To celebrate William Shakespeare’s 449th birthday, visitors to Oxford are being allowed a sneak peek into the room where the Bard stayed when travelling between London and Stratford-upon-Avon.
A former tavern in the centre of Oxford will open its “Painted Room” for one week only from April 23, to display the 16th century paintings on the wall of what would have been its most upmarket guest suite.
The building used to be the Crown Tavern at 3 Cornmarket Street, and Shakespeare’s good friend John Davenant, vintner and mayor of Oxford, was said to host the writer there when he was in town.
The walls were later covered up with wood pannelling and the remarkable floral paintings – used as an early kind of wallpaper – only rediscovered in the 1930s.
Part of the building is now part of a shop property, meaning tourists don’t normally have access to the works of art.
But to celebrate Shakespeare’s birthday, Oxford Castle Unlocked will offer daily tours with a costumed guide and the chance to sample Malmsey and Sack (sweet wine) and simnel cake while the stories of the Painted Room are told.
Whether Shakespeare stayed there, or not, it’s still a remarkable preservation.
Where to see more There was another wall painting of a similar design in 3 Cornmarket itself, in what is thought to have been John Tattleton’s private chamber. This room was discovered, and demolished, in 1934, but a fragment of the painting can still be seen at the Museum of Oxford in St Aldate’s.Two other painted rooms, of very different designs, can also be seen in the former Cross Inn, now Pizza Express, in the Golden Cross (visit in the afternoons).
Secret Oxford [Link includes photogallery of the “Painted Room”]