The Luminary Postgraduate Magazine Lancaster University

The Public and Private Realms in the Seventeenth-Century: A Parameter of Wood and Fabric

Sarah Ann Robin


This is an exploration of the bed in Britain during the seventeenth-century. The bed existed in varying forms and in different degrees of quality but the desire to have use of a bed was universally felt, and one can cautiously assert that most people had access to a bed of sorts.1 In England, couples bedded down in great inherited poster beds, drawing the curtains shut around them. Servants folded out their collapsible beds and made the hearth-stone their chamber, while in rural corners of Wales and Scotland, people climbed up ladders into cupboard beds, or makeshift loft-spaces. In the winter months, a yeoman’s family, along with pet cat and dog, climbed into their oak framed bed together, heaping fabrics on top, from around the house. In a lodging house, two strangers shuffled nearer, in the pursuit of warmth. In a cellar apartment, an old widow crawled under her fabrics, to sleep alone. Thus, bed-time was both more communal and individualistic than we now know it to be, as the number and nature of bedfellows was dictated by circumstance and environment. Despite the individualistic quality of households, the bed served a common set of practical functions: a place of rest, of shelter, of reflection and of sexual intercourse. In addition, the bed performed essential social and emotional functions: the curtains and woodwork were a domestic parameter; between a busy, public household, and the bed, a space of privacy, rest and relative isolation.

Perhaps the most reminiscent type of bed from this period is the poster bed, and it is with this which we begin.2 These were formed of a typically oak structure, with a wooden or fabric canopy, supported by either two or four posts.3 A bed with just two posts could be fixed to a wall or supported by a back panel. This was the case for the largest surviving bed of the period, the Great Bed of Ware. This was supported by a large, decorative inlaid bedstead, and was probably commissioned by an inn owner in Ware, who wanted to attract guests with the opportunity to stay in the widest bed in England.4 The bed measures 326cm in width: a current super king size bed in the UK is around 200cm. Poster beds were hung with curtains, between the posts and/or back panel, creating an insular space. The quality of the fabric depended on the wealth of the owner, but as few beds survive with materials, it is difficult to suggest exactly how these fabrics appeared, and how they varied.  Lady Ann Fanshaw recorded that one house which she and her husband occupied was ‘richly furnished, both my husband’s quarter and mine, the worst bed and chamber of my apartment being furnished with damask, in which my chambermaid lay.’5 Damask was a fabric of the wealthy, and one can presume that bed curtains varied in quality the further down the social ladder one went, although precious materials were inherited through even poor families. The bedding was secured within the oak frame: mattresses could be stuffed with down, (such as the Great Bed of Ware), or with whatever materials were to hand, such as hay, leaves and the like.6 The stuffing was held in place by a fabric cover, referred to as the ‘tick.’ On a poster bed, this mattress was usually secured by ropes underneath, which provided tension, and was more comfortable to sleep upon than a solid surface. This also allowed the bedding to breathe. 

There were relatively few poster beds (probably not even one hundred) in 1600 but they had become more common by the start of the seventeenth-century. (Worsely, p. 8) The canopy and curtains kept in warmth, provided a limited degree of privacy, and kept out falling straw and other unwanted bodies from floors or rafters above. The ‘walls’ of the bed may have also regulated unwanted smells from other parts of the household. The afore-mentioned Lady Ann Fanshaw left us a glimpse into the private sphere of her bed, during one of her minor arguments with her husband: ‘So we went to bed, I cried and he went to sleep. Next morning early as his custom was, he called to rise, but began to discourse with me first, to which I made no reply; he rose, came on the other side of the bed and kissed me, and drew the curtains softly, and went to court.’7 While Lady Ann’s words may resonate as a recognisable domestic falling-out, they also demonstrate how the curtains provided an intimate space for husband and wife, and insulated their argument from the eyes of servants and others. Perhaps Richard Fanshawe (her husband) drew the curtains to keep the heat within, and perhaps he drew them to contain Lady Ann’s ill humour.8

The intimate space which beds provided was one reason why people recorded how they enjoyed simply being within their beds. When Dorothy Osborne (who would become Lady Temple) wrote a letter to the diplomat, William Temple (an educated politician, whom she would go on to marry after a long engagement), she said ‘SIR,–I am so great a lover of my bed myself that I can easily apprehend the trouble of rising at four o'clock these cold mornings [to get the post and her letters]. In earnest, I am troubled that you should be put to it, and have chid the carrier for coming out so soon.’9 For others, the enclosed space was an area of calm reflection: in Lucy Hutchinson’s memoir to her husband, she described how he was troubled, with an ‘anxiety of mind [that] affected him so, that it sent him to his bed that aftenoone, which indeed he tooke to entertaine his thoughts alone that night, and having fortified himselfe with resolution, he gate [got] up.’10 For John Hutchinson, the bed was a place of reflection, where he went to seek quiet isolation.

Some scholars have suggested that even the poor spent large amounts of money on beds, and the cupboard bed was likely to have been popular choice for poorer people.11 These were beds which were built into wooden panelling, with a cupboard door or fabric across the entrance. Cupboard beds (also known as box beds) were common in many areas of the British Isles, including northern England, Wales and areas of Scotland. By the nineteenth-century, the box bed had acquired a rural association, surviving in traditional farm dwellings. They had also acquired an association with poverty and wilderness, such as Emily Brontë’s portrayal of a cupboard bed as the space of refuge for Cathy and Heathcliff in Wuthering Heights (1847). In the seventeenth-century, these were associated with relative poverty, rather than a clear urban rural divide.12 They were warmer than flat or fold-out beds without a canopy, which may be why they were popular in Scotland and Wales. In the Shetland Isles, box beds were traditionally made from washed up timber, as few trees grew in the harsh terrain.13 These cupboards beds provided a similar insular space to the poster beds, but they were clearly different in appearance and in grandeur.

Unfortunately, very few of these box beds remain from the seventeenth-century, but there are slightly later survivors. For example, Llanon Cottage Museum in Cardiganshire, houses a surviving box bed.14 This bed is referred to as a wainscot, perhaps because of their similarity to the familiar geometric oak wall panelling which was relatively common in the early modern era (or maybe because these beds were made from recycled wainscot in the eighteenth and nineteenth-centuries).15 The blurring of bed and of wainscot panelling was evident in the seventeenth-century, as wainscot was used in beds and in matching panelling, and this can make it difficult to determine whether an author was describing a cupboard or a tester bed.16 This particular cottage also houses later examples of other types of bed which reflect a typical poor household. One is a truckle bed: this was a small flat bed which was stored underneath a larger bed during the day, and then could be used by the children at night, while the parents slept within the box bed. The cottage also housed a cradle with hooded end for a baby and an adapted poster bed with sawn off posts, which allowed the bed to fit under the eaves in a loft-space. This typical eighteenth-century two-bedroom house bears strong resemblance to a house, and the beds within it, which Lady Ann Fanshaw described during the English Civil War. She recorded her disdain at being forced to stay in a less affluent household than her own: ‘I went immediately to bed, which was so vile, that my footman ever lay in a better: and we had but three in the whole house, which consisted of four rooms, or rather partitions, two low rooms and two little lofts, with a ladder to go up.’ (Fanshawe, p. 40) She also reveals the layout of a small household: two lower rooms (or partitions, so once one large room which had been divided, and we can assume the same for the loft-space). In this type of layout one can distinguish how each room was a through-route of sorts, and the limited degree of privacy experienced by the dwelling family.

The final type of bed, which could be either a tester or box, was the travelling bed. These beds were used by a wealthier type of person, as only they could afford to transport such a heavy and cumbersome pieces of furniture. Stockport Heritage Service owns a travelling box bed, from approximately 1600. This bed was made with a set of stairs (in order to climb into the bed), with two locking wig boxes (again, indicating a relative degree of wealth) and two carved depictions of a husband and wife, complete with initials, fixed to the front of the bed. The panels indicate that this was made to commemorate a wedding and probably given as a gift to the husband and wife.  The travelling bed ensured a certain level of quality, as not all inn beds were as grand as the aforementioned Great Bed of Ware. Inn beds could also harbour parasites and disease: the diarist, John Evelyn used another person’s bed when travelling, without changing the sheets because he was ‘heavy with pain and drowsiness.’ The next day, he wrote; ‘I shortly after paid dearly for my impatience, falling sick of the smallpox.’ (Evelyn, p. 234) Having a travelling bed reduced the risk of disease and other infections, because it allowed the owner to regulate who slept in it.17 The couple could sleep in relative safety, with a guarantee of quality. 

To conclude this section, the bed offered a private space, within a dwelling house. Chambers served as hallways or ‘through-routes’ for servants or others who called the house their home. Beds were frequently positioned beside hearths; often as there was limited space and for greater warmth. If a house had just one hearth, then this would have made it a busy area. The cupboard and tester bed therefore served a critical function: they provided a small, intimate and enclosed space for the occupants, in a world where privacy remained a luxury. (Hudson, p. 140) Even among the wealthy, servants needed to enter bedrooms to light and clean fireplaces, and to access other areas of the house.
The word ‘bed’ had numerous meanings in the seventeenth-century. ‘Bed’ often followed a person through their life, marking critical stages. To be brought to bed of a child referred to a woman giving birth; this meant that the bed was associated with life’s beginnings.18 Childbirth also had the strange effect of enforcing privacy upon the bedroom by excluding men, but forcing more women than usual into the chamber to assist in the birth. ‘Bed’ was also inextricably linked with marriage: it formed part of the legal definition; an agreement of shared bed and board. ‘Bed’ was a social metaphor to describe marriage more generally: if a husband or wife committed adultery they were said to have ‘defiled’ the other’s bed and to ‘kick’ a husband or wife out of bed was to deny them sexual intercourse, and perhaps to segregate, or even end, the marriage as a whole.19 This close connection with marriage also connected ‘bed’ to sexual intercourse. ‘Bed’ was used to describe sexual intercourse and ‘bed’ could describe a person’s virginity or virtue. Bed was therefore a word associated not only with marriage, but with sexual experiences and a person’s sexual character. The final association was as a space which a person went to when they were sick: when an affliction made someone too ill to stand, they could be ‘brought to’ or ‘of bed’ or ‘took to bed.’20 If sickness ultimately took the person’s life, then bed was also an ancient word used for ‘grave.’21 The deathbed, like childbirth, pushed more people into the bed chamber. The historian, Lucinda Becker noted that; ‘for dying men and women alike, the deathbed would have been a busy place, a semi-public event being orchestrated from within the more usually semi-private domestic setting.’22 ‘Bed’ was closely related with critical stages in the human life-cycle, moments which were religious and supernatural, and where the boundaries of public and private were tested. This was a space of emotional polarisations: of love, but also of hate, of joy and despair, of compassion and cruelty, and, of boredom and zeal.  It was a space of actual boundaries, between public and private, but also between metaphorical borders: sickness and health, and life and death.

The latter half of this article focuses on the negative associations of the bed. This was a space which was considered to be sacred and one where people allowed themselves to be at their most vulnerable. People were generally without weapons to defend themselves, they were dressed in private garments (if not naked) and were in that most helpless and blind state of being; sleep. In 2005, Roger Ekrich published At Day’s Close, where he claimed night-time remained a superstitious and other-worldly episode of day, retaining its own unique customs, rituals and interactions throughout the period.23  This was followed by Craig Koslofky’s book, in which he claimed nocturnalisation was an early modern phenomenon: where new public spheres ‘challenged the invisible world of ghosts and witches.’24 Both arguments have validity. However, the bed was considered a supernatural, ritualistic and revered space. Diarists recorded strange and disturbing dreams, which given the relative wealth of the writers, usually took place within their oak-framed beds.25 Coupled with this, Lucinda Becker noted that when a person was on their deathbed, it was not uncommon for those present (usually women) to claim to see ghosts in the chamber and around the bed. (Becker, p. 33) Even if there were challenges to the supernatural aspect of the bed space and of night, as noted by Koslofky, these frightening associations continued to linger in the mind-set of people. When criminals invaded the bed space, vulnerable people were thrown into complete terror, as the oak walls and damask curtains became a space which concealed crimes, and prevented escape. By using records from the Old Bailey in London, we are able to understand how people reacted when this happened.

Burglary was one means by which a criminal could violate the bed space, intruding into a private sphere, dragging a barbaric, criminal and public element into the domestic refuge. Amanda Vickery has noted that there was a recognised cultural distinction between ‘robberies’ which took place during the day and ‘burglaries’ which happened at night. The definition of burglary was also to do with forcibly breaking into a private sphere (and a privately owned one).26 So the definition was to do with the hour of the day, the ‘breaking in’ and the intrusion of a dwelling, where people were residing. The perpetrators were considered to be of a more vile and immoral character than their counterparts who stole from market stalls, and the punishment for burglary was often death, rather than branding or whipping.27 To assault the owners of the house, who had been sleeping in their beds, clearly took the magnitude of stealing one step further.28 For example, on 29 April 1674, one Thomas Mullinex, with a group of unnamed men, broke into the home of a Walter Carey.29 Walter and his wife were sleeping in their bed, when Mulllinex ‘claping a Pistol to his [Walter’s] breast as he lay in his bed… forced him to lie still, and caused his Lady to rise to shew the rest of his Comrades where her mony lay, with the manner of their taking.’ The thieves made off with the money, although they were later apprehended. This type of invasive criminality violated the domestic tranquillity of the bed space. In Middlesex, Mrs Haris was burgled in 1679: ‘between one and two in the morning where in the company of three more entering, surprised the Woman and Children in her bed, and roaled them up in the Bed-cloaths, till some of them [the thieves] ransacked the Houses… who approaching her bed side with dark Lanthorn [lanter] and two strings, bound her Hand and Foot.’30 The binding of the widow’s hands and feet, beside her young children, transformed the family sphere into a terrifying, sinister place. A second court document, pertaining to the same crime, described how the criminals had secured the family by ‘almost smothering her and her children with the Bed-clothes.’31 This alerts us to a particular fear which was reserved purely for the bed: smothering or suffocation. Bed-clothes and fabrics were intimate objects, intended to bring warmth, comfort and relaxation. To use them as potential murder weapons was to invert their purpose. Both of these crimes were doubtlessly terrifying experiences: the intrusion of the bed space by a thief, particularly when the occupants were in the bed, was deemed much worse than stealing from an empty bed (which harsh sentences attest to).

Rape was a horrific invasion of the comforting functions of the bed space, although the act did not have to take place within the bed to produce the same terrifying, damaging and horrific experience for a victim. In fact, a woman who claimed to be raped in a bed, particularly if it was by her husband, was more unlikely to win her case, than a woman who was raped elsewhere. The jury asked; why had a woman gone into a chamber with a man? Why had she clambered into a cupboard bed without being a willing partner? When one word was against another, the man’s voice was likely to win, except when there was overwhelming evidence. In 1680, one ‘priest of the prison house’ was brought before the courts for ‘the spoiling of a girl of nine years.’32 After sexually abusing the child, the priest, who was named Dowdel ‘threw her upon his Bed (having made his Door fast with a Stick) fell upon her, pull'd up her Coats; and hurt her with something, insomuch that she cryed out; but he stopt her mouth with the Bed-cloaths.’ During the court case it emerged that Dowdel had abused the girl several times within his bed chamber. As with the cases of burglaries, bed clothes were used to silence the victim. Dowdel’s sentence was not recorded in the document. Similarly, a Turk named Mustapha Pochowachett, was brought before the court for buggery with a boy of about fourteen. The two shared a bed (as master and apprentice, which was not unusual) and one night the Turk forced himself upon the young boy as they lay in bed: ‘upon which the Boy cried out, to prevent which he [Pochowachett] stopt his Mouth with the Pillow.33  Pochowachett was found guilty of buggery (with or without consent) and sentenced to death.

Silencing the victim with bed clothes may have prevented immediate discovery, but it was important in terms of consent too. If a rape victim did not cry out from the bed, then consent was called into question.34 Therefore the bed clothes or pillows could be instrumental in rape cases. For example, in 1677, a ‘lusty man’ was brought before the court for the rape of a ‘certain woman.’ She described how he ‘sudden flung her on the bed, and there by violence against her consent had his will of her.’35 The woman’s word was called into question when she failed to explain why she did not cry out, and the man was found not guilty. On another occasion, a young female servant, named Sarah Paine, claimed that her mistress’s son, William Woodbridge ‘crept through a Hole that had been formerly made in the Wall, and surprising her in Bed, by Violence obtained his Will on her; She being asked, Why she did not cry out? replyed, That he stopt her mouth, and threatned to knock her Brains out if she did.’36

Those types of murder which occurred within beds typically reflect a deliberate abuse of domestic power relations. The clearest examples of this are cases of infanticide. The mother’s bed was frequently the area in which murder took place, or where the body was concealed. In 1677, one woman was ‘delivered of a Bastard-childe, made shift, by her wickedness, to deprive the poor Infant of that life she had contributed to by her wantonness. She pretended it came by its untimely end, by falling from her body on the floor whilst she unhumanely went from the bed towards the door; but she concealing it above a week under her Pillow.’37 Infanticide within the bed and the hiding of the body within the bedding were rare occurrences but not unheard of. In 1687, one Margaret Dine committed the same crime: ‘Condemned for murthering her Bastard-Childe, which she most unnaturally kill'd and hid in her bed for some days.’38 In 1677, another unnamed woman ‘did at last take out of the Bed a cold naked dead Child, which had, as appeared, been wrapt up in a Cloth, and seemed to have [dead] been a day or two.’39 One final example tells the same story, this time of a mother named Margaret Adams: ‘… and rising early next morning went about her [the mother, Margaret] occasions, leaving the Child dead in the bed with her Mistresses Daughter, it being conjectured that she had smothered it with the Bed-cloaths, the which the Girl waking found, and called out, saying, there was a Child in the bed.’40 Once again, the bed clothes and pillow appear instrumental in the deaths: objects which were intended to protect and comfort became tools of murder in the hands of a mother. Furthermore, the bed was used as a private, even secret, space to give birth in. In desperate and unforgiving circumstances, these women may have then committed murder. I say ‘may’ have, as the courts were particularly unforgiving of mothers who were found with new-born dead children: all of the women mentioned were sentenced to death. Perhaps the mothers used the bed-clothes or pillows to suffocate their new-borns, or perhaps they simply left the infants alone in the beds: their cries smothered by linens. The private dimensions of the bed, which were sealed with wood and fabrics, allowed for murder, as well as comfort and love.

Infanticide was not the only form of murder to take place in beds. In 1686, Ann Hollis was brought before the courts for killing a young apprentice girl in her care.41 Elizabeth Preswick was just fourteen years old and probably suffered from tuberculosis. After one particularly harsh whipping with a rod of birch, Elizabeth never fully recovered and died, about a month later: ‘she [Ann Hollis] upon the day aforesaid, caused her [Elizabeth] to go up Stairs, and two other Girls about the same Age, to hold her cross the Bed, while she Whipp'd her upon the Back, Belly, Shoulders, and Legs, insomuch, that she languished till the 6th. of May and died.’ Elizabeth’s punishment had been orchestrated in order to correct her inadequacies as an apprentice, and the court ruled that Ann Hollis was not to blame for the girl’s death. The point of relevance for this article lies in Ann Hollis’s decision to take the girl up stairs and into a chamber, to whip her upon a bed. The whipping would presumably have been a messy affair, with blood flicking onto bed-clothes, curtains and other linen. Despite this, the decision to perform it on the bed was a deliberate one. Perhaps this related to Elizabeth’s specific faults, which were not alluded to in the record.42 Or perhaps, the chamber provided Ann with a space to whip the girl, away from any passing observers or lodgers. Ann needed a private space because her conduct was not acceptable: Elizabeth was a sickly girl and not only did Ann whip her, she whipped her numerous times all over her body, as the girl was held down by others.43 Bed-clothes may have provided the ideal tool to silence the girl’s screams and the bed space provided Ann with a means to punish her servants without anyone who may have reported her seeing and hearing. The only witnesses were her servants, who evidently had cause to fear their mistress. 

Surprisingly, the Old Bailey has few accounts of domestic abuse and/or murder between husbands and wives, within beds. One published report (perhaps a little sensationalised) from Yorkshire, recounts a story of an abused wife who used the marital bed as the setting for her revenge against her husband, John Stone.44 John Stone had murdered his niece and her husband as they lay in bed. The following day, his wife tried to discuss the matter when Stone struck her several times (and at this point, she may have realised that her husband was likely to have been the one who had murdered her niece and her husband). The following night, after her husband had gone to sleep, she killed herself, beside him in the bed. In the morning; ‘when he awakening and going to put his hands over his Wife, felt her all wet, and suddenly snatcht his hand back again; and seeing it to be bloud, soon found that his Wife to be dead at his side; and then like one stricken with fear; he knew not at present what to do with himself.’ (sad and bloody newes, pp. 7-8) John Stone then went to the barn and hanged himself.
Not all murders which took place within beds were so strongly related to the abuse of domestic power relations. Some were burglaries which went wrong; others were the inevitable consequences of living with lodgers who were strangers, and even sharing a bed with them, if the cold weather made it necessary. One widow named Elizabeth Fairbank met a gruesome end in her bed. Elizabeth was described as living in a cellar, and therefore in relative poverty, but she did own several objects of value, including rings and plates. Her body was discovered by the lodger who lived in the room above: ‘[she was] found dead, with her Legs tyed, hanging down on the side of the Bed, the other part of her Body on the Bed, her Neck was broke, and she was bruised in several Places a bloody Handkerchief found near her supposed to have been thrust into her Mouth, and so forcibly that two of her Teeth were struck in with it, which is thought might occasion the Blood.’45 The widow’s bed provided the setting for the murder, which no one was aware of, until a neighbour found Elizabeth a few days later. The murder was charged to one John Wise, who presumably robbed the widow for her things of value, but offered no explanation as to the barbaric nature of the murder on her bed.  The decision to kill her on the bed may reflect a sadistic abuse of gender control and the fear of rape, or, as a poor widow, the bed may have been the only immoveable item of furniture by which John Wise could restrain Elizabeth, within her home.

This final barbaric act draws this section on the criminality and invasion of the bed to a close. In nearly all of the cases which have been examined, the private dimensions of the bed allowed the invasions and inversions to take place with greater ease: either because of the enclosed walls, which prevented others seeing, the bed-clothes which smothered and prevented others from hearing, or because of the vulnerable, defenceless state of the occupants. These were not common occurrences, even within London, but they do illuminate what happened when the safest of domestic places was thrown into disorder. In examining the bed, we can better understand the dynamics of the early-modern household, as a busy multifunctional area of many different people; and we can better understand the bed as an enclosed area of safety and privacy. However, the through-routes and multi-person nature of households also created opportunity for crime, and as the bed was that private haven, it is unsurprising that criminals, who needed relative privacy to perpetrate their crimes, used the space.

The bed and the themes of this paper have coincided with a significant movement in academia, toward a new approach and understanding of the domestic sphere. The domestic sphere has been transformed from a textually-based flat subject, to one which in recent years, has become a materially constructed space.46 It is now viewed as an area with walls and fabrics, all of which were constructed with meaning and intent. Consequently, the history of a material object, located within the domestic sphere, is part of current scholarly debate. Despite the bed providing the setting for some of the most extraordinary and moving episodes of early modern life, it has not been the focus of study. Lawrence Wright noted that there is a gap in scholarly discourse; ‘about eight hours in every day.’47

The bed was not the only space within the home to witness privacy: couples squabbled by the hearth and window too, and other areas played host to intimacy and domestic activity. However, the home was, in many respects, a much more public place than we now associate it as being. The bedroom in particular, did not exist. The through-flow of people, as well as the general layout of houses, required a specific type of bed, which could provide a private space. The curtains and woodwork were a parameter between this busy domestic space, and one of privacy, rest and relative isolation. There are other objects from the domestic sphere which were created to serve public and private functions, but perhaps none so effectively, or spatially poignantly, as the bed. When criminals forced abuse and violence into that space, the parameters enclosed around the victim, and prevented immediate discovery. Furthermore, when that criminality was brought before the court, the public was imposed upon the private, as the bed became a space on trial. While these court records have allowed us to analyse crimes of the bed, they are records of an area which had been inverted from its intended functions. The bed was intended to be a haven for the individual and for the collective, but this was only afforded by relative privacy, and privacy, in turn, fashioned opportunities for abuse.

References / Notes

1 Lucy Worsely, If Walls could Talk: An Intimate History of the Home (London: Faber and Faber 2012), pp.3-5.

2 Poster beds were also known as ‘tester’ beds. Tester referred to the canopy of the bed.

3 Other examples of wood include bog-oak (the Inlaid Chamber at Sizergh Castle, Cumbria) and lignum vitae (George Fox’s travelling bed, made in Barbados, and currently housed in Swarthmore Hall). As the century went on, mahogany and maple were imported in large quantities, and furniture (including beds) began to be made from these more malleable woods.

4 The Great Bed of Ware is currently housed by the Victoria and Albert Museum in London (Museum no. W.47-1931). William Shakespeare was one of many writers who gave special mention to the bed; ‘as many lies as will lie in thy sheet of paper, although the sheet were big enough for the bed of Ware in England.’ (William Shakespeare, Twelfth Night: Act three, scene two). See also Franc C. Chalfant (ed.), Ben Johnson’s London; A Jacobean Place name Dictionary (University of Georgia Press, 1978), p. 192.

5 Lady Ann Fanshawe and Herbert Fanshawe (ed.), The Memoirs of Lady Ann Fanshawe (London: John Bodley, 1907), p. 128

6 In 1610, a German traveller, named Lewis Frederick noted that the bed was a ‘swans down bed, eight-feet wide.’ (William Brenchley Rye (ed.), England as seen by Foreigners in the Fays of Elizabeth and James the First (London: J. R. Smith, 1865), p.62). John Evelyn, The Diary of John Evelyn (London: Walter Dunne, 1901), p.234; ‘In this wretched place, I lay on a bed stuffed with leaves, which made such a crackling and so prick my skin through the tick that I could not sleep.’

7 Hudson, Roger (ed.) The Grand Quarrel: Women’s Memoirs of the English Civil War (Gloucestershire: The Folio Society, 2003),p. 157.

8 For another example of the dynamics of the bed’s curtains see: Anon., A curtain-conference, being a discourse betwixt (the late Lord Lambert, now) Iohn Lambert Esq; and his Lady, as they lay a bed together one night at their house at Wimbleton. Related by the Lady Lambert to Tom Trim, her gentleman usher, (one well acquainted with all her secrets) and now by him printed for publick satisfaction (London: W.L., 1660).

9 Dorothy Osborne and Kenneth Parker (ed.), Dorothy Osborne: Letters to Sir William Temple, 1652-1665: Observations on Love, Literature, Politics and Religion, with an Introduction and Notes (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2002). Letter Six.

10 Lucy Hutchinson, Memoirs of Colonel Hutchinson (1906), p. 77.

11 Victor Chinnery, Oak Furniture: The British Tradition (Antique Collector’s Club, reprint 2013). See also: John Friske and Lisa Freeman, Living with Oak: Seventeenth-Century English Furniture (Northamptonshire: Belmont Press, 1999). Linda J. Hall and N. W. Alcock, Fixtures and Fittings in Dated Houses, 1567-1763 (Council for British Archaeology, 1994). Annie Carlano and Bobbie Sumberg, Sleeping Around: The Bed from Antiquity to Now (Washington: University of Washington Press, 2006). Worsely, If Walls could Talk, p. 8. Relatively poor people still owned beds and that bed was often the only (or most valuable) piece of furniture which they recorded in their wills and in court records (see reference forty-three).

12 Box beds on the continent could be far more luxurious: examples from Brittany and the Netherlands are decorated with intricate carving and paintwork.

13 The Shetland Crofthouse Museum at Voe houses a reconstructed example of an ancient box bed.

14 Llanon Cottage Museum, Coliseum, Terrace Road, Aberystwyth. St. Fagons (The National History Museum) in Snowdonia, contains a similar cottage and set of beds. Ty Mawr Wybrnant in Conwy, Wales houses an eighteenth-century box bed. A final example, of a box bed can be found in Snowhill Manor, Gloucestershire.

15 Wainscot is a specific type of oak which was imported from the continent.

16 Old Bailey Proceedings ( version 6.0,13 February 2013), Ordinary of Newgate's Account, 9 May 1679 (t16790430-3). Original spellings have been adhered to.

17 Stockport Heritage Service, (Flemish, 1600) (STOPM: 1998.1069).

18 For further reading: Hilary Marland, The Art of Midwifery: Early Modern Midwives in Europe (London: Routledge, 1994). Jacques Gelis, History of Childbirth: Fertility, Pregnancy and Birth in Early Modern Europe (Staford: Polity Press, 1996). Doreen Evenden, The Midwives of Seventeenth-Century London (Cambridge: CUP, 2006).

19 Anon., The Pleasures of Matrimony, Intermix’d with a Variety of Merry and Delightful Stories (London: R/H Rodes, 1695), p. 121.

20 Elias Ashmole and R.T. Gunther (ed.), The Diary and Will of Elias Ashmole (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1927), p. 15.

21 David Lindsay, Funerals of a Right Reuerend Father in God Patrick Forbes of Corse, Bishop of Aberdfne (1631), p. 80.

22 Lucinda M. Becker, Death and the Early-Modern Englishwoman (Hampshire: Ashgate, 2003), p. 30.

23 Roger Ekrich, At Day’s Close: A History of Night-Time (London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2005).

24 Craig Koslofky, Evening's Empire: A History of the Night in Early-Modern Europe (Cambridge University Press, 2011), p. 3.

25 Samuel Sewall, The Diary of Samuel Sewall, Vol. 1., (Boston: Massachusetts Historical Society, 1878), pp. 11, 396, 399.

26 For example, William Lambarde, Eirenarcha: or the office of the Justices of Peace (London: 1588), pp. 261-3. William Lambarde was a lawyer. His first definition of burglary was ‘at night only’ (as opposed to robbery at day). Second, that burglary may be committed simply by breaking in, though nothing may be taken. He then went onto describe that the definition had lately changed and that the place which was broken into must be a dwelling-house, and that a person should be within the house at the time of the burglary. This clearly caused confusion, as Lambarde then went onto describe barns which were adjoined to dwelling houses etc.

27 Amanda Vickery, Guest Lecture, ‘Burglary and the Englishman’s Castle,’ Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences at Lancaster University, Lancaster, 03 November 2011. Further reading, see: J. A. Sharpe, Crime in Early Modern England: 1550-1750 (London: Longman, 1998).

28 Published criminal cases on this matter also include: Anonymous, Bloody news from Southwark: or, A perfect relation how the master of the Ship-Inne neer Deadman-place, was found barbarously kill'd upon his bed, on Tuesday the 15th of this instant February (London: D. M., 1676).

29 OBP, April 1674, Thomas Mullinex, (f16740429-1).

30 OBP, January 1679, Thomas Gold (OA16790121).

31 OBP, January 1670, Thomas Gold (t16800115-1).

32 Anon., A Full and True Relation of two very remarkable Tryals at the Quarter-Sessions of the Peace for the City and Liberty of Westminster held in the great hall, on Monday the third of October, and ending the eleventh of the same (Westminster, 1680), p. 3. A prison priest was one who preached within prisons. Another example: OBP, December 1685, (t16851209-28.)

33 OBP, May 1694, (t16940524-20).

34 The reason behind stating ‘her’ aversion is that homosexual sex was recorded as diabolical regardless of whether there was consent.

35 OBP, September 1677, (t16770906-3).

36 OBP, December 1681, (t16811207-1).

37 OBP, April 1677, (t16770425-3). For further reading on gender and crime, see: Garthine Walker, Crime, Gender and Social Order in Early Modern England (CUP, 2008). Malcom Gaskill, Crime and Mentalities in Early Modern England (CUP, 2000). Jacqueline Eales, Women In Early Modern England, 1500-1700, (UCL, 1998). J.I. Kermode and Garthine Walker (eds.), Women, Crime and the Courts in Early Modern England (UCL, 1994). Deborah A. Symonds, Weep Not for Me: Women, Ballads, and Infanticide in Early Modern Scotland (Pennsylvania State University Press, 1998).

38 OBP, May 1687, Margaret Dine, (t16770425-6).

39 OBP, June 1677, (t16770601-6).

40 OBP, Margaret Adams, December 1680, (t16801208-2).

41 OBP, May 1686, Ann Hollis, (t16860520-2.)

42 By this, I mean Elizabeth may have not performed a task properly in the bedroom (such as making the bed) and this could be why the punishment was carried out there.

43 For a further example see Anon., The Bloody papist, or, A true relation of the horrid and barbarous murder committed by one Ro Sherburn of Kyme in Lincolnshire (a notorious papist) upon his wife whom in an inhumane manner he murder'd in her bed, for which he is now a prisoner in Lincoln-Gaol (London: George Larkin, 1683). Ro Sherburn was able to either strangle or smother his wife, surprising her as she slept. The crime was not discovered until the next day, when neighbours were concerned that they ‘did not see the doors open’d… and found her thus murder’d in her bed, and he lying upon another.’

44 Anon., Sad and bloody newes from Yorkshire being a True relation of a most strange barbarous and cruel murther committed near Ferry Brigs (London: W. Edwards, 1663).

45 OBP, October 1684, John Wise, (t16841008-19). See also the murder of two women, both names Mary Hunt: OBP, February 1685, Thomas Fallofield (t16850225-18).

46 Lucy Worsely, If Walls could Talk: An Intimate History of the Home (London: Faber and Faber 2012). Amanda Vickery, Behind Closed Doors: At Home in Georgian England (Yale University Press: 2010).

47 Lawrence Wright, Warm and Snug: The History of the Bed (Sutton:  The History Press Ltd, 2004), p. vii.

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