Regency Furniture: Mattresses

I was recently reading a Reg Rom which made mention of a “feather mattress”.  While this particular Reg. was too groan worthy to consider reviewing (I think I actually exclaimed to an uninterested DH–this book is ridiculous!) it did get me thinking about mattresses.

In particular, I wondered if feathers were in fact a probable stuffing…as usually we hear of tick.

By 1830, mattresses were experiencing a significant reinvention with an eye towards industrialization trends that would eventually make consumer products mass produced.

(The Monthly Gazette of Health or Medical, Dietetic, Antiempirical , 1830)

Patents for new and improved mattresses were frequent during the Regency era, with a variety of stuffings including horse hair, wood shavings, and wool.


John Harris Heal (founder of Heal’s) ” first introduced French-style feather-filled mattresses to this country – a new concept for the British public, who were accustomed to sleeping on straw paillasses (in 1810).   Heal’s swiftly established a reputation for selling the finest luxury mattresses and beds that money could buy.”

Since the suspect bed was from a story set in 1815, I suppose its possible.  However, the heroine describing it makes it suspect.  Her limited means make it improbable that she was familiar with “luxury” mattresses.

Just thinking about a bed stuffed with hay has given me a case of the itches…but it is worth noting that feather beds (which, consequently, also make me feel itchy) would not have been popular until after 1810…and more likely not until the mid 1800s.

Therefore, next time your heroine lays her head down under a canopied bed, and you deign it important to describe the stuffing–it might be worthwhile to consider she likely was sleeping on horsehair, hay or wool.


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5 Responses to Regency Furniture: Mattresses

  1. This is interesting! I will include bedding information on the Historic Rock Castle and The Hermitage in future blogs. Thanks for the suggestion.

  2. Ella Quinn says:

    I’m afraid you’re not correct. Feather mattresses had been around since at least the mid-18th century. By 1820, the State of Kentucky had a law about the use of suffing matresses and feathers were one of the materials allowed. In the late 1700’s a Spanish/English dictionary had a defination for one who stuffs feather mattresses.

    Though I agree with you that one of modest means wouldn’t have one, anyone with wealth, the better posting houses etc would have one. The thing to remember about them, when using them in a story is that it was like being on one of the old waterbeds. One could sink into the middle and if sleeping with a larger person, you’d be right next to them. Making it necessary to actually climb out of the bed.

    • admin says:

      Hi Ella-

      Thanks for your comment and sorry it took me so long to reply. My sources are typically cited…and that’s why I used soft language.

      My main point was that feather mattresses (rather than feather beds, which according to a 1867 Charles Dickens article were common pillow tops for mattresses in hotels) would not have been wide spread…and these type of details (to me at least) matter when reading a Reg. Rom.

  3. Jo Bourne says:

    When I went to camp many years ago, about the first thing we did on arrival was take our mattress ticking out to a big pile of straw they’d brought in. There was a trick to stuffing it exactly right.

    The mattress ticking was thick and tightly woven so pointing ends didn’t stick through. It was high quality stuff with no prickles or bristles in it.

    Every week or so you’d shake the mattress up to give it a bit of ‘loft’. The straw was soft to sleep on … and it smelled perfectly lovely.

    • admin says:

      What an amazing memory…love it, thanks for sharing! In camp we slept on musty, fusty old box springs that inevitably (PacNW location) smelled like mildew and pine trees. In this case, sounds like your camp slumber was much more pleasant (at least in terms of comfort and aroma)