Life in Elizabethan England Next

To Set a Fine Table

We eat from trenchers (plates), usually with a spoon or simply fingers, assisted by a knife. A trencher is generally made of treen (wood) or pewter. The old habit of carving a plate from sturdy or twice-baked bread is no longer common.

Forks have not yet become popular in England, except as a tool for holding large pieces of meat while carving. People who put a fork right into their mouths are either too, too fastidious, too Italianate, or terribly brave.

Napkins (not serviettes) are slung over the shoulder or arm, often secured with a pin — not tucked into the neck or laid on the lap.

Table linens are referred to as napery, and are the responsibility of the chief usher.

A well-set table is laid with a carpet, then a white damask cloth, trenchers, and bread (one loaf for every one or two diners).

Cobham Family at Table

In a fine house, a servant or two takes a ewer and basin to each diner so they can rinse their hands before eating. Another follows close behind with a cloth to dry the hands.

When the meal is finished, any broken meats that remain are given to the servants or distributed to the poor at the kitchen door.

::  At the Sideboard: A Jack and a Gill
::  Dinner at Cowdray House

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24 June 2005 pkm