Sexually explicit fireplace tiles discovered in an upstairs room of historic London pub Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese are to go on a one-night-only, adults-only, Valentine’s Day exhibition.
The tiles were discovered in 1962 following a fire at Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese in Fleet Street, but were considered too graphic to go on public display. They were quietly put into storage. The Valentine’s Day exhibition at the Museum of London will be the first time the 8 tiles have been displayed as a full set.
There has been a pub on the Fleet Street site since 1538, but the original structure was destroyed the Great Fire of London in 1666. It was rebuilt shortly after as Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese. Its interior is noted for its curious lack of natural lighting which generates its own gloomy charm and, in winter, open fireplaces are used to keep it warm. Famous ‘regulars’ in its long history include Mark Twain, Alfred Tennyson, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Dr Samuel Johnson. It was also a particular favourite of Charles Dickens and got a mention in his novel A Tale of Two Cities.
There’s no suggestion that any of these distinguished gentlemen indulged in any upstairs shenanigans, but the cheap quality of the Plaster of Paris tiles suggests they were designed to be put up and taken down at short notice to add to the ambience of a temporary late-night bordello.
If you can’t make it to London on 14 February, we can give you a sneak peek (courtesy of the Museum of London) of the tiles below:
Jackie Keily, Museum of London curator, told the Telegraph:
“From the bath-houses of Roman Londinium and the stews of medieval Bankside to the Restoration Rakes and Soho’s swinging sixties, this city has long traded in the currency of sex.
“London has always been a hotbed for the seductive, saucy and down-right sordid… Erotic material – such as these relief tiles – was widely available in the 18th century, if one knew where to go and had the means with which to acquire it
“We are pleased to show the complete set for the first time ever, just down the road from where they were discovered.”