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Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Warming Our Beds through History

In Medieval times, a servant or the woman of the house heated a stone or brick at the fireside, then wrapped it in cloths and carried it quickly to the bed. By the 16th century, people were using pans filled with smoldering embers from the fire itself. The brass or copper warming pan hung by the fire. At bedtime, hot fuel was put inside, and the warmer, carried by its long handle, was rushed to the bed and rubbed between the bed linens.
Some of these warming pans had pierced patterns, and some were elaborately decorated. The piercings allowed oxygen to reach the embers, making the heat last longer, but the bed would smell of fumes and there was always a risk of scorching the linens. Also, in parts of the UK, peat was burned as fuel, which would have made a most unpleasant smell in the bedroom.
In the 19th century, closed warming pans might hold either fuel or hot water. Some of these pans, especially decorative or silver ones, were handed down, generation to generation.
Here is an insight as to the importance of warming pans. It is from Cora Millet-Robinet’s Domestic Economy, 1853.

A copper warming pan is indispensable to a household. Take care to have a big enough quantity of embers, above all some red cinders, when you want to heat a bed. Get it smouldering well before you use it, otherwise the fire will soon go out and the bed will not warm up. You must move the warming pan constantly to avoid scorching the sheets.


Rosemary Gemmell said...

Thanks for that informative post, Joyce. I'm sitting here looking at the copper warming pan on my wall! Not an original, but one we bought many years ago in Wales (I live in Scotland).

MarySimonsen said...

I always think about the servants who warmed the beds for their mistresses and masters and then went to their freezing spaces! Very interesting. Thank you.

catslady said...

All I can say is I'm so glad I have an electric blanket lol.

French Style Beds said...

Can anybody show to me what is the look of a French Style Beds? cause I'm interested on it.

Kelly S. Bishop said...

And in 1688 a lowly bedpan became a part of history when it was alleged that James II's wife had a stillborn child and a live baby was smuggled in the palace inside a bedpan as a substitute.

Le Loup said...

Our family home in England was built in 1740. I remember my Mother warming my bed with one of these. She had to climb two flights of stairs to reach my bedroom at the top of the house below the attic.
Later I was given a stone water bottle, very large & heavy, but I was strong enough to carry it myself in both arms then. I wish I still had that warming pan!
We lived for over 20 years here in Australia without any power,tap water, inside toilet or bathroom. We could have done with that warming pan then.
Good post, thank you.
Regards, Keith.