The Great Bed of Ware

For much of human history, sleeping arrangements were very informal. You heaped a pile of straw or leaves on the floor, covered it with animal skin or a large linen cloth, and tucked yourself in with a cloak or a blanket. It wasn’t until the Middle Ages that people started to afford a bit of luxury. Mattresses were stuffed with feathers, wool, or horse hair, depending on the level of comfort desired, with feathers being the softest and the costliest of stuffing. Considerable attention was given to the bedstead too. Made of wood, they were decorated with inlaid, carved, and painted ornamentation. Upon these the mattress was laid and cushions with embroidered coverlets were propped up.

The Great Bed of Ware

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The world’s largest bed, the Great Bed of Ware, at Victoria and Albert Museum in London. Photo: Paul Gravestock/Flickr


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