3 Cornmarket (former Crown Tavern)

3 Cornmarket in 2003

There was an early inn on the site of 3 and 4 Cornmarket, known first as Pate’s Inn and then as Somenour’s Inn. It was owned in the fourteenth century by John de Stodley, followed by Sir Robert Treslian.

The property then passed to New College, who owned the building until 1921. It was rebuilt in about 1500 as the Bull Inn. At some point before 1555 it was divided into two separate houses (situated at what are now 3 and 4 Cornmarket Street). The original timber-framed building which dates from the mid-sixteenth century hides behind the present eighteenth-century front. This house had twenty rooms.

Thomas Malyson had the lease in 1555, and Edmund Benet was the tenant in 1560.

John Tatleton leased this house from 1564 until his death in 1581, and his initials were found over a fireplace in the back room upstairs. It was during this period that the famous wall paintings upstairs were executed. His widow Elizabeth remained in the house for another year until her death in 1582.

In 1583 the leaseholder was John Underhill, D.D of Lincoln Collegea relation of Joan Hough, née Underhill; and in 1592 it was William Hough the younger, with William Hough, furrier, as the tenant.

From 1647 to 1651 this house at 3 Cornmarket was the Salutation Tavern, and it then became the Crown Tavern (not to be confused with the Crown Inn on the other side of the road at 59–61 Cornmarket).

By 1600 John Davenant and his wife had moved to Oxford, where he took over the wine tavern here at 3 Cornmarket. In 1604 he was awarded one of the three city licences to sell wine here. Shakespeare is believed to have stayed at this house. Anthony Wood wrote:

John Davenant was a sufficient vintner, kept the tavern now known by the name of the Crowne, … was mayor of the said city in the year 1621, … was a very grave and discreet citizen (yet an admirer of plays and play-makers, especially Shakespeare, who frequented his house in his journies between Warwickshire and London).…

John Aubrey also reported the same:

Mr William Shakespeare was wont to goe into Warwickshire once a yeare, and did commonly in his journey lye at this house in Oxon. where he was exceedingly respected.

Shakespeare was rumoured to be the actual father of Davenant’s son William (born 1605/6), who became a playwright.

Between 1658 and 1691, Anthony Wood recorded over fifty visits to the Crown Tavern, and on 2 January 1667/8 he met John Aubrey there.

On 29 September 1659 the council granted a widow, Mrs Anne Turton, a licence by the city to sell wines for ten years at a rent of £10 per year. This licence had been formerly held by Henry Southam, who had died on 16 March 1658/9.) William Morrell married Mrs Turton soon afterwards in 1660 (also taking in her daughter Mary). On 14 September 1660 he requested that his new wife’s city wine licence be made over to him. Thereafter the couple jointly ran the tavern here at 3 Cornmarket Street. Soon after he took over this tavern, Charles II was proclaimed King and Morrell provided the council with sack and claret to the value of £11 6s. 6d. In 1665 Morrell paid tax on nine hearths. Anthony Wood wrote on 1 February 1670 that he and his friends went to "Morrell's" in the evening. In 1696 Joan Turton paid tax on 20 windows at this tavern.

In 1772 a survey of every house in the city was taken in consequence of the Mileways Act of 1771. According to Salter, 3 Cornmarket was then in the occupation of Alderman Austin, and had a frontage of 9 yards, 1 ft. and 7 in. John Austin was a mercer, and Parson Woodforde regularly visited his shop here.

The wall paintings in the Painted Room

Early in the seventeenth century, around the time that Davenant moved in, oak panelling was installed to hide the old-fashioned wall-paintings. The panelling was in turn was covered with canvas and paper, and the paintings were not rediscovered until 1927. The 1630 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.

Start of frieze

The frieze that runs along the top of the north wall and finishes beside the chimney breast on the east wall (above and below) 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.”

End of frieze

The brickwork of the fireplace (below) dates from 1350, and the letters over the fireplace from about 1450. These are either “ΙΗΣ” (the first three letters for Jesus in the Greek alphabet) or “IHS”, an abbreviation for the Latin Iesus Hominum Salvator (Jesus, Saviour of Mankind).

Chimney breast

No. 3 c.1900



Left: 3 Cornmarket in c.1900


For over a hundred years, from the 1830s to the 1930s, this was a tailor’s shop. The 1881 census shows that 40 to 50 assistants and workmen were employed here.

In 1921 the property was sold by New College to the City of Oxford, and the first, second, and third floors are still owned by Oxford City Council.

For fifty years until the late 1970s it was a Lyon’s café.

The Oxford Preservation Trust had its offices upstairs until 1972, and its meetings were held in the Painted Room.


The former Crown Tavern is a Grade II* listed building.

In the censuses


Richard P. Hookham (30), a tailor, is living here with his wife Anne (30) and daughters Mary (2) and Anne (6 months). Also living with them are Catherine Hookham (35, and likely to be Richard’s sister); a journeyman Henry Clarke (20); an apprentice James Venables (15); and two female servants. There are also two people (one independent, the other a shoemaker) who appear to be lodgers.


Richard P. Hookham (43), described as a woollen draper, still lives at No. 3 with his wife Anne (40) and children Mary (11), Anne (10), Richard (6), Frederick (5), Catherine (3), and Philip (11 months). Also living over the shop are a woollen draper’s assistant and a cook, housemaid, and nurserymaid.


Mrs Matilda Pottage (37), born in Yorkshire and described as the wife of the head of the household, the tailor Ephraim Pottage, is living here with her children Emily (13), John (11), Ephraim (8), Elizabeth (3), and Alfred (1). Also living over the shop are a porter and a general servant.


Francis Gadney (32), described as a robemaker and a resident partner employing 40–50 assistants and workmen, is living over the shop with his wife Elizabeth (31) and children Ethel (7) and Herbert (6), plus his aunt Miss Catherine Gadney (67) and one general servant.

Occupants of 3 Cornmarket listed in directories etc.

Dates Shop downstairs Office upstairs


The Salutation Tavern, later the Crown Tavern


Alderman John Austin's
mercer's shop

Presumably accommodation


Hookham Tailors

Hookham & Minty
later Hookham & Company
later Hookham, Gadney & Embling
Hookham & Co

In 1839 G. R. Wyatt the surgeon is living over this shop

In 1841 Mrs Matilda Pottage is listed as living over this shop

By 1881 Frank J. Gadney, a robemaker and partner in Hookham, Gadney & Embling downstairs, was living here with his wife, two children, his aunt, and a servant: he is still listed here in Kelly’s Directory for 1899


J. Lyons & Co. Ltd.

No offices listed as being upstairs


Oxford Preservation Trust

+ English-Speaking Union (1945)
   St John Ambulance Brigade County Office (1947)
   Stevco Ltd coal merchants (1952–1954)
   Ormerod & Co, Turf Accountants (1958–1972)


Workers’ Educational Association

J. & M. Shine (Oxford) Ltd, Turf Accountants (1976, 1980)


Children’s Clothes

Tote Bookmakers

By 2008– 2009



Oxford Aunts (Painted Room put up for rent in 2011)


Reebok Oxford Fitness




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