Gwely ares goleurym
Only grand houses had the space as well as the wealth to have beds for guests. In the fourteenth century, having a separate room to sleep in was very rare, and people often slept on straw and woollen blankets on the floor of the hall. This was still a common practice during the fifteenth century and the wealthiest gentry were the only ones who could afford to buy or commission solid beds. However, occasionally a poet would refer to a bed in his patron’s house to convey the remarkable luxury he had to offer at his home. Just as food represented support and patronage, so the bed became a symbol of a patron’s hospitality; a necessity for a fifteenth-century poet who travelled from one house to another.
When describing beds of this period, the poets tend to praise their expensive textiles and covers. According to Guto, the bed at Cochwillan had curtains made of (or similar to) a tapestry from Arras:
Gwely ares goleurym
A siambr deg sy’n barod ym.
A bright and sturdy arras bed
and a fair chamber are ready for me.
Lewys Glyn Cothi composed a poem to request a bed from four women and it is described as being made of the most expensive textiles. It is clear from this poem, as well as Guto’r Glyn’s description of the Arras bed at Cochwillan, that the luxury textiles on the beds were more important than their wooden bedsteads (see further Costumes: Textiles). This is echoed in another poem by Lewys Glyn Cothi where he describes a huling gwely (‘bed throw’) very much like a tapestry.
Surviving examples of beds from this period are very rare but a handful of sixteenth-century examples demonstrate how well-made their bed-frames and bedsteads could be. They were usually carved with patterns and figures, such as the Abermarlais bed (c.1507) that once belonged to Sir Rhys ap Thomas.
Bibliography: D. Johnston (gol.), Gwaith Lewys Glyn Cothi (Caerdydd, 1995), poem no. 186.
: D. Johnston (gol.), Gwaith Lewys Glyn Cothi (Caerdydd, 1995), poem no. 277.
: See further R. Bebb, Welsh furniture, 1250-1950: a cultural history of craftsmanship and design, Vol. 1. (Aberystywth, 2007), 173, 177.
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