While visiting England this past summer, I toured Windsor castle and enjoyed the town. One cute little place in the town of Windsor that captured my attention was a little crooked house called, unsurprisingly, The Crooked House of Windsor. It brought to mind the children’s nursery rhyme from Mother Goose:
“There was a crooked man and he walked a crooked mile.
He found a crooked sixpence, against a crooked stile.
He bought a crooked cat, which caught a crooked mouse.
And they all lived together in a little crooked house.”
The Crooked House of Windsor was originally known as the Market Cross House. Its original construction occurred in 1592, but in 1687, the city tore it down to make way for progress—an expansion of neighboring Guildhall. However, a lengthy land dispute eventually led to the courts ordering the city to rebuild Market Cross House in its original location. They did so with surprising results: the entire house leans dramatically to the side.
The popular belief as to the cause of the building’s slant is that reconstruction occurred so hastily and sloppily that they used unseasoned green oak wood. As the wood dried and shrank, the entire building leaned shockingly.
However, there is another theory. According to Ancient Origins:
The structure remained straight up until the 1820s. This was due to the adjoining buildings, which would have supported it, and stopped it from leaning. When these buildings were demolished, the house was left without support, and thus began to bend. Supporters of this view also point to an oil painting in the neighbouring Guildhall. During the Late Victorian period, the Crooked House of Windsor was a beer shop known as the Royal Standard. The house is depicted in this painting without the tilt that it is so famous for today. (bold face added for emphasis)
After an online search, I found this image, at this url, but could not trace it back to any site. It is impossible to know if this is the very same house, but I must admit, the similarities are remarkable as are its surroundings.
Regardless of the cause of its drastic lean, Market Cross House eventually became known as the Crooked House of Windsor. I find it impressive that it still stands over 300 years later. Despite its name, it was never used as a house, but rather places of business including a butcher’s shop, a brewery, a gift shop, an antique shop, a tea room and restaurant, and, when I visited in June 2017, a Jersey Pearl jewelry store.
What is also fun about this place is that while the doors are crooked at the same angle of the house, the floors and windows are level, so they are at angles with the leaning structure. I’m sure engineers would experience a sense of vertigo.
There is more to add to the mystery of the quaint little place. Some sources suggest that the basement housed a secret passage to Windsor Castle which is the Royal Family’s official residence. Officially, the passage was a convenient way to transport fresh produce from the marketplace to the royal kitchens at a time before cars or refrigeration. However, if you believe rumor, the secret tunnel was supposedly used for rendezvous between King Charles II and his mistress Nell Gwyn. How that was accomplished when the passageway never led to a place used as a house, I do not know, unless the passage itself was a lover’s bower. However, a dark, narrow tunnel does not inspire any romantic thoughts in me!