Thomas Henry KINGERLEE (1843–1928)

Major Oxford builder

The River Hotel, 17 Botley Road

J. H. Kingerlee
Thomas Henry Kingerlee photographed during
his first term as Mayor of Oxford in 1898/9.
Reproduced by kind permission of Kingerlee Ltd

Thomas Henry Kingerlee was born at 10 Parsons Street, Banbury to Thomas Kingerlee, plumber and glazier, and his wife Caroline, née Flowers. He inherited his father’s business in 1868 and in the same year married Helen Dorcas Hunt. In 1883 he moved to Oxford, taking over Alfred Wheeler’s business premises at 16 Queen Street, where the M&S store now is. By 1887 he had a timber yard and steam-powered joinery works at Abbey Road off the Botley Road and another yard at Mill Street, Osney, convenient for river deliveries.

In the second half of the nineteenth century the population of Oxford doubled and there was a great demand for suburban housing development. By 1887 Kingerlee had built 70 houses for rent off the Botley Road and over 70 off the Iffley Road, employing several hundred men. In 1886–9 he built all the houses in Hill View Road, the eastern side of Binsey Lane, and Alexandra, Harley, and Oatlands Roads, as well as estates in north, south and east Oxford. Helen Road and Henry Road built in 1902 were named after his children. By 1935 the firm had built over 700 houses. He manufactured the bricks from Oxford clay at his works to the north of the city where the lake at Lakeside evolved from his former brick pit.

His public buildings are a familiar part of the Oxford scene today. They include among many others: the Cooper’s Oxford Marmalade Factory near the station, the former Wilberforce Temperance Hotel at 35 Queen Street where the ground floor became the new Kingerlee showroom, the Ruskin College building in Walton Street, the Girls’ Central School (now part of St Peter’s College) the Congregationalist (now United Reformed) Church in Summertown and next to it the Twining’s grocery shop with striking cornucopia, and the Oxford Picture Palace, now Ultimate Picture Palace, Oxford’s oldest cinema, in Jeune Street.

A leading Congregationalist and teetotaller, he took a paternal interest in his employees, encouraging sports and recreational opportunities and supporting the foundation of a Provident Society. He made a distinguished civic contribution, serving on the city and county council for many years and holding the office of Sheriff and then Mayor twice in 1898/99 and 1911/12. His coat of arms was added to the Mayor's Parlour. During the second term he received an Hon. Oxford MA. He stood as Liberal candidate for Oxford in the 1895 General Election but was defeated by the Conservative Viscount Valentia.

His first residence in Oxford (1883–9) was at ‘Allandale’ on Woodstock Road. From 1889 to 1905 he lived with his family close to his workshops at Bridge House, 9 St Frideswide Terrace, now the River Hotel, 17 Botley Road (below).

River Hotel

From 1905 he lived at ‘Overdale’ on Foxcombe Hill. In 1915 he retired with Jane, his second wife, to Bath. He died in 1928 and his grand civic funeral was held at All Saints in Oxford. He was buried in Botley cemetery.

In 2018, Kingerlee Ltd, still a flourishing family firm, celebrated 150 years of trading. In recent decades they have executed high profile college projects for St John’s, St Hilda’s, Pembroke and St Anne’s, as well as extensive restoration and conservation work on many buildings in Oxford and elsewhere.


  • Kingerlee Ltd celebrating 150 years of craftsmanship in construction 1868–2018
    by Liz Woolley and Sian Smith, published by Kingerlee Ltd in 2018 (PDF version)

The plaque was unveiled at the River Hotel on 9 June 2021. The speaker was Liz Woolley, local historian. Among those attending the ceremony were Cllr Mark Lygo (Lord Mayor of Oxford) and descendants of Thomas Henry Kingerlee and other directors of the firm. Pat Jones and her family hosted delicious hospitality in the hotel garden afterwards. She has run the River Hotel for fifty years and made the proposal for the plaque.

Photographs taken at the unveiling ceremony:

Knibb plaque

Oxfordshire Blue Plaques Board



Major Oxford Builder

Twice Mayor of Oxford

lived here

Oxford Civic Society

© Oxfordshire Blue Plaques Board


Email: oxfordshireblueplaques@gmail.com