The rope bed reigned in bedrooms from the 16th century until the late 1800s when the first coil spring mattress was constructed. The history of the rope bed is tightly woven with the history of the mattress and the four-poster bed.
Prior to the 16th Century
Early mattresses were made by laying piles of leaves on the bed (whether that was on the floor or on a platform), but as early as in Roman Times, more luxurious bedding was in use. The ancient Romans stuffed their mattresses with materials such as feathers or reeds. People in the Renaissance period stuffed their coarse ticking mattresses with straw or pea shucks, and then covered them with velvet or brocade.
Early beds were constructed with warmth in mind. They were generally built alongside a wall, with a tester, or roof, suspended by rope from the ceiling or wall. The bed was usually fully enclosed with either heavy drapes or doors. The door-enclosed beds are known as Dutch box beds.
Four-poster beds were originally built alongside a wall as well, but were later built as freestanding units. The four tall posts held up the tester, made of wood or fabric, as well as heavy hanging curtains, so that sleepers were fully enclosed. Early beds were enormous---large enough to sleep several people. Probably the most famous of these is the Great Bed of Ware, which is on display at the Victoria and Albert Museum in the United Kingdom. Both William Shakespeare and Ben Jonson referred to it in one of their plays.
The Rope Bed
Most of the four-poster beds were rope beds. Ropes or strips of leather were laced across the bed frame to support the mattress. Sleepers needed to tighten the ropes frequently to ensure firmer support and a better night's sleep. Thus, the expression "sleep tight" originated with these beds
Dawn of the Modern Bed
By the mid 1800s, fabrics such as cotton and linen replaced the rough ticking of earlier mattresses, and in 1865, the first coil mattress was patented. Eventually, rope beds fell out of favor.
- Photo Credit Three beautiful pillows on a rich bed image by terex from Fotolia.com
The History of Four Poster Beds
The four-poster bed is a classic, romantic bed that still graces bedrooms. First gaining popularity in 15th-century England, the four-poster was a...
History of Chinese Jump Ropes
Chinese jump rope is a children's game that dates back to ancient China. The game also has excellent health benefits, and is...
The History of Beds
Today's beds are spacious and comfortable, but they weren't always that way. The history of the bed is fraught with bad ideas...
How to Untwist a Rope or Cable Coil
We’ve all had to deal with coils. Whether it’s an extension cord, Christmas lights or just a plain old rope, chances are...
How to Make a Hammock Bed
You don't have to live in an urban or suburban area to enjoy a hammock. You can hang a hammock virtually anywhere....
How to Weave Rope
We use ropes in construction, seafaring, hunting and other outdoor sports and activities. They are made out of strands of fibers or...
How to Lace a Rope Bed
Antique beds used rope supports to hold the mattress above the bed frame. The ropes had enough give for some comfort but...
History of Jump Ropes
Jump ropes are great for fitness workouts or just for fun. Learn about the history of jumping rope in this free video.