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3.12. Of the maner of building and furniture of our houses. Chap. 12.

EEBO page image 187

Of the maner of building and furniture of our houses. Chap. 12.

Compare 1577 edition: 1 _THe greatest part of our buil|ding in the cities and good townes of England consi|steth onelie of timber, for as yet few of the houses of the communaltie (except here & there in the West countrie townes) are made of stone, although they may (in my opinion) in diuerse other places be builded so good cheape of the one as of the other. In old time the houses of the Britons were slightlie set vp with a few posts & many radels, with stable and all offices vnder one roofe, the like whereof almost is to be séene in the fennie countries and nor|therne parts vnto this daie, where for lacke of wood they are inforced to continue this ancient maner of building. It is not in vaine therefore in speaking of building to make a distinction betwéene the plaine and wooddie soiles: for as in these, our houses are commonlie strong and well timbered, so that in ma|nie places, there are not aboue foure, six, or nine in|ches betwéene stud and stud; so in the open and cham|paine countries they are inforced for want of stuffe to vse no studs at all, but onlie franke posts, raisins, beames, prickeposts, groundsels, summers (or dor|mants) transoms, and such principals, with here and there a girding, whervnto they fasten their splints or radels, and then cast it all ouer with thicke claie to keepe out the wind, which otherwise would annoie them. Certes this rude kind of building made the Spaniards in quéene Maries daies to woonder, but chéeflie when they saw what large diet was vsed in manie of these so homelie cottages, in so much that one of no small reputation amongst them said after this maner: These English (quoth he) haue their hou|ses made of sticks and durt, but they fare common|lie so well as the king. Whereby it appeareth that he liked better of our good fare in such course cabins, than of their owne thin diet in their princelike habi|tations and palaces. In like sort as euerie countrie house is thus apparelled on the out side, so is it in|wardlie diuided into sundrie roomes aboue and be|neath; and where plentie of wood is, they couer them with tiles, otherwise with straw, sedge, or réed, except some quarrie of s [...]ate be néere hand, from whence they haue for their monie so much as may suffice them.

Compare 1577 edition: 1 The claie wherewith our houses are impanelled is either white, red, or blue, and of these the first dooth participat verie much with the nature of our chalke, the second is called lome, but the third eftsoones chan|geth colour so soone as it is wrought, notwithstan|ding that it looke blue when it is throwne out of the pit. Of chalke also we haue our excellent Asbestos or white lime, made in most places, wherewith being quenched we strike ouer our claie workes and stone wals, in cities, good townes, rich farmers and gen|tlemens houses: otherwise in steed of chalke (where it wanteth for it is so scant that in some places it is sold by the pound) they are compelled to burne a cer|teine kind of red stone, as in Wales, and else where other stones and shels of oisters and like fish found vpon the sea coast, which being conuerted into lime doth naturallie (as the other) abhorre and eschew wa|ter whereby it is dissolued, and neuerthelesse desire oile wherewith it is easilie mixed, as I haue seene by experience. Within their doores also such as are of [...]bilit [...] doo oft make their floores and parget of fine alabaster burned, which they call plaster of Paris, whereof in some places we haue great plentie, and that verie profitable against the rage of fire.

Compare 1577 edition: 1 In plastering likewise of our fairest houses ouer our heads, we vse to laie first a laine or two of white morter tempered with haire vpon laths, which are nailed one by another (or sometimes vpon reed or wickers more dangerous for fire, and made fast here and there with saplaths for falling downe) and final|lie couer all with the aforesaid plaster, which beside the delectable whitenesse of the stuffe it selfe, is laied on so euen and smoothlie, as nothing in my iudgment can be doone with more exactnesse. The wals of our houses on the inner sides in like sort be either hanged with tapisterie, arras worke, or painted cloths, wher|in either diuerse histories, or hearbes, beasts, knots, and such like are stained, or else they are seeled with oke of our owne, or wainescot brought hither out of the east countries, whereby the roomes are not a lit|tle commended, made warme, and much more close than otherwise they would be. As for stooues we haue not hitherto vsed them greatlie, yet doo they now be|gin to be made in diuerse houses of the gentrie and wealthie citizens, who build them not to worke and feed in as in Germanie and else where, but now and then to sweat in, as occasion and néed shall require it. This also hath béene common in England, con|trarie to the customes of all other nations, and yet to be séene (for example in most stréets of London) that many of our greatest houses haue outwardlie béene verie simple and plaine to sight, which inwardlie haue beene able to receiue a duke with his whole traine, and lodge them at their ease. Hereby moreo|uer it is come to passe, that the fronts of our stréets haue not béene so vniforme and orderlie builded as those of forrei [...]e cities, where (to saie truth) the vtter|side of their mansions and dwellings haue oft more cost bestowed vpon them, than all the rest of the house, which are often verie simple and vneasie with|in, as experience dooth confirme. Of old time our countrie houses in steed of glasse did vse much lattise and that made either of wicker or fine rifts of oke in chekerwise. I read also that some of the better sort, in and before the times of the Saxons (who notwith|standing vsed some glasse also since the time of Be|nedict Biscop the moonke that brought the feat of glasing first into this land) did make panels of horne in stéed of glasse, & fix them in woodden calmes. But as horne in windows is now quite laid downe in e|uerie place, so our lattises are also growne into lesse vse, bicause glasse is come to be so plentifull, and within a verie little so good cheape if not better then the other.

Compare 1577 edition: 1 I find obscure mention of the specular stone also to haue béene found and applied to this vse in Eng|land, but in such doubtfull sort as I dare not affirme it for certeine. Neuerthelesse certeine it is that anti|quitie vsed it before glasse was knowen, vnder the name of Selenites. And how glasse was first found I care not greatlie to remember euen at this pre|sent, although it be directlie beside my purposed mat|ter. In Syria phenices which bordereth vpon Iurie, & néere to the foot of mount Carmell there is a moore or marris, wherout riseth a brooke called somtime Be|lus, and falleth into the sea néere to Ptolemais. This riuer was fondlie ascribed vnto Baall, and also ho|nored vnder that name by the infidels, long time be|fore there was anie king in Israell. It came to passe also as a certeine merchant sailed that waie loden with Nitrum, the passengers went to land for to re|pose themselues, and to take in some store of fresh water into their vessell. Being also on the shore they kindled a fire, and made prouision for their dinner, but bicause they wanted treuets or slones whereon EEBO page image 188 to set their kettels on, ran by chance into the ship, and brought great péeces of Nitrum with him, which ser|ued their turne for that present. To be short, the said substance being hot, and beginning to melt, it mixed by chance with the grauell that laie vnder it; and so brought foorth that shining substance which now is called glasse, and about the time of Semiramis. When the companie saw this, they made no small accompt of their successe, and foorthwith began to practise the like in other mixtures, whereby great varietie of the said stuffe did also insue. Certes for the time this hi|storie may well be true: for I read of glasse in Iob, but for the rest I refer me to the common opinion conceiued by writers. Now to turne againe to our windowes. Heretofore also the houses of our prin|ces and noble men were often glased with Berill (an example whereof is yet to be séene in Sudleie castell) and in diuerse other places with fine christall, but this especiallie in the time of the Romans, wher|of also some fragments haue béene taken vp in old ruines. But now these are not in vse, so that onelie the clearest glasse is most estéemed: for we haue di|uerse sorts, some brought out of Burgundie, some out of Normandie, much out of Flanders, beside that which is made in England, which would be so good as the best, if we were diligent and carefull to bestow more cost vpon it, and yet as it is, each one that may, will haue it for his building. Moreouer the mansion houses of our countrie townes and vil|lages (which in champaine ground stand altogither by stréets, & ioining one to an other, but in woodland soiles dispersed here and there, each one vpon the se|uerall grounds of their owners) are builded in such sort generallie, as that they haue neither dairie, sta|ble, nor bruehouse annexed vnto them vnder the same roofe (as in manie places beyond the sea & some of the north parts of our countrie) but all separate from the first, and one of them from another. And yet for all this, they are not so farre distant in sun|der, but that the goodman lieng in his bed may light|lie heare what is doone in each of them with ease, and call quicklie vnto his meinie if anie danger should attach him.

Compare 1577 edition: 1 The ancient manours and houses of our gentle|men are yet and for the most part of strong timber, in framing whereof our carpenters haue beene and are worthilie preferred before those of like science a|mong all other nations. Howbeit such as be latelie builded, are cõmonlie either of bricke or hard stone, or both; their roomes large and comelie, and houses of office further distant from their lodgings. Those of the nobilitie are likewise wrought with bricke and hard stone, as prouision may best be made: but so magnificent and statelie, as the basest house of a baron dooth often match in our daies with some ho|nours of princes in old time. So that if euer curious building did florish in England, it is in these our yeares, wherin our workemen excell, and are in ma|ner comparable in skill with old Vitruuius, Leo Bap|tista, and Serlo. Neuerthelesse, their estimation more than their gréedie and seruile couetousnesse, ioined with a lingering humour causeth them often to be reiected, & strangers preferred to greater bargaines, who are more reasonable in their takings, and lesse wasters of time by a great deale than our owne.

Compare 1577 edition: 1 The furniture of our houses also exceedeth, and is growne in maner euen to passing delicacie: and herein I doo not speake of the nobilitie and gentrie onelie, but likewise of the lowest sort in most places of our south countrie, that haue anie thing at all to take to. Certes in noble mens houses it is not rare to sée abundance of Arras, rich haugings of tapi|strie, siluer vessell, and so much other plate, as may furnish sundrie cupbords, to the summe oftentimes of a thousand or two thousand pounds at the least: whereby the value of this and the rest of their stuffe dooth grow to be almost inestimable. Likewise in the houses of knights, gentlemen, merchantmen, and some other wealthie citizens, it is not geson to behold generallie their great prouision of tapistrie, Turkie worke, pewter, brasse, fine linen, and thereto costlie cupbords of plate, worth fiue or six hundred or a thousand pounds, to be deemed by estimation. But as herein all these sorts doo far excéed their elders and predecessors, and in neatnesse and curiositie, the mer|chant all other; so in time past, the costlie furniture staied there, whereas now it is descended yet lower, euen vnto the inferiour artificers and manie far|mers, who by vertue of their old and not of their new leases haue for the most part learned also to garnish their cupbords with plate, their ioined beds with ta|pistrie and silke hangings, and their tables with car|pets & fine naperie, whereby the wealth of our coun|trie (God be praised therefore, and giue vs grace to imploie it well) dooth infinitelie appeare. Neither doo I speake this in reproch of anie man, God is my iudge, but to shew that I do reioise rather, to sée how God hath blessed vs with his good gifts; and whilest I behold how that in a time wherein all things are growne to most excessiue prices, & what commoditie so euer is to be had, is dailie plucked from the com|munaltie by such as looke into euerie trade, we doo yet find the means to obtein & atchiue such furniture as heretofore hath beene vnpossible. There are old men yet dwelling in the village where I remaine,Three things greatlie a|mended in England. which haue noted three things to be maruellouslie al|tred in England within their sound remembrance; & other three things too too much increased. One is,Chimnies. the multitude of chimnies latelie exected, wheras in their yoong daies there were not about two or thrée, if so manie in most vplandish townes of the realme (the religious houses, & manour places of their lords al|waies excepted, and peraduenture some great perso|nages) but ech one made his fire against a reredosse in the hall, where he dined and dressed his meat.

Compare 1577 edition: 1 The second is the great (although not generall) a|mendment of lodging, for (said they) our fathers (yea and we our selues also) haue lien full oft vpon straw pallets,Hard lodging on rough mats couered onelie with a shéet vnder couerlets made of dagswain or hopharlots (I vse their owne termes) and a good round log vnder their heads in steed of a bolster or pillow. If it were so that our fathers or the good man of the house, had within seuen yeares after his mariage purchased a matteres or flockebed, and thereto a sacke of chaffe to rest his head vpon, he thought himselfe to be as well lodged as the lord of the towne, that peraduen|ture laie seldome in a bed of downe or whole fethers; so well were they contented, and with such base kind of furniture: which also is not verie much amended as yet in some parts of Bedfordshire, and elsewhere further off from our southerne parts. Pillowes (said they) were thought méet onelie for women in child|bed. As for seruants, if they had anie shéet aboue them it was well, for seldome had they anie vnder their bodies, to kéepe them from the pricking straws that ran oft through the canuas of the pallet, and ra|sed their hardened hides.

Compare 1577 edition: 1 The third thing they tell of,Furniture of household. is the exchange of ves|sell, as of treene platters into pewter, and woodden spoones into siluer or tin. For so common were all sorts of tréene stuffe in old time, that a man should hardlie find foure péeces of pewter (of which one was peraduenture a salt) in a good farmers house, and yet for all this frugalitie (if it may so be iustly called) they were scarse able to liue and paie their rents at their daies without selling of a cow,This was is the time of ge|nerall idle|nesse. or an horsse, or more, although they paid but foure pounds at the vtter|most EEBO page image 189 by the yeare. Such also was their pouertie, that if some one od farmer or husbandman had béene at the alehouse, a thing greatlie vsed in those daies, a|mongst six or seuen of his neighbours, and there in a brauerie to shew what store he had, did cast downe his pursse, and therein a noble or six shillings in sil|uer vnto them (for few such men then cared for gold bicause it was not so readie paiment, and they were oft inforced to giue a penie for the exchange of an an|gell) it was verie likelie that all the rest could not laie downe so much against it: whereas in my time, although peraduenture foure pounds of old rent be improued to fortie, fiftie, or an hundred pounds, yet will the farmer as another palme or date trée thinke his gaines verie small toward the end of his terme, if he haue not six or seuen yeares rent lieng by him, therewith to purchase a new lease, beside a faire gar|nish of pewter on his cupbord, with so much more in od vessell going about the house, thrée or foure fea|therbeds, so manie couerlids and carpets of tapi|strie, a siluer salt, a bowle for wine (if not an whole neast) and a dozzen of spoones to furnish vp the sute. This also he taketh to be his owne cléere, for what stocke of monie soeuer he gathereth & laieth vp in all his yeares, it is often séene, that the landlord will take such order with him for the same, when he renu|eth his lease, which is commonlie eight or six yeares before the old be expired (sith it is now growen al|most to a custome, that if he come not to his lord so long before, another shall step in for a reuersion, and so defeat him out right) that it shall neuer trouble him more than the haire of his beard, when the bar|ber hath washed and shauen it from his chin. And as they commend these, so (beside the decaie of house|kéeping whereby the poore haue beene relieued) they speake also of thrée things that are growen to be ve|rie grieuous vnto them, to wit, the inhansing of rents, latelie mentioned; the dailie oppression of co|piholders, whose lords séeke to bring their poore te|nants almost into plaine seruitude and miserie, dai|lie deuising new meanes, and séeking vp all the old how to cut them shorter and shorter, doubling, tre|bling, and now & then seuen times increasing their fines, driuing them also for euerie trifle to loose and forfeit their tenures (by whome the greatest part of the realme dooth stand and is mainteined) to the end they may fléece them yet more, which is a lamentable hering. The third thing they talke of is vsurie, a trade brought in by the Iewes, now perfectlie practised al|most by euerie christian, and so commonlie that he is accompted but for a foole that dooth lend his monie for nothing. In time past it was Sors pro sorte, that is, the principall onelie for the principall; but now beside that which is aboue the principall properlie called V|sura, we chalenge Foenus, that is commoditie of soile, & fruits of the earth, if not the ground it selfe. In time past also one of the hundred was much, from thence it rose vnto two, called in Latine Vsura, Ex sextante; thrée, to wit Ex quadrante; then to foure, to wit Ex tri|ente; then to fiue, which is Ex quincunce; then to six, cal|led Ex semisse, &c: as the accompt of the Assis ariseth, and comming at the last vnto Vsura ex asse, it amoun|teth to twelue in the hundred, and therefore the La|tines call it Centesima, for that in the hundred moneth it doubleth the principall; but more of this elsewhere. See Cicero against Verres, Demosthenes against Aphobus, and Athenaeus lib. 13. in fine: and when thou hast read them well, helpe I praie thée in lawfull maner to hang vp such as take Centũ pro cento, By the yeare. for they are no better worthie as I doo iudge in conscience. Forget not also such landlords as vse to value their leases at a secret estimation giuen of the wealth and credit of the taker, whereby they séeme (as it were) to cat them vp and deale with bondmen, so that if the leassée be thought to be worth an hundred pounds, he shall paie no lesse for his new terme, or else another to enter with hard and doubtfull couenants. I am sorie to report it, much more gréeued to vnder|stand of the practise; but most sorowfull of all to vn|derstand that men of great port and countenance are so farre from suffering their farmers to haue a|nie gaine at all, that they themselues become grasi|ers, butchers, tanners, shéepmasters, woodmen, and denique quid non, thereby to inrich themselues, and bring all the wealth of the countrie into their owne hands, leauing the communaltie weake, or as an i|doll with broken or féeble armes, which may in a time of peace haue a plausible shew, but when necessitie shall inforce, haue an heauie and bitter sequele.

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