3 Cornmarket Street: Vodafone (former Crown Tavern)

3 Cornmarket in 2003

The original timber-framed building dating from the mid-sixteenth century hides behind the present eighteenth-century front of this house, which had twenty rooms. It is owned by Oxford City Council, who bought it from New College in 1921. It is a Grade II* listed building (list entry 1185643).

It was in the parish of St Martin's (Carfax) until that church was demolished in 1896, whereafter it was in the parish of St Martin's & All Saints until All Saints Church was deconsecrated in 1971. It is now in the parish of St Michael-at-the-Northgate.

Early history of 3 & 4 Cornmarket Street

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

The property then passed to New College.

Nos. 3 & 4 Cornmarket were rebuilt in about 1500 as the Bull Inn. At some point before 1555 the property was divided into two separate houses

Thomas Malyson had the lease of No. 3 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 College (a relation of Joan Hough, née Underhill); and in 1592 the leaseholder was William Hough the younger, with the furrier William Hough the tenant.

From 1647 to 1651 this house at 3 Cornmarket was known as 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.

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. From 1665 William & Ann Morrell ran the tavern here at 3 Cornmarket Street, and in that year Morrell paid tax on nine hearths at the building. They renamed it the Crown Tavern. Following William Morrell's death in 1679 and his wife Anne's death on 6 March 1695/6, the Crown Tavern passed to Mrs Joan Turton, the widow of William Turton, Mrs Morrell’s son by her earlier marriage.

Between 1658 and 1691, Anthony Wood recorded over fifty visits to the Crown Tavern: on 2 January 1667/8 he met John Aubrey here, and on 1 February 1670 he wrote that he and his friends went to "Morrell's" in the evening.

It ceased to be a tavern in about 1750.

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

The shop at 3 Cornmarket Street: Late eighteenth century to the present

No. 3 c.1900
3 Cornmarket can be seen in
the middle of this group in c.1900

In 1772 a survey of every house in the city was taken in consequence of the Mileways Act of 1771. According to H. E. Salter, 3 Cornmarket was then in the occupation of the mercer Alderman John Austin and had a frontage of 9 yards, 1 ft. and 7 in. Austin's shop was regularly visited by Parson Woodforde. Austin died in 1775.

James Clark was a tailor here by 1783. On 25 January 1794 in an advertisement in Jackson's Oxford Journal Hannah, Mary, & Sarah Clarke and James Purbrick stated that they were successors to his business.

James Purbrick died at the age of 65 in October 1826, and his widow Hannah Purbrick announced that her sons would continue to conduct the business with Sarah Clarke: they ran a woollen & linen drapery, hatting, and funeral business, with James Clarke Purbrick looking after the tailoring side,

Ten years later in November 1836 Purbrick & Clarke announced that they had declined business in favour of R. P. Hookham, who had worked as their assistant for four years. On 30 September 1837 he announced: “having commenced business with limited capital, he cannot follow the general practice of the place, in giving extensive credit”. The business flourished, and remained a tailor's shop in the hands of the Hookham family for the next hundred years. On 30 September 1837 the tailor here, R. P. Hookham 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.

In 1934 the rear of the old tavern was demolished.

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.

Online articles and books relevant to 3 Cornmarket


The Salutation Tavern (early 1600s)

John Davenant (1604–1622)
His daughter Mrs Jane Hallam (from 1622)

The Crown Tavern (1660–1750)

William & Anne Morrell (1660–1679), Mrs Morrell only (to 1696)
Mrs Joan Turton (widowed daughter-in-law of Mrs Morrell by the latter's first marriage) (1696–1706)

Alexander & Kathleen Richmond (1706–1731)

Mr Dawson (1731–1750)


Shop downstairs Accommodation, and later offices, upstairs


Alderman John Austin:
mercer's shop

Presumably accommodation for Austin's family

By 1783–1794

James Clarke

The tailors downstairs, latterly James & Sarah Purbrick


Purbrick & Clarke, tailors


Hookham Tailors

Hookham & Minty

then Hookham & Company

then  Hookham, Gadney & Embling

then Hookham & Co

1839: G. R. Wyatt the surgeon

1841 & 1851: Richard Hookham

1861 & 1871: Ephraim Pottage, partner in Hookham's

1881 & 1891 Frank J. Gadney, partner in Hookham, Gadney & Embling

1901: Henry Mullard, a tailor's porter

1911: James House, police constable


J. Lyons & Co. Ltd.

No listing for upstairs


Oxford Preservation Trust

+ English-Speaking Union (1938–1945)
   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




3 Cornmarket Street in the censuses


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


Richard P. Hookham (43), described as a woollen draper, still lived here with his wife Anne (40) and children Mary (11), Anne (10), Richard (6), Frederick (5), Catherine (3), and Philip (eleven months). Also living over the shop were three servants (cook, housemaid, and nurserymaid), and a woollen draper’s assistant.


The tailor Ephraim Pottage, who had been made a partner in the Hookham business in 1860, now lived over this shop, but he spent census night at Hastings. His wife Mrs Matilda Pottage (37) was here with their children Emily (13), John (11), Ephraim (8), Elizabeth (3), and Alfred (1). Also living over the shop were a porter and a general servant.


Ephraim Pottage (43), tailor & robe maker employing 30 men, four women, and two boys, still lived here over his shop with his wife Matilda (46) and their daughters Emily (23), Elizabeth (13), and Louisa (9). They had two domestic servants.


Francis Gadney (32), described as a robemaker and a resident partner employing 40–50 assistants and workmen, was now a partner in Hookham, Gadney, & Embling. He was now 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.


Frank Gadney (42), tailor & outfitter, still lived over his shop with his wife Elizabeth (42) and their children Ethel (17), Herbert (16), who was a bookseller's apprentice, Cyril (6), and Gilbert (4). They had a 17-year-old domestic servant.


Frank Gadney had now moved to 163 Woodstock Road, and the premises above the shop were occupied by the tailor's porter Henry Mullard (30), his wife Jane (31), and their children William (7), Herbert (5), and Edith (1).


James House (37), a police constable, lived in just four rooms here with his wife Ethel (32) and their children Winifred (6) and Leslie (1).

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