The hidden wall painting discovered in what is now Pizza Express

The Watford Observer has teamed up with Watford Museum and its curator Sarah Priestley to take a journey back to the town’s past through items or places of historical significance.

The 37th item in our ‘history of Watford in 50 objects’ is a wonderful example of the history that is hidden in Watford High Street – a painting depicting the coat of arms of James I.

Sarah said: “This beautiful wall painting was discovered at 137 High Street in 1957. At the time the building was a Crown wallpaper shop and the discovery was made by a member of staff investigating a hole in plaster in a storeroom upstairs! After painstaking work by the V&A it was moved to Watford Library before moving to the newly opening Watford Museum in 1981.

“The wall painting bears the date 1614 and depicts the coat of arms of James I flanked by a lion and unicorn and surrounded by a band which reads ‘HONI SOIT QUI MAL Y PENSE’ (evil be to them who think evil). Immediately below are the words “God save the King’.

“It’s an incredible example of the history hidden on our High Street. Often all you need to do is to look up about the view of shop windows to see our heritage and some very interesting buildings. 137 High Street is one of the most attractive of them. The building is now Pizza Express and you can see the early Stuart history in the frontage of the building, and in some of the wall painting left behind and now viewable by permission on the first floor, as well as a replica painting of the coat of arms.

“Some sections of this Grade II listed site are even older – the back of the restaurant is a restored timber framed building from the 1500s!”

Watford Museum is currently closed under government restrictions but you can still pay it a virtual visit at or find the museum on Facebook and Instagram @watfordmuseum

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