Last week was Oxford’s
Open Door – a weekend where Oxford
opens its doors inviting everyone in to what is usually not often open to visitors: the colleges, towers, government building, museums, etc.I love the Open Door weekend and was lucky enough to have a
chance to see the Painted Room on Cornmarket Street where one can see the room of a former tavern in the
center of Oxford that has16th century paintings on the wall of what would
have been its most upmarket guest suite. It is located at 3 Cornmarket Street, just above the Republic store on the third floor. It is rarely open to the public and I am so glad I had a chance to see this historic room.
The building used to be the
Crown Tavern and Shakespeare's good friend John
Davenant, mayor of Oxford, was said to host the writer there
when he was in town. The original timber-framed building hides behind
the present eighteenth-century front.
The walls were later covered up
with wood paneling and the remarkable floral paintings - used as an early kind
of wallpaper - only rediscovered in the 1930s. The Oxford Preservation Trust is fighting hard to protect and acquire the Painted Room but who ever owns the whole building owns this room. the building just sold for 6.3 million pounds this past year, far too much for the OPT to afford.
The brickwork of the
fireplace dates from 1350, and the letters over the fireplace
from about 1450.
The frieze that runs
along the top of the walls reads: “And last of the rest be thou / gods
servant for that hold I best / In the mornynge earlye / serve god
Devoutlye / Fear god above allthynge.”
Shakespeare was rumored to have had an affair with the wife of his good friend, John Davenant, and to be the actual father of Davenant’s son William (born 1605/6), who became a playwright. It is known that Shakespeare was William's godfather.
in the seventeenth century, around the time that Davenant moved in, oak paneling
was installed to hide the old-fashioned wall paintings. The oak panels have now been put on rollers so they can be
pushed aside to reveal the wall paintings when the room is opened to visitors.
The Crown Tavern still exists, it just moved to a building across the street.
The wall paintings dating from between 1564 and 1581.