Article: The History of Bedding

......(its not as boring as you might think!)

How has the bed evolved over time?

When we think of bed we tend to associate it with comfort. Sleeping on a mattress with clean, crisp, bed sheets, a soft, cosy duvet, and a sumptuous pillow has to be one of today’s simple pleasures. However, this was not always the case. The earliest human beings slept on the cold, hard floor using leaves and straw as a base. Instead of duvet covers or quilts, they used animal furs for warmth.

According to National Geographic, the first known mattress dates back to around 77,000 years ago. It was discovered in South Africa in 2011 and was made of reeds and rushes. Researchers believe that a ‘top sheet’ made of insect-repelling greenery was used to help ward off the unwanted night-time visitors.

It was the ancient Egyptians who we understand first raised their beds off the ground to not only improve their comfort but to show off their wealth. Those who could afford them would have beds built out of wood and covered in cushions. The lower class simply slept on straw on the ground.

In Ancient Rome, the bed was also used for socialising, studying, and dining!

If you were fortunate to be wealthy in medieval Europe, then you could use your bed to show off your status. Their impressive beds were carved out of wood, raised off the floor, and often encrusted with jewels. Four-poster beds were created during these times, with velvet drapes to keep out the bugs and cold air, and to further show off wealth. However, if you were poor, you slept either on the floor or a small raised platform with hay for a mattress and a scratchy wool blanket.

It was during the Renaissance Period when bedding as we know it today was designed. Whilst the poor continued to sleep on hay-covered platforms, the wealthy owned mattresses stuffed with down and wrapped in luxurious materials. Their four-poster beds were covered in embroidered canopies and contained pull-out trundles for maids and personal valets to sleep on. Mattresses were suspended from the bedframes using ropes or straps. They were covered by smart linen sheets and wool blankets. The beds grew more and more lavish for the most wealthy. They became so expensive they were passed down through the family for generations. Reported to spend most of his day in bed, Louis XIV became so obsessed with bedding that he bought 413 beds for the Palace of Versailles. It is understood that he held court daily from his bed.

In the 18th century, although usually made from wood, bedframes also started to be constructed using metal. Mattresses were stuffed with cotton and maids and personal valets no longer slept on trundles on the floor. The bed was not used for receiving visitors, but rather as a private space. In the 19th century, the four-poster beds were less lavish, and metal bedsprings were invented. It was during the 20th century when the water bed was created, as well as the air, innerspring, and memory foam mattresses, and now in the 20th century, we are spoilt for choice!

What is the history of bed linen?

Have you ever wondered why we refer to duvet sets as bed linen? The answer is quite simple: linen is believed to be the first fabric used to make bed sheets. It is made from the flax plant which is one of the oldest plants used to make textiles. However, cultivating, harvesting, and weaving the linen was, and still is, hard work.

The 19th century saw the invention of the cotton gin. This machine quickly and easily separates cotton fibres from their seeds which revolutionised cotton production. Thus, the cotton sheet was born. This was the start of a new industry. It became much easier to produce cotton than flax and that in turn made it a cheaper product. Ultimately cotton became the popular choice for bedding, though the name bed linen stuck.

Researchers say that the term bed sheet was first used in the 15th century, but it wasn’t until 1959 that the fitted bed sheet was invented, by the American, Bertha Berman.

And when was the duvet invented?

Move over sheets and blankets. Your days are over. The duvet is the people’s choice in northern Europe now.

But when was the duvet invented? No one really knows.

Whilst it is thought that they were used in Norway during the time of the Vikings, the duvet fashion truly spread throughout Europe during the 16th century.

In 1689, English diplomat, Paul Rycaut visited Hamburg in Germany where he first experienced sleeping under a duvet. He sent his friends back in England some bags of eiderdown with instructions on how to make their own duvets and he also tried to sell the duvets himself. Unfortunately for him, the British people were not keen to embrace this new concept. It was prohibitively expensive, so instead, they opted to carry on using the more affordable sheets and blankets.

It would seem that the duvet continued to be used by Europeans, for in the 18th century, Thomas Nugent, an English writer included in his European travel book ‘The Grand Tour’ a description of what appears to be a duvet whilst in the German state of Westphalia.

During Victorian times, the Eiderdown quilt or duvet became popular in Britain though they did not replace blankets which were much heavier and warmer for the Victorians.

In the 1950s, Harrods did have duvets for sale, but they were still not popular in England.

It wasn’t until Habitat opened in 1964 that duvets hit the mass market. The founder of Habitat, Sir Terence Conran, discovered duvets being used in Sweden. He opened Habitat and started selling them, together with duvet covers. The duvet was marketed as the ‘10 second bed’ and the ease at making a bed was a real hit with the housewives. It was from then that the use of duvets caught on.

Today mattresses, duvets, and pillows are made using a variety of fillings. Whether you prefer an allergy-free, man-made, or natural filling, we sure your'll agree that quality bedding is key to a good nights sleep! Check out our collections here. Made from sustainable or ecological fabrics, our bedding and home decor don't dissappoint on quality, comfort and unique design. 


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