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Date: Sun, 16 Jun 2002 23:18:11 -0400
From: Naboo Chodonosor
Subject: BLAGUES-L: Life in the 1500's

Date: Sun, 9 May 1999 08:39:17 -0500
From: Karen Stanley

Here is an interesting little excerpt from a story that
a woman found when she was searching for information on
the 1500's.


Life in the 1500's

Anne Hathaway was the wife of William Shakespeare.  She married at the
age of 26.  This is really unusual for the time.  Most people married
young, like at the age of 11 or 12.  Life was not as romantic as we may
picture it.

Here are some examples:

Anne Hathaway's home was a 3 bedroom house with a small parlor, which
was seldom used (only for company), kitchen, and no bathroom.  Mother
and Father shared a bedroom.  Anne had a queen sized bed, but did not
sleep alone.

She also had 2 other sisters and they shared the bed also with 6 servant
girls.  (this is before she married)  They didn't sleep like we do
lengthwise but all laid on the bed crosswise.  At least they had a bed.
The other bedroom was shared by her 6 brothers and 30 field workers.
They didn't have a bed. Everyone just wrapped up in their blanket and
slept on the floor. They had no indoor heating so all the extra bodies
kept them warm. They were also small people, the men only grew to be
about 5'6" and the women were 4'8." SO in their house they had 27 people

Most people got married in June.  Why?  They took their yearly bath in
May, so they were still smelling pretty good by June, although they were
starting to smell, so the brides would carry a bouquet of flowers to
hide their b.o.  Like I said, they took their yearly bath in May, but it
was just a big tub that they would fill with hot water. The man of the
house would get the privilege of the nice clean water.  Then all the
other sons and men, then the women and finally the children.  Last of
all the babies. By then the water was pretty thick. Thus, the saying,
"don't throw the baby out with the bath water," it was so dirty you
could actually lose someone in it.

I'll describe their houses a little.  You've heard of thatch roofs, well
that's all they were.  Thick straw, piled high, with no wood underneath.
They were the only place for the little animals to get warm.  So all the
pets; dogs, cats and other small animals, mice, rats, bugs, all lived in
the roof.  When it rained it became slippery so sometimes the animals
would slip and fall off the roof. Thus the saying, "it's raining cats
and dogs," Since there was nothing to stop things from falling into the
house they would just try to clean up a lot. But this posed a real
problem in the bedroom where bugs and other droppings from animals could
really mess up your nice clean bed, so they found if they would make
beds with big posts and hang a sheet over the top it would prevent that
problem. That's where those beautiful big 4 poster beds with canopies
came from.

When you came into the house you would notice most times that the floor
was dirt. Only the wealthy had something other than dirt, that's where
the saying "dirt poor" came from. The wealthy would have slate floors.
That was fine but in the winter they would get slippery when they got
wet. So they started to spread thresh on the floor to help keep their
footing. As the winter wore on they would just keep adding it and adding
it until when you opened the door it would all start slipping outside.
SO they put a piece of wood at the entry way, a "thresh hold."

In the kitchen they would cook over the fire, they had a fireplace in
the kitchen/parlor, that was seldom used and sometimes in the master
bedroom. They had a big kettle that always hung over the fire and every
day they would light the fire and start adding things to the pot. Mostly
they ate vegetables, they didn't get much meat.  They would eat the stew
for dinner, then leave the leftovers in the pot to get cold overnight
and then start over the next day. Sometimes the stew would have food in
it that had been in there for a month!  Thus the rhyme: "peas porridge
hot, peas porridge cold, peas porridge in the pot nine days old."

Sometimes they could get a hold on some pork. They really felt special
when that happened and when company came over they even had a rack in
the parlor where they would bring out some bacon and hang it to show it
off. That was a sign of wealth and that a man "could really bring home
the bacon." They would cut off a little to share with guests and they
would all sit around and "chew the fat."

If you had money your plates were made out of pewter.  Sometimes some of
their food had a high acid content and some of the lead would leach out
into the food.  They really noticed it happened with tomatoes.  So they
stopped eating tomatoes, for 400 years. Most people didn't have pewter
plates though, they all had trenchers, that was a piece of wood with the
middle scooped out like a bowl. They never washed their boards and a lot
of times worms would get into the wood. After eating off the trencher
with worms they would get "trench mouth."

If you were going traveling and wanted to stay at an Inn they usually
provided the bed but not the board.  The bread was divided according to
status. The workers would get the burnt bottom of the loaf, the family
would get the middle and guests would get the top, or the "upper crust."

They also had lead cups and when they would drink their ale or whiskey,
the combination would sometimes knock them out for a couple of days.
They would be walking along the road and here would be someone knocked
out and they thought they were dead. So they would pick them up and take
them home and get them ready to bury.  They realized if they were too
slow about it, the person would wake up. Also, maybe not all of the
people they were burying were dead.  So they would lay them out on the
kitchen table for a couple of days, the family would gather around and
eat and drink and wait and see if they would wake up. That's where the
custom of holding a "wake" came from.

Since England is so old and small they started running out of places to
bury people.  So they started digging up some coffins and would take
their bones to a house and reuse the grave.  They started opening these
coffins and found some had scratch marks on the inside.  One out of 25
coffins were that way and they realized they had still been burying
people alive. So they thought they would tie a string on their wrist and
lead it through the coffin and up through the ground and tie it to a
bell. Someone would have to sit out in the graveyard all night to listen
for the bell.  That is how the saying "graveyard shift" was made. If the
bell would ring they would know that someone was "saved by the bell" or
he was a "dead ringer."

[ Funny, but not true...  See (/jg) ]

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