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June 20, 2024

The Great Bed of Ware, One of the Most Beautiful Works of Furniture Ever Produced

The Great Bed of Ware is not only a beautifully carved piece of historical furniture, but the giant four-poster sleeper was a symbol of bawdiness that became so popular, both Shakespeare and Byron used it in their writing.

The Great Bed of Ware was created in 1590 by a Hertfordshire carpenter named Jonas Fosbrooke. Not a lot information is provided on the background on the creator, but many believe that the bed was created as a “gimmick” to attract customers at the Inns at Ware. This is a result of a decrease in visitors since many Catholics could not travel to the shrine at Walsingham, Norfolk.

While the Great Bed of Ware remained in Ware, it was circulated between 5 inns: The White Hart, The George, The Crown, The Bull and the Saracen’s Head before being sold in 1870 to be used as a visitor’s attraction at the Rye House hotel.   

At a staggering 118 square feet of space, this bed is capable to house four couples comfortably. Made entirely out of oak, Fosbrooke created cravings that resembled “anglicized Renaissance patterns, acanthus leaves and strapwork.” There are even human figures carved into the headboard, which show traces of paint that could have been brightly colored.

It should be noted that this masterpiece was featured in one of William Shakespeare’s plays, Twelfth Night. Within his play, Shakespeare’s character Toby Belch delivers the line “...and as many lies as will lie in thy sheet of paper, although the sheet were big enough for the bed of Ware in England...,” emphasizing how famous this creation was during the time.

​The Great Bed of Ware was finally placed in the V&A museum in 1931, where it has stayed since. However, it was loaned to the Ware Museum between April 2012 to April 2013. During its time at this museum, it grabbed the attention of 34,000 people while they were in Ware.

This creation can be found in the “Furniture” section of the V&A museum, where many other artifacts and furnitures are found that hold significant importance.


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