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.
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.