Poets' Hall

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A scheme of eight paintings in Upper Waiting Hall intended to bring to life scenes taken from the pages of Britain’s finest literary works. These included “The Canterbury Tales” by Chaucer, Shakespeare’s “King Lear”, Spenser’s “Faerie Queene”, Scott’s “Marmion” and Milton’s “Paradise Lost”. Commissioned in fresco, the scheme was an opportunity for the six artists - Charles West Cope, George Frederick Watts, John Callcott Horsley, John Rogers Herbert, John Tenniel and Edward Armitage - to learn about this highly disciplined technique. However, only one year after completion in 1854, signs of deterioration were evident and by the 1890s the paintings had been covered with board to protect them from further damage. During the 1980s the paintings underwent a successful programme of conservation and can now be enjoyed as originally conceived.