterprise gave Oxford the long awaiting heavy industry that had been lacking for so long. It also attracted other industries including the Pressed Steel Company, which supplied car bodies, and Osberton Radiators. This increase in industry also created the need for new houses for the workers many of whom came from south Wales. Oxford had never known prosperity of this scale before. Another important result of the development of industry in Oxford was to free the city from its traditional dependence on the academic institutions.




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latest update: 11/11/02