Boswells Blog

27th December 2018

Discover the Incredible Story of the Woman who Gave Birth in Boswells Department Store

Discover the Incredible Story of the Woman who Gave Birth in Boswells Department Store

When a store is around for quite as long as Boswells has been, it starts to collect stories and memories of unexpected things that have happened through the centuries. If you like, Boswells’ history is a sort of tapestry of people and their stories. As our 280th year draws to a close, we thought we’d share one of our favourite of these stories with you, which took place 21 years ago this month.

The Birth

Toy Department Image

In December 1997 a baby girl, Malaika, was unexpectedly born here in store in what was, at the time, our ladies changing room. Her mother, Viviane, had been in labour earlier that day, but was sent home from the hospital as she was only 2 cm dilated. Viviane already had 3 boys and so was sceptical about being sent home so she stayed with a friend, Valerie, who needed to pop into Boswells to pick up some bits from our Haberdashery. Of course, it was at that point that things started to happen…

Viviane suddenly felt a strong urge to push, and her waters finally broke. This was in the days when Boswells had a Ladies Fashion Department and so she dashed into a nearby changing room. These used to stand where we now keep our Keel soft toys, just along the wall, next to the ramp between the 2 parts of our Toy Department. Luckily, Viviane was still wearing a nightie, bed socks and a jumper, as she’d been expecting to stay in hospital, so thankfully she was conveniently dressed to give birth.

The birth happened very quickly, with baby Malaika being born straight into the arms of Valerie. By this time, as you would hope, our staff had rather noticed that there was a woman screaming in labour in the changing rooms, and so they sprang into action. A first aider attended from our Pharmacy, and one of our current Buyers, Marie, remembers closing off the area to other customers and sending colleagues to quickly get towels. As Valerie caught Malaika, Marie told them the time of the birth.

Eeyore Toy Image

Our staff stayed with both mother and baby until the ambulance arrived to take them to the hospital, and Viviane tells us that the changing rooms were a good spot to wait, as it had a calming low-light. She fed her daughter for the first time while she waited.

By the time the ambulance had arrived the news had spread and Viviane remembers a crowd of well wishers from the staff and customers shouting congratulations and best wishes, which is rather a nice memory to have don't you think?

A few weeks later Viviane visited the store with baby Malaika and we gave them a stuffed Eeyore toy and a large teddy bear to mark the momentous occasion. Eeyore is still sround today and they kindly brought him in for a photo.

Catching Up with Viviane and Malaika in 2018

We recently sat down to a cup of tea and a scone with Viviane and Malaika in our 1738 Tea Room to get their thoughts on the whole experience, and life since then.

Viviane and Malika 2018

For Viviane, we discovered, the birth was rather dreamlike; a true WOW moment in her life. She told us that she enjoys talking about it and visiting the store as it makes it all feel more real—although Malaika is also good proof of the event. In fact, Malaika’s birth certificate actually has 1-4 Broad Street listed as her birthplace, giving her a permanent connection to Boswells, and us to her as well.

Malaika uses the fact that she was born in a shop as a conversational icebreaker and when she was little she used to tell all of her friends about it. She’s currently studying for a Geography degree at UCL and is thinking of doing a Masters, possibly on Climate Change or other Global impacts.

Viviane went on to get a BA in Contemporary Art & Music. She is now a professional artist and has since done a picture of the outside of Boswells. She has worked with international fashion designers and her postcards of drawings of Oxford Town Hall are sold in the Town Hall shop. She goes to art fairs and sells online. Both Viviane and Malaika have continued to shop at Boswells over the years. They both like living in Oxford and Viviane thinks she will always live here.

To mark Malaika’s 21st birthday this month, we gave her a special gift of a birthday afternoon tea in our Tea Room and a Boswells gift card worth £210 (see what we did there), which she plans to put towards items for a semester studying abroad this year, possibly a suitcase. Happy birthday, Malaika! We’re very proud to be a part of your story, and to have you as a part of ours!

21st November 2018

The Top Toys to Look Out for this Christmas, 2018

The Top Toys to Look Out for this Christmas, 2018

Another Christmas is almost here! As exciting as that is, we all know that there’s a lot of preparation to go into the celebrations between now and then. And, with new toys appearing in the shops all the time, figuring out what will make the perfect gift for a special child can be a perplexing thing indeed. With that in mind, we’ve saved you some of the work and put together our predictions for which toys are going to be big this year.

Collectable Card Games

Yu-Gi-Oh! Mega Tin ImageYu-Gi-Oh! trading card game is a seasoned favourite. Keep an eye out for the Yu-Gi-Oh! Mega Tin set in the coming weeks, as these are proving popular already.

The tin comes with one of 2 designs on the cover of the tin, and inside you’ll find a selection of the past year’s cards, as well as some new surprises to keep things interesting.


Hearing Things Game Image

Looking for some fun with the family this festive season? We think we might just have the game for you! Hearing Things is a fantastic new game that allows you plenty of opportunities to mildly embarrass yourself as you attempt to guess what phrases the family are saying to you, purely by lip reading. Pop on a pair of fetching looking speech cancelling headphones and try to decipher the phrase…it promises some good giggles as it really is harder than it sounds!

Fun with Science

Crazy Aaron's Thinking Putty ImageOur science toy section always proves to be one of the busiest parts of the shop in the run up to Christmas. What better way to learn, after all, than through play! Last year it was all about the slime and, although that certainly hasn’t completely changed, we’re predicting putty to be huge this year. What’s the difference you ask? While slime has quite a runny consistency, putty is thicker, can be a bit more pliable and is definitely less likely to spill all over the floor!

We have some very special putties in stock at the moment, with Crazy Aaron’s Thinking Putty range offering weird and wonderful versions of this squashy toy. We particularly love the Cosmic Northern lights Thinking Putty, which has a tinge of aurora colours in it, but it also amazingly glows sky blue in the dark! Wowza!

Power Tracks ImageIf you’re looking for something less gooey, though, who doesn’t love a good remote-control toy to drive the family mad with on Christmas day? The Science Museum Heliball  is one of our favourites and can keep a wide age range amused. This flying remote control toy can detect when it’s near a surface and move away accordingly! 

Power Tracks also promises to bring lots of fun to the table this Christmas, as kid’s can get their first taste of programming, as they give commands to adorable robot, Volty, to move in whatever direction they choose! It’s a fantastic introduction to STEM, but also, who doesn’t love robots!

Interactive Electronic Toys

Little Live Pets Wrapples Image

Speaking of robots, you might want to take a peek at these new arrivals!

Pokibot is a tiny little robot, but packed with great features and functions that are bound to keep the kids entertained well beyond Christmas. You can record your voice and play it back, watch Pokibot dance and spin and move about and, rather impressively, if you have more than 1, the Pokibots will interact with each other!

You may have heard of Little Live Pets Wrapples recently, but might be wondering just what exactly these are… Wrapples are little electronic pets that you can wear on your wrist. They talk, sing, giggle and purr and are both a pet and a friend that children can keep by their side, wherever they are. They’re furry, friendly and even have light up eyes. We reckon that these are going to be a big hit this year, because of the cunning combination of cuteness and portability that these fuzzy little friends offer!

Harry Potter

Hermione Grainger Doll ImageAs you may very well have heard, 2018 marks 20 years of Harry Potter. Thankfully this has meant a mountain of amazing new Harry Potter toys! Here are a couple we predict being in high demand this Christmas…

Ah yes, what could be better than Harry Potter? Harry Potter LEGO®, of course! This amazing Hogwarts Great Hall set is made up of 878 pieces to help you to build the most iconic of buildings from the Harry Potter universe in your own home. We reckon this will bring a lot of joy to quite a few people’s Christmas’s!

Also released this year were the range of Harry Potter articulated dolls. These detailed character toys are poseable, so all those favourite scenes can be recreated through play, and new stories invented too! We think this 25cm Hermione Grainger doll looks pretty realistic!

Hot Wheels

Hot Wheels Pack of 10 ImageA perennial favourite, Hot Wheels have proven popular for 50 years…well we’re impressed! This year, we’re delighted to introduce the 10 car pack, which is exactly as it sounds. Each pack comes with an assortment of cool little cars to send down ramps, round loop de loops and more than likely under furniture (rescuing them from the sofa is, of course, part of the fun!)

LOL Surprise

LOL Surprise Image

A new toy to the scene this time last year, LOL Surprise has stayed as big as ever. We think that the LOL Surprise Innovation Doll and the LOL Surprise Glam Glitter Doll are both ones to look out for this Christmas. The Innovation Doll contains a LOL surprise doll in disguise, waiting to have their true-identity discovered, while the Glam Glitter Doll brings a sparkly touch to things, which sounds about perfect for Christmas to us!

TY Flippables

TY Flippables ImageThe TY Flippables arrived at Boswells only a couple of weeks ago, and immediately started flying off the shelves. Although they’re selling extremely quickly, don’t worry, we do still have some of these adorable cuddlies ready for you to take home. If you don’t know what a TY Flippable is, think of a Beanie Boo that’s covered in reversable sequins! They’re cute, shiny, and lots of fun (well we had to have a play ourselves, of course, just to be sure…)

So, there you go, our predictions for some of the biggest toy hits this Christmas. We hope that you’re now feeling a little less daunted by the prospect of all that planning and shopping, but if you do still need a helping hand our staff are more than happy to help you to find that perfect gift. A very merry Christmas to you, from all of us at Boswells!

26th October 2018

Meet The Ghost of Boswells of Oxford

Meet The Ghost of Boswells of Oxford

280 years is a long time for any business to survive and thrive as Boswells has, and so you may not be surprised to hear that over time we've acquired our very own ghost. With the nights growing dark, and the ghouls of Halloween creeping from their hiding places, as they do every year, we thought we'd share our own chilling tales with you.

The legend goes that George worked as a Pharmacist at Boswells in the early 20th century, and met his untimely end at the bottom of the dumb waiter shaft, which runs through the building to this day. Stories of George clattering about the building, knocking stock on the floor have been common amongst the staff ever since. And, on the odd occasion, he's even been seen in the building! He also commonly vanishes useful objects such as stationary, and so, if you're reading this George, the Web Team would like their marker pens back please!


Your Memories of George the Ghost

Dumb Waiter Lift Base Image

When gathering customer recollections of Boswells, earlier this year,  Peter reminisced about seeing George when working in our Pharmacy.

"Whilst doing a temp role in Boswells Pharmacy department/store room I had a great experience of the resident ghost. I was told of old 'George.' I saw his ghost by the dumb waiter. Not at all scary--in fact I felt his happiness to re-visit the department he worked in. But I also felt his life was ended tragically. I guess he loves the old store a lot! Good old George!"

He's typically quite a shy character, and so sightings are very rare, but other forms of spooky encounter are fairly commonplace around here.


Poltergeist or Prankster?

Ghost ImageWe asked current and former members of Boswells staff if they had ever personally encountered George the ghost, and here's what they told us...

Sharon works in our Pharmacy, and on one occasion encountered George's mischievous side. She told us: "I was in the Toys Department one day and a piece of LEGO was thrown at my leg. Nobody was there. Stock [often] falls off the shelves...George is a very cheeky ghost."

Sharon was not the only one to come across stock thrown from the shelves, in fact quite a few people mentioned this to us. Kim, a former member of Boswells staff, told us that: "One time I was speaking with [a colleague] and all the stuff fell off the shelves in Linens!" Being on the 2nd floor of the store, in an area with no external windows, she pointed out that this could not have been the wind. 

Bella used to work in our Linens department, and not only did she see stock inexplicably fall on the floor, she told us that she once also felt a hand brushing through her hair!George Writing Image

All in all, we'd have to say that George is a pretty friendly and well meaning ghost. On one recent occasion, in our web office, the printer suddenly sprang into life, unexpectedly printing off a sheet that simply said "good morning." It's certainly good to know that George has been keeping up with technological advancements since his death...

He's Behind You...

Creepy Manekins Image

Have you ever been somewhere completely by yourself, but sworn that you could hear footsteps? Perhaps you've just met George, going about his daily haunting business. Invisibly sneaking up on our staff is one of George's favourite pastimes! 

Angie from our Accessories department described her encounter with George to us. "One afternoon while I was taking some empty boxes out to the bins, I heard footsteps behind me, quite clearly. As I turned around there was no one there, just an eerie feeling!"

Creepy Moon ImageWho knows what a ghost gets up to when he has a whole department store to himself at night. Anne from Toys told us a chilling story of some of George's late-night antics.

She said that: "A couple of years ago, my manager and I were behind the till (Games) and we served a student who had not long arrived to the city. She was staying in a room that joins onto Boswells and mentioned that she could hear the night security guard walking about and banging about. Both my boss and I looked at each other, then back to the customer and informed her that we had no night security guard, nor was anyone working over night in the building." Our apologies to anyone else out there who has found our resident ghost to be a noisy neighbour while staying nearby!


The Scene of the Crime

Staircase ImageLaura from our Luggage Department has been un/fortunate enough to have had more than one run in with our resident phantom. "I was covering in China and Electrical when the till [used to be] by the stairs. It was really quiet and no one was around and I heard footsteps coming from the sub-basement stairs as they are wooden. I waited for someone to come one did." But George wasn't done there, as he felt like startling Laura once again...

"One weekend I was up on fourth-floor pricing stock. I was on my own...when I heard footsteps coming towards me. Once again, the floor was wooden. I looked, and no one was there. I assumed it was George."

We don't think that Laura is aware of this, but the sub-basement, where she first heard the footsteps, is where the base of the dumb-waiter shaft is, and the fourth floor stock room is where this shaft would have originally begun at the time of George's demise. Her two encounters were in precisely the parts of the building where George fell, and where he landed.

Spooky coincidence? We'll let you decide...


22nd October 2018

Celebrating Bonfire Night in and Around Oxford 2018

Celebrating Bonfire Night in and Around Oxford 2018

Gunpowder Plotters ImageRemember, remember the 5th of November, or so the saying traditionally goes. It was, of course, on this infamous date in 1605 that a group of 13 gunpowder plotters attempted to bring both King and parliament to an explosive end with 36 barrels of hidden gunpowder. Guy Fawkes, the most remembered of the plotters—not, in fact, the leader of the conspirators but rather the man caught holding the lantern in the cellars of the Houses of Parliament—will be burned in effigy up and down the country in the coming days to mark the anniversary of the thwarting of the plot, as has become the custom.

Those who enjoyed last year's BBC series Gunpowder will understand that a with many of our traditions the reality was somewhat more gruesome and serious than our current celebrations which as well as bonfires aplenty include fireworks, hot dogs, burgers, and even funfairs to accompany the burning of "the Guy." So yep, 410 years on from Guy Fawkes’ arrest the act of remembering gunpowder, treason and plot is far from being “forgot,” and has grown into a full scale annual tradition. 

To mark this occasion, and to help you make the most of Guy Fawkes Night, we’ve gathered up a list of upcoming bonfire and firework events in and around Oxford!

Fireworks Image

2nd November

22nd Oxford Sea Scouts Firework Display—OX4 4BJ (Fundraising firework display, BBQ, 5pm).
Botley School Fireworks, Oxford—OX2 9JZ (Fireworks and BBQ, 6pm).
Hanborough Musical Fireworks—The Pavillion, OX29 8JG (Fireworks to music, refreshments and funfair, 6pm).

3rd November

Bicester Round Table Firework Display and Bonfire—Pingle Field (Fireworks, fairground and refreshments and music, 6pm).
Oxford Round Table Fireworks Display—South Park (50th annual charity fireworks display, live music, refreshments and funfair, gates open 4:30pm, fireworks 6:45 followed by bonfire). Using KimBolton fireworks the same company we sell in store.
Blenheim Palace Halloween Firework Display—Woodstock (Firework Spectacular at Windsor Racecourse with pyrotechnics, spooky projections, 5:30pm).

4th November

Dorchester on Thames Village Firework Display—Recreation Ground, Dorchester on Thames (5:30pm).

Witney RFC Bonfire and Fireworks Spectacular—Witney Rugby Club (Fireworks, bonfire and refreshments, Guy competition, 6pm, fireworks 7pm).


5th November

Bonfire Night at the Plough, Wolvercote—OX2 8BD (Fireworks and BBQ, 5pm).

10th November

Abingdon Festival of Fireworks—Norden Farm Centre for the Arts (Fireworks, bonfire, funfair, food and pyromusical display, 5pm).


Lantern Image

We also recommend taking a November trip to The Ashmolean Museum where, in the basement, you will find the lantern purported to be the very one Guy Fawkes had with him in the cellars of Parliament on November 5th 1605.

If you know of any other firework or bonfire events taking place nearby we’d love to hear from you. You can email us at or contact us via facebook or twitter.

Image copyright of Ben Sutherland.

We also sell a range of KimBolton fireworks in store—which are also available through the click and collect option on our website—so if you’re planning your own display, big or small, we can help you to make this bonfire night something a bit special. If you’re not sure what kind of fireworks you need you can always pop in to store to talk to one of the members of staff on our fireworks desk (near the Cornmarket entrance) who will be happy to help.

So wrap up warm, get to a display nice and early for the perfect view, and remember, remember the 5th of November in sparkly, spectacular style!

19th October 2018

Making the Most of Autumn

Making the Most of Autumn

Image Credit: Wondrousink Ltd, cropped from original.

The evenings are getting darker, the leaves are changing to hues of red and gold and there’s an unmistakable crispness in the air. There’s no denying it, Autumn is finally upon us! To prepare you for the chilly months ahead we’ve put together a guide to some useful products to help you make the most of this gorgeous, if frosty, season.

Staying Cosy at Home

Banishing the Cold


Stay warm: this is really the key to the season. There are a number of ways to go about making your home warm and welcoming this autumn, from the little things such as warming up a hot water bottle, to burying yourself under a mountain of warm and snuggly blankets.

Perhaps the most important change you will need to make in your home as the long nights draw closer is to get hold of a warm Autumn/Winter duvet, preferably 13.5 tog or more (the higher the tog rating, the thicker and warmer the duvet!). 

Hudson Throws Image

For those who particularly feel the cold, we have one crucial word for you: layers! Blankets and throws can be added to your bed to keep you extra-warm, and they’re great for curling up under on the sofa too. 

For added reinforcement against the chill weather a hot water bottle can be a loyal ally, as can a microwavable warmer. These come in standard wheat pouches—some of which can be used to soothe aches and pains as well—as well as in cuddly-creature form. A halogen or convection heater may also be worth investing in to take the edge off the weather.

Making the Most of the Weather

It may be getting cold outside, but it’s really the perfect excuse for spoiling yourself with a warm drink and a hot bath (not necessarily at the same time). In fact, while tea and coffee are year-round mainstays, hot chocolate and cocoa are never better than when enjoyed on a cold Autumnal evening.

A milk pan will help you to make delicious and warming beverages—we highly recommend adding some marshmallows, and if you’re feeling particularly indulgent, a little whipped cream too! Alternatively, stop by our 1738 Tea Room or our Broad Street Cafe to enjoy a hot drink without the fuss of having to prepare it yourself!

Candles Image

As for the bath, we suggest throwing in a scented bath melt to help you unwind while you thaw in the tub. You could also try a reed diffuser or an oil burner to spread soothing seasonal scents around your home.

As we plunge into the darker portion of the year a little light goes a long way. For atmosphere some candles can make a big difference, we have a huge selection to choose from. However if you suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder you may want to try a daylight bulb to bring a little more brightness to your home.

It’s also a good idea to have a torch on hand for unexpected power-cuts or even just a small one to fit on your keyring to help you to get into the warm that little bit faster. If you're a dedicated cyclist, bold enough to get on your bike at any time of the year, then we have some bike lights to help you light your way. 

Venturing Outside

Wrapping up Warm

Scarves imageWho knows what the typically unpredictable British climate will have in store for us this Autumn, but it pays to be prepared. After all, stepping out your door needn’t be an ordeal.

By now you’ve probably dug your winter coat out from the back of the cupboard and reunited yourself with whatever it was you left in your pockets the last time it was cold, but throwing on a scarf, hat and gloves as it gets colder will also help make outside all the more hospitable.

You could also try a thermos flask so that you never need be parted from a hot drink or soup while you’re out and about. The Thermos ThermoCafé range has a whole host of great flasks to choose from.

And, as with bedding, the key word for staying warm this time of year is layers! Bundling up under your coat is one of the best ways to keep in the heat, so layers are a wise choice if it gets especially nippy.

 Keeping Dry


The other important thing to remember about the weather this time of year is actually a year-round concern—sooner or later it is bound to rain! Nevertheless, getting caught in a downpour on a cold Autumn day can be infinitely more unpleasant than on a warm summer’s one, and the cold and flu season is indeed now here. It’s more important than ever, then, to have a good umbrella  to hand.

Autumnal Festivities

Pumpkin It’s finally that time of year again when gruesomeness becomes a matter of décor and ghoulishness is positively encouraged. Halloween is a bit of spooky fun, and the occasion warrants a perfectly chilling costume, whatever your age! 

If you’re planning on transforming your home into something a little scarier this Halloween, or if you’re throwing a party, some fake spider webs can be a fun way to add some eerie atmosphere. If you’re planning on carving something magnificently ghastly into a pumpkin then tea lights are a great way of showing off your work—just be sure to watch those fingers!


As we near Bonfire night, we will have a  whole host of fireworks available in store, ready fro the big night itself. Keep an eye out for updates on local firework displays on our website and social media, or pop in to store soon to see if we can help you light up the night sky from your own garden.

Whatever you do this Autumn though, just remember to enjoy this beautiful season while it lasts!

21st September 2018

Your Guide to Our Student Check List Essentials

Your Guide to Our Student Check List Essentials

Whether you’re heading off to university for the first time, or returning for another year of study, we’ve put together a guide to student essentials to get you started for the new academic year. Don't forget to sign up to our Student Club to get 10% off now and other offers throughout the year!

You can scroll to read the entire guide, or simply click the options on the menu below.


Arriving in Oxford Making Yourself At Home Bedding and Towels
Kitchen Essentials Space Saving Solutions Making It Your Own
On the Go Starting Your Studies Beating the Fresher’s Flu
  Enjoying Your Time in Oxford  


Arriving in Oxford

Bridge of Sighs Image

Arriving in a new place can be a bit daunting at first while you figure out how to get around and what to expect from your new location. Oxford has lots of exciting things to offer, from its iconic dreaming spires to its museums, restaurants, pubs and shops, but it’s also an old city with many an interesting sight to be found off little side streets and winding passages. If you’re new to the area we recommend picking up a copy of the Pitkin Oxford City Guide to get to know the area.

The guides are available in nine different languages, and offer a comprehensive guide to Oxford’s attractions, big and small, along with a map of the city centre and suggested walking routes. If this is your first time living in the UK then a visitor to the UK travel adaptor will allow you to run 240v mains devices, like your phone or tablet, and so we recommend this as must have item.

We think Oxford is a fantastic place to live, but it seems that Oxfordshire's clothes moth population does too. Although the moths are pretty harmless (except to clothing) we suggest investing in something to keep them at bay, which will protect your clothes and soft furnishings from getting munched. Zensect Moth Proofer is a good way to do this, as you can discreetly hide the lavender scented balls, and there’s no need to be spraying chemicals near your clothes.


Making Yourself At Home

One of the most important parts about settling into any new home, whether its student halls or a new flat, is making it your own. Partly this comes down to practical purchases, but also adding your own decorative flair to your new place.


Bedding and Towels

Bathroom ImageThe first things you’ll need are the more practical items—your bedding, towels and something to go in the kitchen. To get you started we highly recommend a bed bundle. The single duvet bundle comes with one hollowfibre 13.5 tog duvet (perfect for draughty college halls) and one free hollowfibre pillow.

The bundles are all non-allergenic, and great value as there’s no need to buy a separate pillow. Plus, the double and king size bundles each come with 2 free pillows! We suggest also taking a look at our low cost range of sheets and pillow cases to get you started.

When you buy your towels you can mix and match the colour to personalise your bathroom a little. We recommend our range of Bliss Pima towels by Deyongs, which are currently at a fantastic price, and are made from 100% cotton (so they’re nice and soft!). These towels are available as a face cloth, a hand towel, a bath towel and a bath sheet in a range of different colours.


Kitchen Essentials

Cooking ImageNext you’ll need to fill your kitchen with the essential implements to keep you well fed during your time at university. We highly recommend the 1.7L cordless kettle from Igenix, which has all the safety features you’d expect, like a locking lid and automatic shut off. The Igenix 2 slice toaster is also a fantastic buy, and a great idea for grabbing a quick piece of toast before your morning lecture!

For those of you with greater culinary ambitions than toast, we’re currently selling a good selection of low-cost saucepans and frying pans in our Cookshop. In particular we suggest taking a look at our range of stainless steel Royal Cuisine saucepans, which are sold individually at 16cm, 18cm and 20cm. They’re suitable for electric, gas, ceramic, halogen and induction hobs, and they’re fully dishwasher safe, which means that whatever facilities you have in your accommodation these pans should do the trick.

Our China & Glass department is stocked up with lots of glasses, plates, bowls and mugs, and there’s plenty to choose from within an affordable budget. 


Space Saving Solutions


Student housing can often mean getting a little creative with space, so we have some items to help you out there as well. We suggest checking out our range of clothes hangers—its hard to appreciate just how essential they are until you arrive to an empty wardrobe with no way of hanging up all of your clothes! The mix & match range have proven to be a favourite with our customers, probably because they’re available in 17 different shades, and come in a pack of 5.

A collapsible airer is also worth investing in so that you have somewhere to dry your washing that can also be packed away when you aren’t using it. We also do a pop up laundry basket, which can be stored away when not in use. And for those of you with awkwardly placed plug sockets, an extension lead will give you a bit more freedom as to where you can set up any tech you’ve brought with you!


Making It Your Own

Throw ImageOnce you’ve stocked up on the basics you may want to personalise your new place a little. We aren’t going to lie to you, fairy lights aren’t strictly speaking essential, but adding some fun touches to your accommodation can be a really important part of settling in to your new environment, especially if this is your first time away from home.

Other little flourishes that can make you feel more at home are things like throws and rugs. We highly recommend the Ultrasoft single throw as a great bargain. There are 7 colours to choose from, and they’re as soft as the name would suggest—just the thing for keeping warm during the Autumn/Winter, and just generally great for brightening the place up.


On the Go

Since you won’t be spending the entirety of your time at university in your room you may need a couple of items for when you’re out and about. A Kikkerland portable phone charger is pretty useful; it charges via the mains and can slip into a bag or a pocket as a way of topping up your phone or mp3 player over the course of the day. A small umbrella to keep to hand is also a sound investment—if you’re new to the UK, be prepared for unpredictable weather and rain that can start and stop with little warning. The Fulton Miniflat umbrella is ideal for unexpected rain showers as it fits easily in a bag, and won't cost you a fortune.


Starting Your Studies

Fresher’s week won’t last forever, soon lectures and seminars will begin in earnest and you will need a few scholarly supplies. Firstly, it’s a good idea to get hold of an academic diary. This will help you to keep track of your classes and deadlines, and the diary covers the entire academic year, so no need to buy a new one in January. We also have a good range of pens and notebooks in store at the moment to help you get ready for the start of term.

Morning classes can be a pain, and so it’s also wise to get an alarm clock to help you get out of bed on time (which inevitably gets harder as it gets colder).


Beating the Fresher’s Flu

Colds and flu spread through universities with ease and efficiency—and don’t let the name fool you, it isn’t only freshers that are at risk, fresher’s flu will find you whether you’re a first year undergraduate or a post-graduate veteran…even your lecturers aren’t exempt. We’re offering a walk in flu vaccination service in store over the Autumn and Winter, available from early October 2018.

If a cold or the flu do catch up with you though we also have a range of products in our pharmacy to help you manage your symptoms, not to mention tissues and throat lozenges. 


Enjoying Your Time in Oxford

There’s usually plenty going on in town, and the city has some great annual traditions that are worth keeping an eye out for. Don't forget to pop into Boswells or visit our website to take advantage of our student offers while they last, and to get 10% off with our Student Club! Finally, and most importantly, have fun, study hard, and make sure you make the most of your time in here in Oxford!

26th July 2018

Make the Most of Long Distance Flying with These 10 Tips

Make the Most of Long Distance Flying with These 10 Tips

It’s that time of year again, when thousands of us stuff our suitcases, stock up on sunscreen and jet off for another amazing holiday. We don’t doubt that fantastic adventures, lazy days on the beach and some of the best food the world has to offer await you, but first there’s the flight to deal with. Few people enjoy long flights, so here are a few tips to help make your flight as easy and enjoyable as possible.


Window Seat Image

10. Find Your Perfect Seat

Before you even get to the airport, you have an important decision to make…where to sit? No pressure, but the seat you choose could make or break how much you enjoy your journey. There are different opinions about where the perfect place to sit on a plane is, the trick is to find the seat that’s right for you. Here are a few things to consider...

The Window Seat

The window seat is an old favourite for many. It provides a view of the world below, a nice wall to rest your head against, and you are entirely free from having to get up to let other passengers get out of their seat. On the other hand, in these seats, you will find it much more difficult to get out of your own seat. This makes it much harder to make trips to the toilet or to simply stretch your legs.


The Aisle Seat

The aisle seat, on the other hand, will allow you ample opportunity to get up and wander about pretty much any time you like (turbulence permitting). You will, however, have to contend with frequent disturbances from other passengers wanting to climb out over your seat, and airline staff moving up and down the aisles throughout the flight. If you’re planning to sleep through the entire flight, this may not be the seat for you.

9. Eat Well…But Not Too Well!

Airline Food Image

Apparently eating foods rich in carbohydrates can help your body to adjust to a new time zone. Pack a few snacks for the journey, so that if you feel hungry between meals you have something to nibble, but be careful not to overdo it. Your body digests food slower when you fly, so lots of bulky food isn’t necessarily the best idea.

If you’ve never been on a long-haul flight before, you may be surprised to discover that your meals will probably come based on which time zone you’re currently in, which means you may get lunch, followed a few hours later by breakfast. The best we can say is, just go with it…


Image Credit

8. Don’t Forget to Pack These Essentials…

There are 2 kinds of things you need to remember to pack when going abroad. The first is everything you will need when you reach your destination. The second, and easier to forget things, are all the bits and pieces you might need for the journey. Here are some easily forgotten essentials:

  • A Pen: Make sure you have a pen to hand to fill in any necessary immigration documents on the plane (and bring a spare for your neighbour, who will inevitably have forgotten to pack one!)
  • Toothbrush and Toothpaste: Brushing your teeth will add a touch of normality to your day, not to mention keep your teeth nice and healthy.
  • Packing ImageHeadphone Adaptor: Some airlines have special headphone sockets, so it’s worth checking this in advance, and if you’d prefer to use your own headphones, we suggest getting an adaptor to give you this option.
  • Prescription Medication: If you take any prescription medication, make sure you have this with you in case you need it (and in case your checked luggage goes astray). Keep the prescription to hand in case customs need to check this later.
  • Hand Sanitiser: We highly recommend taking a small bottle of hand sanitiser with you…you probably don’t want to know just how dirty planes can get, but trust us, you’ll need this!

The trick to packing the right amount of carry on luggage—everything you need, but not too much—is finding the right cabin case or bag for the job. Pop in and speak to the very knowledgeable staff in our Luggage Department, or have a browse for yourself on our website, here.

7. Keep Yourself Entertained

Entertainment on Plane Image

Most long-haul flights come stocked with a vast selection of films, TV series, music and games to keep you occupied. You can usually look this up in advance to see whether there is likely to be anything that you’re going to want to settle down to for several hours of flying. If not, or if in any doubt, filling your tablet, e-book reader or mp3 player with things you know you love can be a smart move.

If you’re not travelling solo, a pack of cards can be fun, and make keeping yourselves occupied a more sociable experience than simply watching the inflight movies.

6. Soothe your Flying-Nerves

If you’re a nervous flyer, you’re not alone. It’s quite common to have a little apprehension about flying, but we hope that doesn’t stop you from getting out there and seeing what the rest of the world has to offer!

Statistically, you will reach your destination safely, and although at times during the flight you may not feel completely safe, you really are in expert hands.

Plane Image

It may be helpful to inform a member of the crew that you’re a nervous flyer, as they will be able to talk you through any concerns you have and check on you throughout the flight.

The middle of the plane, near the wings, is said to be the most stable place to sit, so should there be any turbulence, you’ll feel it that little bit less if you sit here. Distractions are also a great way to soothe your mind…indulge in films you like, a good book, or the company of a level-headed friend to take your mind off your worst imaginings. It’s important to acknowledge and address your anxieties, but try, also, to counter them with the excitement of your destination, and the holiday ahead.

5. Battle the In-Flight Insomnia

Some people can sleep pretty much anywhere, but for others it might not be that easy. Bear this in mind before flying long distance, and make sure that, at the very least, you’re well rested before you get on the plane…it may be a while before you get some proper sleep.

Travel Pillow ImageTo help you get your 40 winks, we recommend getting your hands on a travel pillow, an eye mask and some noise cancelling earplugs to block out the hum of the engines (although it’s always comforting to know that those are still working away while you doze). Some swear by sleeping pills to help them with sleeping on long flights, however, we would recommend popping in and speaking to one of our friendly Pharmacists for some advice before going down this route.

If you’re one of the unlucky souls that simply will not be able to sleep sat upright in economy class, no matter what you try, there are a few things you can do to help make this more bearable. Find yourself some good films, music or a book to help while away the hours in the air, but remember that if it’s a night flight you may be sitting awake in the dark for several hours. You could also try taking occasional breaks from the in-flight entertainment, curling up with your pillow, and closing your eyes for half an hour or so to allow your brain a little respite.

And finally, if (and when, eventually) you do sleep, try to sleep according to the time zone you’re headed towards, rather than the one you’ve just left. This will help you to combat jet lag and adjust to the new time zone a little more smoothly!

4. Stay Hydrated

Stay Hydrated ImageStaying hydrated when flying is extremely important, as the airconditioned air you breathe on a plane can be especially dry. Being dehydrated can cause your blood to thicken and increase your risk of deep vein thrombosis when flying. The trick is to drink plenty of water, little and often, and avoid drinks like tea, coffee and alcohol, which can contribute to dehydration. We recommend buying a bottle or 2 of water in duty free before you board, so that you have water to hand throughout the flight—although you can always ask the flight crew for a drink later. We would strongly advise against drinking water from the taps on the plane.

Bear in mind that some countries do have restrictions in place when buying water before a flight, such as requiring you to keep the bottle sealed in a bag until you board. If you’re flying out of Malaysia, for example, all water in duty free is served in disposable cups, rather than a resealable bottle. It's always a good idea to check what the restrictions are in advance. 

You may also find that your skin, lips, eyes and nose feel very dry from flying, but a little moisturiser, chap stick, nasal spray or some eye drops may help with this. Drop in and speak to our Cosmetics and Pharmacy staff for a little advice on which of these to choose.

3. Dress Comfortably

Wardrobe ImageUnsurprisingly, sitting in the same small space for hours on end as you hurtle across the globe isn’t always the most comfortable of experiences. So, when you’re preparing for your flight, give some serious thought to clothing that is loose fitting, and has some give in it. Whatever you’re wearing needs to be suitable for checking in for your flight, sleeping, eating and lots and lots of sitting. We also heartily recommend turning to a trusty pair of fluffy bed socks to add to your comfort.

Some people prefer to take a change of clothes with them, or even get into their pyjamas after take-off, it really all is a matter of preference. We also suggest bringing some layers, as the aircon can sometimes mean the temperature can fluctuate. Layers will mean you can cool down or warm up as needed.

2. Look After Yourself

Moving Around Plane ImageIt’s important to take good care of yourself when you’re flying, as being inactive for long periods of time and dehydration can put you at risk of deep vein thrombosis (a blood clot that can cause serious complications). To keep yourself in tip top condition, try to get up and move around the cabin every couple of hours. If this isn’t possible, there are exercises that you can do in your seat that will help with your circulation. Flexing your feet back towards yourself, and then pointing them towards the toe repeatedly can help, as can rotating each foot in small circles in your seat. Loose fitting clothing will also help the flow of blood around the body.

You may want to consider flight socks, however it’s important that these are properly fitted for you, so we recommend speaking to a pharmacist if you think this might be a good option for you. If you are concerned that you may be at risk of deep vein thrombosis, it’s wise to visit your GP well before you travel, so that they can prescribe any necessary medication, or fit you for the correct flight socks. Visit for more information and advice on deep vein thrombosis.

1. Plan Ahead!

Travelling with Children ImageFinally, planning makes all the difference. If you’re travelling a long distance with the family, for example, a little extra planning can make the journey much easier and more enjoyable for everyone. This handy Sainsbury’s Bank guide to travelling with children is a great place to start your planning for a journey with the kids.

Putting a little thought into where you’d like to sit, what to pack, what to wear and how to take care of yourself well in advance of your trip means that you have fewer things to worry about on the day. Simply sit back, enjoy the ride, and make the most of the adventure that lies ahead! 

Check out our other travel blogs here!

15th May 2018

Memories of Boswells

Memories of Boswells

To kick off our 280th birthday celebrations, we’ve been gathering up memories of Boswells from staff and customers alike. We’ve been learning all sorts of fascinating things about our own history along the way, and so we’d like to give you a little taste of what we’ve learned so far…

Fond Childhood Memories 

A little childhood magic can really forge fond memories. We’re truly honoured to hear that we are a part of so many of your wonderful, early memories!

Whitey ImageJan Barnard sent us this picture of a toy she got from Boswells as a child. We’re told that he’s called Whitey, and it looks to us like he’s had a long, happy life. Here’s Jan’s memory of getting Whitey: “My parents used to take me to the toy department in the 60’s when we lived in Oxford. You used to walk down a big wooden staircase into the toy department that was magnificent and enter a magical world. When I broke my arm and had to have it set at the old Radcliffe Mum took me there to treat me to a toy and I picked a toy dog which I still have. Wonderful childhood memories.”

We’ve also been hearing lots of magnificent tales of trips to see Father Christmas in store. Susan Walters sent us this fantastic memory of a visit to the North Pole (via Broad Street, of course):

“I am 70 years old and this is my most favourite memory of my childhood. The Father Christmas train ride to meet him. I honestly thought we were on a train as we sat in a carriage and watched the land go by through the windows. Then when we arrived, we went to the end of the carriage to see Father Christmas to get a present. Never dawned on me when we went out of another door that we were still in the shop but hadn't travelled back! Wonderful magical memory.”

Entering the World of Work

Boswells 1960s Image

There’s nothing quite like your first job to prepare you for what life has to offer, and so we’re very proud to have been somewhere where so many of you could make your first ventures into the working world!

Matt Muller got in touch to tell us about his first job, working as a Saturday boy in 1962:

“I can’t remember exactly when I started, but I recall looking forward to earning real money in order to indulge in my passion–pop records. Mr Piper was my boss. He was in charge of Linen and Leather. I have fond memories of Mr Piper, he was a small man, kind and supportive of his staff, thorough but someone you would not mess about! I met my longest standing friend in Boswells, John, another Saturday boy who now lives in Holland.”

Mary Anne Brown, who worked for Boswells in 1982, also fondly remembered her time here:

“Working in the upstairs office at Boswells was my first job after leaving school in 1982. I counted the takings each day in a time when credit cards were used much less and people often paid with cheques and cash. We had no computers. All accounts were recorded in ledgers. We worked at decades old wooden desks and chairs; it was quite a big deal when we had wheeled office chairs bought for us! I remember the two brothers that owned/ran the store; Mr. Tony and Mr. Christopher. Their first names were used since they shared the same last name, which would be confusing; but they were still always referred to as ‘Mr.’ In fact, all the department heads were called ‘Mr.’ or ‘Mrs.’ –never by their first name.”

Things have changed quite a lot around here since 1982, although the novelty of the wheeled chairs still hasn’t worn off…especially in those parts of the store where the 1920s flooring isn’t quite close to level…

First Impressions

Cookshop Team ImageThe staff here at Boswells have been sharing some of their memories of what the store was like when they first started working here.

Linda in our Cookshop has been with us for an impressive 27 years and has seen the shop change a lot in that time.

“I was amazed at how big the store was. The Gift department had a large till in the middle of the shop floor which was very busy, went in to the China department, which is now the Pharmacy. There was lots of large stands with many different manufacturers names on and full of all sorts of china.” Getting to grips with the size and scale of the store is something that a lot of Boswells staff remember finding tricky at first, but the building really does have its own special charm!

Laura in our Luggage Department started working at Boswells 10 and a half years ago and has worked in most departments at one point or other.

She told us that her “First week consisted of Saturdays at the beginning. My first day I was quiet, shy maybe. I had a lot to learn, I started on a department that is no longer there. Also, the building at the time was a maze to whoever didn’t know where they were going.” Laura quickly got the hang of things and is now quite skilled at helping newer members of the Boswells team come out of their shells.

Expect the Unexpected...

Sometimes it’s the amusing, but unplanned moments that stay with us. Marion Rea sent us this fantastic memory about when she first came to Oxford:

Gifts Image

“As newly arrived students my friends Lisa, Jane and I bought a casserole dish together in Boswells in order to recreate the tastes of home that we were all missing. We proceeded to blow it up—even Pyrex isn't able to withstand being heated on a hob—causing a spectacular shower of glass across our shared kitchen, a fire alarm, and a long-standing reputation for domestic incompetence. But... we learned our lesson and the replacement Boswells casserole dish is still going strong, nearly 30 years later, and we three students remain great friends.”

Strange and unexpected things have also been known to happen to our staff. Lorraine in our Gifts Department recalled a time when a “Pigeon flew into the Broad St window and while everyone else was trying to rescue it Phil [who worked in Luggage at the time] went and got his camera to photograph the people running around.” Jen from Gifts informs us that in the middle of this kerfuffle, the pigeon actually landed on a member of staff, and stayed there long enough for Phil to get his camera! 

Fun and Games

Emma Meets the Queen ImageEmma in our stock room has been telling us about the celebrations the staff held for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee in 2012. “We all dressed up in red, white and blue costumes and had a tea party in our staff room. I won the prize for best costume, as pictured, and won a giant chocolate gold medal!!!” Unfortunately Her Majesty was rather busy that day, so a cardboard "lookalike" stood in to do the honours...

Serena in our Cookshop has worked for Boswells for 32 years, and so unsurprisingly has plenty of stories to tell about her time here. This one particularly made us chuckle:

“[In the old lift] you would slam the inside door and there was a little window, and you could see when the lift was coming up. And when it literally died, my old boss, Mavis, put a bunch of flowers in there, put in there ‘R.I.P’. Of course, everyone, when the doors opened, thought somebody had died in there. She didn’t do it for that. It was because the lift was gonna be taken out…so it was like ‘goodbye’ to that lift. It served us well.”

A Little Piece of History

Boswells Building Design ImageAnd finally we were delighted to recently hear from Janice Bridges, who has a very special family connection to Boswells…

“I remember when I was a child that every time my mother and I shopped at Boswells she would say my Grandfather built this shop. Indeed, she was correct; E Organ and Sons created a fabulous piece of architecture for Oxford… Stand back and look up at the building next time you are shopping at Boswells. My family are so proud of the connection with such a wonderful store.”

How to Enter Our Memories Competition

We’re very lucky to have been surrounded by such wonderful people for the past 280 years! Boswells is the world’s second oldest independent department store, and made up of all of our stories, memories and experiences of it. With our memories, we all get to be a part of Boswells’ heritage, and we think that’s really quite wonderful.

A huge thank you to everyone who has entered our Memories of Boswells competition so far. I you haven’t entered it yet, we’d love to hear your recollections too!

The winner of our prize draw will win a £50 gift card, and have their memory included in our very own time capsule! To enter, all you need to do is send us your memories or photos of the store during May (more info on how to enter and the full terms and conditions can be found here).

So, what are your fondest memories of Boswells?

29th April 2018

Celebrating 280 Years of Boswells of Oxford

Celebrating 280 Years of Boswells of Oxford

In celebration of our 280th year, we’ve been exploring our archives, digging through old photos, and marvelling at all of the changes the store has witnessed over the course of its long and illustrious life. So, let us take you back in time through our archives, and show you a little of our history…

Read on to discover our story, or choose from one of the below links to find out about a particular era of Boswells history!









Celebrating Boswells

Key Dates 


Boswells' Beginnings (1738-1845)

Old Trunk Image
A trunk manufactured by F. Boswell, date unknown.

In 1738 Francis Boswell opened a trunk and portmanteau (luggage) shop at 50 Cornmarket Street, Oxford (where Clarks Shoes now is). He might have imagined that his small family business, making cases and leather goods for the people of Oxford, would offer him a comfortable enough living, and a stable inheritance for his son. It seems doubtful that he would have had any notion that Boswells would grow to what it is today.

We’re extremely proud to have kept the Boswells tradition of selling luggage going continuously for 280 years, and we hope that Francis Boswell would approve of the skilled craftmanship of the Samsonite and American Tourister cases we sell today!

In the 18th century it was quite common for children to learn their family trade, and so Francis’s eldest son, Henry, was taught how to make luggage—and very fine luggage we understand too! And so Boswells, and the skills of the trade, passed from one generation to the next. And the next…

Soon, Francis Boswells’ small start-up had become a well reputed family business, spanning generations. 

The Eighteenth Century (1846-1861)

Charlotte Boswell Advert 
An advert for Charlotte Boswell's shop at 48 Cornmarket Street, 1846.

By 1846 the 4th generation of the Boswell family inherited the family business, with three of the children each taking on a different speciality. The eldest son, Francis, inherited his father’s trunk making shop at 50 Cornmarket Street, and his sister Charlotte took on 48 Cornmarket Street. Charlotte became a cooper and turner, specialising in wood turning. Henry Boswell, the youngest of the family, moved part of the business from 48 Cornmarket St to 2 George Street, and worked as a cabinet maker and upholsterer.

Francis Boswell married a woman named Jane, and together they raised 6 little Boswells above the shop. They were to be the 5th and final generation of the Boswell family to take on the business.

Henry Boswell (1862-1890)

Boswells 1870 Image

Boswells in about 1865-70. We believe the men standing outside the shop may have been Henry Boswell and his employees. 

 When the business finally passed to the young Henry Boswell in 1862, the company name changed from F. Boswell to H. Boswell (and officially remains H. Boswell & Co. to this day). Henry Boswell was an ambitious man. He wasn't afraid to make changes to his great, great grandfather's company, and was a keen to modernise and grow the business. 

Around 1871, Boswells expanded into 49 Cornmarket Street, adding hosiery to its bag of tricks. In 1874 Henry rebuilt 47-51 Cornmarket Street entirely, and the buildings that are there today are the product of his vision and enterprise. Nice work Henry Boswell (we particularly like the little turret on the end)!

47-51 Cornmarket St in 2018 Image

47-50 Cornmarket Street today. The building was commissioned by Henry Boswell in about 1874.
Henry Boswell was also an Oxford graduate, specialising in a type of biology called bryology—the study of mosses. He wrote and published a number of articles on the subject, while somehow also running a successful business. Oxford Botanic Gardens still look after his collection of mosses, which is a rather lovely continuation of his work. 

Henry and his wife, Catherine, didn't have any children, and so the company passed to Arthur Pearson in 1890. While 152 years and 5 generations of Boswell family involvement had come to an end, this was the beginning of several generations of Pearsons who would take care of the company, and keep its long-standing family outlook alive and well, right into the 21st century. 

Enter the Pearsons (1890-1927)

Pearsons, date unknown image

Pearson & Co at 31 Cornmarket Street. Date unknown.

Arthur Pearson was a local business owner and pharmacist. He ran The Oxford Drug Company at 1 Broad Street, and had recently purchased Lowe & Co. Ironmongers at 31 Cornmarket Street. It seems that H. Boswell & Co. had such a good reputation locally that Boswells proudly kept its name. And here we still are!

Around 1913 The Oxford Drug Company (which is still Boswells’ Pharmacy) moved to 31 Cornmarket Street. Today this part of the shop is our Accessories and Games Departments, but 31 Cornmarket Street was a separate shop unit until the 1950s. The Cornmarket entrance to Boswells is the most historic part of the building, and its history is what helps create its “Tardis-like” illusion of being the frontage to something much smaller than it is (we do like to keep our customers pleasantly surprised!)

City Wall, Martyrs Tower Image

One of the few remaining parts of Oxford's city walls, Martyr's Tower. View from Boswells.

This older portion of Boswells is where the old city walls and moat once ran. We’re told that Cornmarket Street used to be called Northgate Street, because it was the Northern entrance to Oxford through the medieval city walls. Behind the store, hidden, we have lovely view of one of the few remaining parts of the city walls, "Martyrs Tower."

Apparently, when our basement was first dug out (we think around 1912/13) some remaining parts of the city walls were excavated. Unfortunately, these parts of the wall had been holding up St Michael’s church’s graveyard for hundreds of years, and when portions of the wall were removed, skeletons came tumbling into what is now Boswells Cookshop Department! We’re assured that these were swiftly removed and re-buried at St Michael’s…


The Move to Broad Street (1928-1991)

Boswells House Drawing Image

The original design for Boswells House, 1920s.

In the 1920s plans began to move Boswells to a new building on Broad Street. By the time ground was broken on the new site, it was Arthur Pearson’s son, Arthur Hearne Pearson, who was running things. In order to make way for the new Boswell House at 1-4 Broad Street, the existing buildings on the spot were demolished, including the dilapidated former home of the celebrated poet W.B. Yeats, and the end of the street was widened.

Boswells moved into its new home between 1928-29. When we revamped the 2nd floor in 2015, we discovered that some of the walls had been made from straw, which we can only put down to depression era resourcefulness! The builders had great trouble removing these, and it turns out that Straw is actually a very strong and stubborn building material!

Boswells 1960s Image

Boswells, late 1960s-early 1970s.

Boswells, having always been a company to embrace change—perhaps the secret to long life—continued to adapt, and in the 1950s The Oxford Drug Company and Boswells House were united by a passage, to form the building as it now is.

The store operated as a sort of arcade until the 1960s, when Tony and Christopher Pearson (the sons of Arthur Hearne Pearson) took on the company. This generation of Pearson's brought the departments together in a new way, forming the store we now know and love.

Many of our staff still fondly recall Tony Pearson handing out the wages in person, and stopping to chat with staff and customers alike. Its fair to say that as Boswells has grown and expanded, so has the Boswells family, and the staff of Boswells really are a big family, many of which have worked here for a decade or two.

Into the 21st Century (1992-2018)

Tea Room

Boswells 1738 Tea Room on the day of its launch, November 2015.

In the early 1990s, just over 100 years after Boswells had passed into the Pearson family, Jonathan and Sarah Pearson (cousins) took the helm, modernising things somewhat, but also retaining that old Boswells charm that has seen us through the centuries.

And, of course, we’ve not been idle since. We added a website in 2014,, our popular 1738 Room in 2015 and added our Broad Street Café this March. 

The company has been in the Pearson family now for 4 generations; that's 128 years, and still going strong!

Celebrating Boswells

Boswells Staff Photo 2016 Image

Some of the wonderful staff of Boswells on International Women's Day, 2016.


It’s probably fair to say, that in some ways we aren’t quite your typical old department store. We think that the thing that has become traditional about Boswells is not necessarily the building or what we sell, but Boswells itself. It's been passed from generation to generation of owners for 280 years, but it has also been passed down through generations of customers and employees. We proudly serve the community around us, knowing that it's the people of Oxford that have made our 280 years so special.

In that spirit, we welcome you to celebrate our 280th year with us! We’d love to hear your memories of the store! We’re offering you a chance to win a £50 gift voucher and for your memory to be included in our time capsule in our competition! Simply send us your memories or photos of the store this May to enter (more info here).

We’ll also be sharing some more treasures from our archives throughout the year, along with our staff’s recollections of their time here. Keep your eyes peeled for news of exciting 280th year celebrations throughout 2018!

Key Dates in Boswells' History

  • 1738 - Francis Boswell opens his trunk making shop on Cornmarket Street.
  • 1840s - The 4th generation of the Boswell family starts to branch out and take on new skills. Francis Boswell runs his great grandfather's original trunk making shop, while his sister Charlotte is running the shop 2 doors down as a cooper and turner. The youngest of the siblings, Henry, is a cabinet maker on George Street.
  • 1860s - Henry Boswell inherits Boswells. He is the 5th and final Boswell to own the company.
  • 1870s - Henry Boswell expands his shop into 49 Cornmarket Street, and after a few years rebuilds 47-51 Cornmarket Street. The building is still there today. 
  • 1890s - Henry Boswell has no heirs, and so Boswells passes to Arthur Pearson, who also owns the Oxford Drug Company, as well as an iron monger's shop, Lowe & Co.
  • 1910s - The Oxford Drug Company moves from 1 Broad Street to 31 Cornmarket Street (previously Lowe & Co.). When excavating the basement, parts of the old city walls are unearthed, along with medieval artefacts in what was once the city moat. Skeletons from St Michael's graveyard fall through into the basement during the excavation, and are reburied. 
  • 1920s - Arthur Hearne Pearson inherits the company. Boswells moves to its new home in Boswells House at 1-4 Broad Street, where it is today.
  • 1950s - A connecting passage is constructed, finally joining The Oxford Drug Company to the rest of Boswell House. 
  • 1960s - Tony and Christopher Pearson run the store, transforming it from being an arcade of departments into a more fully unified department store. 
  • 1990s - Jonathan and Sarah Pearson join Boswells. The building and technology are modernised, preparing Boswells for the new millennium. 
  • 2010s - Boswells opens its first fully trading website, its 1738 Tea Room and the Broad Street cafe. 
27th February 2018

Top Ideas for Planning the Perfect Mother's Day

Top Ideas for Planning the Perfect Mother's Day

Our mums are amazing people, well deserving of a special day where we recognise all the incredible things they’ve done for us. Finding the perfect way to thank the person that brought you into the world, and has run around tirelessly (or in many cases, tiredly) after you ever since, is not the easiest task. Where to even begin?

Mother’s Day is all about Mum, so the most important thing to consider here is what her interests are—what would she like to do? What does she enjoy? Once you’ve figured out this part, the rest should be much, much easier. With that in mind, we’ve put together a few suggestions to help get you on your way to making Mother’s Day really special.

Take in a Little Culture

If your mum is really into music, history or the arts, why not treat her to a day filled with cultural delights? One of the truly great things about Oxford is that it has no shortage of amazing things to see and do, even if you know the city well.

Make a trip to one of the city’s fantastic, free museums and take in the paintings at the Ashmolean, the dinosaurs at Oxford University Museum of Natural History, or the shrunken heads at the Pitt Rivers Museum. Or maybe check out a little local history at the Museum of Oxford or Oxford Town Hall. If you both already know these places well, then why not try one of the latest exhibitions? There are tonnes to choose from, many of which won’t even cost you a penny!

Ashmolean Museum

Here are a few that are on Sunday 11th March

  • Archaeological Finds on the Berkshire DownsAshmolean Museum 10am-5pm (free)

If your mum loves a little music, why not check out the live jazz and swing trio on the 11th March at The Isis Farmhouse? For some beautiful choral music, Exeter College Chapel has Vox Chamber Choir that same evening. The ever-wonderful Holywell Music Room also has the Marman String Quartet playing Beethoven and Schubert over a little coffee the morning of the 11th, followed by Kitty McFarlane singing folk that evening. It all sounds extraordinary to us!

And, finally, taking in a little culture can be as straight forward as treating your mum to a trip to the cinema…her choice of film, of course! Just sit back, and let the silver screen take you away somewhere incredible.

Try Something New

Guitar ImagePerhaps your mum is active and adventurous, or maybe just yearning to learn a new skill. There are absolutely tonnes of lessons and activities available to try in and around Oxford, which could be a great way to treat your mum to something a bit different.

There are classes and workshops aplenty in this fair city, so there’s probably one out there to suit. This Mothering Sunday, for example, Oxford Playhouse are hosting their popular 40+ Acting Company. Or perhaps Mum longs to learn a language, or a musical instrument, so why not get her enrolled on that course she’s always wanted to take?

For those with a mum who’s shown an interest in yoga, for instance, you could take her along to her first session, and give her the courage she needs to try something new! There are tonnes of yoga classes out there to choose from, so there’s likely to be one near you.

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If your mum has always wanted to take a hot air balloon trip, go rock climbing or learn how to ride a horse (or something else wonderfully exciting), but has never had the opportunity, this could be just the thing to make her day. Find out what sort of activities are on offer near you, and an adventurous, adrenaline fuelled Mother’s Day may well be on the cards!

Take a Trip

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There’s tons of amazing places within easy reach of Oxford, and so there’s bound to be one that would make a great day trip for you and your mum! Just remember to think about what Mum is interested in, and tailor your choices to that!

If you’d prefer not to have to go too far away, luckily Oxfordshire is full of great places to head off to for a day out. This leafy county boasts a wide variety of attractions, from Blenheim Palace in Woodstock to Crocodiles of the World in Brize Norton. For animal lovers there’s Cotswolds Wildlife Park and Millets Farm Falconry Centre, and Bicester Village is pure shopping heaven for the fashionable mum. Or if your mum has a very specific interest or hobby, perhaps something like a trip to Didcot Railway Centre, or a tour of Hook Norton’s historic brewery, would be just the thing to make her smile?

If you’d prefer to venture further afield, though, there are tons of exciting places to choose from within a relative stones throw, such as London, Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwick, Winchester and Bath.

Spoil Mum Rotten

Pampering ImageIf your mum loves to be pampered, make this a day for her to put her feet up and just relax while you take care of everything. There are lots of ways to go about doing this, so make sure you plan ahead!

Start Mum’s day with breakfast in bed. Cook up a storm with something she loves, like a full English or a continental breakfast, and surprise her. Or, if she prefers her breakfasts to be unsurprising, how about a tea party or a picnic later in the day? And don’t worry, there’s no need to let the chilly Winter weather ruin your plans, improvising a picnic on the living room floor could be kinda fun!

Afternoon Tea Image

If you really want to help out, and let her relax for the day, find out if your mum has any chores or tasks that need completing on Mother's Day, and then take them off her hands by doing them for her…yes, all of them!

Alternatively, you could take Mum out for a special treat such as a trip to a spa, or for a special Mother’s Day lunch. Afternoon tea can be a fantastic way to make your mum feel appreciated…and also full of cake.

Pop into our 1738 Tea Room to try our Traditional Afternoon Tea for Two, or if you’re feeling especially extravagant, we definitely recommend a Sparkling Wine Afternoon Tea for Two. Be sure to book ahead on 01865 255531 to make sure we have space for everyone!

And that’s really all there is to it! Figure out how Mum would like to spend her day, and then make it one she’s bound to remember!

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