17th Century Bedroom

17th century bedroom

In bed we laugh, in bed we cry; and born in bed, in bed we die; the near approach a bed may show of human bliss to human woe.

                      - Isaac de Benserade (1613-1691), French poet.

Beds were the most valuable pieces of furniture in Irish houses during the 17th century. Symbols of status and power, beds are recorded in various household inventories. Tester beds, fastened to the walls with supporting posts, were standard in noble houses until the 1680s. Luxurious decorative curtains hung from rails which passed around the edge. Later, upholstered canopy beds became fashionable. Standing beds and bench beds were common among merchants. Household servants or labourers slept in settle or bench beds or on straw pallets.

On the bed frame, which had a series of holes strung tight with ropes, a woven rush mattress and a flock or feather bed was laid. Pillows and bolsters were piled up at the headboard or dosser, ensuring the sleeper lay in an elevated position. The canopy was known as the tester. In some noble houses certain servants had their own bedchambers. Others slept in the same room as their masters in a truckle or wheel bed, stored under the main bed. Menial servants slept in the attic. Farmers and merchants had small bedchambers, but in the great houses bedrooms were of a semi-public nature.

Cradle, English, oak, circa 1690
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