09 September, 2009

Life in the 1500s

The next time you complain because something isn't just how you like it, think about how things used to be. Here are some interesting facts about life in the 1500's:
Baths consisted of 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 cats and other small animals (mice, bugs) lived in the roof. When it rained it became slippery and sometimes the animals would slip and 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 mess up your nice clean bed. Hence, a bed with big posts and a sheet hung over the top afforded some protection. That's how canopy beds came into existence.

The floor was dirt. Only the wealthy had something other than dirt. Hence the saying "dirt poor." The wealthy had slate floors that would get slippery in the winter when wet, so they spread thresh (straw) on floor to help keep their footing. As the winter wore on, they added more thresh until when you opened the door it would all start slipping outside. A piece of wood was placed in the entrance way. Hence the saying a "thresh hold."

In those old days, they cooked in the kitchen with a big kettle that always hung over the fire. Every day they lit the fire and added things to the pot. They ate mostly vegetables and did not 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 stew had food in it that had been there for quite a while. Hence the rhyme, "Peas porridge hot, peas porridge cold, peas porridge in the pot nine days old."

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 "upper crust."

Sometimes they could obtain pork, which made them feel quite special. When visitors came over, they would hang up their bacon to show off. It was a sign of wealth that a man could "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 high acid content caused some of the lead to leach onto the food, causing lead poisoning death. This happened most often with tomatoes, so for the next 400 years or so, tomatoes were considered poisonous.

Lead cups were used to drink ale or whisky. The combination would sometimes knock the imbibers 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."

In England, the local folks started running out of places to bury people. So they would dig up coffins and would take the bones to a "bone-house" and reuse the grave. When reopening these coffins, 1 out of 25 coffins were found to have scratch marks on the inside and they realized they had been burying people alive. So they would tie a string on the wrist of the corpse, 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 (the "graveyard shift") to listen for the bell; thus, someone could be "saved by the bell" or was considered a "dead ringer."

Now, whoever said history was boring. Educate someone and share these facts with a friend.


xinex said...

This is interesting, Karen. Thanks for posting it..Christine

FrenchGardenHouse said...

What a fun post, Karen! Thanks so much, I learned lots of things. Thanks so much, too, for visiting my blog today!

Racquel said...

What an interesting post. I love how all these sayings came into play. ;) Thanks for stopping by my blog.

Tootsie said...

I am so glad I don't have to bath AFTER a stinky man!!! lol
I am grateful for the things I have...and the people I love

Linda said...

This was very interesting!

Though I must share, my family and I have just returned from a family reunion weekend down in Southern Illinois where my Mom grew up. My Mom is 79 and when she and her 10 brothers and sisters were growing up, they did not have indoor plumbing any of those years from 1930 - 1945. They lived in a small 4 room house and had an outhouse. Toilet paper was literally the Spiegel Catalog pages. I asked her about baths and she said that they simply took sponge baths and one good bath a week before church, sharing one large metal tub, just as was written in this post. :)

Life in the coal mining southern Illinois communities must have been much like the 1500s, LOL.

Nutsy Coco said...

Interesting! I'd heard a few of those before but not as much history on all of them.

Jane said...

This is so interesting. When homeschooling many years ago, we came up with much of this information...and more. (check out bridal bouquets and June brides)It made our history lessons much more interesting.
Thanks for sharing...
Jane (Artfully Graced)

JD said...

I'm glad I wasn't born in the 1500's. smile. I'm too spoiled with things like electricity and indoor plumbing. LOL (and what would I do without my computer?)

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