Ever wonder how our ancestors kept warm at night without central heating? It certainly couldn’t have been as comfortable as it is now. There would have been lots of blankets and shared beds would have been benefited by body heat but there was something they used as an aid prior to getting into the bed.
Bed warmers first came into use in the 16th Century. Back then they had a solid cast iron or steel turned handle with a solid brass pan and lid. Bed warmers were stored by the fire during the day and the pan was filled with smoldering embers at night. They would then be rubbed between the sheets vigorously to warm the bed prior to sleeping. In the early days, the bed warmer was only available to the rich and upper class and these examples would have been very heavy and hard for servants to manoeuvre up the stairs every night.
By the Victorian era, the handles were made of turned wood and the pan was copper with a brass perforated lid. The piercings allowed oxygen to keep the fuel burning. This change in material use made bed warmers easier to handle and accessible to all households.
Some facts (and rumours) about bed warmers:
-It was recorded that Queen Elizabeth I had a bed warmer adorned with diamonds and rubies
-In the UK, peat was a common fuel for heat and would leave a terrible odour in the bedroom after bed warming pan use
-Doctors warned against the use of bed warmers due to the noxious fumes and risk of fire.
-During the reign of James II it has been rumoured that a live baby was snuck into the palace in a bed pan warmer to replace a stillborn child.
The bed warmer has evolved and you can find different styles that people have used throughout history. Today, we rely on central heating to keep us warm.
The copper and brass bed warmer with handle is a very popular style and today is used strictly for decoration. Whether hung by the fire or stood in a corner in the bedroom, they spark imaginative conversation and add a little flair to your décor.