The cost of building the conservatory and attached storage with a cellar was the princely sum of £800!
Although this landmark building was considered to be of great importance by the Oxford City Council Planning Conservation Department and the North Oxford Victorian Society, it was only listed as being grade II very recently in 2010.
'North Oxford Suburb'
Development of North Oxford began around 1860 when the land was owned by St. John’s College. The College periodically leased sets of building plots in an effort to ensure its firm financial future.
Very strict control was maintained by St. John’s where developments were concerned, both in terms of the size of agreed constructions, and the spacing between them. All proposed plans were checked thoroughly, not only for quality but also to ensure adequate provision of front walls with railings, and rear gardens.
The Victorian conservatory still standing today was designed by Harry Wilkinson Moore in 1897, shortly after he was made a Fellow of the Royal Institute of British Architects.
HW Moore was responsible for building a lot of North Oxford at the time, but is highly noted for designing Logic Lane covered bridge at University College, on Oxford High Street.
Moore was paid £10 for his work with construction being carried out by R.D. Tucker of South Tottenham, and additional work later that year by Simms and Sons.
The Gee family, who were the leading nurserymen in the area, opened the doors to ‘Gee’s Victoria Nurseries‘ in 1898. A single storey brick building to the rear of the conservatory was built as an afterthought later that year, plus greenhouses were constructed at the very back of the property which have since been removed.
Gee’s Victoria Nurseries became hugely popular with residents of the local area, particularly with wedding bouquets and funeral wreaths being skilfully crafted for generation after generation of North Oxford families.
Nearly a hundred years later...
…Jeremy Mogford bought the lease from the Gee family and the freehold of the building from Oxford University.
Planning permission was granted to change the use from fruiterer and greengrocer to restaurant and bar with the addition of a kitchen, storage and an extended basement.
Coincidently, a former business partner acquired a distinctive stone cottage in Northmoor Road and discovered that it was originally part of the Gee’s nursery.
From 1985 Gees was leased to Raymond Blanc for his very first Petit Blanc. He recruited John Burton Race and his wife Christine as chef and manager.
Petit Blanc became very successful, competing with another of Raymond’s Oxfordshire businesses, and he decided to close it just 4 years later with Jeremy Mogford taking back the lease…
Gees opened shortly afterwards and quickly became the famous landmark we know today, where locals and visitors to Oxford met for lunch, dinner or drinks.
Situated in the heart of the conservation area known as Victorian North Oxford, and being just ten minutes walk from the city centre, Gees was best known at the time for celebratory suppers with a fine dining service style.
In 2013 Gees was transformed completely ensuring that the restaurant remained loyal to its traditions of providing quality food & service in the most beautiful restaurant in Oxford.
The interior is filled with trees and plants and the kitchen now features a wood fire oven and charcoal grill.
The light airy restaurant and bar with its comfortable, contemporary atmosphere is surrounded by a beautiful tree lined outside terrace, perfect for summer dining.
In 2022, The Oxford Collection announced some radical changes as Gees underwent a full top-to-bottom makeover.
The conservatory has been combined with the property next door to create ‘Gees Gallery’ & ‘Gees Secret Garden’, two brand-new, all-day destinations for guests to enjoy.