The industrial age arrived in Cowley, now part of Oxford, with the opening of the Morris Motors complex, in 1912. The famous company was founded by William Morris, who designed his first car (the Bull Nose Morris) in Oxford. Morris was later created Lord Nuffield, after the Oxfordshire village where he had settled. He is also famous as the man who gave away as much money as he made, at least £30 million in his lifetime.
In 1912 Morris Motors took over the premises of the Military College, and the industrialisation of Cowley took off. Founded by William Morris, the company became a major part of the life and times Cowley.
William Morris was born in 1877. He left school at fifteen and worked in Oxford, repairing and making bicycles. He subsequently turned his hand to making motor-cycles and then cars. It was in Oxford that he designed his first car – the Bullnose Morris.
Morris was created Lord Nuffield after the Oxfordshire village where he settled. He was later made a baron and a viscount. During his lifetime he gave away an estimated £30 million. The Nuffield Foundation and Nuffield College, Oxford, were the result of his generosity.
The Oxfordshire Steam Plough Company factory was built in 1868, and was later acquired by John Allen. By the 1950s the Works and Employees’ Sports Fields covered more than ten acres.
The works closed in 1984 and the John Allen Shopping Centre occupies the site (which faces the premises you are now in).
The name Cowley is Anglo-Saxon and means Cuffa’s wood or clearing. By the 12th century Church Cowley lay round the parish church, and Temple Cowley was centred on a preceptor established by the Knights Templar.
Between them was a hamlet of Hockmore Street, later called Middle Cowley. The original Hockmore Street is more-or-less today’s Between Towns Road.
The Cowleys remained rural villages until the mid 19th century. The area was subsequently transformed by the building of the Oxford Steam Plough Company’s factory, a military college and a regimental depot. Cowley Barracks were built in 1876 for the Oxford and Buckinghamshire Light infantry. The Barracks were later used by the Post Office and, more recently, as student accommodation.