Wednesday, March 7, 2012

The Turf Tavern, 1381

While in The Bear pub having lunch, the bartender gave us directions to Turf Tavern (or "The Turf"). These two pubs are the oldest in Oxford. The Bear is technically older, but the part of the original building that survived, and that the pub now occupies, was probably used as horse stables back in the 1200s.

The Turf Tavern, on the other hand, has been in continuous use as a pub and tavern since at least 1381, as evidenced by a tax imposed by King Richard II. The tavern appears to have changed its name at some point early on from The Spotted Cow to Turf Tavern to reflect its reputation as a gambling venue. Patrons would meet their "turfmen" (or "turf accountants") here to place bets on just about anything, including the tavern's namesake (sort of), horses. 

Directions: Go under the Bridge of Sighs. It's called the Bridge of Sighs because it looks like the original Bridge of Sighs in Venice which was, at one time, a passageway for convicted criminals from prison to their execution. 

After passing under the Bridge of Sighs, take the first alley on the left, St. Helens Passage. You can also see it in the top photo, just past the bridge.

Robin and Maria in St. Helens Passage.

Looks like that could be a tavern courtyard ahead. 

Turf Tavern's entrance, on the right. The tavern is surrounded on three sides by outdoor courtyards. 

Robin and Maria check out the signs in the front courtyard.

You can bet this guy was here a lot when he was going to school in Oxford. The pubs here give me a whole new perspective on the phrase "Oxford scholar."

In courtyard at the back of the Turf Tavern, the wall is the original Oxford Town Wall.

Checking out the history and ales of the Turf.

Busier inside than it looked from the outside. 

Perfect slogan for an Oxford Ale House.

Another entrance to The Turf Tavern courtyard from another alley. Or maybe it was a small street. Hard to tell. I love this place.