Book 2, Chapter 6, The End of the Ninth Century – Anglo Saxon Furniture
The dress of the Anglo Saxons was simple and uniform in its character, consisting of a shirt, generally of linen, of breeches, also commonly of linen, and of a tunic, either woollen or linen, fitting closely round the neck, and open halfway down the breast, and also at the sides, from the hip downwards, which descended to the knee, and was bound round the body with a girdle. The tunic was sometimes enriched by a border of ornaments, as of leaves, or some simple pattern. Over this was thrown a mantle or short cloak, fastened at the breast or on the shoulders with brooches. The legs were protected by hose of skin or leather, which joined the breeches a little below the knee, or they were bound with fillets or bands. The shoes covered the foot to the ankle, were tied with a thong, haring an opening down the instep. Labourers and peasants frequently dispensed with both hose and shoes.
Ladies wore a large flowing tunic, which among persons of high rank was made of richly ornamented stuffs, the prevailing colours being blue, red, green, and sometimes pink and violet, beneath this was a shorter tunic, and next the body was a linen shirt. The mantle was much larger than that worn by the men, and hung down before and behind. The head was generally covered with a long piece of silk or linen, which was wrapped round the neck.
Persons of rank and wealth wore a profusion of bracelets, brooches, rings, and other ornaments, in precious metals and stones, the materials of which were in general richer than was the design. The rich and the noble wore additional garments on public or state occasions, usually of a long, flowing description, and frequently made of silk, ornamented with embroidery of gold, silver, and coloured threads, and lined with furs. The Saxons continued proud of their long hair, which was carefully dressed, being parted in the middle, and tucked behind the ears, and seldom concealed by a hat or head covering.
The ladies and their female attendants must have found ample occupation in their needle work and domestic concerns. William of Malmesbury records, incidentally, that the four princesses, daughters of Edward the Elder, and sisters of Athel-start, were distinguished for their superior skill in spinning, weaving, and embroidery, and that Queen Editha, the wife of Edward the Confessor, was a complete mistress of the needle, and worked with her own hands the rich state robes of her husband. From the use of the domestic distaff arose the word “spinster,” which is still applied to unmarried women. Originally, it referred to females generally, of which an instance occurs in the account of Alfred’s will, when he recites that his father Ethelwulf entailed his property to the “spear side,” and not to the “spindle side.”
Chapter 6, Ancient Towns and Highways
Chapter 6, Internal Fittings of Houses
Chapter 6, Anglo-Saxon Furniture
Costume and Ornaments
Chapter 6, Anglo Saxon Hunting and Travelling
Chapter 6, Anglo-Saxon Language
Categories: Book 2