Forty winks at Ham House

The Duchess's Bedchamber at Ham House, Surrey. ©NTPL/John Hammond

Ham House in Surrey will be hosting a series of guided tours exploring sleeping habits in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.

The State Bedchamber at Kedleston Hall, Derbyshire. ©NTPL/Dennis Gilbert

Dr Sasha Handley of Northumbria University has been researching historic sleeping patterns. She will talk about how, where and when people used to sleep in houses such as Ham.

Oak bed dated 1660 at Rufford Old Hall, Lancashire. ©NTPL/Andreas von Einsiedel

The tours will take place on Saturday 20 and Sunday 21 August, at 12:15, 14:00 and 15:00. They will be open to all visitors on a first-come-first-served basis. Yawning during the tours will be actively encouraged.

6 Responses to “Forty winks at Ham House”

  1. Parnassus Says:

    This sounds fascinating. We often assume that basic domestic patterns never change, but a tour like this will probably reveal some real surprises. It also provides a new focus, in addition to “best parlor”, for looking at houses.

  2. Emile de Bruijn Says:

    Yes I read somewhere that people in seventeenth-century England used to regularly get up in the middle of the night, do some chores or something recreational, and then go to bed again until morning – a pattern that you would think would make you feel exhausted.

  3. Christopher Storb Says:

    You just need to have a newborn to understand we’re still doing midnight chores, though we don’t always get to go to bed again till morning.

  4. Emile de Bruijn Says:

    Indeed, our toddler son is now past that phase, which I am extremely thankful for! The amazing thing is that people then seem to have done it voluntarily. Was it some kind of Puritan penance-through-sleep-deprivation? :) Dr Handley will probably be able to explain all.

  5. artandarchitecturemainly Says:

    That is absolutely true… we assume that basic domestic patterns never change. However clearly every thing changes over the centuries and between the social classes as well. My Edwardian grandmother lived with her mother, father, uncle and the 10 children in a 3 bedroom home in the East End. I don’t think bed-sharing was an issue they faced in Ham House.

  6. Emile de Bruijn Says:

    Yes it is difficult to imagine living like that. Interestingly, though, in seventeenth-century Ham House there would have been a similar lack of privacy, with servants sleeping in their masters’ bedrooms and so on. When people talked about their ‘household’ that meant the servants as well as the family (and of course that meaning survives today in the term ‘Royal Household’, i.e. the body of people working for the British royal family).

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