Our Five Part Series on Merrie Olde England
Blighty's history reporter, Morris Bell, has dug up some fascinating facts about the Elizabethans this week. In this five part series Blighty's Blog presents a vignette of life in Merrie England half a millenium ago.
Legends of Old England - Part Two: Home Sweet Home
Everybody (except fire insurance companies) loves the sight of an old thatched roof cottage. Thatching is an ancient and highly skilled trade. Thatch is a natural material and provides a fabulous layer of insulation. In days of yore, when good Queen Bess was on the throne of England, thatch was the only means of covering a home to keep out the rain and keep the heat inside during winter.
Slippery When Wet
Thatch is several inches thick and provides a convenient and cosy home for bugs, weevils, spiders, beetles, ants, birds, mice, rats, badgers, cats and dogs. Unfortunately, following an English rainfall (which can happen rather frequently reports Blighty's Blog weather bureau chief, Raney Day) the thatch can be very slippery.
The larger animals holed up in the roof lose their foothold and come tumbling down, hence the origin of the expression "it's raining cats and dogs".
Rodents, Insects and Big-Fat-Ugly Spiders
Smaller residents of the thatch, such as rodents, insects and big-fat-ugly spiders would burrow through the thatch and sometimes fall inside the house. The next most cosy part of the home was the family bed. But few people wanted to share their bed with rodents, insects and big-fat-ugly spiders so they built a canopy above the bed to catch the rodents, insects and big-fat-ugly spiders.
The canopy was supported by a post at each corner of the bed. Four-poster canopy beds are still popular today. Have you checked the top of yours for rodents, insects and big-fat-ugly spiders recently?
The floor of an Elizabethan home was usually just plain dirt. Only the wealthy could afford to build their floors from stone. The peasantry were considered to be those who were "dirt poor". Stone floors were a luxury, but they were also slippery when wet. Wealthier homeowners would spread thresh (straw) on their stone floors to stop them slipping.
A strip of wood was fixed across the bottom of the entrance doorway to keep the thresh inside the home. Hence the origin of the term "thresh hold". Believe it ... or not.
"Comedy always works best when it is mean-spirited" - John Cleese
Author John Corby also writes as "Bulldogge" for the British Canadian newspaper.
|A Farthingsworth of Tall Tales from Blighty's Fameless Blog|
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