Daily Life in Elizabethan England

By Jeffrey L. Singman | Go to book overview

4 Cycles of Time

THE DAY

For most Elizabethans the day began just before dawn, at cockcrow--or, strictly speaking, third cockcrow, since the cock would crow first at midnight and again about halfway to dawn. Artificial light was expensive and generally feeble, so it was vital to make the most of daylight. This meant, of course, that the daily schedule varied from season to season, dawn being at around 3:30 in the summer and 7 in the winter. According to law, from mid-September to mid-March laborers were supposed to begin work at dawn, and in other months at 5. Markets typically opened at dawn, and businesses at 7.

Portable clocks and watches were available to the Elizabethans, but they were expensive. Most people marked time by the hourly ringing of church and civic bells; there were also public sundials and clock towers. Time was invariably reckoned by the hour of the clock: normally only the hour, half-hour, quarter-hour, and sometimes the eighth-hour were counted, rather than the hour and minute--in fact, clocks and watches had no minute hands. In the country, people were more likely to reckon time by natural phenomena--dawn, sunrise, midday, sunset, dusk, midnight, and the crowing of the cock.

Mornings were always cold. Fire was the only source of heat, and household fires would have been banked from the previous night as a precaution against burning down the house. If there were servants in the house, they rose first and rekindled the fires before their employers left the warmth of their beds; the servants might even warm their employers'

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Daily Life in Elizabethan England
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Acknowledgments vii
  • Introduction ix
  • 1 - A Brief History of Tudor England 1
  • 2 - The Elizabethan World 9
  • 3 - The Course of Life 37
  • 4 - Cycles of Time 55
  • 5 - The Living Environment 73
  • 6 - Clothing and Accoutrements 93
  • 7 - Food and Drink 131
  • 8 - Entertainments 149
  • Glossary 191
  • Appendix A - The Elizabethan Event 195
  • Appendix B - Suppliers 198
  • Appendix C - Contacts 201
  • Notes 205
  • Bibliography 215
  • Index 221
  • About the Author *
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