The theme for this week’s #Feature Fridays with Historic Houses is Rugs and Carpets.
Amazing though it may seem, carpets (or rugs as we would now call them) have actually been part of human existence since the 5th century BC.
To the English, these items were more commonly known as ‘Holbeins’ (thanks to their inclusion in the portraits of court painter Hans Holbein the Younger) or ‘Lottos’ and were incredibly expensive, since many of the best and most lavish examples were imported from abroad.
King Henry VIII was a known collector of Holbeins, as well as tapestries, which, unlike carpets, were designed to depict historical or biblical events and were made for hanging, rather than as floor coverings.
For most people, however, rugs were simply far too expensive, which is why the majority of Tudor homeowners used rushes to cover their floors instead. There is still some considerable debate about whether these rushes were strewn loosely onto the floor, or woven into something vaguely resembling a rug or carpet themselves, but we do know that handfuls of lavender and other fresh smelling herbs would be scattered in among them to keep the room smelling pleasant. Additionally, the use of the word ‘threshold’ to mean a doorway, comes from using rushes as flooring. The ‘thresh hold’ was a small lip that would literally prevent the rushes from being accidentally pushed or trodden outside.
Carpets as we know them today (a fitted, woven fabric that covers a whole room) did not start to become common in British homes until after the First World War when they were introduced to the mass market, although carpets (albeit laid in strips) had been a feature of some richer households since the 1700s.
As it is presented today, Hever Castle is carpeted in the Astor Suite and the bedrooms on the second floor. Many of the rooms on the lower floors house elaborate rugs including the Drawing Room, Dining Hall, Library and the Morning Room.
If you enjoyed this item on rugs and carpets then why not discover the previous #Feature Fridays news items: