Lucy Worsley looks at the history of the British bedroom by spending the night in a Tudor farmhouse and experiencing the glamour of the 1930s boudoir.
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Isabel, wriggle up.
We'll have you next, Dad, please. Where's your brother gone?
Go on, give him a shove! Come on, we need more room for the girls.
The whole family in one bed.
This is called pigging and it's quite a common sight in 17th century England.
Most people slept all together like this.
I'm not sure we'll get much sleep but it's nice and warm, isn't it?
'I'm Dr Lucy Worsley, chief curator at Historic Royal Palaces,
'based here at Hampton Court.'
Another day at the office.
As a historian, though, I'm fascinated by the intimate,
personal bits of history and the way they've shaped modern life.
Oh, it's exciting, it's exciting!
In this series, I'll be tracing the story of British domestic life through four rooms -
the bedroom, the living room, the bathroom and the kitchen.
From the homes of the Middle Ages to the present day,
I'll be exploring how attitudes have changed,
meeting some extraordinary people
and doing some rather odd things.
This time, the bedroom -
from the Medieval communal hall to the glamorous boudoir.
Full English for you this morning.
I'll be seeing how its development has affected our most private moments.
You're like the person in the horror film who says that
and then everything goes horribly wrong!
Our houses are a reflection of our selves.
They tell us so much about how we live and who we are.
But the homes we live in now have evolved over centuries.
Every single room in a house like this one
has got its own very interesting story.
This time, the room that's been through fascinating changes.
It's always been used for sleeping, but it hasn't always been
the safe haven that most of us take for granted.
People's bedrooms today are private places.
You don't go in without an invitation.
But in the past, bedrooms were surprisingly noisy, busy, social places.
This idea that they're quiet places for sleeping
is a relatively modern invention.
Things were very different from this back in Medieval homes.
The very concept of a bedroom
didn't exist for most people in Medieval England.
If you belonged to the household of the landowner,
the Great Hall would have been your living and sleeping space.
Just complete and impressive!
It's the greatest surviving hall from the 14th century and isn't it wonderful?
They've got the central hearth,
which hasn't ever been replaced by a fireplace in the wall.
It's what it would have been like - and full of people, of course.
It's the centre of the estate - people coming and going all the time.
The Great Hall was a powerful Saxon notion.
It was expected to bind the community together
and build a strong sense of shared values.
People were entirely dependent on the Lord of the manor,
in this case the Piltney's, for their existence.
You know, they didn't really get paid for much.
It wasn't that sort of world. What they got was their keep.
Household members were only indoors during the hours of darkness.
They slept and ate in the hall.
The safety found in numbers was more important than privacy.
It's a very different concept from what we can imagine
but in the Middle Ages,
people were used to doing many more things communally,
to sleeping communally. People didn't even have beds much.
They certainly didn't have very developed bedrooms.
Privacy, as we understand it, didn't exist.
The floor of the Great Hall would have been covered in rushes,
which made things more comfortable and soaked up spillages.
So you could clean them all up, throw them all away
and put down a fresh lot.
-Yes, you could.
-It's like disposable carpet.
Yes, that's perfectly true.
-This is making things look a bit more comfortable.
-I like this look.
The term "to make the bed" came from exactly that -
you took a sack and filled it with hay.
The sack was called a tick and was woven from hemp.
In fact, the striped cotton cover you still get on mattresses today is called ticking.
So when night fell, they locked the doors,
battened down the hatches to keep out the robbers
and the scary Medieval darkness
and they would have gathered around the fire, got their sacks of hay,
ready to "hit the hay" - notice origin of expression.
And then they had to cover the fire
and this leads to the expression "curfew", doesn't it?
Yes, from "cuevrefeu",
cover fire in the Old French,
and people put a container over the fire to keep the ashes warm,
so people weren't going to get burnt, the rushes wouldn't catch fire,
but the warmth would still be generated.
The sack is one part of the bed.
We have got something missing, though.
We hear from the Elizabethan traveller William Harrison
that people in Medieval England weren't soft and wussy, like the Tudors.
They didn't have pillows, they slept with their head on a good hard log.
The first proper bedroom was the chamber -
a separate room above the Great Hall
for the master and mistress of the household.
It was a mark of high status to have a private room
and they used it for lots of different things.
This room is set up as a dining room today,
as later generations used it,
but the Medieval family used this room up above the Great Hall
as a private solar,
also known as a chamber, also known as a bower.
These are Medieval words for something we would recognise as a bed-sitting room.
They had their bed in here,
but also used it for socialising, for parties with their friends.
There is an element of the home office about it as well.
They might have written letters, for example.
So this is a very, very flexible space for the Lord and Lady.
A very high-status version of the bedroom.
This separate room was still a shared space,
for the Lord, Lady, their family and intimate servants.
Their idea of privacy was very different from ours.
It was the ability to choose
the people with whom you shared the room.
This is a clever little touch. It's a sneaky squint window,
so the Lord and Lady can check what's going on in the Great Hall down there
and they are literally looking down on the plebs,
who are so far below us there.
You get a real sense of them and us up here.
And it is literally us up here in the solar,
because this is an exclusive space,
but it's for the Lord, the Lady, their closest relatives
and their most important servants, all sort of breathing the same air.
This is privacy in the Medieval sense.
It's up and above the masses
but nobody expects to be all by themselves.
That would be a bit weird.
Beds were hugely expensive.
So most people stayed sleeping on sacks.
Bed hangings were costly.
Many dyes were expensive and weaving was labour intensive.
You needed skilled craftsmen
to carve and construct a wooden bed frame,
which meant that only the rich could afford to commission a bed.
They were such status symbols
that aristocrats would take them with them when they travelled.
But society was shifting.
By the 16th century, a new and prosperous middle class -
know as the middling sort - had emerged.
Even middling houses were now built with an upper floor
and more ordinary families could afford a bedroom as well as a bed.
Bedrooms were still sparsely furnished
but they often had a chest for valuables,
as well as a perche - or rod - for hanging clothes.
Beds were still expensive.
This would have cost three months' wages for a skilled craftsman.
To try to understand Tudor attitudes to beds and sleep,
I'm going to stay the night in this remote yeoman's farmhouse.
And this is pretty smart, isn't it?
How much of my wealth would have been tied up in this?
-A third maybe?
-A third of my household goods!
Yes, this is something really special.
First purchase upon marriage?
Oh, definitely, and if you're lucky, you get left something like this.
'Privacy, in the modern sense, still didn't exist.
'Bedrooms were shared -
'not only by the married couple but also by their children and even their servants.'
'The only really private place for the couple
'was behind the bed curtains.'
So this is a truckle bed.
A truckle bed.
So that rolls out for children, servants...?
Yeah, anyone who isn't as grand as the person who gets the bed, really.
And this is a straw mattress
and then on top of that we've got another mattress.
That feels like feathers.
Oh, posh! That's quite classy.
Yes, very Footballers' Wives, this house!
Tudor people were terrified of the night and its dangers -
from robbers, to witches, to evil spirits.
It's not just an idea of making yourself comfortable,
it's an idea of making yourself safe.
-I'm defending myself against the night.
You don't know what spirits are lurking out there.
The night air is considered dangerous and bad for your health.
Do you sleep in moonlight? You might go mad.
That's where the word "lunacy" comes from.
-The light of the lunar moon turns you into a lunatic.
Lots of things to worry about.
I am going to follow every single ritual I can get my hands on.
So where we are going to start
is by making sure you are nice and comfortable
and these bed strings have to be tight so you can sleep tight.
Do you know, I have always wondered why people say "sleep tight."
-Well, there you go.
-And this is the answer.
-What is the next bit of it?
Don't let the bed bugs bite.
-Don't let the bugs bite.
-That is what we are going to do next.
Check the bed for bugs.
Because bed bugs are a BIG problem.
You have put me off the idea of sleeping in this bed.
I was quite looking forward to it until you said that.
Well, we haven't got to the fleas yet.
Oh, thank you(!) Thank you(!)
To keep the bed bugs at bay, they sprinkled wormwood -
a herb used in traditional medicine - over the mattress,
followed by camomile to aid restful sleep.
To drive out damp and warm the bed, they used rocks heated in the fire.
There we go. How do you feel about spending the night here?
Bit worried about it.
Well, as long as you take the right precautions, you are OK.
Alison, you are so like the person in the horror film who says that
and then everything goes horribly wrong!
Nightfall was known as "shutting in" time.
In a crowded yeoman's house like this, the master of the household
would have checked and secured his property against human intruders.
But this was only part of the nightly ritual.
They also had to protect themselves against unearthly intruders.
I'm going to put my shoes upside down
because Tudors genuinely believed
that pixies and spirits might come and put them on in the night.
I have got here my Tudor sleeping pill,
which is a little bag of aniseed,
which apparently I can tie around my ears...
and the smell of the aniseed is supposed to send me to sleep
and also stop me from having nightmares.
I must admit, all these rituals and preparations
have made me slightly more nervous about the night ahead
than I would have otherwise been.
ALARM CLOCK BEEPS
There's a theory that people had very different sleeping patterns
to the eight hours we expect today.
They would start with a "first sleep" of four hours
and then naturally wake up.
They were doing leisure things that they didn't have time to do in the daylight,
like meditating, praying,
chatting and, obviously, couples took the chance
to have carnal knowledge of each other as well,
in the dead of the night.
The only other thing that's awake here at the moment is that owl,
so I think I will go back for my second sleep now.
I've had a disturbed night, I think it's fair to say.
Because I live in the middle of the city,
I'm always longing for dark and quiet
and I got dark, but I didn't get quiet.
There was just non-stop noise from the geese and the horses
and goodness knows what else making a tapping noise.
I've also learnt something about Tudor beds - they sag.
It's hard to lie flat and it's a mystery why people in portraits,
when they are seen in bed, are sort of semi sitting up like I am, like this,
and the answer is that you can't lie flat because they sag so much.
Those ropes stretch and the feather bed...
the feathers wiggle away from the weight of your body.
So I have sort of been like this all night.
I think I am in a genuine Tudor sleeping position.
Whether I have had an authentic Tudor experience
is a really good question,
because obviously you can't recreate the past
but I have to tell you, I feel like I've got closer to Tudor people
sleeping here tonight than I have done by reading books about them.
There's something, it sounds naff,
but there is something psychologically true
about researching history this way, I think.
As bedrooms became more common in British houses,
people used these new rooms for all sorts of get togethers and ceremonies.
Because bed chambers in the past were much more social spaces,
sometimes public rituals were performed in them.
Bed chambers were like the stages sometimes, where you might,
for example, get to know somebody, court them, even get married.
The ceremony of marriage wasn't restricted to just a church setting
until right into the 18th century.
Until then, for the property owning classes,
marriage involved a written contract, agreed by both fathers, followed by a formal exchange
of promises, and finally a church blessing.
For poor people,
a simple exchange of vows in front of witnesses was enough.
In order to find the right partner, though,
it was worth checking your compatibility first.
Hello there, brave people.
'In some rural areas, the bedroom was used for a courtship ritual,
'known as "bundling".'
The idea was that when a young couple sort of started to begin
to like each other their parents may well have decided to let them do this thing,
which is to spend the night in bed together.
It was kind of testing the waters to see
whether they would in fact make a good married couple.
And in order to stop this lusty young man
from falling upon your daughter, you might have taken certain precautions.
That's where the sack comes in!
There we go.
'The young woman would be bundled into a sack and tied at her waist
We have got to make the knot lusty-young-man proof.
He won't be able to undo that.
'Then she would be put into her parents' bed
'next to her potential husband.'
Right, there you are.
No touching is going on there.
Right, Tim, let's get the board in place.
'As an extra precaution, a wide wooden plank,
'called a '"bundling board", would be placed between them.'
You can't even see each other now, can you?
It's like Blind Date.
That's the modern equivalent of bundling.
Tim, you are Cilla Black!
Very, very bizarre.
-Right, time for the parents to leave the room.
-Don't let us down. Bye
The bedroom wasn't just for courtship rituals.
It was part of the marriage ceremonies as well.
After the wedding had taken place, the bridesmaids would bring
the bride into the bedroom and publicly undress her.
She would throw her stockings over her shoulder.
The person who caught them would be next to get married. Just like the one who catches the bouquet today.
The bridegroom would come in with his friends. They would undress him.
They would have a big party with drinking and music,
and only at the very last minute, after the husband and wife
had got into bed, would their friends leave and let them get on with it.
The bedroom also had huge significance as the place where life began.
Traditionally, childbirth was a women-only event.
It was, in a sense, quite social,
a women's occasion
that not only would the woman have a midwife
and possibly her mother
or a female relative with her. It would quite often be her neighbours.
The women who attended the birth
were known as "God's siblings" or "godsibs" -
ironically, the origin of the term "gossip".
-Clearly, it's a very dangerous time.
-Oh, it's very dangerous.
Possibly one reason to have other women there is that these are the women who have got through it.
You know, they are experienced.
They have the, as it were, one might think, good karma
of having survived child birth to bring to the occasion.
-But it was dangerous.
I mean, maternal mortality was very high and so was infant mortality.
One in five women died in childbirth.
Until the 18th century, it was the most common cause of death in young women.
Midwives had no formal training. Their knowledge was gained through experience.
They were hired by reputation and their equipment was pretty limited.
Although specially designed "groaning chairs"
had been in use since Medieval times.
Birthing chairs have recently been re-introduced into many modern obstetric units.
It really looks like it has been used.
-I can just imagine someone's hands gripping the arms.
No epidural is going to be on its way, is it?
No epidural, no chloroform,
no nothing, just bite down on this piece of cloth.
-And pray, pray a lot.
This is The Complete Midwife's Companion, written by a woman
who was a midwife in the 17th century.
You have got this illustration here of the scene in the bedroom.
You have got the woman, she has just given birth,
and you have got several other women around and one of them
is feeding the mother with presumably cordal,
something sort of between porridge and a drink, really, that was made
to sustain women in child birth and to sustain the women who were supporting them.
And it included alcohol, it included oat meal,
it included various herbs and spices.
And so it had a medicinal purpose.
But it was also to some extent a celebratory drink.
I've been thinking again about just how important beds were
in history. No wonder they sometimes cost more
than all the rest of the other furniture put together.
Because they were just the central point. Everything happened there.
A person might be born, might go through their married life,
might give birth to their children, might even die in the very same bed.
There was that sort of continuity, centrality to people's lives.
We don't get that any more.
Beds have definitely lost their edge.
Bedrooms were still very public places for the rich.
Along with the constant presence of servants,
they were used for receiving guests.
The notion of privacy in the bedroom didn't exist in a modern sense.
At Ham House in Richmond,
we can see some of the very first completely private rooms,
forerunners of the modern bedroom.
'Lady Elizabeth Dysart inherited Ham House from her father in 1642.
'The house is famous for its closets.
'Now, rather than bedrooms,
'closets were small private rooms, specifically designed for solitude.'
So closets are these funny little rooms off a bed chamber.
It's quite extraordinary that she has got two.
Oh, exactly, and I guess with this
some people were coming into this room
and maybe for her that room
was absolutely sacrosanct, no-one came in there.
Well, this is really quite something, isn't it?
I think it is just so personal. It just expresses one person and their likes so much.
It is a room that has died out in our modern houses. We don't really have closets.
Absolutely. I mean the use is still there in our modern day bedroom.
'Closets were for prayer and contemplation,
'to be alone with God and one's self.'
'Lady Dysart's closets were quite understated, compared to her father's
'which were much more in line with contemporary male taste.'
-It's so camp, isn't it?
But I think that's how times had changed
-and this is what a sophisticated man would want his room to look like.
-As rich as humanly possible.
Really rich. This was definitely Mr Murray's room.
No-one else was allowed in here and it was locked at all times. I have got the original key.
He did himself proud because it is just totally decorated all over.
He decorated every space.
I think it's quite touching, if you think of 17th century aristocrats, whose lives are lived on display.
-They're always performing.
-Except when they're in their closets.
There is a moment when you have to have a bit of peace and quiet.
Closets are my favourite rooms in 17th century houses because I think
they are the places where we get the most intimate view of the owner.
It's a room where he or she would have been on their own, thinking private thoughts, writing,
doing things, that sort of solitary activities, the sort of thing
that I can really connect with because I do that myself.
It's something we have in common between us.
When I'm in my bedroom, by myself, resting or thinking,
I can imagine them doing the same thing in their closets.
The King and Queen had closets, but at Hampton Court,
they also each had a private bedroom.
But the rituals of court were so entrenched that they still had
public bedrooms for social and court events.
The levee, or ceremony of dressing the King or Queen in front of the court,
arrived from France in the 17th Century.
50 years later, Queen Caroline, the wife of George II,
'was dressed by her ladies in waiting every day - in front of visitors.'
I'm standing in for Queen Caroline this morning
and when she got dressed in the morning she didn't do it by herself.
It was all done here in her public bedroom and quite a lot of people helped her out.
Here are my bed chamber staff of five.
These nice people from Australia, they are visitors to the palace
and the queen did actually let visitors into her bedroom
-while this was going on. It's like a public ceremony. Hello.
'The occasion was extremely hierarchical
'and the rules were extraordinarily detailed.
'At the top was the Mistress of the Robes, then the Lady of the Bedchamber
'followed by the Woman of the Bedchamber. Next was the dresser, who did most of the work,
'while the page, at the very bottom of the heap,
'had to wait around until called in to place the shoes on the Queen's feet.'
It feels very weird standing with practically no clothes on
in front of lots of people who don't know me.
The queen must have just got used to it.
Libby, you're not touching the dress because you are too important,
as is Deirdra.
This hierarchy seems bizarre but it was so important. Make or break, life or death for these people.
It seems very unfair but you two get paid more than the others
-even though you're not doing any work.
-I think it's fair!
-Is it time for the shoes?
Someone call the page.
Page, can you bring the shoes?
Thank you very much, page Katy.
Actually, to be honest, I could not physically bend down
and do it for myself. I am now in your hands.
Thank you very much.
So all the rest of you can aspire to doing what Deirdra is now doing
if you work hard and marry well.
Hey, I'm good to go.
Thank you, ladies. You may go.
See you same time, same place, tomorrow.
You've got to feel it for Queen Caroline, being trapped in this
sort of Byzantine web of ritual and having to go through it all every day.
'Queen Caroline didn't sleep in the public bedroom.
'Her private bedroom was on the other side of the palace.'
This is a sneaky special door. We're going into the private rooms now.
She doesn't use these rooms, except when people are here, visitors are here.
It's quite interesting the way all these rooms run one into another.
There is no corridor, there is no privacy.
The whole thing is like a railway carriage.
And this is the Queen's private bedroom at last.
This is where she really slept.
You can tell she really did expect to be alone,
because there is this amazing contraption of locking the door.
It works on a pulley system and when she was lying in bed and didn't have any servants here
the door could actually be locked by her, so she didn't have to leap out and get cold.
And this is also the room where,
if the King, her husband, wanted to sleep with her,
this is where he came to do it.
So you can imagine those two in bed locking the doors on everyone else.
When he wanted to sleep with her, I say, as opposed to sleeping
with his mistress, and his mistress would travel to his bedroom
in his part of the palace when they were going to get together.
All across the country, aristocrats desperately hoped the King would sleep the night
'in one of their country houses.
'So they created exclusive state bedrooms for visiting royalty.
'Furnished with hugely expensive state beds,
'they were reserved purely in case a King or Queen came to stay.'
That's what happened here at Kedleston Hall.
Lord Scarsdale in the 1760s commissioned this bed
in the hope that George III would come and sleep in it.
The designer was Robert Adam, top architect of the day,
and the very design includes reference to royalty and kingship.
The palms symbolise kingship and fidelity.
The ostrich feathers up at the top are a symbol of power.
Now, very sadly for Lord Scarsdale, although this bed has been here for over 200 years
no king or queen has ever slept in it.
Privacy was about to become a possibility for the middling sort.
The expanding Georgian economy led to an urban housing boom
with a radical idea - the private middle-class bedroom.
This is a classic house plan of the 17th century
for a house of the middling sort.
What's interesting about it is the way the bedrooms are all inter-connected.
So, to get to that room, you have to walk through that person's bedroom
and through that person's bedroom. There's very little concept of privacy.
In the 18th century this changes. This is the classic 18th-century house-plan design.
And here, on the first floor, you can see corridors, stairwells, circulation space.
In fact, a quarter of the whole house's area is given over
to the circulation, so that each of these rooms
can be accessed independently.
This is quite a luxurious use of space, you might think.
It had happened previously in royal palaces and grand houses,
but now it's becoming standard.
Everybody wants privacy.
This is a Georgian bedroom
and it's not the main bedroom of this particular house.
It's a secondary one.
It would have been used by the children, maybe even by lodgers,
and when we've seen bedrooms like this in the past,
they've been accessed through the main bedroom.
You had to go through one into another.
But here's the big step forward.
This bedroom now has its own door.
There's privacy here for the occupants of this room
and these are the public areas, that's the private area.
The back stairs,
the corridor. Key steps in separating out the different occupants of the house.
And it's good news for Mr and Mrs in the master bedroom as well,
because no longer do they have people trekking through their room
to get to the rooms beyond.
They can shut this door, lock it
and know they're going to be completely on their own for the first time.
Also the servants have disappeared out of this bedroom.
Previously, they would have been right close in,
maybe sleeping on truckle beds, or something like that.
But now they've been banished to the attic, to the basement.
In a big house, even to separate servants' quarters.
And this means a new innovation has to be developed -
the bell to summon the servants.
Either you ring it and it rings in their area
or, in an old-fashioned house, you just do this.
The 18th century saw clock ownership expand, as luxury filtered down the social scale.
Many clocks had alarms,
some using extraordinary methods to wake up their owners.
My very favourite Georgian alarm clock is this crazy device
where the alarm triggers the striking of a flint
which creates a little spark, which sets fire to some gunpowder,
which then ignites a candle,
so it's all ready for you to get up and out of bed.
The urban bedroom was becoming a properly private space.
New technology would make it much more comfortable.
As the Industrial Revolution swung into action,
the bedroom was about to be transformed.
Brass and iron beds with coil sprung and mesh bases,
cotton sheets and pillow cases, night shirts
and night dresses were all mass produced for the first time.
Victorian housewives were very proud of their endless supplies of mass-produced cotton.
They were obsessed with bed making, and their fastidiousness made sense.
A clean, well-aired bed reduced the risk of consumptive illnesses.
What's the most important thing if you're making a Victorian bed?
Well, the most important thing is that it must be stripped every day.
And, because of the moisture content that has actually got into your bed
and also from the dinges that you have actually made in the bed.
What are these "dinges"?
A dinge is the shape that you have made in your feather bed.
In my feather bed. Is it like memory foam?
Well, it is indeed - it's like memory foam
and it moulds to your body as you sleep.
And this dinge would retain the moisture that you had actually exuded overnight.
-That doesn't sound very nice.
And, in fact, it is said Florence Nightingale worked out
that a grown man in a 24-hour period in a hospital
would actually exhale as much as three pints of moisture.
Through his breath?
Through their breath, even while they were sleeping.
And, of course, added to the dampness in the room.
And the perspiration.
And the perspiration through your skin
you would really have quite a problem with this very quickly and every day.
It sounds much more serious than making my bed, which I do in about five seconds.
-Right, we're ready to go.
-We certainly are.
-Are you going round that side?
-I am indeed.
This is where the bedstead itself
becomes a very important tool for this particular job.
The eiderdown, full of eider duck feathers,
is actually placed over the end of the bed
and then the counterpane, which now can go back
over the bed as well, and under that the various layers of blankets.
This is rather an ornate blanket, for the time,
and there would be far more layers,
depending on what sort of time of the year it was.
No fires in bedrooms.
No fires in bedrooms unless you were ill.
Here we now have the cotton sheet.
And you can feel how damp this is, Lucy, can't you now?
That's five layers already.
Five layers and now we come to the pillows themselves.
Even a lower-middle-class household like this one
would have employed a maid of all work
to help with the sheer physical labour of Victorian housework.
There would be two more layers to go before we get to number eight
and something that looks like a mattress.
Here's the feather bed, looking unchanged since Tudor times.
It's like a futon, isn't it?
It certainly is, and you can imagine as you get older
this becomes more and more of a problem.
So, if we place it on the chairs...
What a nasty unhygienic thing it is, really!
It would need a good beating now, Lucy.
-This is a proper mattress this time.
-Yes, indeed it is. This is actually made of horse hair.
And this is what gives you the stability and firmness to your bed.
And what's going on underneath? We haven't got to the bottom.
No, we've got a number of layers after that.
-A thick woollen blanket.
-Mattress encased in a cotton cover.
And then, at the very bottom of the bed,
we have the brown Holland cover.
Underneath, we have a mesh support and so this protection here is against rust.
-This horse-hair mattress would be completely turned.
-We can do this.
We can do this and then the layers, as they were thoroughly aired, would be replaced.
You'd spend all morning unmaking the bed, then all afternoon making it again.
It is an extremely arduous process.
The million dollar question is...
Is it going to be comfy now I know what's inside? I really hope it is.
Well, it is moderately comfortable.
I could definitely spend the night in here.
I think on my own, though, because this bed doesn't seem huge,
although I expect it was made for two people.
But imagine doing that every day! No, thanks.
While middle-class housewives were hoarding bed linen,
a new class of wealthy Victorian industrialists
began to invest in bespoke grand houses,
where privacy was essential to the house design.
Wightwick Manor in Staffordshire had ample space
to accommodate the mounting Victorian obsession with privacy.
The house takes it to a whole new level,
with separate rooms for masters and servants,
adults and children, and even husbands and wives.
This is the bedroom intended for a Victorian married couple.
And what's happened here is
that the lady and the gentleman are no longer sleeping in the same bed.
This is Victorian separation at its highest point.
This bed was slept in by the lady of the couple.
She's got a horse-hair mattress to sleep on here
and that little pocket there is to put a watch into.
And these are no longer functional curtains.
The railings stop short.
They're just a gesture towards curtains, really.
They're for show rather than for use
because now privacy is within this room.
It has locks on the door, not within the bed itself.
And the husband, he's not in here at all.
He's through the door here,
in what's called the dressing room.
This is the gentleman's dressing room,
but essentially he sleeps in here. Here is his bed.
And you can see that he actually has his own door
out on to the landing, so he can come in late at night
without affecting his sweet little wife, who's all tucked up
and sleeping happily next door in the actual bedroom.
Masculine and feminine have become completely separated out from each other.
The design of the house was all about separation.
The male servants were housed in a completely separate outbuilding.
The maids' bedrooms were right up in the attic.
Most maids' rooms were decorated according to very strict rules.
I've got a book here. It's by Mrs Panton.
It's called From Kitchen To Garret - hints for young householders.
It's written for a fictional couple
whose names were Edwin and Angelina, who were setting up home together.
Mrs Panton really was a bit of a devil. Listen to this!
She says that you shouldn't let the servants keep their own boxes in their rooms,
and the reason is, she says, they cannot refrain somehow from hoarding all sorts of rubbish in them.
She says the simpler the servants' room was furnished the better.
And, basically, she says don't give the servants anything nice
because they will spoil it.
It's quite shocking.
Having said that though, these rooms at Wightwick aren't really representative.
The Mander family were socially aware. They looked after their employees.
This was a desirable place to work.
Actually, this particular room has got electric lighting, very unusual.
It's got central heating, and the women who slept here
actually had their own bathroom. So that's not bad at all.
The maids' rooms at Whitwick would have seemed luxurious
compared to the homes in which they had grown up.
And these houses were so common, weren't they?
It's a really, really standard living pattern.
Ann Lawton was born in the late 1940s
in a Victorian back-to-back house in the centre of Birmingham.
These houses had a living room and kitchen combined downstairs
and two shared bedrooms upstairs.
So, Ann, what exactly is a back-to-back house?
It's two houses that literally back-to-back on each other.
Some separated by one brick some by half a brick.
And how long were you living in a house like that?
Oh, from when I was young until I was about 19 or so.
And then moved to live in a similar house
when I got married, where I had four children.
You're a bit of a time traveller, really, because of your own
personal experience you can take us back to life
in the Victorian back-to-backs, because it was very similar to what you experienced yourself.
Yes, and whatever anybody tells you, there's no way anybody would go back to it.
There would be up to nine people living under one of these roofs.
To help Ann explain how the sleeping arrangements worked,
we're joined by some children from a local primary school.
Right, kids, you need to take your shoes off
and get into bed.
-Climb on it.
-Scramble over there.
One at the top and one at the bottom.
Now, you've all got to pretend you're brothers and sisters.
Do you think you can manage to do that?
-Has everyone got room?
There's somebody's foot here, look.
You never know whose foot it's going to be!
Now, do you think we could sleep the whole night like this?
-You like having your own space, do you?
You think that is important?
Imagine doing this every night.
It would really annoy you, wouldn't it?
Who was saying they like to chat in the middle of the night
with their brother? Was it you telling me that?
You quite like having a chat with your brother in the middle of the night, don't you?
But you're not in the same bed, I bet, are you?
When you lived in a house like this and you've got all your
nice little bits and pieces that you want only you to use,
where do you think you'd keep them?
Where could you hide anything?
You couldn't, could you?
We had two ladies that came round and they had lived in one of these houses
and where the skirting board round the edge of the room...
they were able to show us where there was a piece that was loose
and they used to put all their little things behind it, so their other
brothers and sisters wouldn't know, and then shove it back into place.
So, for the first 19 years of your life, you shared your bed with your sister?
-And then for the next...
-And my brother sometimes.
-And your brother?
-Yes, because he was a lot younger than we were
and he used to get a bit scared sometimes.
How old were you when you first slept in a bed by yourself?
46, when I was widowed. That meant when my husband had died,
and I had the bedroom and a bed to myself and that's the first time
I'd ever had a bed of my own and a room of my own.
So it's mine now and I don't like other people in there.
It's all mine.
I suppose, in some ways, this is very familiar from the night
in the medieval house, really, because it's everybody in together
and privacy has not reached little houses like this in the 19th century yet,
they're still living very, very communally.
Bedrooms aren't private places at all.
You've got to feel for the mum and dad
who had their kids with them 24 hours a day.
But this is where Sunday school comes into its own.
On Sunday afternoon, they sent the kids off to be educated and
once they had the bedroom to themselves, for once, you can guess what happened.
But domestic life for working men and women was about to change.
The Great War, the struggle for women's voting rights
and the arrival of Hollywood films created a heady mix
that would alter the bedroom for ever.
Female emancipation and the glamour of the movies transformed
the Victorian bedroom into the decadent 1930s boudoir.
I've come to look at your 1930s bedroom gear, if that's all right?
Yes, right over here.
This is an outfit for a film star, isn't it?
Well, that's the important thing.
That's when the fashion business went from Paris
being the focal point, to Hollywood being the focal point
and so everything was influenced by the Hollywood films.
Joan Crawford had said that it was a film star's duty
to look fabulous during depression and recession times
That would have carried through to the home.
The '30s is really when the bias cut came in.
-And the way this works is that normally material is woven like that, right?
And in the bias cut, it's turned so that it's cut diagonally,
on the diagonal to the grain, as it were.
And that gives it a stretch,
and that's what makes it cling to the curves.
It makes it slinky!
And the other thing that transforms '30s bedroom-wear,
-is artificial silk.
-Right, which is rayon.
Have you got an example of artificial silk?
This floral one is made from rayon.
So you've got the bias cut all over again,
-but this is a mass-market version, isn't it?
Everybody could afford this and look just as slinky
as the people who could afford silk beforehand.
So that the woman at home could wear what she saw on the Hollywood screen.
-It's slinkyness for the masses, isn't it?
'Even pyjamas appeared for women.'
I would call this a new sort of category of clothing
that you might call leisurewear.
It's not just for sleeping, and it's not for being out in public,
but it's sort of somewhere in the middle.
It's an in-between, it's definitely an in-between.
However, this would be something that a woman could have worn
just before or just after she's been to bed.
But then if you look at the men's equivalent of that...
Ooh, very exotic! Look at that.
No man would have worn this anywhere else but in the bedroom.
Yeah, I see what you mean.
Two things that really strike me about this '30s nightwear.
Firstly, the influence of Hollywood.
This silk is designed to be seen on a camera,
light and dark, rippling over the silk.
The second thing that strikes me is the way
that glamour in the bedroom has become affordable and mass market.
Glamorous nightwear was reserved in the Victorian period
for actresses and mistresses, and other naughty people,
but now with rayon and artificial silk,
every woman can be a goddess in her boudoir.
-Good morning, Miss Worsley.
-Come on in. Thank you very much.
How are you today?
I'm fine, thank you very much. A bit wrapped up in my book here.
Do you know The Sheikh, the movie? A very steamy movie.
I am aware of it, yes.
I'm reading the book here. My goodness, it's quite something.
-A full English for you this morning.
The 20th-century bedroom becomes much more about enjoyment
and not just a room for sleeping in.
The Victorians get into this position
where they have a very prudish, determined attitude towards the bedroom,
it's for sleep and for nothing else.
Here's a great character in an Anthony Trollope novel from 1869,
She says that,
"Different rooms should be used only for the purposes for which they were intended."
She never allowed pens and ink up into the bedrooms
and if she ever heard that a guest in her house had been reading in bed,
she would have made an instant, personal attack.
I like that. Bedrooms are just for sleeping.
And yet, before the Victorian period,
they were used for numerous other activities,
and this returns in the 20th century,
particularly this idea of bedrooms as boudoirs,
as places for women to be rather decadent in
and to do slightly illicit things, like reading naughty novels,
which Victorian ladies did, all right, make no mistake,
but they weren't supposed to.
One of the best-selling novels of the 1920s
was The Sheikh, by EM Hull, and this is a racy read.
The Second World War brought suffering, sacrifice
and a severe housing shortage.
The nation's recovery from the war was slow,
both economically and psychologically.
But by the late 1940s, rebuilding began
and marriage rates started to go up.
Twin beds were common by the 1950s, but behind this cosy cliche,
lies an unexpected change in British domestic life.
To me, twin beds are just a symbol of repression.
-No physical relationship between the husband and the wife.
But do you think that's a fair view of the 1950s?
No, of course not. If that was the case in the 1950s,
then none of us would exist today.
What explains it is the fact that people would have seen...
They would be following what they saw as the Victorian forebears.
Posh people in the Victorian times often slept in different rooms,
or certainly in different beds.
I think what had happened is that had filtered down.
You're acting out your posh person fantasy, if you like.
You've got your own bed, your own space,
you don't have to share, this is yours.
Of course, that doesn't mean people weren't having fun.
In fact, it's in the '50s that you see the beginnings
of what we now think of as the sexual revolution.
In fact, you even get a little baby boom
at the end of the '40s and beginning of the '50s.
So this idea that it's all tea cosies and Horlicks before bedtime,
I'm afraid isn't really true.
So what were the wider changes in society
that explain this transformation in the '50s bedroom?
The '50s was the biggest economic boom in British history,
and what you had then was lots of people, particularly young people,
buying into lifestyles that their parents could never have dreamed of.
The '50s bedroom, in all sorts of ways, it's a temple to consumerism.
'If you can save enough space, you can sweeten up hubby a lot.
'With a large centre wardrobe and two swinging cupboards,
'each fitted to hold everything hubby ever possessed.
'It's the latest idea in space-saving furniture.
'Hubby buys it, sonny enters it, wifey appropriates it.
'What could be more economical than that?
'If you're still short of space, this anti-kneeknock dressing-table
'has a special place for hubby's studs and a few of wifey's oddments too.
'And if that's not bait enough, you can still put a good face on things.'
Were the '50s the golden age of marriage as well?
Were people more married in the '50s than they have been before or since?
Yeah, the '50s was a period of huge cult of marriage,
as the Government and the other big institutional bodies go to enormous lengths
to sort of make people fall back in love with the idea of domesticity,
and the idea of the couple as the centrepiece of national social life.
What you have in the '50s is this growing emphasis
on what people call the companionate marriage.
So instead of just marrying someone you quite like
and then leading separate lives in the same household,
you actually do things together, you go out for drives,
you play games, you read together, you do all these kinds of things,
and the family becomes more and more important.
We've got here some books from the 1950s
about marriage, about sexual relationships.
Things like the marriage guidance counsellor, government-sponsored bodies,
would put out sex manuals because they were so keen to encourage
the cult of domesticity, the companionate marriage,
to encourage couples to have a healthy, happy and fulfilling life together.
When we read them today, they seem pretty quaint, don't they?
They have all sorts of bizarre and wacky theories.
Helena Wright in the Sex Factor In Marriage
has a whole chapter on frigidity,
for example, the difficulties in the sexual relationship.
She says the commonest causes of female frigidity
are insufficiency of rest, lack of sleep,
and secondly, constipation.
Clearly, we now know that constipation is not
the single leading cause of lack of sexual fulfilment in marriage.
You have to remember that, in the 1950s, before you get to sleep in one of these twin beds,
before you get to have your own bedroom,
you've had no sex education at all.
Not from your parents, not from school,
not from the Church, not from anybody.
So these kinds of things were are seen as absolutely essential
in cutting down on unwanted pregnancies, on teenage pregnancies,
illegitimacy, all these kinds of things.
and in their way, they performed a very vital and important service.
I used to feel very sorry for married women in the '50s,
I imagined them sleeping in twin beds, probably being on tranquillisers
and their husbands having an affair with their secretary.
But, I've now realised that things weren't quite like that,
there was a current moving through society in the '50s
that was about learning how to have a good sexual relationship.
The '50s bedroom wasn't such a bad place to be.
This quiet domestic revolution was building to its climax,
with the sexual liberation of the 1960s.
As parents, how do you feel about her leaving home,
going to live by herself for the first time?
I can't help, of course, feeling a bit uneasy
as anybody would, I think,
launching a young girl into life on her own.
What are you uneasy about?
Sex, drugs, drink...
anything could happen.
But now it wasn't just about who you slept with,
but what you slept under.
The days of sheets and eiderdowns were numbered.
A revolutionary product arrived, the duvet.
In the late 1960s, Terence Conran was credited with bringing it to the UK,
after he'd spent some passionate nights in Scandinavia.
Patricia Whittington-Farrell was one of the first Habitat employees
to demonstrate this shockingly different bedding.
When I first saw them, I didn't know what they were,
I thought they were a bed covering, but I wasn't sure what you did with them.
So when it was your job to be selling the duvets to your customers,
you encountered this problem, presumably, people didn't know what they were?
I used to end up putting the duvet cover on
and showing them how easy...
It's so simple, all you do is that, and you can go out.
So you'd end up with sometimes 20 or 30 people.
This innovation. I know, it's amazing!
And all the people in the cafe would be looking down to see what you were doing.
I used to shake it and say, "There you go."
How much did a duvet cost then?
I think the double ones were about £11 and the single ones possibly £5.
A lot of money?
At the time, I was only working part-time,
but I was earning £10 a week,
so it was an expensive thing.
At first, they were called continental quilts,
or else, slumberdowns.
After Conran had successfully exported the idea to France,
they became known as duvets, from the French word for down.
1971, this catalogue.
The whole idea of the lifestyle was, I can bring my children in with me, we can do things together.
Before then, a bedroom was somewhere where you went to sleep.
All of a sudden, it became a living room as well, because you've got a television in there.
The bedroom was a lovely, comfortable place to be.
Here it says, "Until you've tried this method of making a bed,
"it's difficult to believe it could be so simple and so comfortable,
"but once you've experienced it, you're never likely to change."
Absolutely right. I don't know anybody who went back to blankets.
Once they tried the duvet, that was it, that was it for life.
Right, in the Habitat catalogue for 1975,
we have the 10-second bed challenge.
Oh my goodness!
Here she is, taking the duvet off, straightening the sheet,
putting the cover back on, sorting it all out, and yes, she's done it.
OK. But this is a single bed, I take it. Isn't it?
Yeah, yeah, yeah, But you're an expert, Patricia,
You've been trained to do this. It only takes 10 seconds.
Absolutely perfect, I really look forward to this.
-Right, are you ready?
..Get set. Go.
One cushion. I've lost another pillow.
-And all you do, Madam...
-Go, go, go.
I love the way you called me madam, while you were doing it.
I was trying to do a shop demonstration.
-Are you done?
-Yes! But it was a double.
I could have done it with a single in 10.
It doesn't look very good, does it?
I think you've lost your edge here.
Once the duvet had arrived,
the next decorative thing to change about beds
was the '80s obsession with floral frills.
-How do you feel?
Thankfully, it's nothing but a distant memory.
The bedroom has evolved from the bustling medieval hall with absolutely no privacy
to the sanctuary of today,
where people seal themselves off from the rest of the house.
Bedrooms now are like private kingdoms,
where you can do whatever you want, but this is quite a modern notion.
In the past, bedrooms were full of bustle and other people's bodies.
It's only relatively recently that bedrooms have become
places for relaxation, intimacy and, above all, for privacy.
My goodness, timewarp.
Next time, from the medieval one-room cottage,
to an open-plan futuristic utopia,
I'll be discovering how the kitchen came in from the cold.
Come on, Coco, you can do it!
Not too bad for a beginner.
She's a bit patronising, isn't she?
Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd
E-mail [email protected]
Lucy Worsley, chief curator of Historic Royal Palaces, focuses on the bedroom - a room which people now think of as one of the most private in the house and yet started for most as a noisy, busy communal space. From spending the night in a Tudor farmhouse to recreating a bedtime 'bundling' courtship ritual, and from being publicly dressed as Queen Caroline in Hampton Court to experiencing the glamour of the 1930s boudoir, Lucy discovers that birth, marriage and death have all played a big part in the story of the bedroom.