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The Old English Court

The Old English Court in Moscow Opened to coincide with the state visit of Queen Elizabeth II in 1994, this museum is housed in one of the oldest secular buildings in Moscow, the former home of the first foreign representation in the Russian capital. The Old English Court, built as a private home for a wealthy merchant in the Zaryadie region (famous as the centre of trade in medieval Moscow), was presented by Ivan the Terrible to a group of English merchants who arrived in Murmansk in 1553 from the court of Edward IV, under the command of Richard Chancellor. They had been sent to search for a northern passage to India, but took the opportunity to establish trade links with the Tsar, who welcomed them warmly, provided them with a headquarters and allowed them unlimited duty-free trade. Although good relations suffered when Elizabeth I repeatedly rejected Ivan's proposals of marriage - the third English envoy to the Tsar was kept under house arrest here - trade flourished between the two countries for almost a century, with the English bringing wool, metals and wine in return for furs, caviar, honey and other Russian produce. Russian timber was used to build the English fleet, and the Russian army was equipped with English muskets and ammunition.

In 1649, Tsar Aleksei I brought the alliance - which had seen an unprecedented number of foreigners journey to Russia to work as craftsmen, civil servants and explorers - to an abrupt end, expelling the English traders as a mark of his disgust at the execution of Charles I. The building became private property, and was the home of several prominent men, including the Miloslavsky family, Metropolitan Philaret of Nizhni Novgorod, and the merchant Solodovnikov. The house was remodeled several times, and was unrecognizable by the 20th Century, when it was split into apartments by the Soviet authorities. It was only thanks to the tireless labours of Pyotr Baranovsky, the Muscovite architect and restorer who almost single-handedly protected Moscow's medieval legacy in the Soviet Union, that the building was spared and painstakingly restored to its original form.

There was no record of the interior designs of the building, so restorers have based the present decor on Tudor interiors still extant in Britain, including those on display at Hampton Court Palace. The museum, part of the Museum of Moscow, contains two exhibitions entitled "Medieval Russia from the Eyes of a Foreigner" and "The History of Anglo-Russian Relations". The collection, mostly of coins and documents, was donated from a number of sources, including the British Library and the Marquis of Salisbury's private collection. However, it is the meticulously reconstructed interiors, especially that of the Formal Hall, with its elaborate brick fireplace, which will be of most interest to visitors. Concerts of early music are also held here regularly, as well as various performances and events for children on more or less relevant themes.

Opening hours: Daily 11.00 to 18.00, closed on Mondays and the last Friday of each month.


Address: 4a, Ulitsa Varvarka, Moscow, 103012, Russia
Telephone: +7 (495) 298-39-52, +7 (495) 298-39-61
Transport: Kitai Gorod Metro Station

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