life in the 1500's (don't know if it's really true but makes for interesting reading) : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread

Life in the 1500s

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, "Dont 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, "Its 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 didnt 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 they 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 didnt 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 crust".


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".

-- shellie (, May 03, 1999


oh BTW I am not saying this is how it will ever be again or anything...just thought it was interesting and wanted to share...

-- shellie (, May 03, 1999.

Gawd, Shellie, now I'm really depressed!

-- Old Git (, May 03, 1999.

Hi Shellie,

Interesting post: have you got a source?


-- Bob Barbour (, May 04, 1999.

oops sorry Old, unfortunatly Bob I don't have a source..It came to me in an e-mail from a friend who thinks Y2K is a big joke... couldn't tell ya where it came from other than that...but thinking anyone could go an entire year without a bath is beyond me so i just took it for humor more than anything else.... Shellie

-- shellie (, May 04, 1999.

My son would gladly go a year with out a bath now if we didn't drive him into the shower with clubs while we are wearing gas masks.

-- Greybear (, May 04, 1999.

Here's another one for life a few centuries ago. The beds people slept in had mattresses stuffed with straw. Sometimes bugs would crawl out of the straw during the night and bite the sleeper, hence the saying "Don't let the bed bugs bite!". I learned this on a tour of a museum so this one is true.

-- Sharon L (, May 04, 1999.

Superb! Check out the last three Monty Python movies for more authenticity :)

-- Andy (, May 04, 1999.

Goodly posting. But thought "trench mouth" came from WWI's trench warfare, along with trench coat, trench foot, etc. (source Paul Fussell's 'The Great War in Modern Memory'). Also (I really can't help myself!): "What profiteth it a man to gain the whole world and lose his soul?" Also...think of the art that came out of Venice and Florence in the 15th century. The great cathedrals had been built 500 years BEFORE. Dante had written his 'Divine Commedia,' and in England, Spenser had written 'The Faerie Queen.' Shakespeare, Newton, Liebnitz are born. And no worrying about Y2K.

-- Spidey (, May 04, 1999.

Thanks Shellie, fascinating. Not sure I buy the explanation about the tomato ban - guess I'm skeptical that people would associate lead poisoning with the tomatoes more than 400 years ago.

At least the way I understand it...: Tomatoes (a South American plant) are in the same family as potatoes, sweet peppers, tobacco and jimsonweed (all from the Americas), petunias (don't recall where they came from), and some very toxic old world plants, including Bella Donna. Apparently when tomatoes and potatoes were introduced to Europe, the plants' resemblance to the lethal Bella Donna of the mysterious "nightshade" family (a hallucinogen containing atropine, I believe), made people very leary to try them. So the idea of using them as food came back to the American colonists, and it was later successfully reintroduced in Europe, along with potatoes.

-- Brooks (, May 04, 1999.

Shellie, As a Brit,I was (almost) mortally offended by this gross calumny..until I remembered that many Americans are descended from European immigrants who were mainly convicts,felons,religeous dissenters and some get-rich-quick merchant adventurers.

-- Chris (, May 04, 1999.

Here is another one. When beds were raised off the floor they were often made with ropes strung across from the sides to hold up a mattress. The ropes would eventually stretch and the mattress would sag. So the ropes would be tightened again: hence, "sleep tight."

-- winna (??@??.com), May 04, 1999.

Yet another: Poachers taking game on the "Crowns land" were apprehended while cleaning the game, or.....caught redhanded.

-- A. Hambley (, May 04, 1999.

My impression is that history has been mostly reinvented here, but boy some of those sure were funny.

Bedbugs are real bugs. In fact I recall my dad telling me that one of the first cases that caused the "truth in advertising" laws to come about were based on that. He was a 'dirt-poor' Oklahoma boy (literally -- they would have starved were it not for some neighbor mormons) and these bugs made life so miserable it was nearly unbearable. As if OK in the summertime, out in the sticks with no money, isn't unbearable as it is (heat, bugs, to the nth degree). There was an advertisement somewhere for these things "guaranteed to kill bedbugs." The family, already without even enough food let alone shoes or belongings, did without yet more for a long time to save enough money to buy this amazing thing. When they received it in the mail, with tremendous excitement the whole family (7 kids and single mom) gathered around. It was two little blocks of wood. It said, "Place block A on a flat surface. Place bedbug on block A. Press block B firmly down on block A." Dad said their whole family just cried. Sad story - - one of many from his young life. (He joined the Army and ran away to California after that, which certainly improved things for him.) Anyway -- life has gotten better in many ways, that's for sure -- I wouldn't look forward to a world without bug spray. :-)

If there are any folks on this board who've been hard hit by those recent tornadoes, and has any general-type needs a friendly neighbor could help with, send me email and let me know.

PJ in TX

-- PJ Gaenir (, May 05, 1999.

Chris - you might add one of my wifes more spectacular ancestors into that mix of carpetbaggers you are tarring us with. He was the second or third son of some Scot clan leader. For some reason or other he was annoyed at the Queen, and wore a war tartan during an audience. She knew the pattern, got almighty pissed, and had him arrested. An agent for a French landholder over here (now in North Carolina) bought him as an indentured servant and shipped him over - he did the books for the plantation for several years till his indenture ran out. He then married a local Chowan Indian girl (another action that horrified the local Brits - esp. as the Brits had been messing with the tribe in bad ways for a while - his family REALLY did not like you guys) and took off over the mountains a while later to settle in the Ohio River valley down in the bottoms in what is now Kentucky.

-- Paul Davis (, May 05, 1999.

Thank you shellie!!!

-- Will (, May 05, 1999.

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