The last will and testament of William of Wykeham, Bishop of Winchester, builder of Windsor Castle and part of Winchester Cathedral,■ founder of New College at Oxford, high prelate and the wisest counsellor which Edward the Third ever had, is dated 1403, one year before his death. He leaves money to the poor in the prisons of London, Winchester, Wolvesy, Oxford, Guildford and Old and New Sarum, to the amount of two hundred pounds. To the church of Winchester he bequeaths his new rich vestment of blue cloth embroidered with gold, and thirty capes of the same, with gold fringes, a pyx of beryl for the host, and a cross of gold with relics of the true cross. To New College he leaves his mitre, crozier, dalmatics and sandals. To his college at Winchester another mitre, his Bible and several books from his library.
To Robert Braybrooke, Bishop of London, he demises his large silk bed and furniture in his palace at Winchester, with the whole suite of tapestry hangings from the same place.
One could have wished a more ample and detailed reference to the bed of an important prelate, dating from the late fourteenth century, and bequeathed in the first years of the fifteenth. The term ' silk bed " obviously refers to the hangings, but whether the bedstead was of the four-post type, or merely a pallet standing in a curtained recess, we have no means of knowing. Magnificent as many of the high Church dignitaries were in their mode of life, very little real comfort, in the modern sense, was known before the sixteenth century. The magnificence was barbaric; the eye was dazzled, but the body was little comforted. We know, also, especially in secular houses, from the fortified castle down to the superior yeoman's house, that the bedchamber had only a secondary importance. The life of the family was in the Great Hall, and the private apartments, including the bedrooms, were rudely and sparsely furnished, with little or no pretence to real comfort. Walls only begin to be clothed with panellings of wood, - the first attempt at relieving the nakedness of stone walls or partitions of wood and plaster, - during the latter part of the fifteenth century. A rich and powerful prelate would have his walls hung with tapestries even at a considerably earlier period than this, but in the ordinary houses, even of the moderately wealthy, where painted hangings were not used in imitation of the lordly tapestry, the walls were either left bare or decorated with crude paintings on wood studs or plaster filling, or on both.
Fig. 386. Oak Bedstead (Tester Missing). - 5 ft. 4 1/2 ins. wide. Length 6 ft. 2 ins. (between posts). Present height 5 ft. 10 ins. Posts 3 1/4 ins. square. - Saffron Walden Museum.
Fig. 387. Oak Bedposts. - 5 ft. 4 1/2 ins. to 5 ft. 7 ins. high ; z| ins. thick.
Fig. 388. Oak Bedposts. - 6 ft. 5 ins. high; 4 ins. thick. - Victoria and Albert Museum.
Fig. 389. 6 ft. high.
Fig. 390. Oak Bedposts. - 6 ft. 2 1/2 ins. high (complete) by 3 1/2 ins. thick. Early sixteenth century. - Victoria and Albert Museum.
Fig. 391. Oak Bedstead. - (Restored). - Height 5 ft. 10 ins. Length 6 ft. 6 ins. Width 4 ft. 9 ins.
Early sixteenth century. W. Smedley Aston, Esq.
Fig. 392. Head-Board Of Oak Bedstead. - 4 ft. 2 1/2 ins. wide by 4 ft. 1 1/2 ins. high. Date about 1545-50. - Victoria and Albert Museum.
Fig. 393. Oak Bedstead, Midland Type. - Height 6 ft. 3 ins. Width 4 ft. 6 ins. Length 6 ft. Mid-seventeenth century. - Victoria and Albert Museum.
In turbulent times, the men-folk slept in their clothes, and where they could. We know that retainers in large houses far outnumbered the bedroom accommodation. A shakedown of straw or rushes was probably the usual bed, or, as an alternative, the softest place which could be found on a floor-board.
To illustrate early bedsteads, - and this is only possible in fragmentary form, - we are compelled to show examples which are, in the mere fact that they are bedsteads at all, palatial pieces. Of these, as a rule, nothing has survived beyond the posts, and in rare instances, the head boards. The fragment from Saffron Walden Museum, Fig. 386, is all that remains of what must have been an important bedstead in the early sixteenth century. That it is not later than the first years of Henry VIII is shown by the patterns of the posts, especially of the upper portions, which resemble the carved brick chimneys of this date. The panelled head-board has the early form of moulded panel (not a linenfold), a similar example of which we have already seen in the Lavenham porch, Fig. 267. In the Victoria and Albert Museum are several examples of these early bedposts, shown here in Figs. 387 to 390, all with more or less suggestion of the Renaissance superimposed on the Gothic. The three in Fig. 387 are almost free from this influence, and are, probably, the earliest in date. The central one is particularly charming, with its simple chip-carved ornament. The same feeling is found in many of the early chests, which will be illustrated in the next volume. Fig. 388 shows the complete four posts of a bed with the remains of the head framing on the two at the back. These are the half-posts to which the head-3 a framing was fixed. The Gothic pinnacled buttress-finish at the floor-ends of those on the front is in the manner one would expect at this date, but is rare in bedposts. Fig. 389 is a pair, of square section, the shafts with pronounced Renaissance ornament on bases traceried in the late Gothic manner. Fig. 390 are probably French, the one on the right having the insignia of the Medici family, the one in the centre the fleur-de-lys. The ornament, also, is executed in the manner of Touraine rather than of England. A comparison between the diamond-treatment of the shaft of the post on the right with those on either side in Fig. 387, will show this difference, although some allowance must be made for the defaced state of the former.
Fig. 394. Oak Bedstead. - Dated 1593.
Fig. 395. Oak Bedstead. - Height 8 ft. 7 1/2 ins. Width 5 ft. 8 ins. Length 7 ft. 10 ins. Early seventeenth century.
Fig. 396. Oak Bedstead. - Late sixteenth century. - Great Fulford, Devon.
Fig. 397. Oak Bedstead. - Date about 1630-40. - Astley Hall, Chorley, Lancs.