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Тhe Great Bed of Ware is one of the most famous historical beds and one of the most beautiful works of furniture ever produced

During the 16th century, beds became more decorative, with carved work on the headboard and bedposts. One such example of that period is The Great Bed of Ware, a giant four-poster bed made of oak with inlaid marquetry panels measuring 11 feet wide, 10 feet long, and 9 feet high.

It is believed that the bed was made by Jonas Fosbrooke, a German craftsman for an inn in Ware, possibly as a publicity stunt. Photo Credit


The form and decoration indicates it dates from the reign of Queen Elizabeth I. Photo Credit

The solid oak bed is thought to have been created in 1590 by Hertfordshire carpenter Jonas Fosbrooke as a tourist attraction for travelers on the pilgrimage from London to Walsingham. The Great Bed of Ware has been a tourist attraction for many years and has attracted the attention of visitors for generations.

Over the centuries, many of those who have used the bed have carved their names into its posts or dropped molten wax onto the wood and imprinted their signet ring into it, the marks of which are still visible on the bedposts and headboard today.

Like many objects from that time, the bed is carved with patterns derived from European Renaissance ornament. Photo Credit


Materials and Techniques – oak, carved and originally painted, with panels of marquetry. Photo Credit


Detail of the Great Bed of Ware. Photo Credit1 Photo Credit2


Bedcord, mattresses, and pillows as they would have been used in the Great Bed of Ware. Photo Credit


The Great Bed of Ware is probably the single best-known object in the Victoria and Albert Museum. Photo Credit
The Great Bed of Ware is probably the single best-known object in the Victoria and Albert Museum. Photo Credit


As a piece of furniture, it practically ranks as sculpture rather than a utilitarian object. Photo Credit

The woodwork is carved with Renaissance patterns, acanthus leaves, and strapwork. Originally, it would have been brightly painted. Traces of these colors can still be seen on the figures on the headboard. Since its origins in 16th Century Ware, the bed has featured in many examples of famous literature (Shakespeare mentioned it in Twelfth Night, Byron mentioned it in Don Juan, and Ben Johnson also refers to it in 1609 in his play Epicoene: or the Silent Woman), and it was even exhibited at an early amusement park.

Read another story from us: Hester Thrale – A Welsh diarist who described 18th-century life, but mostly the life of Dr. Samuel Johnson

It was originally housed in the White Hart Inn in Ware, England, but since 1931, The Great Bed of Ware has been on display at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, England.

David Goran

David Goran is one of the authors writing for The Vintage News