Category Archives: Household

Curiosities Household


This fragment is an advertisment for the equivalent of the modern day environmental health department. A man who, for a small charge, will advise on the removal of bugs from home and possessions; an early modern pest controller.

In Black-Fryers, at the End of the Paved Alley, near Bridewel-Bridge, at theGreen Ball and Half Moon, liveth R.C  Enquire at the Red Lion, next the bottom of the Steps.

Who will give to all People a Secret how they may utterly destroy Buggs, without damage to their Goods at reasonable rates, do as you are Taught, and if any be doubtful of the truth of it, they may have full satisfaction of them that have experienced it. Let it be what Furniture it will, as Cloth of Gold or Silver, &c. It shall be no way hurtful to the body. Here you may have a secret to keep your Houses from Buggs, and your Children after you for evermore, with little Charge.

His Hours are from 2 in the Afternoon till night.

© 2009-2013 All Rights Reserved

Food Household

An Outlandish Dish

I thought I’d share some more early modern recipes, since they have proven so popular. Today, cheese, an ‘Outlandish Dish’, poaching eggs the overly-complicated way, Mutton in Blood, & a rather curious soup.

To make the Lady Albergaveres Cheese:

To one Cheese take a Gallon of new Milke, and a pint of good Cream, and mix them well together, then take a skillet of hot water as much as will make it hotter than it comes from the Cow, then put in a spoonfull of Rennet, and stir it well together and cover it, and when it is come, take a wet Cloth and lay it on your Cheese mot (mold) and take up the Curd and not break it; and put it into your Mot; and when your Mot is full, lay on the Suiker (?), and every two hours turn your Cheese in wet Cloths wrung dry; and lay on a little more wet, at night take as much salt as you can between your finger and thumb, and salt your Cheese to both sides; let them lie in Presses all night in a wet Cloth; the next day lay them on a Table between a dry Cloth, the next day lay them in Grass, and every other day change your Grass, they will be ready to eat in nine dayes; if you will want them ready sooner, cover them with a blanket.

To make an Outlandish Dish:

Take the liver of a Hogg, and cut it in small peeces, then take Anni-seed, or French-seed, Pepper and salt, & season them therewithall, & lay every piece severally round in the caule of the Hogg, and so roast them on a Bird spit.

To poach Eggs:

Take a dozen of new laid Eggs, and flesh of foure or five Partridges, or other, mince it so small as you can, season it with a few beaten Cloves, Mace, and Nutmeg into a Silver dish, with a Ladle-full or two of the Gravy of Mutton, wherein two or three Anchoves are dissolved; then set it a stewing on a fire of Char-coales and after it is halfe stewed, breake in your Egges, one by one, and as you breake them, pour away most of the Whites, and with one end of your Egg-shell, make a place in your Dish of meate, and therein put your Yolks of your Eggs, round in order amongst your meat, and so let them stew till your eggs be enough, then grate in a little Nutmeg, and the juyce of an Orange; have a care none of the Seeds goe in, wipe your Dish and garnish your Dish with four or five whole Onions &c

To roast a shoulder of Mutton in blood:

When your Sheep is killed save the blood, and spread the caule all open upon a Table that is wet, that it may not stick to it; cut off a shoulder of the sheepe, and having picked Time, shred and cut small and put it into some blood, then stop your shoulder with it, inside and outside, and into every hole with a Spoone; then lay your Shoulder of Mutton upon the caule and wrap that about it, then lay it into a tray, and pour all the rest of the blood upon it; so let it lie all night, if it be Winter you may let it lie twenty foure hours, then roast it.

The Jacobins Pottage:

Take the flesh of a washed Capon or Turky cold, mince it so small as you can, then grate or scrape among the flesh two or three ounces of Parmasants or old Holland Cheese, season it with beaten Cloves, Nutmeg, Mace, and Salt, then take the bottoms and tops of foure of five new Rowles, dry them before the fire, or in an Oven, then put them into a faire silver Dish, set it upon the fire, wet your bread in a Ladle-full of strong Broth, and a Ladle-full of Gravy of Mutton then strew on your minced meat, all of an equall thicknesse in each place, then stick twelve or eighteen pieces of Marrow as bigge as Walnuts, and pour on a handfull of pure Gravy of Mutton, then cover your Dish close, and as it stews adde now and them some Gravy of Mutton thereto, thrust your Knife sometimes to the bottome to keep the bread from sticking to the Dish, let it so stew till you are ready to Dish it away, and when you serve it, if need require, add more Gravy of Mutton, wring the juice of two or three Oranges, wipe your Dishes brims and serve it to your Table in the same Dish.

© 2009-2013 All Rights Reserved

Custom Dining Family Household

The Elizabethan House

 Little Moreton, Cheshire

In response to several requests, today’s snippets are on Elizabethan & Jacobean homes. Having blogged  for the past six months or so now, what has struck me repeatedly is the fascination people have with the more mundane aspects of early modern life. Poetry and art certainly have their place, but it appears people equally enjoy early modern sausages or a whirlwind history of the chamber pot. I spend most of my waking life immersed in the intricacies of 17th century drama and politics, so a delve into a 16th century recipe book, or the inner workings of a flushing cistern, usually comes as welcome relief.

A brief word about building materials. Timber was a major building material in the Elizabethan period but as time progressed more and more homes were constructed of brick, particularly in London, which did something to a certain extent at least, to limit the great fire of 1666.  Of all the timber used, the preference was usually for oak, which was both waterproof and durable.

Just as today, homes in the late 16th and early 17th centuries differed according to the wealth and status of their owners or tenants, but they shared a basic commonality when it came to function. And like today, cash bought space and luxuries. And chimneys. Great Elizabethan houses could incorporate multiple chimneys thanks to the advances in coal mining. And chimneys meant warmth and an end to smoky medieval halls where families huddled around just the one fire. These multiple chimneys in turn led to a new division of space, with rooms assigned to particular activities, such as dining or sleeping. In addition, windows underwent a redesign. In the past, windows had been necessarily small for two very good reasons; glass was extremely costly, and small windows offered a better defence against invading hordes.  But thanks to the imports of foreign glass and the skill of stone masons, windows could finally begin to let in the light. This increase in light and space really opened houses up. Huge ornate wooden staircases replaced the tight windy stone steps of older homes, and a long sun-filled gallery was de rigueur; whether to show off the family portraits, stroll about on a rainy day, or pass the time playing skittles. Ceilings were now plastered, and wainscots were introduced, which brought an end to cold plastered walls and dangling moth-eaten tapestries. Now rooms were enveloped in panels of warm wood.



Floors were usually constructed of timber, and where they might once have been strewn with rushes and herbs, they were now covered with woven mats, or rugs, if money were no object. The number of rooms in a house depended on its size and function. It was traditional for a house to have a dining chamber and a bed chamber, in addition there might be a little ‘house of easement’ or water closet for the very rich, or an outside privy for those of more modest means (see my post In the privy that annoys you for more on this aspect of early modern life). Baths were taken by the fire. The following image depicts the typical rooms in a house belonging to a well-to-do family. It’s worth noting that this is a representative diagram, and the layout would not have followed this plan (the kitchen, for example, would not be upstairs!).


From top right to bottom left: 

Bedroom, study, dining room, kitchen, buttery, well, privy, stables, cellar, chamber 

Samuel Pepys, in his diary, lists the number of rooms in his lodgings as follows: A study for himself, A parlour, A ‘little room’ taken over from his neighbour, A nursery, Elizabeth’s bed chamber, A dining room, A ‘matted chamber’, A new dining room in the roof extension, Elizabeth’s closet, A study for Samuel’s secretary, The ‘red chamber’, The ‘green chamber’, A new closet for Elizabeth in the roof extension, The upper best chamber or music room, The ‘dancing room’, A ‘new closet’, An old closet now ‘my little dining room’, The ‘great chamber’, A ‘long chamber where the girl lies’, The ‘blue chamber’, A dressing room, and a room ‘for Elizabeth’s woman’. This is all in addition to a kitchen and various pantries. Of course Pepys was reasonably  wealthy, and the rooms he lists may all have been quite small, but he does provide a fascinating glimpse into the function and nature of early modern homes.


Furniture and furnishings were evolving too. It’s hard to imagine, but at the beginning of Elizabeth’s reign, many people were content to sleep on straw pallets with a ‘good round log’ for a pillow. It was a sign of great prosperity if a man could afford a feather bed. However four-poster beds were soon all the rage, with soft mattresses, fancy drapes and ornate hangings. The Great Bed of Ware (above, dated 1590), now in the V & A, is a good example of a luxurious item of bedroom furniture from the period, although by early modern standards it was enormous. The inventory of a 16th century landowner’s house sheds some light on the sort of furnishings in use in bedchambers at the time: Twelve bedsteads, two truckle beds, a dozen sheets (four linen, the rest probably hemp), six blankets, three bolsters, two valances, two coverlets and four cushions.

The family meals would be taken in the dining chamber. The table (or ‘bord’) had evolved from the simple trestle of earlier times, and often had leaves which could be used to extend it. The head of the household would sit in a chair with a back and arm rests, and around the table would be a collection of stools or benches for the rest of the family to sit on.



A cupboard (or cup boards as they were known) was a vital addition to any dining chamber. In essence it was a wooden shelf, or set of shelves, upon which the household valuables could be displayed – often pieces of silver or pewter, and fancy glassware. Dining chambers also had a buffet – another shelf on which the wine or beer was kept during meals. A drink would be dispensed from the buffet in a glass or tankard, and once consumed, the empty vessel would then be whipped away and swilled in a tub of clean water.  Venetian glass was imported into England and favoured by the wealthy, since English glass-blowing techniques had not yet become sufficiently refined. Knives were manufactured in Sheffield and widely available, and it was often the case that a dining guest would bring his or her own knife. A pitcher or bowl of water on the table was provided, so diners could sluice their cutlery and their hands between courses.  Forks were still a rarity – see my post on Jacobean dining for more.



In addition to the dining chamber, other rooms in the house would have cupboards, and these were known as ‘presses’, ‘court cupboards’, ‘livery cupboards’, or ‘aumbries’. Mirrors hung in various rooms, especially in bedrooms; known as ‘glasses’ they were often made from polished steel. Typical homes were lit with either candles or tapers. Tapers were thin, cheap, lightweight candles; more expensive candles were reserved for special occasions.

Most homes of a decent size would have had a garden. This was more than just an outside space. It provided essential supplies for both the kitchen and the medicine cabinet. In a future post I will explore the importance and delights of the Elizabethan garden.


In addition to my own research into primary sources, I’ve referred to both A H Dodd’s Elizabethan England, & Liza Picard’s Restoration London & Elizabeth’s London

© 2009-2013 All Rights Reserved

Booze Custom Dining Etiquette Family Household School

If spitting chance to move thee

These fragments, on etiquette and manners, come from a little book entitled The School of Vertue (1619). Intended primarily to be read by children, it also contains wise child-rearing advice for parents.


Laying the cloth, and making ready the table:

Be sure to be ready, the bord to prepare
at times: as accustom’d with diligent care:
the table cloth first see fairely spread.
faire trenchers, cleane napkins, the salt & the bread,
let glasses be scoured, in country guise,
with salt and faire water, and ever devise
the place most convenient, where they may stand,
the safest from breaking and neerest at hand.

The Nose:
Not imitate with Socrates,
to wipe thy snivelled nose
upon thy cap, as he would do,
nor yet upon thy clothes.
But keepe it cleane with handkerchiefe
provided for the same,
not with thy fingers or thy sleeve
therein thou art to blame.
Blow not allowd as thou shalt stand
for that is most absurd,
Sniffing like a broken winded horse
is to be abhorred.
Nor practise snufflingly to speake,
for that doth imitate
the brutish Stork and Elephant
yea and the wailing cat.
If thou of force do chance to sneeze
then backwards turne away
from presence of the company
wherein thou art to stay.

To laugh at all things thou shalt heare,
is neither good nor fit,
it shewes the property and forme
of one with little wit.

If spitting chance to move thee so
thou canst it not forebeare,
remember do it modestly,
consider who is there.
If filthinesse, or ordure thou
upon the floore do cast,
tread out, and cleanse it with thy foot,
let that be done with haste.

If thou to vomit be constrain’d
avoyd from company:
so shall it better be excus’d
if not through gluttony.

Privy members:
Let not thy privy members be
layd open to be viewed,
it is most shameful and abhord,
detestable and rude.

Urine or wind:
Retaine not urine nor the winde,
which doth thy body vex,
so it be done with secrecie
let that not thee perplex.

And in thy sitting use a meane
as may become thee well,
not straddling, no nor tottering,
and dangling like a bell.

Observe in curtsie to take
a rule of decent kinde,
bend not thy body too far forth,
nor backe thy leg behind.

How to order a childe in his diet for [alcoholic] drinke:
For a childe to make the beginning of his dinner drinke is a good way to breed him up to drunkenesse. Especially if he take it for wanton custome, and not for necessity of thirst. It is dishonest to be suffered and anoysome to the body of a childe. Let not a childe drinke after he hath supt hot broth, immediately upon it; much lesse if he hath been fed with milke. Let not a childe drinke above twice or thrice at the most at one meale, and that gently, and not without reason: who bestoweth wine and beere on his childe beyond reason, defameth and abuseth him more by dishonouring his reason and provoking him to an unreasonable diet.’

© 2009-2013 All Rights Reserved

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