from the 1500's:
Next time you are washing your hands and
complain because the
water temperature isn't just how you like it, think about how things
used to be...
Back in the 1500's
Most people got married in June, because they took their yearly
bath in May and still smelled pretty good by June.
However, they were starting to smell, so brides carried a
bouquet of flowers to hide the body odor.
Baths consisted of a big tub filled with hot water. The man of
the house had the privilege of the nice clean water, next all the other
and men, next 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
beneath. It was the only place for animals to get warm so all the dogs
cats and other small animals (mice, 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
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 it up.
A bed with big posts and a sheet hung over the top afforded
some protection; hence canopy beds came into existence.
The floor was dirt, and 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 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 in the entryway to hold the straw
down; hence a threshold
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
overnight and then start over the next day.
Sometimes the 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."
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 a high
acid content caused some of the lead to leak onto the food causing lead
poisoning and death. This happened most often with tomatoes, so for the
400 years or so, tomatoes were considered poisonous.
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
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 the local folks started running
out of places to bury people. So they would dig up coffins and would take
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 thought they would tie a string on the wrist of the
corpse, lead it through the coffin, up through the ground, and tie it to a
Someone would have to sit out in the graveyard all night on the
graveyard shift to listen for the bell; thus, someone could be saved by
the bell or was considered a dead ringer.
And that's the real truth...
( Whoever said that History was boring?! )