The History of Oxford Street

What is Oxford Street?

Oxford Street is an extensive road in the popular area of Westminister, London. It runs from Tottenham Court Road through to Marble Arch alongside Oxford Circus. With around an amazing half a million daily visitors, Oxford Street is Europes busiest shopping street and one of the most popular destinations for tourists to visit. It is home to a wide range of department stores and high-end retail outlets. Every Christmas, Oxford Street will put up Christmas Lights and organise a yearly display for tourists to watch the Christmas light switch on. The first display to ever happen was in 1959 and it has grown in popularity year on year.



Oxford Street follows the fascinating route of a Roman road that became one of the major routes in and out of the city. Between the 12th century and 1782, Oxford Street was known as Tyburn Road, Worcester Road, Oxford Road, and Uxbridge Road. A major route to London, there are several interesting obstacles along the road including the big bridge over the Tyburn! It was also known for prisoners public hangings for those who were in Newgate prison. Now there is a small round stone in the ground that marks the location of the tree they were hung from. In the 1730s, a turnpike was established to improve the upkeep of the road. In the 18th century, development began after many large surrounding fields were purchased by the Earl of Oxford. The street became extremely popular for entertainment including theatres, public houses, and bear-baiters. Towards the end of the 19th century, Oxford Street changed from predominantly residential, to retail.

Many furniture and cobbler stores began to open up on Oxford Street and some expanded into the country’s first department store.

In 1864, John Lewis opened up a small shop whilst Selfridges opened in 1909. By the 1930s, the street was almost full of retail shops. It still remains retail to this day. During World War Two, Oxford Street was targeted and bombed in the early hours of the 17th September 1940 during the blitz. Many of the buildings were damaged through subsequent fires or direct hits. Four department stores were hit including Selfridges, John Lewis, Peter Robinson, and Bourne & Hollingsworth. Until the war ended, it remained as a bomb site. The stores were completely demolished and rebuild from scratch.

During September 1973, a shopping-bag bomb was set off, injuring 6 people and causing a whopping £1.5 million of damage.

Further development and investment in the area has resulted in Oxford Street becoming one of the shopping capitals of the world, with some of the best known department stores and some of the best 5 star Hotel in London, as the Royal Lancaster London.