Most people got married in June because they took their yearly bath in May and
were still smelling pretty good by June. However, they were starting to smell, so brides
carried a bouquet of flowers to hide the odor. Baths equaled a big tub filled with hot
water. The man of the house had the privilege of the nice clean water, then all the other
men, then the women and finally the children. Last of all the babies. By then the water
was so dirty you could actually lose someone in it. Hence the saying, "Don't throw
the baby out with the bath water.
"Houses had thatched roofs. thick straw, piled high, with no wood underneath. It was
the only place for animals to get warm, so all the pets-dogs, cats - and other small
animals, mice,rats, bugs lived in the roof. When it rained it became slippery and
sometimes the animals would slip and fall off the roof. Hence the saying, "It's
raining cats and dogs."
There was nothing to stop things from falling into the house. This posed a real problem in
the bedroom where bugs and other droppings could really mess up your nice clean bed. So,
they found if they made beds with big posts and hung a sheet over the top, it addressed
that problem. Hence those beautiful big four poster beds with canopies.
The floor was dirt. Only the wealthy had something other than dirt, hence the saying
"dirt poor". The wealthy had slate floors which would get slippery in the winter
when wet. So they spread thresh on the floor to help keep their footing. As the winter
wore on they kept adding more thresh until when you opened the door it would all start
slipping outside. A piece of wood was placed at the entry way, hence a "thresh
They cooked in the kitchen in a big kettle that always hung over the fire. Every day they
lit the fire and added things to the pot. They mostly ate vegetables and didn't get much
meat. They would eat the stew for dinner leaving leftovers in the pot to get cold
overnight and then start over the next day. Sometimes the stew had food in it that had
been in there for a month. Hence the rhyme, "Peas porridge hot, peas porridge cold,
peas porridge in the pot nine days old."
Sometimes they could obtain pork and would feel really special when that happened. When
company came over, they would bring out some bacon and hang it to show it off. It was a
sign of wealth and that a man "could bring home the bacon." They would cut off a
little to share with guests and would all sit around and "chew the fat."
Those with money had plates made of pewter. Food with a high acid content caused some of
the lead to leach onto the food. This happened most often with tomatoes, so they stopped
eating tomatoes for 400 years. Most people didn't have pewter plates, but had trenchers -
a piece of wood with the middle scooped out like a bowl. Trenchers were never washed and a
lot of times worms got into the wood. After eating off wormy trenchers, they would get
Bread was divided according to status. Workers got the burnt bottom of the loaf, the
family got the middle, and guests got the top, or the "upper crust."
Lead cups were used to drink ale or whiskey. The combination would sometimes knock them
out for a couple of days. Someone walking along the road would take them for dead and
prepare them for burial. They were laid out on the kitchen table for a couple of days and
the family would gather around and eat and drink and wait and see if they would wake up.
Hence the custom of holding a "wake."
England is old and small and they started running out of places to bury people. So, they
would dig up coffins and would take their bones to a house and reuse the grave. In
reopening these coffins, one out of 25 coffins were found to have scratch marks on the
inside and they realized they had 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. Hence on the "graveyard shift" they would know that someone was
"saved by the bell" or he was a "dead ringer"