Great Bed of Ware

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Great Bed of Ware
Bed of Ware.jpg
DesignerHans Vredeman de Vries[1]
Jonas Fosbrooke (carpenter)
Made inWare, England (probably)
MaterialsOak, carved and originally painted
Marquetry panels
Height267 cm (105 in)
Width326 cm (128 in)
Depth338 cm (133 in)
CollectionVictoria and Albert Museum
no. W.47:1 to 28-1931

The Great Bed of Ware is an extremely large oak four poster bed, carved with marquetry, that was originally housed in the White Hart Inn in Ware, England. Built by Hertfordshire carpenter Jonas Fosbrooke about 1590, the bed measures 3.38m long and 3.26m wide (ten by eleven feet)[2] and can 'reputedly... accommodate at least four couples'.[3] Many of those who have used the bed have carved their names into its posts.

Like many objects from that time, the bed is carved with patterns derived from European Renaissance ornament. Originally it would have been brightly painted, and traces of these colours can still be seen on the figures on the bed-head. The design of the marquetry panels is derived from the work of Dutch artist Hans Vredeman de Vries (1527–1604) and the panels were probably made by English craftsmen working in London in the late Elizabethan period. The bed-hangings are modern re-creations of fabrics of the period.

By the 19th century, the bed had been moved from the White Hart Inn to the Saracen's Head, another Ware inn. In 1870, William Henry Teale, the owner of the Rye House, acquired the bed and put it to use in a pleasure garden. When interest in the garden waned in the 1920s, the bed was sold. In 1931, it was acquired by the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, having previously turned down an opportunity to acquire the bed in 1865, describing it as a "coarse and mutilated relic in no wise appropriate as a new acquisition".[2][4]

From April 2012, the bed was exhibited for a year in Ware Museum, on loan from the Victoria and Albert Museum.[5]

References to the Great Bed in literature[edit]

The Great Bed in Saracen's Head

The bed, which has been described as "one of the most famous pieces of furniture in history",[6] has been referenced by writers since shortly after it was made:[7]


  1. ^ Great Bed of Ware - collections record, from Victoria & Albert Museum.
  2. ^ a b c Russell Ash (2007). "Work And Home (Around The House)". In Katie Jennings (ed.). Whitaker's World Of Facts. Penguin Books, India. p. 188.
  3. ^ "The Great Bed of Ware". Victoria and Albert Museum. 2013-10-26. Retrieved 2013-12-08. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  4. ^ The most famous bed in the world? | The Great Bed of Ware | V&A, retrieved 2021-03-10
  5. ^ "V&A Museum's Great Bed of Ware makes itself at home". The Guardian. 11 April 2012. Retrieved 3 December 2012. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  6. ^ "The Great Bed of Ware". Retrieved 2021-03-10.
  7. ^ "Great Bed of Ware - Vredeman de Vries, Hans". Google Arts & Culture. Retrieved 2021-03-10.


  • Jackson, Anna (ed.) (2001). V&A: A Hundred Highlights. V&A Publications.CS1 maint: extra text: authors list (link)

External links[edit]