Discussion:
Floors and Rushes
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M***@aol.com
2010-09-25 00:33:38 UTC
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Several Medieval images of England and Normandy depict people walking on
rushes -- that is, loose stalks that look somewhat like dried straw.

However, several amateur historians on the Internet insist that Medieval
people never walked on actual stalks strewn upon the floor. Rather, they
insist, rushes were woven into mats.

Of course, any material that lumps the period from 1066 to the 1500's
together is highly suspect. Each 50 years saw a change in customs in Normandy
and England.

I am writing about the 1100s. Can anyone provide evidence that then
"rushes" used in castles were either loose stalks or woven mats?
Ian Goddard
2010-09-25 11:49:54 UTC
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Post by M***@aol.com
Several Medieval images of England and Normandy depict people walking on
rushes -- that is, loose stalks that look somewhat like dried straw.
However, several amateur historians on the Internet insist that Medieval
people never walked on actual stalks strewn upon the floor. Rather, they
insist, rushes were woven into mats.
Of course, any material that lumps the period from 1066 to the 1500's
together is highly suspect. Each 50 years saw a change in customs in Normandy
and England.
I am writing about the 1100s. Can anyone provide evidence that then
"rushes" used in castles were either loose stalks or woven mats?
The use of strewn, not woven, rushes in churches survived until at least
the C18th in my part of the world. Although the provision of rushes
(rushbearing) had become a festive occasion the underlying reason was
traditionally understood to be functional.

The rushes provided insulation on stone floors. By being strewn rather
than woven they could be swept out when soiled. And a weekly traffic of
worshipers making their way across unmade and often wet roads would
guarantee that they would be soiled.

Such a functional consideration would also apply to any secular public
place such as a medieval hall and at any time. It's difficult to see
that woven matting would have been as functional.

Different considerations might have applied to private rooms.
--
Ian

The Hotmail address is my spam-bin. Real mail address is iang
at austonley org uk
melanie chesnel
2010-09-25 16:55:56 UTC
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Post by Ian Goddard
Several Medieval images of England and Normandy depict people  walking on
rushes -- that is, loose stalks that look somewhat like dried  straw.
However, several amateur historians on the Internet insist that Medieval  
people never walked on actual stalks strewn upon the floor. Rather, they
insist,  rushes were woven into mats.
Of course, any material that lumps the period from 1066 to the 1500's  
together is highly suspect. Each 50 years saw a change in customs in Normandy  
and England.
I am writing about the 1100s. Can anyone provide evidence that then  
"rushes" used in castles were either loose stalks or woven mats?
The use of strewn, not woven, rushes in churches survived until at least
the C18th in my part of the world.  Although the provision of rushes
(rushbearing) had become a festive occasion the underlying reason was
traditionally understood to be functional.
The rushes provided insulation on stone floors.  By being strewn rather
than woven they could be swept out when soiled.  And a weekly traffic of
worshipers making their way across unmade and often wet roads would
guarantee that they would be soiled.
Such a functional consideration would also apply to any secular public
place such as a medieval hall and at any time.  It's difficult to see
that woven matting would have been as functional.
Different considerations might have applied to private rooms.
--
Ian
The Hotmail address is my spam-bin.  Real mail address is iang
at austonley org uk
Would there not be a time consideration here? The time necessary to
weave the matting relative to the need to change the rushes as they
got soiled, implying that where traffic was heavy rushes would always
be strewn and changed regularly, but could be woven where traffic was
light, maybe?

regards
melanie
Matt Tompkins
2010-09-25 22:16:05 UTC
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Several Medieval images of England and Normandy depict people  walking on
rushes -- that is, loose stalks that look somewhat like dried  straw.
However, several amateur historians on the Internet insist that Medieval  
people never walked on actual stalks strewn upon the floor. Rather, they
insist,  rushes were woven into mats.
Of course, any material that lumps the period from 1066 to the 1500's  
together is highly suspect. Each 50 years saw a change in customs in Normandy  
and England.
I am writing about the 1100s. Can anyone provide evidence that then  
"rushes" used in castles were either loose stalks or woven mats?
CM Woolgar's 'The Senses in late Medieval England' (2006), pp.142-3,
190, quotes from several medieval references to strewing rushes on
floors - it can be found on Google Books.

In 1515 Erasmus famously wrote in a letter that in England 'the floors
are commonly of clay, strewn with rushes, under which lies unmolested
an ancient collection of beer, grease, fragments, bone, spittle,
excrement of dogs and cats, and everything that is nasty' - Jortin's
Life of Erasmus (1808), i, 69. If that was true at the start of the
16th century then I'm sure it was even more so in the 12th century.

Matt Tompkins
melanie chesnel
2010-09-26 07:19:29 UTC
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Post by Matt Tompkins
Several Medieval images of England and Normandy depict people  walking on
rushes -- that is, loose stalks that look somewhat like dried  straw.
However, several amateur historians on the Internet insist that Medieval  
people never walked on actual stalks strewn upon the floor. Rather, they
insist,  rushes were woven into mats.
Of course, any material that lumps the period from 1066 to the 1500's  
together is highly suspect. Each 50 years saw a change in customs in Normandy  
and England.
I am writing about the 1100s. Can anyone provide evidence that then  
"rushes" used in castles were either loose stalks or woven mats?
CM Woolgar's 'The Senses in late Medieval England' (2006), pp.142-3,
190, quotes from several medieval references to strewing rushes on
floors - it can be found on Google Books.
In 1515 Erasmus famously wrote in a letter that in England 'the floors
are commonly of clay, strewn with rushes, under which lies unmolested
an ancient collection of beer, grease, fragments, bone, spittle,
excrement of dogs and cats, and everything that is nasty' - Jortin's
Life of Erasmus (1808), i, 69.  If that was true at the start of the
16th century then I'm sure it was even more so in the 12th century.
Matt Tompkins
I was intrigued by your question and did some googling last night on
the subject. The Erasmus quote was well used on sites dealing with
life in medieval castles but I also found this site
http://historicalnovelists.tripod.com/medlife.htm which deals with
upper class fashion and presents the problem of wearing skirts which
trailed 12" of cloth on the floor covered with rushes rather than
matting. Other sites eg http://www.castlewales.com/life.html
describe the norman castle of the 12th century as having a ground
floor hall with a central hearth and the private quarters of the lord
and lady being screened off at one end of the hall. This leads me to
think that maybe this end of the hall had matting, where as the rest
of the hall had strewn rushes? This would fit in with the idea that
Ladies where cloistered away from the ordinary folk in the rest of the
hall, they simply couldn't walk there.
The local farmers here in Brittany use fresh strewn straw in their cow
sheds which is built up on a daily basis over winter, keeping the cows
warm as the lower layers "ferment", and mucked out in spring to be put
on the fields. The Erasmus quote seems to indicate a similar method
for "heating" castles! The historical novelist article seems to
suggest that when royalty visited the whole lot would be mucked out,
the floor cleaned and left bare with maybe a few strewn herbs, giving
room for dancing and such like before a new layer was formed, and the
ladies were once again confined to a given area.
Fascinating. In later castles with wooden flooring and the hall on
the first floor, chimneys and private appartement women would have had
more movement as wooden floors wouldn't have the same insulation needs
as stone or earth, indeed the wood would have rotted if covered with a
6 month layer of rotting rushes! thus rush matting would seem more
likely here.
just a few thoughts on the subject.

regards
melanie
Ian Goddard
2010-09-26 11:55:14 UTC
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Post by melanie chesnel
In later castles with wooden flooring and the hall on
the first floor, chimneys and private appartement women would have had
more movement as wooden floors wouldn't have the same insulation needs
as stone or earth, indeed the wood would have rotted if covered with a
6 month layer of rotting rushes! thus rush matting would seem more
likely here.
Or even just bare wood.
--
Ian

The Hotmail address is my spam-bin. Real mail address is iang
at austonley org uk
Matt Tompkins
2010-09-26 18:48:53 UTC
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Post by Ian Goddard
Post by melanie chesnel
In later castles with wooden flooring and the hall on
the first floor, chimneys and private appartement women would have had
more movement as wooden floors wouldn't have the same insulation needs
as stone or earth, indeed the wood would have rotted if covered with a
6 month layer of rotting rushes!  thus rush matting would seem more
likely here.
Or even just bare wood.
Wooden floors were sometimes covered with a layer of beaten earth,
presumably to duplicate the beaten earth surfaces which predominated
on the ground floor, even in quite high class houses. In 1260 Henry
II ordered the wooden floors at Havering castle to be well earthed,
and 1260 the floor of his queen's chamber at Winchester castle was
plastered, while in 1453 New College Oxford earthed the wooden floor
of a chamber (Steane, Archaeology of Medieval England and Wales
(1985), p 202).

Matt Tompkins
Ian Goddard
2010-09-26 21:28:53 UTC
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Post by Matt Tompkins
Post by Ian Goddard
Post by melanie chesnel
In later castles with wooden flooring and the hall on
the first floor, chimneys and private appartement women would have had
more movement as wooden floors wouldn't have the same insulation needs
as stone or earth, indeed the wood would have rotted if covered with a
6 month layer of rotting rushes! thus rush matting would seem more
likely here.
Or even just bare wood.
Wooden floors were sometimes covered with a layer of beaten earth,
presumably to duplicate the beaten earth surfaces which predominated
on the ground floor, even in quite high class houses. In 1260 Henry
II ordered the wooden floors at Havering castle to be well earthed,
and 1260 the floor of his queen's chamber at Winchester castle was
plastered, while in 1453 New College Oxford earthed the wooden floor
of a chamber (Steane, Archaeology of Medieval England and Wales
(1985), p 202).
That sounds like an early mycological experiment ;)
--
Ian

The Hotmail address is my spam-bin. Real mail address is iang
at austonley org uk
melanie chesnel
2010-09-27 06:26:32 UTC
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Post by Matt Tompkins
Post by Ian Goddard
Post by melanie chesnel
In later castles with wooden flooring and the hall on
the first floor, chimneys and private appartement women would have had
more movement as wooden floors wouldn't have the same insulation needs
as stone or earth, indeed the wood would have rotted if covered with a
6 month layer of rotting rushes!  thus rush matting would seem more
likely here.
Or even just bare wood.
Wooden floors were sometimes covered with a layer of beaten earth,
presumably to duplicate the beaten earth surfaces which predominated
on the ground floor, even in quite high class houses.  In 1260 Henry
II ordered the wooden floors at Havering castle to be well earthed,
and 1260 the floor of his queen's chamber at Winchester castle was
plastered, while in 1453 New College Oxford earthed the wooden floor
of a chamber (Steane, Archaeology of Medieval England and Wales
(1985), p 202).
Matt Tompkins
On the subject of earth floors, they still exist here in Brittany in
houses people still live in. The house I live in only had its earth
floor dug out and replaced by concrete in the 1980s and I have visited
neighbours in the late 90s with earth floors. There doesn't seem to
be a tradition here of covering floors with anything. At Poul Fetan
( Loading Image...
) there is a 17th century village restored to its original state and
the floors are bare. At Melrand ( http://sagemorw.alias.domicile.fr/melrand/index.php3
) there is a village c1000 and here the floor is beaten earth with the
animals on straw at one end of the houses and (as I remember from my
visit) bare floor at the other end where the people live. These
floors are periodicaly dug out and clean earth bought in to replace
that taken away, then the neighbours are than invited in to party and
dance in the house to compact the floor with their feet!. My parents
in law can remeber this from their childhood. The floors were swept
daily but never dry to prevent dust, water was sprinkled over the
floor first. Needless to say the houses were always damp,
particullarly as the walls are made of clay and staw as well!

I know this is slightly OT but thought it might be interesting

regards
melanie
m***@gmail.com
2018-05-13 19:44:59 UTC
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Post by Matt Tompkins
Several Medieval images of England and Normandy depict people  walking on
rushes -- that is, loose stalks that look somewhat like dried  straw.
However, several amateur historians on the Internet insist that Medieval  
people never walked on actual stalks strewn upon the floor. Rather, they
insist,  rushes were woven into mats.
Of course, any material that lumps the period from 1066 to the 1500's  
together is highly suspect. Each 50 years saw a change in customs in Normandy  
and England.
I am writing about the 1100s. Can anyone provide evidence that then  
"rushes" used in castles were either loose stalks or woven mats?
CM Woolgar's 'The Senses in late Medieval England' (2006), pp.142-3,
190, quotes from several medieval references to strewing rushes on
floors - it can be found on Google Books.
In 1515 Erasmus famously wrote in a letter that in England 'the floors
are commonly of clay, strewn with rushes, under which lies unmolested
an ancient collection of beer, grease, fragments, bone, spittle,
excrement of dogs and cats, and everything that is nasty' - Jortin's
Life of Erasmus (1808), i, 69. If that was true at the start of the
16th century then I'm sure it was even more so in the 12th century.
Matt Tompkins
Yet, a painting from the Tudor period depicts what is clearly some form of matting made from rushes or straw on the floor of a court scene. Loading Image...
m***@gmail.com
2018-05-13 19:56:03 UTC
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Post by Matt Tompkins
Several Medieval images of England and Normandy depict people  walking on
rushes -- that is, loose stalks that look somewhat like dried  straw.
However, several amateur historians on the Internet insist that Medieval  
people never walked on actual stalks strewn upon the floor. Rather, they
insist,  rushes were woven into mats.
Of course, any material that lumps the period from 1066 to the 1500's  
together is highly suspect. Each 50 years saw a change in customs in Normandy  
and England.
I am writing about the 1100s. Can anyone provide evidence that then  
"rushes" used in castles were either loose stalks or woven mats?
CM Woolgar's 'The Senses in late Medieval England' (2006), pp.142-3,
190, quotes from several medieval references to strewing rushes on
floors - it can be found on Google Books.
In 1515 Erasmus famously wrote in a letter that in England 'the floors
are commonly of clay, strewn with rushes, under which lies unmolested
an ancient collection of beer, grease, fragments, bone, spittle,
excrement of dogs and cats, and everything that is nasty' - Jortin's
Life of Erasmus (1808), i, 69. If that was true at the start of the
16th century then I'm sure it was even more so in the 12th century.
Matt Tompkins
Also the same author, in another book entitled 'The Great Household of Later Medieval England' mentions rush mats alongside strewn rushes. On page 62, to be precise.

https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=bJkXw2DNItoC&pg=PA72&lpg=PA72&dq=medieval+rush+matting&source=bl&ots=e8AJPSYaiv&sig=AEhqzNua9HeaV0LotNrFw4Hdz1U&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjggL31uoPbAhXHKcAKHdn3DKg4FBDoAQgxMAI#v=onepage&q=medieval%20rush%20matting&f=false

The context is the floor covering of aristocratic dwellings for which he provides several examples to show how tiled floors were becoming popular 'but some still used strewn rushes or rush mats'
m***@gmail.com
2018-05-13 20:00:29 UTC
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Post by Matt Tompkins
Several Medieval images of England and Normandy depict people  walking on
rushes -- that is, loose stalks that look somewhat like dried  straw.
However, several amateur historians on the Internet insist that Medieval  
people never walked on actual stalks strewn upon the floor. Rather, they
insist,  rushes were woven into mats.
Of course, any material that lumps the period from 1066 to the 1500's  
together is highly suspect. Each 50 years saw a change in customs in Normandy  
and England.
I am writing about the 1100s. Can anyone provide evidence that then  
"rushes" used in castles were either loose stalks or woven mats?
CM Woolgar's 'The Senses in late Medieval England' (2006), pp.142-3,
190, quotes from several medieval references to strewing rushes on
floors - it can be found on Google Books.
In 1515 Erasmus famously wrote in a letter that in England 'the floors
are commonly of clay, strewn with rushes, under which lies unmolested
an ancient collection of beer, grease, fragments, bone, spittle,
excrement of dogs and cats, and everything that is nasty' - Jortin's
Life of Erasmus (1808), i, 69. If that was true at the start of the
16th century then I'm sure it was even more so in the 12th century.
Matt Tompkins
C.M Woolgar does actually mention rush mats in one of his other works entitled 'The Great Household in Late Medieval England'. On page 72 there is a reference to tiled floors (with some illustrations provided, but the author says 'some rooms continued to be strewn with rushes OR covered with rush matting'

https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=bJkXw2DNItoC&pg=PA72&lpg=PA72&dq=medieval+rush+matting&source=bl&ots=e8AJPSYaiv&sig=AEhqzNua9HeaV0LotNrFw4Hdz1U&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjggL31uoPbAhXHKcAKHdn3DKg4FBDoAQgxMAI#v=onepage&q=medieval%20rush%20matting&f=false
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