Both types of beds required a considerable amount of cloth to ‘dress’ them. Sets of cloth for this purpose were known as bed hangings, and they were often decorated with elaborately woven and embroidered panels. In very large, wealthy houses there were also summer and winter versions of the bed hangings. The sheer amount of decorated cloth involved could be considerable.
There are various definitions of what was a complete set of bed hangings, but the most important items include:
- Canopy: a sort of cloth roof to the bed, which stretches above the bed and was kept in place with four poles, one in each corner. A half-tester canopy only went half way above the bed. In some cases the canopy was called a tester, on other occasions it was known as a celour.
- Valance: the sides of the canopy and the upper part of the curtains were covered with a valance or high valance.
- Headcloth: this is the cloth that went behind the headboard of the bed.
- Curtains: there could be between two and six curtains around a full-tester bed. They covered the long sides and end of the bed. Sometimes the curtains were in pairs, on other occasions single curtains were used.
- Lower valance: the mattress and sides of the bed were covered with a length of cloth known as a valance, lower valance, or skirt.
- Counterpane: on top of the bed itself and covering the sheets, blankets, etc, was a counterpane or decorative cloth that often matched the other elements of the bed hangings.
Digital source (retrieved 6 May 2016).
V&A online catalogue (retrieved 19 June 2016).