Fig. 391 shows one of these bedsteads erected, but the tester and cornice are missing, and the panelling which acts here as a head-board is not original and is also later in date. The rails of these bedsteads were laced with ropes threaded through holes, and on this rope mesh the bedding was placed. In Fig.392, which dates from about the middle of the sixteenth century, these rope-holes have been pierced right through the vertically-moulded panels of the head. This fragment, the applied balusters of which are distinctly Renaissance in character, in spite of their crudity, probably formed a part of a bedstead of open form, without cornice or tester. There is some reason to suppose that bedsteads of this kind were made to stand in a draped alcove, and it is probably one of this description which is referred to in William of Wykeham's testament.
Fig. 398. Walnut Bedstead. - Date about 1670.
Fig. 399. State Bedstead. - Height 14 ft. 4 ins. Width 6 ft. to 7 ft. - Late seventeenth century. The Duke of Buccleuch.
It is late in the sixteenth century before bedsteads become really important pieces of furniture. Sir Toby Belch, in " Twelfth Night," says, " . . . and as many lies as will lie in thy sheet of paper, although the sheet were big enough for the bed of Ware, set 'em down." so this famous bed must have been well known in Shakespeare's day. But "Twelfth Night" was not written until about 1601, and it was first acted on the Christmas of that year in the same Hall of the Middle Temple which has been illustrated in this book in Fig. 82. Large and ornate bedsteads must have been well-known in Shakespeare's day, but the fact that they call for remark shows that they could only have been exceptional pieces.
The seventeenth-century bedstead of the middle classes was a much more simple affair. Fig. 393 may be taken as illustrating the type, one which persisted, in country districts, even until the close of the eighteenth century. Both head and foot-ends are completely panelled in up to the tester. This latter was sometimes framed to correspond, but, more often merely boarded in. The open sides were usually closed with curtains, and this dread of fresh air lasted for many years with English country-folk, even until the latter years of the nineteenth century.
It may be an indication of date, but is, more probably, merely an alternative fashion, where the front posts are distinct from the pallet and side-rails of the bed itself. An absence of foot-board, as in Fig. 394, may be taken as an indication of the sixteenth century, although both Yorkshire and Lancashire held to this fashion for many years. Similarly, bedsteads with the bulbous posts supported on box bases, either with shaped brackets, as in Fig. 395, or on a stage of four columns, as in Fig. 397, are early in the seventeenth century, as a rule, and often show marked traces of either French or Flemish workmanship. It is not improbable that England owes this importance of the bedstead to Flanders or France, especially to the former. The front of the tester cornice of Fig. 395 is carved with the arms of the Courtenays of Devon, and the South-west, as we have seen, led the way in ornate woodwork until almost the close of the sixteenth century. Fig. 396 is from the same county, a fine oak bedstead at Great Fulford, usually described as the second Sir John Fulford's bed, but, as he died in 1580, it must date from the closing years of his life, - and may be even later. Here the pallet is disconnected from the front posts, and is without the foot-board of the Courtenay bedstead. The carving has the rich Devonshire character noticeable in much of the Church woodwork of that part of fifty years before, such as in the screens at Lapford and Swimbridge not far away. The cornice to this bedstead is disproportionately light, and there is a square carved necking above the post capitals which one would hardly expect to find, but these ornate bedsteads, apart from the fact that they often suffered from ignorant restorations, sometimes incorporated portions of carved woodwork from despoiled churches, and the one close to Great Fulford had been visited by Cromwell's commissioners in 1547, with the result that much havoc was wrought among the fine carvings which Thomas Brideaux had put in only thirty-seven years before.
Fig. 401. State Bedstead. - Late seventeenth century. - The Earl of Chesterfield. 368
From Devonshire to Lancashire is a far remove, but similar traditions will be found at Astley Hall, Fig. 397, as in the Great Fulford bedstead. There are the same carved bulbs to the posts, and the mattress-framing fixed only by the tenons into the headboard. There is one striking difference, in the elaborate use made of mitred mouldings; there are eighty-six mitres in the cornice alone, and many others in the bases to the front posts. There is also the carved and panelled foot-board making a complete open bedstead if the arcaded stage of the back were cut away and posts and tester removed. Astley Hall is as remarkable for its rich woodwork and furniture as for the fact that most of it is original to the house it is in. In the next volume will be illustrated a remarkable shuffle-board table from the same house, an almost solitary survival of a game which must have been very popular in the seventeenth century, as it is frequently referred to in documents and books of the time.
With the marriage of Catherine of Braganza, bedsteads from Portugal, or copies made from them in this country, although rare, are not unknown after the Restoration. Fig. 398 is an example where the lathe, either in turning or spiralling, is used almost exclusively. This is the form and type from which the later four-post beds of the eighteenth century were, in all probability, derived. This bedstead resembles the low-back chairs, generally made from ebony or lignum, which are sometimes met with, and which are usually styled Portuguese, although many were probably imported from Goa.
Of the late seventeenth-century state bedstead, with moulded cornice to the canopy and all woodwork covered with silk or similar fabric, it is impossible to illustrate a range of examples, as, although there is a general resemblance between them, it is merely superficial, every one differing materially from its fellow. Thus at Boughton, Fig. 399, the cornice is straight, ornamented with plumes at the corners, with valance and curtains of silk of floral pattern intersewn with gold threads. In Fig. 400 the cornice is moulded and mitred in breaks and arches, the woodwork covered with a material of the time known as morine, enriched with applique-work. This elaboration of the state bed reaches its limit at Holme Lacey, Fig. 401, both in height and intricacy of covered mouldings. The tester only of this bedstead has its original covering. The curtains are modern, reproduced from the old fabric by Messrs. Morant some years ago. Bedsteads of this kind must have been general in the great houses of the seventeenth century, although many have been dismantled as cumbrous and unhygienic. One elaborate bed-head, moulded and still covered with its original lemon-coloured silk, now in tatters, is stowed away, with other derelict furniture, in the Long Gallery at Lyme Park, and many of these ornate state beds must have met with a similar fate at the hands of recent owners more concerned with matters of health and cleanliness than with pomp and display.