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Have you ever wondered what your ancestors slept on? We know that through the ages, beds have been status symbols and extremely grand affairs. The early Egyptians used their beds as a place to eat and socialise. Louis XIV would hold court whilst in bed. He had one of the largest and most elaborate collections of beds of anyone, numbered in excess of 400. It is said that at the Palace of Versailles, aristocrats were expected to compete for the privilege of watching Louis XIV wake up, eat meals and prepare for bed.

It is generally accepted that the wealthier the individual or family the better quality bed they had. For most people it was as primitive as a filled sack on the floor. For the better off a raised bed would give protection from rodents, drafts and dirt.

Let’s explore the beds and mattresses of the average person.

In Medieval times, there weren’t bedrooms. Everyone slept together on extremely large mattresses in one room. These cheap bags or sacks would generally have been filled with hay or straw. Now you know where the expression ‘hitting the hay’ comes from. Further up the social ladder, wool, feathers and hair would have been used.

In the 1500 simple chests were used as beds and cribs. By the 1600’s a wider range of mattress fillings were used. Feathers became more wide spread and for comfort coarse sacking was covered in fabrics such as velvets and brocade. A simple bed frame would have been made of timber with either rope or leather webbing to give an element of support and comfort.

JV Will 1790.jpgDuring these times it was common place for a family bed and mattress to be left to the children. It was believed to be a good omen for fertility and therefore the succession of the family.

The will of John Vokins, my 5 times Great Grandfather, who passed away in 1790 stated:

‘Also I give devise and bequeath to my said daughter Jenny Dix my feather bed whereon I lye together with the bedstead bolster and curtains with all belongings appertaining thereunto.’

Around the 1750’s, covers changed. Linen and cotton were used and mattresses started to be shaped with borders. Better quality fillings become more widespread. Cotton, wool, feathers, down and horse hair are used to stuff the mattress, which also become tufted, to hold the fillings together. Attention to comfort is shown in the picture. It shows a feather mattress on top of a straw mattress.

By the mid 1800’s, iron and steel bed frames started to replace those made of timber. These had the great advantage of being free from insects that infest wood. Towards the end of the century, springs were introduced into mattresses. The first coil spring construction for bedding was patented in 1865. In 1876, one of our leading suppliers, Myers starting making comfortable beds. The first pocket springs were used around 1900.

During the 1930's, inner spring mattresses and upholstered foundations (bases) start to dominate the market. Foam rubber mattresses appear on the market in the 1950's. Although used by the Romans, the modern waterbed is introduced in the 1960's, at the same time adjustable beds become more popular with consumers. Airbeds are introduced in the 1980's.

Since then mattresses have evolved with a more diverse choice of fillings, the use of manmade materials and technological advancement in the manufacturing process.

From the very finest natural fillings, which include latex to manmade materials including memory foam, Big Brand Beds have a mattress for you.

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