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June 2015 Meeting Report

Beck Laxton on Preparing to be a Tudor Peasant

On 11 June Beck Laxton (assisted by her son Sasha) talked about “Preparing to be a Tudor Peasant”, reports Tony Moss.

Beck has been volunteering for the past two years at Kentwell Hall (in Suffolk) during their weeks of re-enactment of Tudor life. She works in the dairy and bake-house as a peasant, speaking and acting as closely as possible to a 1588 woman.

She came dressed in the clothes she has made (with some assistance from the experts at Kentwell). She explained that the bottom layer next to the skin was linen. Linen has the advantage that it does not hold smells and stains as it is easily bleached by the sun. For women, this consists of a simple sleeved smock down to calf level. For men it consists of a shirt whose tail is brought up to the front between the legs. One or two layers of woollen garments (a red-skirted petticoat and a kirtle) were then worn over the smock, including detachable sleeves which were pinned on at the shoulder. Linen stockings were worn with woollen stockings over, kept up by knitted garters. For men, these came up over the knee. The womens woollen garments went over the shoulders so the weight of the upper bodice and skirt was taken on the shoulders for ease of movement and comfort. The two sides or front were spiral laced. A long linen apron completed the picture, together with a woollen or straw hat over a linen cap, and leather shoes. The gentry would have had finer outer materials and detachable ruffs at the neck and cuffs.

She illustrated her talk with many quotations from Shakespeare which referred to the clothing she described, and many paintings from the period.

Examples of brass pins, needles, baskets, spoons, purses with strings (pockets had not been invented), as well as clothing and materials, were also handed round for close inspection.

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