England was far behind the Continent in its use of glass, and there is no word of its manufacture in this country before the fifteenth century, the first definite mention being in the contract for the glazing of the Beauchamp Chapel at Warwick in 1439. The Low Countries were the source of our supply, and from them we imported it in exchange for our staple product of wool, together with barley for the breweries of Ghent and Bruges. Painted windows for churches are mentioned very early, but no records exist of the domestic use of glass until the thirteenth century. It is difficult to account for its tardy popularity, as the cost was not prohibitive, but the fact that it was still sufficiently opaque to coin the fourteenth-century phrase "her ey en grey as glass" may have been one cause.
To Eleanor of Castile, wife of Edward I, must be given the credit for the introduction of carpets, although rushes survived as the most usual floor-covering for many years. Queen Eleanor also used hangings to cover the walls of her rooms, which are rather disparagingly described as "hung like a church", the latter having been previously the only place where such decorations had been seen. The custom of painting walls, which had been general under Henry III, declined gradually, and its place was taken by hangings of tapestry imported from Arras or Parisor wall panelling oak panelling, and later by tapestry of London manufacture. So popular did this practice become that those who could not afford the genuine stuff hung their wails with a worsted substitute manufactured in Norfolk, or even with canvas painted to simulate tapestry. The tapestry proper was woven over with lively designs : "leopards of gold, falcons, swans with ladies' heads, stars, birds, griffins, ea` les and flowers", to mention but a few. Heraldic tapestries we also popular.
Lower Brockhampton, Herefordshire
Then the king or a nobleman travelled he took his hang with him. Froissart describes how the Duke of Lancaster was able to astonish the Portuguese by hanging his lodgings be been Monson and Magassa with the richest tapestry, "as had been at one of his manors in England". This form of decoration is portrayed in many medieval manuscripts such as Harl. MSS-4378-9 and the Luttrell Psalter.
Little is known of the general furnishing of bedrooms. Henry III ordered two benches to serve as beds for himself an i his queen, so it may be supposed that even the most sumptuous examples were little more than boards on a support, with a tester covering the head. Thus a comfortable mattress became an important item, and great attention was paid to it, as appears from the fact that the name of Henry III's mattress-maker, William Joyner, has survived. The royal mattresses were covered with silk or other rich stuff and quilted; upon them were laid linen sheets, manufactured in the South-west of England, and a counterpane. A bolster was a usual appendage.
Although the wall panelling oak panelling and furniture remained primitive, the eating and drinking vessels had reached an advanced stage. The high table was covered with a linen cloth and the platters were of pewter, with squares of wood for the servants, as may still be seen in some college halls; but at the king's table silver, or even gold, plate was used. The use of glass for drinking vessels was rare but not unknown; glass cups were occasionally imported from Venice and were looked upon as precious possessions. Commoner materials were horn and earthenware.
It was quite usual for two or more people to eat off the same platter and drink from the same cup, and it would appear from many references that it was looked on as something of a compliment to share a dish. Hands were scrupulously washed before meals, grace followed, and the minstrels would then begin their music. The latter were a popular feature in the houses of the rich and are often referred to by Froissart and other writers. They were supported by "fools, jesters and mimics", and the result must have been diverting to say the least of it.
Little mention is made by contemporary writers of conditions of life among the peasantry, but these, as can be gathered from the valuable researches of Dr. Coulton and others, were of the most primitive kind. Chaucer describes the narrow cottage of the poor widow:
Full sooty was her bower and eke her hall In which she eat many a slender meal
and even as late as 16io Bishop Hall inveighs against the still wretched habitations of many of the cottar class
Of one bay's breadth, God wot 1 a silly cote
Whose thatched sparres are furr'd with sluttish soote A whole inch thick, shining like black-moor's brows, Through smok that down the head-less barrel blows
At his bed's-feete feeden his stalled teme;
His swine beneath, his pullen ore the beame A starved tenement, such as I gesse Stands straggling in the wasts of Holdernesse; Or such as shiver on a Peake-hill side, When March's lungs beate on their turfe-clad hide.
Eastington Hall, Near Longdon
With the deposition of Richard II in 1399, and his death the following year in Pontefract Castle, the line of the Plantagenet kings came to an end, and the fifteenth century opened upon the disturbed reigns of the houses of York and Lancaster. Not until the third quarter of the century were the troubled waters of English life calmed by the accession of the Tudors.
In a period of war and bitter internal dissension, pervaded
by a pessimism that can only be compared with that of our own time or of the age of Catullus, English architecture achieved a gradual florescence that has only of recent years gained the appreciation due to it. True, the masoncraft was often less meticulous, its application more stereotyped, the conception less sternly virile; yet there is no doubt that in the "Perpendicular" that followed upon the brief transient loveliness of "Decorated" can be recognised the first individual expression of the English genius for building, an utterly vernacular style without peer or precedent in other countries. As was natural in an age dominated both in its material and spiritual life by the Church, the domestic output lagged somewhat behind the ecclesiastical. It is true that throughout the reigns of the Edwards immense labour and expense had been lavished on the building of castles, castles destined no less for defence and aggression than to reflect the medieval ideal of Chivalry that found its proudest expression in the circle of Edward III and his sons. This spirit was to endure well into the next century; at Tattershall, for instance, the wall panelling oak panelling interior of the vast brick keep erected by Lord Cromwell about 1435 belongs to the form of a much earlier date and is in striking contrast to the almost domestic manor-house at South Wingfield built for the same nobleman a few years later.
Though the need for defensive buildings was not quite past, as appears from a study of the Paston Letters which cover the greater part of the fifteenth century, there is no doubt that a far higher standard of comfort was beginning to prevail among a rising class of country gentry, of which the Paston themselves were typical,-people not ashamed to apprentice a son to a trade fitting wall panelling oak panelling, who were gradually superseding by numbers the proud remote nobility of the earlier Middle Ages. Just as to-day we can glimpse the promise of a "brave new world" beyond the span of our present troubles, so the fifteenth-century Englishman was beginning to anticipate, halfunconsciously at first, something of the golden equilibrium of the Tudor culmination, and to seek new preoccupations among the arts of peace. The house was now no longer conceived as an amorphous group of rooms; some symmetry was introduced into the planning, the central hall being usually flanked by two roughly balanced projecting wings, as at Cothay in Somerset (circa 148o) (1d), Great Chalfield in Wiltshire (circa 1480) (2o), and Ockwells in Berkshire (circa 1465). Whether built of stone as the first two, or of timber and brick as the last, it was an arrangement that continued in favour until well into the sixteenth century, and can still be clearly distinguished in many sturdy yeomen's houses in Kent and Sussex.