Hard times... If you think you’ve got it hard now ... read this ...
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 living. Most people got
married in June. Why? They took their yearly bath in May, so they were
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, they found if they would make beds with 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 some-thing 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 footings. 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.”
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