(long) "life in the 1500s"

Jessie Emerson jessie at SIRSI.COM
Thu Jun 10 14:23:26 UTC 1999

I've received this three times in the past week, so it must be going around.
Anyone know where it came from?


Life in the 1500's:

Most people got married in June because they took their yearly bath in  May
and were still smelling pretty good by June.  However, they were starting to
smell, so brides carried a bouquet of flowers to hide the b.o. Baths equaled
a big tub filled with hot water.  The man of the  house had 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 so
dirty you could actually lose someone in it.  Hence the saying, "Don't throw
the baby out with the bath water."

Houses had thatched roofs.  Thick straw, piled high with no wood underneath.
It was the only place for animals to get warm, so all the pets... dogs, cats
and other small animals, mice, rats, bugs lived in the roof.  When it rained
it became slippery and sometimes the animals would slip and fall off the
roof.  Hence the saying, "It's raining cats  and dogs."

There was nothing to stop things from falling into the house. This posed a
real problem in the bedroom where bugs and other droppings could really mess
up your nice clean bed.  So, they found if they made beds with big posts and
hung a sheet over the top, it addressed that problem.  Hence those beautiful
big 4 poster beds with canopies.

The floor was dirt.  Only the wealthy had something other than dirt, hence
the saying "dirt poor."  The wealthy had slate floors which would get
slippery in the winter when wet. So they spread thresh on the floor to help
keep their footing.  As the winter wore on they kept adding more thresh
until when you opened the door it would all start slipping outside.  A piece
of wood was placed at the entry way, hence a "thresh hold."

They cooked in the kitchen in a big kettle that always hung over the fire.
Every day they lit the fire and added things to the  pot.  They mostly ate
vegetables and didn't get much meat. They would eat the stew for dinner
leaving leftovers in the pot to get cold overnight and then start over the
next day.  Sometimes the stew had food in it that had been in there for a
month. Hence the rhyme: peas porridge hot, peas porridge cold, peas porridge
in the pot nine days old."

Sometimes people could obtain pork and would feel really special when that
happened. When company came over, they would bring out some bacon and hang
it to show it off.  It 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
would all sit around and "chew the fat."

Those with money had plates made of pewter.  Food with a high acid content
caused some of the lead to leach onto the food. This happened most often
with tomatoes, so they stopped eating tomatoes ... for 400 years.

Most people didn't have pewter plates, but had trenchers -a piece of wood
with the middle scooped out like a bowl.  Trenchers were never washed and a
lot of times worms got into the wood.  After eating off wormy trenchers,
they would get "trench mouth."

Bread was divided according to status.  Workers got the burnt bottom of the
loaf, the family got the middle, and guests got the  top, or the "upper

Lead cups were used to drink ale or whiskey.  The combination would
sometimes knock them out for a couple of days. Someone walking along the
road would take them for dead and prepare them for burial.  They were laid
out on the kitchen table for a couple  of days and the family would gather
around and eat and drink and wait and see if they would wake up.  Hence the
custom of holding a "wake."

England is old and small, and they started running out of places to bury
people.  So, they would dig up coffins and would take their bones to a house
and reuse the grave.  In reopening these  coffins, one out of 25 coffins
were found to have scratch marks on the inside and they realized they had
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. Hence on the
 "graveyard  shift" they would know that someone was "saved by the bell" or
he was a "dead ringer."

More information about the Ads-l mailing list