Having invested in our new house one of the next major considerations must be where does one lay ones head?
The bed has a long and chequered history. What started out in the far off mists of time as a simple pile of straw or heap of animal pelts evolved steadily over the centuries!
The first major, and possibly only true, innovation came about when the whole was raised off the ground to avoid drafts, dirt, and pests. Ironically, it also provided the perfect space for the storage of discarded footwear!
Other than that, all that really changed were the form and style of the ‘filling’ (basically the mattress) The Greek bed had a wooden frame, with a board covered in skins at the head, the Romans had mattresses stuffed with reeds, hay or wool while in some of the houses at Pompeii bed niches can be found carved into the walls.
The ancient Germans lay on the floor on beds of leaves covered with skins, or in a kind of shallow chest filled with leaves and moss.
In the early Middle Ages they laid carpets on the floor or on a bench against the wall with mattresses stuffed with feathers, wool or hair, and used skins as a covering.
As time passed the functionality of the simple wooden bedstead began to surpass all expectation as it steered a course toward becoming a status symbol for the ostentatiously ‘well heeled’.
The bedstead became veneered with expensive woods, ivory, tortoise shell or even bronze inlaid with silver. Naturally the pillows and coverings also increased in cost and beauty.
In the 14th century the woodwork became of less importance, generally being entirely covered by hangings of rich materials. Silk, velvet and even cloth of gold were frequently used. Inventories from the beginning of the century give details of these hangings lined with fur and richly embroidered. The 14th century is also the time when feather beds became highly prized possessions.
In the 17th century, which has been called “the century of magnificent beds”, Louis XIV is said to have had an enormous number of sumptuous beds, as many as 413 being described in the inventories of his palaces! The crimson velvet of the great bed at Versailles was said to have been so heavily embroidered, that so much gold was used, that the velvet scarcely showed.
Iron beds first begin to appear in the 18th century with advertisements declaring them as free from the insects which sometimes infested wooden bedsteads although in England the four poster was the usual citizen’s bed until well into the 19th century.
The TV bed illustrated here retailed at a whopping £2,500 – the cost at the time of a basic semi-detached house. Other features include a teas-made, (to the right of the woman) a tape deck and speakers. The TV has a large 12″ screen for the best possible viewing! Those were the days . . .