Our Year Looking at How We Used to Sleep

As we’ve reached the end of our year-long project, ‘How We Used to Sleep’, it seems like a good time to take stock of what we have achieved at Little Moreton Hall. The aim of our events and activities was to translate Dr Sasha Handley’s research into early modern sleep into an engaging range of activities, events, talks, training and educational materials for our staff and for the wider public. We wanted to see if we could spend some time in the shoes (or bedclothes) of the people who lived at Little Moreton Hall in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, to see if we could understand more about what they believed and the practices they followed and whether we could actually pick up some good tips about how to live well and sleep better.

Wild Rumpus family workshop

We started the year by inviting our artist friends at Wild Rumpus to design our Sleep Trail and Dream Tent. The Trail, later installed at Little Moreton Hall, took you through a night of Tudor sleep. Our Dream Tent housed a surreal library of early modern and contemporary dreams. Wild Rumpus co-designed the Sleep Trail and Dream Tent during a workshop with a group of volunteer families in February, exploring what they thought about sleep and the nature of their bedtime routines. The workshop finished with the construction of a ‘sleep den’ where we all got cosy and chatted about the importance of sleep.

The Sleep Trail:

Via a succession of art installations exploring different aspects of Sasha Handley’s research, one could navigate a Tudor night’s sleep through linen bedsheets, smell Alice in Wonderland-esque flasks full of strange, soporific potions, meet evil spirits, try segmented sleep, settle back down to bed for your ‘second sleep’ and wake up to a natural sunrise. At each point visitors could learn about each unique aspect of early modern sleep, get a feel for what nighttime was like in Tudor times and pick up tips from 500 years ago. Check back on the site soon for our digitised version.  

The Dream Tent:

Here you could add your weird and wonderful dreams to our dream library collection, rifle through filing cabinets to marvel (or just laugh) at other people’s, and learn not only about what the Tudors dreamed of but what they thought it all meant. Again, experience a digitised version here soon with samples of dreams and guides to Tudor dreams and interpretations.

Candles and Lighting:

The Tudors celebrated the festival of Candlemas each February. Candlemas was effectively a festival of light that welcomed its return after a long winter of darkness. To mark this festival we made beeswax candles with our visitors and explored some of the other lighting technologies that would have been used by the Tudors. We imagined what it would have been like to spend a night at Little Moreton Hall and just how dark it would have been without electricity or street lighting. We compared wax candles to tallow/fat candles, oil lamps, lanterns and rush lights. This was a good place to start when thinking about why the Tudors had a different attitude towards night-time and towards sleep. The night was believed to bring many dangers.



Closely linked to night-time fears was the urge to protect the body from danger through the use of particular kinds of bedding. In March, Little Moreton Hall’s embroidery team started to make a linen coif (a woman’s close-fitting cap) and nightcap, which would have been worn in bed. The team had previously embroidered two linen pillowcases. To celebrate this work, an embroidery exhibition was held at the Hall, which gave us the opportunity to explore why textiles were so important to early modern sleeping habits. Linen is a cooling fabric that was thought to control body temperature at night. It is also robust and easy to launder and so made it easier to sleep well in a clean bedstead. Nightcaps and coifs also helped to control body temperature and they were often finely embroidered. The use of embroidered designs may have offered reassurance at bedtime: natural flora and fauna perhaps helped to relax the sleeper, whilst religious imagery may have reassured them. Adding the name or initials of family members to bedding also introduced an element of personalisation into the sleeping chamber, allowing the sleeper to be surrounded by objects that reminded them of loved ones as night-time approached. Visitors to the Hall could watch the embroidery team at work as well as join in with their own blackwork embroidery and touch fabrics and designs to feel the tactile sensations that were also reassuring in the dark.

Sleep Bed

In April we planted our sleep bed, the area of the garden given over exclusively to growing sleepy ingredients to use in our historic sleep remedies at Little Moreton Hall. Our friends at Carter House Day Centre in Congleton helped to sow seeds, bed plants, and build two trellises. Whilst planting, they learned about Tudor attitudes to sleep, health, life balance and wellbeing and specifically how particular herbs, plants, vegetables and flowers were used to help people relax and sleep well, which was judged essential to physical and mental health. The adults at Carter House put all they’d learned into their colourful design of the sleep bed at Little Moreton Hall. Our gardener, Natalie, used the design to plan the sleep bed and she helped to create a second, smaller sleep bed at Carter House for our friends to use in the future.

To coincide with this, visitors to the hall made seed bombs filled with sleep-inducing flower and herb seeds so that they could have their own piece of the sleep garden at home or ‘seed bomb’ a waste piece of ground with some colourful and calming soporific plants.


May would mark the start of the year’s dairy season. Churning butter is hard work and certainly, after a whole day of it, our interpreters had no problem dropping off to sleep! Tudor ideas about sleep were heavily linked to digestion. Dairy products played an important role in ensuring the process of digestion, and thereby sleep, went well. Heat intensified in the stomach during the night (one reason why sleep remedies usually involved some cooling of the body’s extremities) and the food inside would bubble away as though it was in a cooking pot. This cooking up of the stomach’s contents (‘concoction’) meant that vapours evaporated up off the food and rose up to the brain. These moistened and relaxed the brain and caused the sleeper to rest soundly. After the vapours condensed in the brain they were also distributed around the body to refresh its parts. By starting a meal with lighter foods, pottage (soup) and salads, followed by heavier meats, and ending with something light that sealed the stomach with a dairy ‘lid’ of cheese or butter, the process of concoction was believed to work better and improve sleep. Perhaps this is why some people still like to finish a meal with a cheese board today.



Having the right equipment was vital to make the food you ate, or the remedies you made to secure sound sleep. Here, ceramics were crucial. Our costumed interpreters at Little Moreton Hall have amassed an extensive collection of tableware, stills, dishes, jugs, tygs, gallipots and fuming pots over the years and so it was great to see them all displayed in one place with our ceramics exhibition , which ran throughout May and June. The Tudors used these ceramic pieces to facilitate a good night’s sleep. Our board (long table) in the Great Hall was set with tableware with advice on what foods to consume and which to avoid as bedtime approached. Our Great Parlour table was set ready for the consumption of the various candies and sweetmeats said to bring on sleep, and our Activity Room was filled with still-room equipment that was used by the ladies of the Hall to make sleep remedies for the whole family and to keep the evening air sweet-smelling, fumigated and conducive to sleep.



By June our sleep garden was in full bloom. In our Activity Room we used our ceramic replicas to make sleep remedies with visitors. This was good, messy fun. We dried out ingredients from our sleep bed, ground ingredients for sleepy poultices to apply to our foreheads, made herbal sleepy infusions and nightcaps containing poppy seeds and wine, preserved rose and violet petals with sugar and stuffed fennel seeds and rose water bags near our noses to clear the head and calm the mind. That plus sweet bags filled with lavender, rose, chamomile and hops meant that the Hall smelled amazing and we were all very calm, relaxed and, dare we say it, drowsy by the end of each day! See more details of what we’ve been making – click here for remedy recipes

Later in the summer holidays we had more fun making sleep remedies. We learned how to candy, crystallise, conserve and preserve soporific ingredients, seeing how effective we think a Tudor posset would be (curdled custard bedtime drink anyone?) and looking at the process of distillation. We discussed our own ways of getting sleepy at bedtime and made the most of the sleep garden at its most potent peak.

The Tudor Pattern Book c.1520-1530. Image courtesy of the Bodleian Library, Oxford


Embroidery Projects

Our embroiderers had been eager to keep their hands busy and so they started work planning a wall hanging over the summer that will hopefully go alongside our other furnishings in our bedchamber. As Sasha Handley points out, the majority of household textiles centred on the best bedchambers, and they helped families to feel cosy and secure as they drifted off to sleep. The hanging includes lots of floral designs and motifs taken from old medical herbals (botanical illustrations) of the period, together with religious imagery that would have been meaningful to the family as they begged for God’s protection in their bedside prayers. We can use the hanging as a way of opening up conversations with visitors about the four humours and the six non-natural things over the coming years since the sleep project has inspired our interpretation programme in the years ahead.

We also began working with the Art Society at Dane Valley on a bedspread that will incorporate similar floral motifs alongside personalised patches where the Moreton family’s births, marriages and deaths will be commemorated. The embroiderers from the Art Society are working with the Moreton family tree to select and include names from the family’s past. Again, having family names and lost loved ones commemorated on bedding in this way may have helped to comfort sleepers, surrounding them with happy reminders of loved ones. We hope to begin displaying the first section of our bedspread in the New Year as part of the project’s ongoing legacy.

Tudor Childhood and Bedtime Routines

In July we recreated the daily routines of a Tudor child. From waking up to going to sleep, from education to on-the-job training, from table manners to childhood games, from the cradle to the sick bed, we experienced what it was like to be a child in early modern England and how the principles of the four humours and the six non-natural things affected every area of your life and routine. We looked at the theories behind a child’s daily activities including waking and retiring times, personal hygiene, food consumption, learning how to make medicines and look after your health and what children would do for recreation and to unwind before bed including games and finger-loop braiding. We also explored bedtime rituals up in the bedchamber and compared them to children’s sleep routines today to see if we could pick up some useful sleep tips. See the link to compare the two including tips from our friends The Children’s Sleep Charity click here.


RHS Tattton Flower Show and Just So Festival with Wild Rumpus

The ‘How We Used to Sleep’ project went on the road over the summer. At the end of July our Dream Library and Sleep Bed visited the RHS Tatton Flower Show to show people how their garden produce can help influence their sleep and dreams. This was also an opportunity to tell people about our aim for the garden at Little Moreton Hall to become more of a working garden, utilised in the same way as it would have been by our family in the sixteenth century.

At the end of August our entire Dream Tent set off for the magical Just So Festival (organised by our friends at Wild Rumpus). Fitting in perfectly, we entered a surreal world of Tudor dreams.Over the course of the weekend our collection of dreams doubled in size, allowing the dream tent to show a real snapshot of dreams in times past and present. There is nothing new under the sun when it comes to what we regularly dream about: fairies, flying, teeth falling out – all the usual dreams appeared then as they did now with people at the festival. People could try their hand at interpreting their dreams using the techniques and understandings of the past which was interesting to say the least!


The Tudor Group at Little Moreton Hall – Putting the Hall to Bed

On Saturday 12 August another of our project partners, The Tudor Group, added their expertise to the programme. They played the part of the Moreton family and their servants as they retired for the night: finishing their meal, taking a turn of the garden, preparing their bodies and bedchambers for sleep, chopping wood for the fires, ejecting strangers, locking up the house and stuffing their straw mattresses with soporific herbs. Entry was free, with the Hall opened from 6-9pm. The event was a rare chance to see the hall in the evening as dusk fell. Visitors could wander and discover different people going about their bedtime routine with the group giving commentaries on what was happening at each stage of the experience.



As part of our community involvement, we gave talks and ran workshops with various groups throughout the year including the Women’s Institute, the Arts Society, Macclesfield Eye Society, Carter House Day Centre, schools and other National Trust property teams including The Tudor Merchant’s House in Tenby. Participants could make sleepy sweet bags filled with soporific pot pourri, have a go at making sleep remedies, interact with still room equipment, discuss their own bedtime routines and Tudor bedtime tips, make ‘tussie mussie’ posies with ingredients from the sleep garden, learn more about the theory of the four humours and six non-natural things and see how all of these things have helped us to think more like a Tudor about sleep, health, balance and wellbeing.


Food Preservation:

In September, our thoughts turned to food preservation and how to prepare and store all the sleepy ingredients that were still coming in from the garden. This was an important time of year for the Tudors as they worked hard throughout the autumn filling their stores ready for the long winter. It would be as important to ensure you had a supply of remedies during these lean months as it would to make sure you had enough to eat. Visitors could harvest the plants and herbs from the garden, help us make rose and violet conserves, take part in the last of the dairying, pickle vegetables, candy and crystallise flower petals and find out the best methods for the preservation of fish and meat. It was also a great opportunity to learn more about recommended sleepy foods to try today and about how the theory of the four humours and humoral balance affected what you were supposed to eat and types of food to avoid. Plants and foodstuffs had their own humoral designations just as people themselves did. Eating the wrong thing for your temperament could lead to all kinds of health problems not to mention affecting your sleep. [click here for more information and recipes].


Trust New Art – The Dreamer is Still Asleep

Artist Robin Rimbaud, aka Scanner, was commissioned by the ‘Trust New Art’ programme to develop a sound installation mimicking the typical soundscape someone sleeping at the Hall might have experienced in the early modern period. If the walls could talk, what would they tell us? The sound piece, installed from the end of July to the end of October allowed us to experience the Hall from a completely different sensory perspective. From the surreal to the sleepy, the disturbing to the dreamlike, the soundtrack explored the drifting, liminal space between wakefulness, dreams and sleep. See our interview and short film with Scanner here Scanner – The Dreamer is Still Asleep.


Hallowtide – Things That Go Bump In The Night

We drew our year of Tudor sleep to a close by thinking once more about those dark, long, winter nights that are just around the corner. How did the Moretons, and their contemporaries, feel about Hallowtide (Halloween)? We discussed the dangers that the night was thought to bring, and looked at how and why people used charms, gem stones, pictures and candle magic to protect themselves from evil spirits. Children listened to some favourite bedtime stories in the bedchamber and brought their teddies along with them to tell us what they couldn’t sleep without. We learned how the Tudors tried to feel safe in the dark, well defended against those evil spirits that lurked in the shadows.


What a year! Good job we’ve all been sleeping really well isn’t it? Though the project is now at an end, you can still find out more in the coming weeks about our future plans at the Hall and at the University of Manchester regarding early modern health, wellbeing and emotions, explore the project’s legacy, visit our online versions of the sleep trail and dream tent, see our latest films documenting the year, use our teaching resources and view our photo gallery. We’ve learned a lot about sleep and its importance for health and wellbeing and we hope that you have too.














Things That Go Bump In The Night


As Halloween approaches, here at histories of sleep we’re thinking about things that go bump in the night – specifically in the early modern period!

What caused early modern people to fear the onset of sleep? And why did they go to great lengths to protect themselves from the negative forces that might infiltrate their slumber? How did they protect themselves? To answer these questions it is first important to remember that sleep was not, and indeed still isn’t, merely a biological necessity. The way that early modern people understood sleep was very much prescribed and shaped by the culture that they inhabited. Close associations between sleep and death, between night-time and diabolical phenomenon, and between material objects and spiritual protection all contributed to early modern understandings of the nature of sleep and the fears and anxieties surrounding its approach. As A. Roger Ekirch has argued, night-time in this period ‘embodied a distinct culture, with many of its own customs and rituals’.[1]


Sleep and Death

In early modern culture there was a strong association between sleep and death, with this association having its roots in both classical literature and in scripture. In Greek mythology, for example, the gods of sleep (Hypnos) and of death (Thanatos) are represented as twin brothers.[2] In Hesiod’s epic poem Theogony, a text that details the origins of the Greek gods, the fearful affiliation of sleep and death is obvious:


Sleep and Death, dreadful gods. Never does

radiant Helios look upon them with his rays

as he goes up into Ouranos or comes down from Ouranos.

Of them, the one goes and dwells in the earth and sea’s

broad back quietly and graciously for men,

but the other’s heart is of iron, and his heart is of pitiless

bronze in his chest. He holds any of men whom he first

seizes. He is hated even by the immortal gods.[3]


John William Waterhouse, Sleep and His Half-Brother Death (1874).

The acute vulnerability of the sleeping state, and its connection to death, is also attested to time and again in scripture. In the Old Testament the king of Israel, Ish-bosheth is murdered in his own bed, and Sisera, commander of the Canaanite army, meets a similar fate when he is given a milky drink to put him to sleep and then murdered by having a tent peg driven through his head by Jael, wife of Heber the Kenite.[4] Death is also likened to sleep in the book of Daniel, which describes the dead as ‘those who sleep in the dust of the earth’.[5]


These close links coloured early modern attitudes towards sleep and they shaped people’s approach to its onset. Bedtime prayer and spiritual devotions were often filled with pleas for God to provide Christians with safe passage through the night.[6] Pondering death and asking for God’s forgiveness and protection at bedtime was a habit that church ministers encouraged as it was thought to bring Christians closer to God and to prepare their souls for the afterlife. For example, one anonymous Christian writer cautioned his readers that ‘when we are in bed, and just going to resign ourselves to sleep…it will be highly proper to think seriously of the end of all living; and to renew those actings of faith and repentance, which we should judge necessary, if we were to awake no more in this world’.[7]


The elision of sleep and death in early modern culture also shaped interactions with material objects. The linen sheets that encased the bodies of the dead were often taken from the deceased’s bed and plaited mattresses that may have been used previously on the bedstead during childbirth were also used for laying out the dead at home. One funerary monument that explicitly depicts this link between the materiality of sleep and death is the tomb of the Haddon Makepeace family in Heworth, Gateshead. The tomb was made by local mason Joseph Haddon in memory of his three children who all died over the course of six years. The tomb depicts the children lying next to one another in a four-poster bed, sleeping peacefully in safety and comfort.[8] As Sasha Handley has argued, the ‘survival of these kinds of objects and monuments reveals the intimate connections between the physical and spiritual states of sleep and death within early modern culture’.[9]


Night-time Perils

No doubt due to the somewhat uncomfortable association of sleep with death, the night-time and more specifically the sleeping state was believed to be the site of a number of perils and dangers. As the Elizabethan pamphleteer and playwright Thomas Nashe explained in The Terrors of the Night (1594), ‘the Night is the Divells Blacke booke, wherein hee recordeth all our transgressions’; ‘touching the terrors of the night, they are as many as our sinnes’.[10] Whilst during the day, safety and protection could be found in numbers, at night early modern people were alone and forced to fend for themselves. During the long, dark night, then, ‘threats to body and soul multiplied’.[11]


The biggest threat came from the Devil himself. It was believed that Satan favoured the darkness of the night as he had rejected God’s light and embraced darkness, both literally and metaphorically. It was during the night, then, that people were most vulnerable to diabolical attacks.[12] The Devil, along with his demonic minions, could perform malicious and devastating acts during the night that ranged from demonic possession to inflicting sleepers’ slumber with frightful nightmares.[13] Demons were also thought to trouble people in their sleep by afflicting them with diseases of both body and soul.[14] One specific example of this type of night-time fear was the popular belief that the Devil, aided by his faithful witch servants, would steal or deform men’s penises during the night, robbing them of their fertility and, by extension, their masculinity.[15]


Those who had committed an offence against God, or who had failed to repent their sins before bed, were particularly vulnerable to diabolical attacks during the night. A well-known example of this kind of encounter features in the popular ballad ‘Young Bateman’s ghost, or a godly warning to all maidens’.  In it God punishes a young woman for breaking her vow to marry her first love, who she forsakes in order to marry a richer man. The rejected lover, Bateman, hangs himself on the day of her wedding and his restless ghost, aided by the Devil, later carries away his beloved as she sleeps with her new husband.[16]

‘Young Bateman’s ghost, or, a godly warning to all maidens’ (London, 1760).



As well as diabolical forces, ghosts, fairies, and a whole host of other supernatural creatures were also believed to haunt people during the night. Children were judged particularly vulnerable to nocturnal attacks by fairies, especially if they were unbaptised and yet to receive God’s protection and purification.[17] The fear was that due to this vulnerable state, children would be whisked away by fairies and replaced with changeling children – that is fairy children. It was believed that fairies took human children during the night for a number of reasons – to act as servants, or simply as an act of malice and mischief.[18] As Regina Buccola and Susan Schoon Eberly have argued, it is possible that beliefs surrounding changelings evolved as a way of explaining the various malformations and disorders that afflicted infants and young children. Indeed, some people even suggested that the future King Charles I was a changeling child. Changeling children were often held to be particularly peevish and bad tempered, traits that were also often applied to Charles![19]


Henry Fuseli, The Changeling (1781)


Night-time Protection

In response to these night-time perils and dangers, early modern people went to great lengths to protect themselves. One of the best ways to do this was to repent sins before bedtime and ask for God’s protection during the night. People also sanctified their bedchamber with amulets and protective objects. Coral in particular was valued for its protective qualities, and this association rested on the transformative capacity of this organic material. Coral’s ability to live both underwater and on land complimented its use as a spiritual talisman during sleep as, just like sleep, it was able to traverse different environments and states of being. The demand for coral boomed in the early modern period and it was believed to be especially effective at protecting the young from ghosts, demons, and nightmares.[20] More visceral material objects were often used to protect children from fairy abduction, however, from hanging wolves’ teeth around a child’s neck, to suspending carving knives and scissors over the cradles of vulnerable infants.[21]

Protective Candle Marks at Little Moreton Hall.

As well as using amulets and talismans during the night, early modern people also sought to protect their bedchambers more generally in a bid to keep demons, ghosts and witches at bay. One way they did this was by practising ‘candle magic’. This involved using candles to make distinctive burn marks around particularly vulnerable locations within the bedchamber. These candle marks can often be found on or above bedsteads or around voids in the room such as windows and fireplaces. These marks would provide the sleeper with bodily and spiritual protection during the night. Although candle magic was essentially a form of natural magic, it was often combined with Christian symbols through the drawing of crosses and gridirons. Through a combination of devotional practices, folkloric tradition, and natural magic, early modern people ensured their night-time protection and safe journey to morning.[22]


*             *             *


To find out more about early modern night-time fears and protective methods visit Little Moreton Hall during the October half term!



[1] Roger Ekirch, At Day’s Close: A History of Nighttime (London: Phoenix, 2005), xxv.

[2] Sasha Handley, Sleep in Early Modern England (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2016), 81.

[3] Hesiod, Theogony (c. 700 B.C.), Michigan State University, last accessed 21 August, 2017, https://msu.edu/~tyrrell/theogon.pdf, 18.

[4] Handley, Sleep in Early Modern England, 82.

[5] Daniel 12:2, The Official King James Bible Online, last accessed 21 August, 2017, https://www.kingjamesbibleonline.org/Daniel-12-2/.

[6] Handley, Sleep in Early Modern England, 82.

[7] Cited in Handley, Sleep in Early Modern England, 83.

[8] Ibid., 83-86.

[9] Ibid., 86.

[10] Tomas Nashe, The Terrors of the Night or, A Discourse of Apparitions (London, 1594), sig. B1r.

[11] Ekirch, At Day’s Close, 9.

[12] Ibid., 15-16.

[13] Charlotte-Rose Miller, ‘Requiem for a Bad Dream: Fear of the Night, the Devil and the Nightmare in Early Modern England’, The History of Emotions Blog, last accessed 22 August, 2017, https://emotionsblog.history.qmul.ac.uk/2017/06/requiem-for-a-bad-dream-fear-of-the-night-the-devil-and-the-nightmare-in-early-modern-england/.

[14] Ekirch, At Day’s Close, 16.

[15] Ekirch, At Day’s Close, 16; Lyndal Roper, Oedipus and the Devil: Witchcraft, Religion and Sexuality in Early Modern Europe (London and New York: Routledge, 1994), 138.

[16] Handley, Sleep in Early Modern England, 96-97.

[17] Handley, Sleep in Early Modern England, 99; Regina Buccola, Fairies, Fractious Women, and the Old Faith: Fairy Lore in Early Modern British Drama and Culture (Selinsgrove: Susquehanna University Press, 2006), 50.

[18] Katharine Briggs, An Encyclopaedia of Fairies, Hobgoblins, Brownies, Boogies, and Other Supernatural Creatures (New York: Pantheon, 1976), 71.

[19] Buccola, Fairies, 50-51.

[20] Handley, Sleep in Early Modern England, 98.

[21] Handley, Sleep in Early Modern England, 98; Buccola, Fairies, 51.

[22] Handley, Sleep in Early Modern England, 100.

Harvesting and Hibernation: Sleeping Through the Winter

Eating the right kinds of food at the right times of day formed an important part of early modern sleep-management techniques. Contemporary advice also points us in the direction of certain foods that can help make you feel sleepy and these foods share some common ground with early modern diets, as our previous post outlined [click here]. So, as the team at Little Moreton Hall have turned their attention to food preservation this autumn, we thought we’d share some information about what the Hall’s residents stocked up on to ensure they slept well over the winter. 

Our sleep bed in the garden at Little Moreton Hall has been going from strength to strength over the summer and it has been a joy to harvest its goodies. We have rosehips, the last of the rose petals, bergamot, lettuce, orach, chamomile, lavender, rosemary, violets, sea holly, strawberries, gillyflowers and borage. Elsewhere in the garden we have been harvesting our squashes (gourds), courgettes, mulberries, bay leaves, fennel, poppy seeds, apples, pears, peas and beans as well as foraging locally for nuts and hops. Lots of these ingredients have gone into our recipes, listed below.  



In Tudor times, September, October and November were busy months when home-grown herbs and plants were processed. The aim was to make sure that the Hall’s residents had enough food and medicines to see them through the winter until Easter of the following year. Those all important foods and sleep remedies that have featured in our Sleep Trail, and that helped to keep the body’s humours in balance, could only be made if their core ingredients had been harvested in advance.

Autumn was also the time at which the Hall’s residents completed the last of their annual dairying activities: making butter and cheese, before their animals stopped producing milk. Some animals would then be pinpointed for slaughter if they could not afford to be kept alive over winter. Their flesh was preserved with brine and salt, dried or smoked. 

The residents of Little Moreton Hall were well aware of which foods were best consumed before bedtime, and which were best to avoid. As part of our aim to ‘think like a Tudor’, we have followed in their footsteps whilst candying, pickling and preserving. The list below shows how different food types helped to regulate different humoral ‘complexions’ and thus ensured that everyone could enjoy a good night’s sleep.  

Sanguine: being hot and moist, a sanguine person needed to avoid hot sweet flavours like sugar or lamb and instead turn to melancholic (cold and dry) things such as sour or tart tasting foods like citrus or vinegar, or meats such as chicken and dairy produce.

Choleric: hot and dry, this person had to temper their natural heat by eating cold and moist foods with insipid flavours such as fish, fruits, lettuce and pork. 

Phlegmatic: cold and moist, these people had to avoid similar qualities in their food. Whilst cucumbers or fish were their enemies, they might enjoy hot and dry foods like parsley, capers, olives, rabbit, garlic and spices. 

Melancholic: a cold, dry complexion demanded warm and moist foods. Beef, onions, lamb and basil were particularly helpful for those of a melancholic complexion.  


Visitors to Little Moreton Hall frequently ask for Tudor recipes so if you want to have a go at home, here is a sample of the tasks we’ve been completing as we have stocked up our supplies for winter, alongside details of other food processing jobs that took place at the Hall at this time of year. Autumn was an extremely busy time of year for the family and servants at Little Moreton Hall. Why not try some of these different ideas to get a flavour (quite literally) of the Hall’s favoured recipes and find out exactly how early modern people prepared themselves for a good night’s sleep throughout the winter months. 

Rosehip Preserve: boil up your rosehips with a little water. Next strain the rosehips through muslin or a sieve to remove all the skin and filaments. Return to the pan and boil up with a like quantity of sugar before potting up in a sterilised jar.1  


A Tudor Pickle: choose your vegetables and layer up in a large bowl between layers of sugar, salt and distilled malt vinegar. The distilled vinegar will help to keep the colour in your vegetables. Add spices and/or herbs to the liquor before potting up in a sterilised jar.2  

Pickled Flowers: choose colourful, edible flowers – choose from violets, roses, nasturtiums, borage, marigolds – and layer up in a sterilised jar between layers of sugar, salt and distilled malt vinegar. The distilled vinegar will help you to keep the colour in the petals.3 


Viola Preserve: simply pick your violet petals and grind up in a pestle and mortar with a like quantity of sugar before potting up in a sterilised jar. The same can be done for rose petals, however, do remove the white parts of the rose petals or else they can be bitter.4  

Sugar Coated Fennel Seeds: this was a very laborious task in the 16th century involving repeatedly dipping fennel or aniseeds in sugar syrup, allowing the seeds to dry out after each coating. They would then be coloured with natural colouring agents such as beetroot, cochineal, woad, saffron, spinach or parsley.5 The pre-curser to modern ‘hundreds and thousands’, they can be purchased easily in Asian supermarkets today.  

Crystallised Roses: this can be done with whole rose flower heads as well. Dip the flower head or petal in egg white until completely covered. You might want to use a brush to ensure that all the parts are covered. Then dip into sugar – again a clean, dry brush might come in handy here. Allow to dry somewhere dry and warm. Your petals should go hard and be perfectly preserved. If you prefer to avoid egg whites you can dip in rose water first instead.

Marchpane: take ground almonds and mix with an equal amount of icing sugar before binding together with enough rose water to make a firm dough. This will be less sweet than modern marzipan and more like the sweetness of Elizabethan marchpane. You can then mould or shape the marchpane into figures, flowers etc or roll out into a round, plate-like shape before painting with an icing sugar and water glaze and baking in the oven until set and crispy.

Butter: you can make Tudor butter without the need for a butter churn. Take a clean, sterilised jar and add double cream. Secure the lid tightly. Then either shake until the cream splits into butter and butter milk or place the jar somewhere you pass regularly, somewhere in the kitchen is perfect, and shake at regular intervals each time you pass it. The mixture will go through several stages – like whipped cream, like cottage cheese – and then eventually splitting into the solid butter and watery buttermilk. The buttermilk would be saved to make cakes, to give to the poor, old or sick or curdled to make cheese.  


Medlar Paste: medlars can only be eaten once they are rotten. Eating before then can give you a very poorly stomach – in fact, eaten before they are ready, medlars are actually poisonous. Therefore you need to wait until around the end of October for the fruits to drop from the tree before storing somewhere while they ‘blet’ (go rotten). You will know when they are ready to process as you will be able to squeeze the fruit and see the flesh pop out – like if you squeezed a blueberry. Squeeze all the flesh from the fruits (you need a good bag full to get a decent amount of flesh) and then press through a colander to remove the skin, seeds and fibres. Add to a large pan with a like quantity of sugar and boil up until the mixture is firm. Pour into dishes or moulds to allow to cool. This can then be used for meats and cheeses or made into pies and tarts. It also keeps well in the freezer until needed.8 

Green sauce: take a good few handfuls of sorrel leaves and grind in a pestle and mortar before adding 4 tablespoons of white bread crumbs, 6 tablespoons of white wine vinegar and 1 grated apple. Grind down until the mixture is the consistency of ketchup. This is a lovely tart, citrusy sauce that is served traditionally with cod or goose and also goes well with things like tongue or veal.9  


Quince Paste: Peel and slice the quinces before roasting in the oven. Extract the flesh and boil up with a like amount of with sugar until you get a firm consistency. For a clean jelly, boil up quinces in water and then strain the pulp through a muslin/cheesecloth overnight. Then for every 600ml/21 fl oz of juice add 450g/16 oz of sugar. Boil vigorously for 15 mins. Pot in sterilised jars.10  

A Tudor Salad: there is nothing more Tudor than a rocket salad with edible flowers. It’s very trendy today but in fact, it’s nothing new. A very fashionable 16th century salad was a ‘grand salad’ with various leaves, dried fruit, lemon slices, rosemary, boiled eggs, olive oil, white wine vinegar and sugar. This would be topped with edible flowers such as borage, nasturtiums and violets. For a Tudor dressing mix up 4 tbs olive oil with 3 tbs red wine vinegar, ½ tsp of salt, ¼ tsp of brown sugar. For the finishing touch arrange your halved boiled eggs around the edge of the salad and place a rosemary sprig in each to create a tree-like effect.11  


Salt Beef: score large chunks of raw beef before rubbing salt into the flesh and then soaking in brine over a couple of days. Pack the said salted beef into a large barrel with lots of salt before closing up tightly. Done properly this will ensure that the beef is perfectly preserved and it will give you a hearty, warming beef stew in the depths of winter.12 A nice recipe is this one from 1450 – Beef y Stywyd. Take 3 lbs/1.5kg chopped beef (stewing or braising steak) and boil up in a pan of water. Add cinnamon, cloves, mace, grains of paradise (if you have them), peppercorns, finely chopped or minced onions, parsley and sage. Continue to simmer for 1 ½ hours at least (or put in the slow cooker). Then take a small loaf of rustic bread and soak in some of the cooking liquor and some vinegar. Strain and add to the pot. Add saffron and stir until the sauce is thickened. As there are no quantities listed for the spices you can adapt to your own taste. If the vinegar is too strong, adjust with some beef stock.13  



  1. Adapted from Elinor Fettiplace’s Receipt Book (1604). 
  2. Adapted from Gervase Markham’s The English Huswife (1615). 
  3. Adapted from Gervase Markham’s The English Huswife (1615). 
  4. Adapted from Gervase Markham’s The English Huswife (1615). 
  5. Ivan Day, www.historicfood.com  
  6. Adapted from Elinor Fettiplace’s Receipt Book (1604) and Gervase Markham’s The English Huswife (1615). 
  7. Adapted from Gervase Markham’s The English Huswife (1615). 
  8. Adapted from a recipe for fruit cheese from Elinor Fettiplace’s Receipt Book (1604) 
  9. Taken from Peter Brear’s Cooking and Dining in Tudor and Early Stuart England.  
  10. Adapted from Elinor Fettiplace’s Receipt Book (1604) and Grandma’s Special Recipes: Jams, Jellies and Preserves (2012). 
  11. Adapted from Thomas Dawson’s The Good Huswifes Jewell (1596). 
  12.  Instructions taken from Ruth Goodman, Tudor Monastery Farm (2013). 
  13. Adapted from Harleian M.S. 279, 1450.  



Hard Work and Sweet Slumber on Radio 4’s ‘Start the Week’

A storage shelf at Little Moreton Hall that may well have doubled up as a comfortable alcove in which to catch some ‘shut eye’

Sleep and the question of whether, as a society, we are getting enough is becoming increasingly topical. In fact, even during our project this year we have seen a whole range of articles, programmes, books and discussions on the issue. Radio 4’s Start the Week looked at sleep and society this week by talking to our very own Dr Sasha Handley from the University of Manchester alongside Professor Matthew Walker from The Center for Human Sleep Science at the University of California, Susan Foister from the National Gallery in London and Matthew Taylor from the Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufacture and Commerce. Their discussion picks up on many of the concerns being raised today about how we live our lives and our attitudes to a healthy work/life balance. Looking back at how people in other periods considered sleep, dreams and working conditions, the panel consider whether we are at another liminal point in our understanding of sleep, healthcare and balance. This is all the more important as technology and work patterns effect our everyday lives in new and unchartered ways. As a project How We Used to Sleep has aimed to address similar questions, looking back to early modern approaches to sleep and holistic healthcare practices to see if we can find any analogies with our modern waking and sleeping behaviour or pick up tips on how to make changes for the better. Are we coming full circle in rediscovering previous approaches? Are we now starting to review how we, as a society, live our lives and questioning what is truly good for us the way previous people in the early modern period or the industrial revolution have done before us?

Click on the link here to listen to the show: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b095psnz


Top Sleep Tips for Children



Siblings Posing for a Portait

One of the motivations for the How We Used to Sleep project was the ongoing ‘global sleep crisis’ we are currently experiencing. In our 24/7, always connected, constantly illuminated western culture, many of us are guilty of neglecting sleep or of not devoting much thought to how we might sleep better. We have heard the voices of neuroscientists, governmental agencies and medical professionals, often with mixed results, but what can historians add to this conversation? What can early modern people teach us about how to sleep well?   

Early modern sleep-management practices look remarkably similar to contemporary advice. The following tips blend early modern sleep advice with the tips developed by one of our project partners, The Children’s Sleep Charity, who are on a mission to improve the sleeping lives of the UK’s children and young people.  

1. Routine:  

Sleep advice for children recommends rising from and retiring to bed at the same time EVERY day. This familiar routine helps to regulate circadian rhythms to make sure they get the right amount of sleep.  

Early modern people get top marks for this – they went to bed consistently as it went dark and woke at daybreak. They would stick to these bedtime routines as much as possible. 

The Tudors took their cues about bedtime from changes in natural light throughout the year. Bedtimes were regulated by routine habits such as ‘shutting in’, when the doors and windows of households were locked or secured to keep out external intruders.  This was followed by ‘candlelighting’, a quiet period of an hour or so before bed in which to wind down and relax, before bedtime.  Certainty and discipline were important.  

It’s a good idea to give children a warning that bedtime is approaching, stipulating a time when the bedtime routine will begin. Perhaps use a timetable somewhere to show them that this is what happens every night and that this routine doesn’t shift, drift or slip.  


 2. Environment: 

Modern sleep advice warns about the dangers of exposure to ‘blue light’ in the hour before sleep. Blue light, emitted by computers, TVs, and other devices can interfere with the body’s production of melatonin – a hormone that eases sleep’s onset. These devices should be shut down to improve the chances of sleeping well.  

Early modern people didn’t have blue light but they did have their hour of ‘candlelighting’ when they stopped the hard graft of the day and relaxed before bed. Light was available from candles, oil lamps or rushlights. The use of candle-light, subtle night-lights and dimmer switches can help us to replicate some of these practices today.  

Calming music before bed can help your child to get into the right frame of mind for sleep. Subtle sounds such as soothing music, nature sounds or white noise are believed to be particularly helpful for helping children to wind down.  

The tester bed at Little Moreton Hall with comforting curtains, linen, candles and embroidery

Early modern households were rarely quiet at night-time. Floorboards creaked and groaned as timber houses settled at the end of the day. The sound of trusted family members, servants and companions sleeping in close proximity, bed creaks, quiet prayer or even, in towns and cities, the cries of the watchmen calling out the time on the hour, created a familiar soundscape that likely offered reassurance on a nightly basis.

You can also pay attention to the visual dimensions of your child’s bedroom. Do the colours create a feeling of calmness? Are there too many posters on the walls that might over-stimulate your child? Where are the toys stored? Early modern people paid careful attention to their sleeping environments. They favoured familiar and personalised bedding textiles that replicated the same sensations each night. Textiles could be used to create a feeling of enclosure and security. Servants often used blankets or strips of linen to create partitions between bedsteads in shared sleeping spaces. 

Try not to banish a child to their bedroom for a disciplinary ‘time out’ as they may start to associate this space with feelings of anger or guilt. Instead, it is helpful for a child to see their bedroom as a sanctuary. Early modern people appear to have regarded their sleeping spaces in much the same way. They used religious images and even protective wall markings and charms to ward off evil spirits around their beds to create a space in which they felt positive and secure .  


 3. Meaningful Objects: 

Meaningful objects such as a teddy or blanket can help comfort and settle your child at bedtime, and in the middle of the night, should they wake up unexpectedly. Early modern people drew comfort from familiar bedside objects. They cocooned themselves in familiar bedding textiles to provide a feeling of protection. Pillows, blankets, quilts and curtains were often embroidered with relaxing natural images of flowers and animals, or with religious symbols that were believed to invoke spiritual protection during the night. Textiles often included family names, dates of births and weddings, which may have conjured comforting thoughts of loved ones, just as our family photos on the bedside table do today. It certainly helps to keep the sleeping environment constant, so that a child experiences the same conditions in the middle of the night to the ones they fell asleep in. Needing a grown-up with them to help them go to sleep or a light that is too bright will cause a child to panic if these things are suddenly missing should they wake up. 

  4. Darkness and Light: 

Researcher and Interpreter Anna lighting the way to bed

It is a good idea to invest in a black-out blind. This will reduce the infiltration of street lights into your child’s bedroom, optimise darkness and help your child to fall asleep and to stay asleep. Some sleep experts insist that darkness is important for the body during the night and that light sources can be detrimental to health. If a completely dark room is too much for a sensitive or visually impaired child, a low level night-light can help.

Early modern people were exposed to far fewer sources of artificial light than we are today. Street lights only emerged in urban centres from the late 17th century onwards, and they were not very bright, thus reducing any potential sleep disruption. People taking part in experiments where they have been deprived of electric lightning will often revert to sleeping in two blocks during the night. We know that many early modern people slept like this, in two separate cycles, which they called their ‘first sleep’ and ‘second sleep’.  

 5. Chats, Stories and Activities: 

Doing activities that encourage the use of fine motor skills are great before bed as they relax the body and mind. Jigsaws, colouring, simple craft activities such as sewing or threading beads are all good examples. During the evening ‘candlelighting’ hour, the activities people focussed on included knitting, sewing, reading, prayer, chatting or catching up on quiet, therapeutic jobs such as carding wool or husking corn. These activities may well have had a calming effect that helped to ease sleep’s onset. 

We know that a bedtime story is a perfect way to end the day. Providing relaxation and escapism. It can help to clear the mind of any worries a child may have. This part of the day is a good time to have a chat about things and give your child your full attention. This provides a sense of security, love and protection as well as ensuring that your child has a chance to get things off their chest and empty their minds before drifting off to sleep.  

Early modern people were also very keen to get things off their chests before bed. Often this would be through having chats during candlelighting or with sleeping companions once in bed. Furthermore, evening prayer before bed was another means of putting worries to one side through seeking forgiveness, reassurance and solace from God.  


All of this goes to show that people in the past knew their stuff. They knew the importance of sleep to physical and mental health and they knew how to optimise their rest. If we want to address today’s sleep ‘crisis’, we could learn some valuable lessons from sleep’s history in the early modern world. 


The Dreamer is Still Asleep – A Dreamy Soundscape at Little Moreton Hall

At Little Moreton Hall the team have been very lucky to have a new sound installation from Robin Rimbaud aka Scanner. The work is part of the National Trust’s Trust New Art programme in conjunction with Cheshire East Council’s SHIFT programme which encourages engagement with digital arts. The artist Robin took inspiration from Dr Sasha Handley’s work on sleep, particularly her book Sleep in Early Modern England. This informed the dreamy, surreal soundscape now playing at the hall. Visitors can imagine themselves in the liminal space between waking and dreaming, listening to the comforting, creepy and disturbing sounds that would be familiar to someone sleeping at the hall in the early modern period as they drifted in and out of sleep. Come and experience the dreamscape for yourselves – The Dreamer is Still Asleep is at Little Moreton Hall until 29 October 2017. Perfect timing for Little Moreton’s exploration of a Tudor Halloween and those things that go ‘bump’ in the night!

Little Moreton Hall’s Sleep Remedies


Visitors to Little Moreton Hall have been helping us prepare our sleep remedies over the past month, stocking up our still room with lots of different ingredients from our sleep bed and seeing what they think of some of our tips for getting a good night’s sleep Tudor-style. There are no surviving recipe books from the Moreton family who lived at the hall but they may well have used similar remedies to those that follow, which date to the same period. Try them for yourself and see which, if any, work for you. Our remedies have been taken from 16th and early 17th century housewifery and medical manuals and personal handwritten recipe books from the Wellcome Trust’s collection, which are digitised and available online.[1]


Fennel Seeds and Rose:

In a pestle and mortar, crush your fennel seeds and add to them a little rose water. Empty the mixture into a piece of linen (you could use a piece of old cotton sheet if you have it) and roll into a pouch. Tie each end with string and then tie around your head so the pouch rests under your nose. Go to bed with your sleepy nose bag attached and let the cool, refreshing scent clear your head and help you drift off to sleep. As with a lot of these remedies, its ingredients were believed to cool the body. The smell they emitted is similar to various chest rubs and oils you can buy today to clear a blocked nose and head.


A Lettuce Poultice:

With your pestle and mortar, crush lettuce leaves (including the stems) so that you can extract the lettuce juice. To this add a little rose water and milk. Early modern recipes called for breast milk but, for obvious reasons, we’ve been using a little full-fat milk at the hall. Mix together and then spread over a linen strip (again an old piece of cloth will work well). Lie down on your bed and place the poultice on your forehead. The poultice gives a lovely cooling sensation, relieving any tension in the head and helping to cool the mind on a hot night and lull you to sleep. Advice stated not to keep the poultice on above four hours – we have been trying to guess at the hall why that might have been. Maybe your brain or stomach would be in danger of over-cooling, or the smell from the poultice would be too much to bear! Certainly any Beatrix Potter fans will already know of the soporific properties of lettuce from when the flopsy bunnies fell asleep after over indulging in the stuff!



Lettuce Seed, Rose and Nutmeg:

Another poultice where the ingredients were ground up together and applied on a strip of linen to the forehead. Expensive spices like nutmeg or cinnamon were often included in sleep remedies but only the wealthy could afford to use them on a regular basis. With many of these remedies, the use of pleasant, relaxing scents was important for getting you in the right frame of mind for sleep.



You may know that too much caffeine in the latter part of the day may interfere with your sleep. As an alternative you might try a herbal tea – the Tudors were no different. They didn’t have tea or coffee as we do but they still knew that a hot drink before bed would help. They made herbal infusions with a whole variety of soporific and calming ingredients. Brewed individually these make a relaxing cuppa or you might want to try mixing a few together. At the hall we brewed up a batch using the following herbs, infusing hot water with them before straining through a linen cloth into our cups – fennel, camomile, hops, lemon balm, rose, lavender, bergamot and cowslips. There are a wide range of these herbal teas available in the shops as well as ‘sleepy’ teas which include different sleepy combinations. Certainly warming the body through a hot drink is a good idea whatever the temperature at night as the subsequent cooling of your body after drinking supports the natural drop in temperature your body experiences as it gets ready for sleep, causing the drinker to feel drowsy.


Sleepy Sweet Bags:

Another familiar remedy we may have all used – a lavender or hop pouch you place under your pillow to ease you to sleep. If we were asked to name just one sleepy ingredient the majority of us would probably say lavender and it definitely does the trick for a lot of people. We made our sweet bags by combining dried lavender, rose petals, hops and camomile with a little orris root powder. The orris root powder (dried and ground iris root) is a fixative which will preserve the scent of the floral ingredients as well as adding an extra violet note to the pillow. Tried with a ribbon these can be taken to bed and used amongst the bed sheets.


Gill making sleep remedies at Little Moreton Hall.


Crystallised Petals:

These are very fashionable again nowadays in vintage-style cake decorations but they were also used a lot in Tudor cooking to decorate puddings, marzipans and sweetmeats. Some little crystallised rose or violet petals before bed would be a good idea so the sleeper could benefit from these flowers’ sleep inducing properties. Separate the petals from the roses and violets, removing any white, bitter parts. Then dip in either egg white or rose water before dipping in sugar and allowing to dry. These petals will set hard and will keep for a long time.




Rose Petal Preserve:

Similar to the crystallised flower petals, this could be added to puddings or used to flavour hot milky drinks before bed. It was also a useful way to preserve valuable ingredients at the height of summer. Place rose petals (again, removing any white, bitter parts) in a pestle and mortar and crush with sugar until the mixture resembles a pink paste. Pot up in jars and this will keep for a long time. The Tudors wouldn’t have done this but a little on some hot toast with butter is a very welcome treat.  There are many rose petal jams and conserves available to purchase in Asian supermarkets and they are well worth a try.


Poppy Seed Drink:

Now we wouldn’t advocate messing around too much with poppies, especially not consuming the petals and leaves as these can be far too strong! The Tudors, however, used a whole variety of different poppies, picking the leaves and petals to make syrups and conserves. They knew to be sparing with it but a little spoonful before bed would certainly help you to sleep. For something a bit gentler, you might prefer to try this old recipe. Take poppy seeds (purchased from a shop so you know they are safe) and grind them in a pestle and mortar. Once ground add them to the following alcoholic drink, depending on your age: If you are young mix your seeds in beer or ale, for the middle aged you need to consume your poppy seeds in white wine and for the elderly, your seeds need to be taken with a strong, fortified wine. This was because the Tudors believed the elderly body was dry and cool and so needed the concentrated moisture and heat of a fortified wine to aid sleep. For someone young, they were hot and moist already and so didn’t need something that packed such a punch. Again, we’ve been wondering at the hall whether it was the wine or the poppy seeds that did the trick (or both!). We’ll leave it up to you to decide which age bracket you fall into.


Other Things We’ve Been Trying:

  • Infusing water with floral, sleepy essential oils like lavender, rose and bergamot and sprinkling them on our rush floor mats with our watering pot. This would keep the mats supple so that they lasted longer but also added to the layers of sleepy, sweet scent in the bedchamber that aided sleep and kept infection at bay. The Tudors believed you got sick through bad smells and noxious night time air so fumigation through scent would keep the air ‘clean’.
  • We’ve been looking at how our fuming pot would work. The equivalent of a ceramic oil burner, pieces of smouldering charcoal would be placed in a little hole at the bottom of the pot and herbal material such as rosemary placed inside the body of the pot. This has holes in and so, as the rosemary was gently heated, the essential oils from the herb would be distributed through the air. For an extra layer of scent, a separate bowl of essential oil could be placed on the very top of the pot as you would with an oil burner today.
  • We have also been making our own sleepy pot pourris which have been contributing to our wonderful smells in our activity room. We have certainly been a little drowsy by the end of the day. Lavender, rose, camomile, hops, fennel, lemon balm, bay and bergamot have all been dried and added, filling the air with fragrance and keeping those nasty infections and nightmares at bay.
  • We have been making sure that our bedchamber itself is full of relaxing, soothing, sleepy scent too. The room has a display of sleep remedies as part of our Sleep Walk Trail. If you go up close you will notice the floral aromas, particularly rose, coming from the bottles. We have also been creating more sleep pot pourris and sprinkling rose petals on our bed to further build up those sleepy smells. Do you sleep better when the bedding smells nice and fresh?
  • Lastly we have been having fun with our posset pot and puzzle jug. Both were fun ceramic pieces used to consume sweetened milky drinks curdled with ale or wine. These would be drunk as part of a celebration but also were of use in preparing for sleep if the milk was infused with a sleepy element such as rose or carduus thistle. Spouts would allow the drink to be shared whilst the curdled, custard like froth that floated on the top could be eaten with a spoon. Certainly an acquired taste and not that easy to drink in practice. Possets or caudles were often treated as a medicinal drink given to the sick, young and elderly.

Jane at Little Moreton Hall getting to grips with a Tudor puzzle jug. To successfully drink from the jug without getting wet, the user needs to block a series of holes and figure out how to access the drink without the water coming out of the various cut away pieces in the neck of the jug!


A recipe for a Tudor Posset: taken from J. Partridge The Widowes Treasure (1585) and adapted by English Heritage in their book Tudor Cookery: Recipes and History (2003)

3 eggs

575 ml (1 pint) milk

275 (1/2 pint) strong brown ale

Cinnamon and ground ginger – optional – you could substitute these for some other sleepy ingredients like rose or lemonbalm

Beat the eggs into the milk, and heat gently, stirring continuously, until the mixture has thickened and is about to rise to the boil. Meanwhile, heat the ale almost to boiling point and pour into a large warmed bowl. Quickly pour the hot egg and milk mixture into the ale from a good height, cover the bowl and leave in a warm place for 5 minutes to allow the curd to set. Sprinkle with a little cinnamon and ginger over the posset, which is now ready to be served. Alternatively, infuse your milk with lemon balm or add a little rosewater before you use it.



We have been having lots of fun with our sleep remedies throughout June and will be continuing our work in the still room in August, making possets, preserves, candies and cordials to help us sleep well. Monday 14 – Sunday 20 August 2017.

[1] For early modern recipe collections see: The Wellcome Library, https://wellcomelibrary.org/collections/digital-collections/recipe-books/ , last accessed 27th June, 2017.




A Day in the Life of a Tudor Child

For the past few years Little Moreton Hall’s costumed interpreters have been looking at the day-to-day life of Tudor children. Visitors can follow a typical daily routine of one of the Moreton children from daybreak to bedtime. As part of our look at Tudor childhood this year we will be looking at bedtime routines and preparations. The Tudors believed that good-quality sleep was essential for physical and mental health for all men, women and children. Sleep was one of the ‘six non-natural things’ – elements of your everyday life that you would regulate in order to keep your humours in check and therefore stay well; everyday life balance used as preventative medicine. Our young visitors can have a go at getting dressed, Tudor lessons, mealtimes and manners, games and medicine, and experience what Tudor children did in the run up to bedtime and how their preparations compare to our own. As part of the ‘How We Used to Sleep’ project we are working with The Children’s Sleep Charity who provide tips and training to parents and professionals in how to ensure children and teenagers sleep well. Come along and see if we can spot any similarities and, yet again, learn something from the Tudors about the importance of sleep.


Siblings Posing for a Portrait

Runs Saturday 1 July to Sunday 30 July, Weds-Sun