Bedknobs and truckle beds at Little Moreton Hall

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In November 2013 we welcomed the arrival of a new full tester bed into our first-floor South chamber.

The project to build and install the bed has been supported, as part of a wider heritage project, with part of a £50,000 grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF). The project will bring Little Moreton Hall to life and provide visitors with more information about life in Tudor times.

Sleeping in Tudor times

Our bed isn't kept behind ropes; visitors are able to touch it and explore the four-poster framework and the bedding. You'll notice that it's shorter than modern beds – almost square, in fact – and the pillows are propped up by a large bolster. Both of those features result from the fact that in Tudor times people slept in a ‘sitting up’ position. The fear was that if you lay down the Devil might believe you were dead and steal your soul!

How the bed is constructed

The bed has a feather mattress, with a straw mattress underneath, both supported on ropes stretched across the framework which need regular tightening to maintain comfort (this led to the expression ‘sleep tight’). Underneath the tester bed is a smaller truckle bed which was pulled out at night and used by a servant who slept in the same room. The drapes on the main bed provided some privacy for the occupier.

What do the constructors think?

The bed was constructed by David Blake, who built the framework, and Pam Livingstone-Lawn, who designed and made the drapes and bedding. Pam said, ‘We really enjoyed the project. We made sure that everything is authentic and strong enough to stand up to plenty of wear and tear. It was particularly interesting for me because I had not stitched bed-hangings before, although I had made wall-hangings. The tester bed is so big that we had to wait until we went to Little Moreton Hall to put it all together. Until then, we had not seen the complete article, so that made the final construction work quite exciting.’