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Monday, March 16, 2009

Regency Beds

Regency Beds

Unlike the pillow-top beds with either springs or air underneath, Regency beds were very different. Mattresses were large stuffed bags, with several layers of stuffing. The poor slept on mattresses stuffed with straw, if they were lucky. The wealthy typically slept on feather mattresses. Though very comfortable, the feathers became compact, so they needed to be shaken up to regain their fluff and were usually only used on the top layer, the way a duvet cover is, similar to our pillow-top mattresses. Another common mattress filling was horse hair, believe it or not. It’s durable and has a certain give and doesn’t pack down as badly. So a Regency lady may have had one mattress of horsehair, and a thinner mattress on top filled with feathers.

Beneath the mattress, there were no springs, instead, there were ropes or coarse woven bands crossing the frame which kept the mattress off the floor and supported the person. The ropes tended to sag over time so they had to be tightened periodically; hence the saying “sleep tight.” Beds – at least those of the upper classes - were commonly surrounded by a canopy and curtains to keep the drafts out.

Because beds were often shorter than beds we sleep on today, people have theorized that our ancestors were considerably shorter than we are now. However, people back then didn’t sleep flat on their backs; they slept elevated by several pillows. There was one account of a man making reference to not lying flat on his back until he was dead. I’m not sure if the tradition of sleeping half-inclined was to aid with breathing, or what. But a feather bed piled high with down pillows sounds…well, forgive the pun, but it sounds dreamy. No wonder it was fashionable to sleep in late!

2 comments:

Barbara said...

Very insightful post and a topic I didn't know about! Thanks for sharing!

Mary Ricksen said...

Sounds good to me. I love the thought, all you need to add is the velvet drapes to close around the bed.
I wondered where that saying came from. I love reading this stuff, I learn something new every day.
So, sleep tight.