Boswells of Oxford

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The entrance to the Boswells store at night on Cornmarket Street.

Boswells of Oxford is the largest independent family-run department store in central Oxford, England.[1]

The store has been trading since 1738, and is probably the oldest family owned department store in the world. It was initially founded by Francis Boswell and located at 50 Cornmarket Street.[2] Boswells started up in business manufacturing and selling luggage and trunks, and it is widely believed their wares were taken on Captain Cook's trip to explore the Southern Hemisphere. The business remained in the Boswell family until 1890 when there was no one left for direct succession. The ownership passed to Arthur Pearson, the then owner of the Oxford Drug Company a neighbour of the Boswells store. Boswells and the Oxford Drug Company are still owned by the Pearson family and unusually for a Department Store still contains a Pharmacy. In 1928, it expanded its premises with the main entrance moving to Broad Street, opposite Balliol College and close to the spot (marked with a cross in the middle of the road) where the Oxford Martyrs were burnt at the stake.

The store is somewhat traditional in style and is a well-known local shopping landmark, particularly for Toys, Kitchenware and Luggage continuing the tradition from 1738. It still has a smaller side entrance at the north end of Cornmarket Street, which was originally the Oxford Drug Company building. Its address is now 1-4 Broad Street.[2] The company does not use an apostrophe in its name, although others sometimes mistakenly do so.

In 2014 the store launched a fully e-commerce website to replace a purely marketing website and currently sells products from all its departments online.

In 2015 it expanded upstairs to create a new tearoom and customer toilets. Store Departments:
Basement - Cookshop and Kitchen Electricals, Hardware, Household Essentials, Lighting, Small Electricals, Tableware
Ground Floor - Cosmetics, Accessories, Umbrellas and Bags, Gifts, Luggage, Pharmacy, Tourism
First Floor - 1738 Tearoom, Toysand Games, including Hornby Concession (Airfix, Corgi, Hornby, Scalextric) Second Floor - Bedding and Bathrooms, Customer Toilets, Haberdashery, Parcel Collection point,


  1. ^ "Boswells of Oxford Limited Company Profile". Yahoo! Finance. Retrieved 21 January 2013. 
  2. ^ a b "1–3 Broad Street, Oxford: Boswell's". Broad Street, Oxford. Oxford, UK: Oxford History. Retrieved 7 January 2014. 

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Coordinates: 51°45′15″N 1°15′30″W / 51.7541°N 1.2583°W / 51.7541; -1.2583