Category Archives: Household

Court Household Monarchy

Hever Castle


A few snaps of Hever Castle in Kent, once home to Anne Boleyn and her family. I took my camera, but forgot a memory card, so had to rely on my low-on-battery-life iPhone. Photography was not permitted inside the house, so I can’t account for several grainy (flash-free) indoor shots which showed up on my camera roll at home. The Boleyns bought the castle, which dates to 1270, and built a lovely Tudor house within its walls. It was later given to Anne of Cleves as part of her divorce settlement from Henry VIII.







Anne Boleyn’s bedroom


Anne Boleyn’s bedroom


Anne Boleyn’s Book of Hours


Anne Boleyn’s bedroom window







The Six Wives of Henry VIII Placemat & Coaster set in the Gift Shoppe


Tudor Christmas Baubles in the Gift Shoppe


Dining Family Household

Rich hangings in a homely house

Following a recent return visit to the Weald and Downland museum in West Sussex, I thought it might be worth sharing some photos. As ever, they were snapped with my iPhone since I didn’t have the foresight to take a camera, so the quality isn’t great. The Weald and Downland museum is an open-air museum dedicated to historic buildings which have been saved from destruction, dismantled, and rebuilt in acres of beautifully untouched landscape in West Sussex. The museum’s website is here. If you love historic buildings then Weald and Downland is most definitely worth a visit. The highlights for me were, of course, the early modern properties. But there is also a working forge, a watermill, and many other delights. As far as I understand it, every property has been furnished with appropriate period fixtures and fittings, and the gardens are as authentic as possible.

15th Century shop


Mid 17th Century house


16th Century Bed


Mid 17th Century garden


Mid 17th Century garden


View of the market hall (1620)


Mid 17th Century house


Mid 17th Century tableware


Mid 17th Century garden


Granary (1731)


15th Century hall


15th Century hall


15th Century bed


15th Century upstairs privy


15th Century(?) tableware


Vegetables and herbs drying in the Tudor Kitchen


House (1609)


House (1609)


Victorian kitchen (1860)


Weald and Downland


17th Century pigsty (21st Century pig)


View from the 14th Century hall


15th Century pantry


17th Century garden


Childbirth Dining Family Household Love Marriage

Then trudgeth he into the Kitchin

From The Brideling, Sadling, and Ryding of a rich Churle (1594)

The following is an extract from The Bachelor’s Banquet by Thomas Dekker. Published in 1603, Dekker’s entertaining pamphlet explores the numerous ways in which a typical wife makes her husband’s existence a living hell, but hen-picked spouses aside, the real joy is in the illuminating detail of daily life in the early seventeenth century, and in the contemporaneous dialogue. What follows here is an account of the wearying role of a husband during a wife’s pregnancy.

When her husband sees her belly to grow big, this breedes him new cares and troubles, for then must he trot up and downe day and night, farre and neare, to get with great cost that [which] his wife longs for: if she let fall but a pin, he is diligent to take it up, least she by stouping should hurt her selfe. She on the other side is so hard to please. And oft times through ease and plentie she growes so queasie stomackt, that she can brooke no common meates, but longs for strange and rare things, which whether they be to be had or no, yet she must have them there is no remedie. She must have Cherries, though for a pound he pay ten shillings, or greene Peascods at foure Nobles a pecke: he must take a horse, and ride into the Countrey, to get her greene Codlings (apples), when they are scarcely so big as a scotch button. In this trouble and vexation of mind and body, lives the silly man for five or seven moneths, all which time his wife doth nothing but complaine, and hee poore soule takes all the care, rising earely, going late to bed, and to be short, is faine to play both the husband and huswife. But when the time drawes neere of her lying downe, then must he trudge to get Gossips, such as she will appoint, or else all the fatte is in the fire.

Consider then what cost and trouble it will be to him, to have all things fine against the Christning day, what store of Sugar, Biskets, Comphets (comfits, a sweetmeat made with fruit and sugar) and Carawapes (confection), Marmalet (quince jelly) and marchpane, with all kind of sweete suckets, and superstitious banqueting stuffe, with a hundred other odde and needlesse trifles, which at that time must fill the pockets of daintie dames. Besides the charge of the midwife, she must have her nurse to attend and keepe her, who must make for her warme broaths, and costly cawdels (a type of gruel mixed with wine or beer given to the sick), enough both for her selfe and her mistresse, being of the minde to fare no worse then she. If her mistresse be fedde with partridge, plover, woodcocks, quailes, or any such like, the nurse must be partner with her in all these dainties. Neither yet will that suffice, but during the whole moneth she privily pilfers away the sugar and ginger, with all other spices that comes under her keeping, putting the poore man to such expence, that in a whole yeare he can scarcely recover that one moneths charges.

Then every day after her lying downe will sundry dames visit her, which are her neighbours, her kinswomen, and other her speciall acquaintance, whom the good man must welcome with all cheerefulnesse, and be sure there be some dainties in store to set before them: where they about some three or foure houres (or possible halfe a day) will sit chatting with the Child-wife, and by that time the cups of wine have merily trold about, and halfe a dozen times moystned their lips with the sweet juyce of the purple grape.

Here Dekker pauses to reveal the sort of gossip the women in the bedchamber exchange:

They begin thus one with another to discourse; Good Lord neighbour, I marvaile how our gossip Frees doth, I have not seene the good soule this many a dayAh God helpe her, quoth another, for she hath her hands full of worke, and her heart full of heavinesse. While she drudges all the weeke at home, her husband, like an unthrift, never leaves running abroad to the Tennis court, and Dicing houses, spending all that ever he hath in such lewd sort. And if that were the worst it is well. But heare you, Gossip, there is another matter spoyles all, he cares no more for his wife then for a dog, but keepes queanes (prostitutes) even under her nose. Jesu! saith another, who would thinke he were such a man, he behaves himselfe so orderly and civilly, to all mens sights? Then the third fetching a great sigh says, I pray you tell me one thing, when saw you our friend mistresse O? Now in good she is a kind creature, and a very gentle. I promise you I saw her not since you and I dranke a pinte of wine with her in the fish market. O, saith the other, There is a great change since that time, for they have bene faine to pawne all that ever they have, and yet God knowes her husband lies still in prison.

The gossips having left the house, the saintly husband finally returns home:

Hee having bene forth to provide such meates as shee would have, he commeth home (perhappes at midnight,) and before hee sitteth downe to rest himselfe, hath a very earnest desire to knowe how his Wife doth. He asketh the Chamber-maide, or else the Nurse, how his Wife doeth: they answere, shee is very ill at ease, and that since his departure shee tasted not one bit of meate, but that towards the Evening she beganne to be a little better, all which be meere Lies. But the Poore-man hearing these wordes, grieves not a little, though he be weary and wet, having gone a long journey through a filthie way. Yet will he neither eate or drinke, nor (so much as once sit downe) till he have seene his Wife. Then the prattling Idle Nurse beginnes to looke verie heavily, and to sigh inwardly as though her Mistresse had bene that day at the point of Death, which he seeing, he was more earnest to visit his wife: whom at the entrance of the Chamber, he heares lye groaning to her selfe. Comming to the Beds side, [he] kindly sits downe by her, saying How now my sweet heart, how doest thou?Ah Husband (saith she) I am very ill, nor was I ever so sicke in my life as I have bene this day. Alas good soule (saith he) I am the more sorrie to heare it. I pray thee tell mee where lies thy paine? Ah Husband (quoth she) you know I have been weake a long time, and not able to eate any thing. But Wife (quoth he) why did you not cause the Nurse to boyle you a Capon, and make a messe of good Broath for you? So shee did (saith his wife) as well as she could, but it did not like me, and by that meanes I have eaten nothing since the broath which your selfe made me: Oh me thought that was excellent good.

Marry, Wife (saith he) I will presently make you some more of the same, and you shall eate it for my sake. With all my hart good Husband (saith shee) and I shall thinke my selfe highly beholding unto you. Then trudgeth hee into the Kitchin; there playes hee the Cook, burning and broyling himselfe over the fire, having his eyes ready to be put out with smoake. While hee is busie making the Broath, hee chides with his Maides, calling them beasts and baggages, that knowes not how to doe any thing, not so much as make a little broath for a sicke body but he must be faine to doe it him selfe. Then comes downe Mistris Nurse as fine as a farthing Fiddle, in her petticoate and Kirtle, having on a white wast-coate, with a Flaunting cambricke ruffe about her necke, who like a Doctris in Facultie, comes thus upon him: Good Lord Sir, what paines you take, here is no bodie can please our Mistresse but your selfe: I will assure you (on my credite) that I doe what I can, yet for my life, I cannot in any way content her. Moreover, here came in Mistresse Cot. and Mistresse Con. who did both of them what they could to have your Wife eate something. Nevertheless, all that they did could not make her taste one spoonefull of any thing all this live-long day. I know not what she ailes, I have kept manie Women in my time, but I never knewe any so weake as shee is; I (quoth he) you are a companie of cunning Cookes, that cannot make a little Broath as it should be.

And by this time the broath being ready, hee brings it straight to his Wife, comforting her with many kind words, praying her to eate for his sake, or to taste a spoonefull or twaine, which she doth, commending it to the Heavens, affirming also that the Broath which the others made had no good taste in the world, and was nothing worth. The good man hereof beeing not a little proude, biddes them make goode in his Wife’s chamber, charging them to tend her well. And having given this direction, hee gettes himselfe to Supper, with some colde meate set before him, such as the Gossips left, or his Nurse could spare, and having this short pittance hee goes to Bedde full of care.

From The Merry Cuckhold (1629)

If you enjoyed this, you may like another extract from The Bachelor’s Banquet, an argument between husband and wife over clothes and money, which you can find here

Cosmetics Household Women

To beautifie the Face


Today’s post offers up some intriguing early modern beauty tips, which reveal that wrinkles, sunburn, pimples, and chapped lips were just as much of annoyance to women in the seventeenth century as they are to their modern-day counterparts.


Take two handfuls of Rosemary and boil it softly in a quart of Spring-water till it comes to a pint, and let it be covered. Then strain it out, and every morning when you Comb your head, dip a sponge in this water and rub up your hair.

Make a decoction of Turmeric and Rubarb. Wash your Hair very clean, and then with a Sponge moisten your Hair with the decoction therewith, and it will make it fair.

Hair dye:
To make the Hair black, take the juice of red Poppy, the juice of green Nuts, Oyl of Myrtle, Oyl of Costomary [?], each one part, boyle it a while and anoint the Hair therewith.

To curl the Hair, take a quantity of Pine Kernels burnt and beat to a powder, mix them with Oyle of Myrtle, make an Oyntment therewith, and anoint the Head.

To make the Nails grow, take wheat-flower and mingle it with Honey, and lay it to the Nails and it will help them.

Cracked nails:
Anoint your fingers with the powder of brimstone, Arsenick, and Vinegar.

Hand cream:
To make the hands white, take the flower of Beans, of Lupines, of Cornstarch and Rice, of each six ounces. Mix them and make a powder, with which wash your hands in water.



Whitening toothpaste:
Take Harts-horn, and horses Teeth, of each two ounces, sea-shells, salt, and Cypress-Nuts each one ounce. Burn them together in an Oven and make a powder. Rub the teeth therewith.

Mouth wash:
To make breath sweet, wash your mouth with the water that the peels of Citrons have been boyled in, and you will have sweet breath.

For cleansing the face and skin, wash the face with water that Rice is sodden in, and it cleanseth the face, and taketh away Pimples.

Face scrub:
To beautifie the face, take a pinte of Cuckoo-spittle and bruise the thick parts with Rose-water, dry it in the Sun three days then use it.

Wrinkle cream:
To make a water to take away Wrinkles, take a decoction of Briony and Figgs, each a like quantity, and wash the face with it.

Blemish cream:
To take away pits in the face by reason of small-pox, wash the face one day with the distilled water of strong Vinegar, and the next day with the water wherein Bran and Mallows have been boyled, and continue this twenty days or a Month.

Face pack:
To make a Pomatum for the Face, take six dozen Sheeps Feet with the bones, break the bones and take out the marrow, then boyl the feet well and scim off the Oyl that rises, and put it to the Marrow. To which, put four great cold-seeds beaten, the rind of one Citron, two penny worth of Borax, three Cloves, Lily roots well beaten, and a little Rose-water. Boil all together for the space of two hours, then strain it and wash it with waters till it be white. Use this at night. It nourishes, smoothens, softens, and whitens the Skin. If you mix it with some Pearl, you will have a most incomparable Cosmetic remedy.

Freckle remover:
To take away freckles, anoint your face with Oyl of Almonds, or with hares blood.

To take away sun-burn, take the juice of a Lemmon, and a little salt, and wash your Face or hands with it, and let them dry of themselves, and wash them again, and you shall find all the sun-burn gone.



Lip balm
For the Lips Chapt, rub them with the sweat behind your ears, and this will make them smooth and well coloured.

Take two ounces of white Bees-wax and slice it, then then melt over the fire with two ounces or more of pure sallad oyl and a little white Sugar, and when you see that it is well incorporated, take it off the fire and let it stand till it be cold. Anoint your Lips or sore Nose, or sore Nipples with this.

For stench under the Arm-holes, first pluck away the Hairs of the Arm-holes and wash them with White-wine and Rose-water.

Hair remover:
Take the juyce of Fumitory, mix it with Gum Arrabick, then lay it on the place, the Hairs first plucked out by the Roots, it will never permit any more Hair to grow on that place.

Breast reduction
To make the breasts small, take of Rock-Allom powdered, and Oyl of Roses, of each a like  quantity, mix them together and anoint the breasts therewith.



Sources: The Accomplished Ladies Delight, Hannah Woolley (1686), and The Family Physitian, George Hartman (1696)

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