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Anne Hathaway was the wife of William Shakespeare. She married at
the age of 26. This is really unusual for the time. Most people married
young, like at the age of 11 or 12. Life was not as romantic as we may
picture it. Here are some examples:
Anne Hathaway's home was a 3 bedroom house with a small parlor,
which was seldom used (only for company), kitchen, and no bathroom.
Mother and Father shared a bedroom. Anne had a queen sized bed, but
did not sleep alone. She also had 2 other sisters and they shared the bed
also with 6 servant girls. (this is before she married) They didn't
sleep like we do lengthwise but all laid on the bed crosswise.
At least they had a bed. The other bedroom was shared by her 6 brothers
and 30 field workers. They didn't have a bed. Everyone just wrapped up
in their blanket and slept on the floor. They had no indoor heating so
all the extra bodies kept them warm.
They were also small people, the men only grew to be about 5'6" and
the women were 4'8". SO in their house they had 27 people living.
Most people got married in June. Why? They took their yearly bath
in May, so they were till smelling pretty good by June, although they were
starting to smell, so the brides would carry a bouquet of flowers to hide
Like I said, they took their yearly bath in May, but it was just a
big tub that they would fill with hot water. The man of the house would
get 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 pretty thick. Thus, the saying, "don't throw the baby
out with the bath water," it was so dirty you could actually lose someone
I'll describe their houses a little. You've heard of thatch roofs,
well that's all they were. Thick straw, piled high, with no wood
underneath. They were the only place for the little animals to get warm.
So all the pets; dogs, cats and other small animals, mice, rats, bugs, all
lived in the roof. When it rained it became slippery so sometimes the
animals would slip and fall off the roof. Thus the saying, "it's raining
cats and dogs." Since there was nothing to stop things from falling into
the house they would just try to clean up a lot. But this posed a real
problem in the bedroom where bugs and other droppings from animals could
really mess up your nice clean bed, so they found if they would make beds
with big posts and hang a sheet over the top it would prevent that
problem. That's where those beautiful big 4 poster beds with canopies
When you came into the house you would notice most times that the
floor was dirt. Only the wealthy had something other than dirt, that's
where the saying "dirt poor" came from. The wealthy would have slate
floors. That was fine but in the winter they would get slippery when they
got wet. So they started to spread thresh on the floor to help keep their
footing. As the winter wore on they would just keep adding it and adding
it until when you opened the door it would all start slipping outside. So
they put a piece of wood at the entry way, a "thresh hold".
In the kitchen they would cook over the fire, they had a fireplace in the
kitchen/parlor, that was seldom used and sometimes in the master bedroom.
They had a big kettle that always hung over the fire and every day they
would light the fire and start adding things to the pot. Mostly they ate
vegetables, they didn't get much meat. They would eat the stew for dinner
then leave the leftovers in the pot to get cold overnight and then start
over the next day. Sometimes the stew would have food in it that had been
in there for a month! Thus the rhyme: peas porridge hot, peas porridge
cold, peas porridge in the pot nine days old."
Sometimes they could get a hold of some pork. They really felt
special when that happened and when company came over they even had a rack
in the parlor where they would bring out some bacon and hang it to show it
off. That 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 they
would all sit around and "chew the fat."
If you had money your plates were made out of pewter. Sometimes some of
their food had a high acid content and some of the lead would leach out
into the food. They really noticed it happened with tomatoes. So they
stopped eating tomatoes, for 400 years.
Most people didn't have pewter plates though, they all had trenchers, that
was a piece of wood with the middle scooped out like a bowl. They never
washed their boards and a lot of times worms would get into the wood.
After eating off the trencher with worms they would get "trench mouth."
If you were going traveling and wanted to stay at an Inn they usually
provided the bed but not the board.
The bread was divided according to status. The workers would get the
burnt bottom of the loaf, the family would get the middle and guests would
get the top, or the "upper crust".
They also had lead cups and when they would drink their ale or whiskey.
The combination would sometimes knock them out for a couple of days. They
would be walking along the road and here would be someone knocked out and
they thought they were dead. So they would pick them up and take them home
and get them ready to bury. They realized if they were too slow about it,
the person would wake up. Also, maybe not all of the people they were
burying were dead. So they would lay them out on the kitchen table for a
couple of days, the family would gather around and eat and drink and wait
and see if they would wake up. That's where the custom of holding a
"wake" came from.
Since England is so old and small they started running out of places to
bury people. So they started digging up some coffins and would take their
bones to a house and re-use the grave. They started opening these coffins
and found some had scratch marks on the inside. One out of 25 coffins
were that way and they realized they had still 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. That
is how the saying "graveyard shift" was made. If the bell would ring they
would know that someone was "saved by the bell" or he was a "dead ringer".
Pretty amazing, eh?