Books, wine, and tolerance

The two houses at no. 106 and 107 in High Street, Oxford, originally formed one large tenement known as Tackley’s Inn. It is one of the few examples of a medieval academic hall that has survived. Until the sixteenth century undergraduates and most graduates lived not in colleges, but in similar academic halls which were scattered over the university cities. This was the first piece of property that Adam de Brome acquired when he set to found Oriel College in Oxford. By the mid-fifteenth century the property had been divided into two parts. The western half was Tackley’s Inn proper (also known as Buckley Hall), which consisted of a dining-hall; the eastern half was known the college tavern, the taberna nostra. In 1549, the hall and shops in front were leased to Garbrand Harkes, who sold books from the ground floor and wine from the vaulted cellar. He had been dealing in business in Oxford since 1539. The family remained in business for over a century (1677 to be precise).

Gar­brand Harkes [later Herks Garbrand] was a Protestant refugee from the Low Countries. He was active in rescuing medieval manuscripts from the destruction of monasteries in the time of Edward VI’s commissioners. Manuscripts ex officina Gerbrandi biblio­polae are cited by John Bale in his Index Britanniae Scriptorum. He also saved a ‘cart load’ of books and manuscripts destined for destruction by zealots from the library of Merton College (many of which eventually ended up in the Bodleian Library). During the suppressive Catholic reign of Mary, Buckley Hall became a ‘receptacle for the chiefest Protestants’ who worshipped in the cellar. In the reign of Elizabeth he com­bined the business of book- and wineseller. It was a highly successful family-business, most of his numerous sons and grandsons becoming booksellers, dons, and prebendaries.

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