William MORRIS, Viscount Nuffield (1877–1963)

Car-maker and philanthropist

16 James Street, Cowley, Oxford

William Richard Morris was born into a family of Oxfordshire farming stock in 1877. Although born in Worcester, his early years were spent in Headington. In 1893 with £4 capital he set up a bicycle business at 16 James Street, Cowley St John, at the family home (below).

16 James Street

In 1904 he started his motor business at the Morris Garage in Longwall and Queen Street and in 1913 began production of Morris-Oxford cars at his new Cowley site, achieving an annual turnover of £6 million by 1923. He was the first British manufacturer to develop mass production of cheap cars, incidentally transforming the character of Oxford.

His own life-style was modest and he devoted much of his fortune to philanthropic endowments, giving away some £30 million, equivalent to £700 million today. His principal foundations in Oxford were the Nuffield Orthopaedic Centre (1931), the Nuffield Institute for Medical Research (1936), Nuffield College (1937) and beyond Oxford the Nuffield Foundation for medical, scientific and social research (1943).

He was made Viscount Nuffield in 1938, the title being chosen with reference to his house, Nuffield Place, near Wallingford.


  • E. J. Minns, Wealth well-given: the enterprise and benevolence of Lord Nuffield (1994)
  • R. Overy, William Morris, Viscount Nuffield (1976)
  • Hibbert: Encyclopaedia of Oxford (1988)

The plaque was unveiled at 16 James Street, Cowley, Oxford on 21 April 2004 by Jo Revis, President of the Bullnose Morris Association. Among those present were Kevin Minns, the great-great nephew of Lord Nuffield and Dr Catrin Roberts, Assistant Director of the Nuffield Foundation.

Plaque to William Morris


Oxfordshire Blue Plaques Board


later Lord Nuffield

Carmaker and Philanthropist
lived and built bicycles here 

Oxford Civic Society

© Oxfordshire Blue Plaques Board


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