Last night, I leaned back on the pillows and felt the cold seep through my shirt. Our house, at 62 or 64 degrees, is warmer than the 58 degrees Moses Brown recorded in the early 19th century and warmer than the mid-50s temperatures some people I know still keep. But I have layers I can wear, wool or wicking space-age materials, and will wear anything to bed to keep warm. What did people wear in the 18th century? How did they stay warm in bed?
One solution was the bed warmer, the long-handled brass pan filled with hot coals and swiped over the linen sheets of a bed just before the sleeper hopped in. This method required strength, speed and a steady hand, and worked best if someone other than the sleeper could do the swiping. Heat would dissipate quickly while a warming pan was stowed safely.
Another option was heated stones or bricks wrapped in fabric and tucked into the foot of the bed. That sounds good to me now, cold as my sheets can be. Jane Nylander writes in “Our Own Snug Fireside” that some people perceived warming the bed as a sign of weakness, and it is hard to document such a mundane act.
Truly quotidian details are hard to find in written primary sources: people in the past took their daily lives as much for granted as we take ours. How often do our diarists today record whether they wore socks to bed?
In the collection at work, we do have one woolen flannel shift from the early part of the 19th century. I suspect I will want to copy that for January.
ok, so american temperatures make no sense to me, but I find the vital thing is to use natural materials – a goose feather duvet keeps you warm without overheating all year round, whereas a high tech man mad duvet just makes you sweat in your sleep(interestingly, my hot water bottle is still warm enough to wash in when I tip it out 24 hours later after its been wrapped in my 10tog goosedown duvet, but I used to have a 20 tog man made duvet under which the hot water bottle was a block of ice by morning. artificail fibres just don’t measure up)
I find its my shoulders that get cold in the night as they’re always poking out above the bedding, so I always have a soft wool blanket on top of the duvet – but I have to fight the cat for it, as he thinks it belongs to him
We favor wool and down, too, and I think they work well for warmth. Even when I was cycling year-round, I preferred to wear wool jerseys, at least, which I could afford. Our 62 is your 17.6, if that helps. Our larger problem is a lack of insulation in a rented frame house, and cats who refuse to sleep on the bed and act as foot warmers.
17.6 is a bit nippy! get a maine coon – mines a cuddle bunny
my cottage is 200 years old, so you’d think not so insulated, but the walls are thick and I suspect the floor is solid dirt below the boards , so once I get it warmed through it seems to stay warm more efficiently than other houses I’ve lived in – the fact most of the cielings are only 6 1/2 foot tall probably helps.
is it worth poking your landlord – some of the new insulation materials retrofit easily and are quite cheap?
My landlord is worth a blog post unto himself! He is a resident absentee landlord who has the other side of the duplex. We need a bunch of exterior cement work, including porch stairs, as much as we need insulation. But we are in a good neighborhood just a block from my son’s school, near my workplace and the train station for Mr S’s commute….so here we stay, and put on more sweaters and blankets!
The cats are all rescue cats, and one was feral, so they came to us not as kittens. Our lately deceased cat, Spot, was a major cuddle bunny and even slept under the covers. He was rescued, too, but at about 8 weeks.
The duplex was built in 1927, and in the run up to the crash of 1929–so I expect quality was not foremost in the builder’s mind!
A 200 year old cottage, wow. It reminds me of how young we are over here!
Nancy N said:
Hi there! I try to keep the temps down at night (much better than all that hot dry air… but…) Have you tried bedcurtains? A small space with one or 2 bodies heating up the air will certainly stay warmer than a big room, even if those bodies are very warm doggies… or hubbies…