Life in Elizabethan England Next

Domestic Details

Wainscoting is the full- or half-high wall paneling made of a series of vertical boards set together tongue-and-groove. Oak Paneling c. 1550

Paneling is wainscoting divided into squares by frames or other details.

When the ceiling is carved wood or fancy plaster work, divided into boxes or frames, it is a coffered ceiling.

In great houses the whole household eats in the Hall or Great Hall. Most of the male servants sleep there on palettes, which are taken up during the day.

The family sits at the high table, and everyone else at trestle tables (sort of a board on saw horses) in order of household precedence.

The trestles in the Hall are drawn (taken down) to make room for other things, like games, dancing, and sleeping room for most of the servants.

The private Dining Parlour or Dining Chamber, separate from the Great Hall, is a fairly new (that is, Tudor) innovation. His Lordship's family is pulling itself away from communal living.

Privacy in general is rare and not much valued. Everybody shares a room and probably a bed. A household steward's job is not so much to see that all the staff or guests have rooms, but that "gentlemen should abide with other gentlemen, and the yeomen with yeomen."

The solar is Her Ladyship's bed-sitting room, always on the top floor, to catch as much daylight as possible for sewing.

The floor is probably covered with rushes just as in the Middle Ages. These must be turned and cleaned every so often. Nicer housewives in the later reign use rush mats instead of loose rushes. Extravagant and wealthy houses probably have some Turkey carpets.

If you do use rushes, you also make sure to strew herbs and flowers among them to mask the other smells of the house. Popular herbs for this purpose are:

Basil Marjoram Balm Mawdelin
Chamomile Pennyroyal Cowslips Rose petals
Daisies Red mint Sweet fennel Sage
Germander Tansey Hops Violets
Lavender Winter savory Lavender spike Lavender cotton

::  Plan of Ingatestone Hall, a Country House of the Latter Sixteenth Century
::  Household Management
::  Staffing a Great Household
::  The Steward and His Office
::  The Steward in Matters Domestical
::  Masters & Servants
::  Paying the Servants
::  In My Lady's Chamber
::  The Great House


Emmison: Tudor Secretary
Harrison: A Description of England
Orlin: Elizabethan Households
Scott: Book of Orders and Rules

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25 March 2008 mps