There is an hotel/pub in Marble Arch, London, which used to have a gallows adjacent to it. Prisoners were taken to the gallows (after a fair trial, of course) to be hung.
The horse drawn dray, carting the prisoner, was accompanied by an armed
guard, who would stop the dray outside the pub and ask the prisoner if
he would like "one last drink."
If he said yes it was referred as "one for the road."
If he declined, that prisoner was "on the wagon."
They used to use urine to tan animal skins, so families used to pee in a
pot and then, once a day it was taken and sold to the tannery.
If you had to do this to survive you were "piss poor", but worse than
that were the really poor folk who couldn't even afford to buy a pot,
they "didn't have a pot to piss in" and were the lowest of the low.
The next time you are washing your hands and complain that the water is
not as warm as you are used to, think about how it was years ago.
Here are some facts about the 1500s.
Most people got married in June, because they took their annual bath in
May and they still smelled pretty good in June. However, since they were
starting to smell a bit, brides carried a bouquet of flowers to hide
the smell of body odour.
Hence the custom today for the bride to carry a bouquet of flowers.
Baths consisted of a big tub filled with hot water.
The man of the house had the privelege of the nice clean water, then all
the sons and other men, then the women and finally the children. Last
of all the babies. By then the water was so dirty you could actually
lose someone in it. Hence the saying "don't throw the baby out with the
Houses had thatched roofs, thick straw piled high, with no wood
underneath. It was the only place for animals to keep warm, so all the
cats and other small animals (mice and bugs) lived in the roof.
When it rained the straw became slippery and sometimes the animals would
fall off the roof. Hence the saying "its raining cats and dogs."
There was nothing to stop thing falling into the house. This proved a
big problem in the bedroom, where bugs and other droppings could mess up
your nice clean bed. Hence, a bed with four posts and a sheet hung over
the top afforded some protection. Thats how canopy beds came into
The floor was dirt. Only the wealthy had something other than dirt.
Hence the saying "dirt poor." The wealthy usually had slate floors that
would get wet and slippery, especially in winter. So they spread thresh
(straw) on the floor to help and stop them slipping.
As the winter wore on, they added more thresh, until, when you opened
the door it started to slide outside. A piece of wood was fixed in the
entrance way. Hence a "thresh hold."
In those old days, they cooked in the kitchen with a big kettle, that
always hung over the fire. Every day they lit the fire and added things
to the pot. They ate mostly vegetables and did not get much meat. They
would eat the stew for dinner, leaving leftovers in the pot to cool down
overnight, and then start again next day. Sometimes the stew had
ingredients from many days before. Hence the rhyme; "Peas porridge hot,
peas porridge cold, peas porridge in the pot, nine days old."
Sometimes they could obtain pork, which made them feel quite special.
When visitors came over, they would hang up their bacon to show off.
It was a sign of wealth if a man could "bring home the bacon."
They would cut off a piece and share it with guests and would all sit around talking and "chew the fat."
Those with money would have plates made from pewter. Food with a high
acid content caused some of the lead to leach into the food causing lead
poisoning and even death. This happened most often with tomatoes, so
for the next few hundred years tomatoes were considered poisonous.
Bread was divided according to status. Workers got the burnt bottom of
the loaf, the family got the middle, guests got the top. Hence the
Lead cups were used to drink ale or whisky. The combination would
sometimes knock the imbibers out for a couple of days. Someone walking
along the road would take them for dead and prepare them for burial.
They were laid out on the kitchen table for a couple of days and the
family would gather round and eat and drink and wait and see if they
would wake up. Hence the custom of "holding a wake."
England is old and small and the local folks started running out of
places to bury people. So, they would dig up coffins and take the bones
to a bone house and reuse the graves. When re-opening the coffins, one
out of twenty five of the coffins would have scratch marks on the inside
and the people realised that many people had been buried alive. So they
would tie a string on the wrist of the corpse, thread it through the
coffin and up to the surface and tie it to a bell. Thus someone could be
"saved by the bell" or considered a "dead ringer."
Apparently that is the truth.