[MR] BBC: Communal Sleeping and Boxbeds

Garth Groff and Sally Sanford mallardlodge1000 at gmail.com
Tue Jan 23 09:49:02 PST 2024

Noble Friends,

Today I stumbled onto two related BBC stories which reflect on sleeping
practices during the middle ages, and even beyond our period of interest.

During much of human history, communal sleeping was very common, and this
included the middle ages. Often this had nothing to do with sexaulity. The
practice can partly be chalked up both to social norms, and also to a
paucity of beds, which were rather expensive furniture items. Communal
sleeping was even common among the rich and famous, who probably had more
beds than they needed. Queen Elizabeth I liked to share a bed with a
lady-in-waiting to review the day's events, and to provide a bit of safety.

The BBC story is at

Bed sharing was especially common at inns, monastic guest houses, and other
hostels, where travelers might end up sharing a bed with one or more
strangers.The most famous example of bed sharing is probably the Great Bed
of Ware, now preserved at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London. This
gargantuan piece of furniture made the White Hart Inn in Ware famous, and
became a sort of sonombulastic tourist attraction in the 16th century. It
was even mentioned in Shakespeare's TWELFTH NIGHT. The Great Bed of Ware
could easily accommodate four couples, and is reputed to have once held 52
people, though this was a stunt similar to college students stuffing
telephone booths or Volkswagens in the 1960s. See the Wikipedia piece at
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Bed_of_Ware .

"Dovetailing" (to use a carpentry metaphor) into the communal sleeping
article is one about box beds. This was pretty much like sleeping inside a
cupboard. These might be occupied solo, or shared, sometimes by whole
families. Let's hope the occupants changed the sheets and aired the bed at
least occasionally. They also conserved heat nicely. Box beds were common
in middle-ages Europe, and some were still in use in rural places until the
end of the 19th century.

The box bed story is found at

Sleep tight, and don't let the bedbugs bite.

Yours Aye,

Mungo Napier, Laird of Mallard Lodge  🦆
Continuing a crusade to keep Merry Rose relevant and in business.

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