Sleeping Well at Ordsall Hall with Anna Fielding

by | Nov 7, 2022 | Uncategorised | 0 comments

My name’s Anna and for the next two years I’ll be working closely with the Sleeping Well in the Early Modern World team at the University of Manchester and staff, volunteers, and visitors at Ordsall Hall in Salford. It’s my job to take the research from the University of Manchester team and turn it into engaging activities and workshops for the general public with a special focus on Salford school groups. We will offer a combination of outdoor learning sessions, craft activities, recreations of historic recipes and sleep remedies, and gardening in the grounds of the hall. There will be a menu of activities to choose from, running throughout the two years.

The oak Radcyffe bed belonged to the family who lived at Ordsall Hall in the 16th and 17th centuries. Photo credit: Nick Harrison

Key to the project will be learning how best to look after our sleep and our mental health today by looking at, and trying out, early modern sleep advice. This will include exploring historical understandings of the body and the environment, and how it was thought best to manage these to ensure good sleep.

Damp environments were seen as disruptive to sleep due to the foul vapours emanating from boggy ground, rivers, moats and other waterways. One question we will explore at Ordsall Hall will be how a family like the Radcliffes, who lived there in the 16th and 17th centuries, managed their surroundings to counteract the effect of the moat on their sleep. Temperatures could also impact on sleep, with seasonal variations and longer-term environmental changes requiring new approaches to safeguard sleep quality in cold or hot weather. We will also look at what the Radcliffe estate was like 400 years ago and how the family could use what was grown there to aid their sleep and improve their mental and physical health.

Barley, roses, apples, violets, hops, lettuce, and fennel are just some of the crops and plants ingredients that we will cultivate in Ordsall Hall’s gardens and use during the project, all of which were recognised soporifics in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Other areas of sleep care to explore include bedding materials that could be grown on the estate or gathered from the surrounding countryside, including straw, mosses, herbs, and the flax needed to weave linen sheets. All these ingredients and materials could be combined to improve the healthfulness of a bed or sleeping chamber.

A field of flax crop

Flax for weaving linen sheets. Photo credit: Shutterstock 

Visitors, schools and community groups will have the chance to learn about the four humours of the body (blood, choler, phlegm, and melancholy) and the four elements of the natural world (earth, fire, water, and air) together with environmental and lifestyle factors called ‘the six non-naturals.’ Learning about the historic relationship between bodies, environments, and healthcare will help us understand how these factors can affect our health and sleep-quality today.

Ordsall Hall and gardens, Salford. Photo credit: Ordsall Hall

Events and activities will be listed on the Sleeping Well in the Early Modern World website as well as on the Ordsall Hall website. These will include evening craft sessions, daytime children’s activities, adult learning workshops, seasonal events, and a series of talks from the Sleeping Well in the Early Modern World team.

School sessions will be available to view on the Salford Museum’s website which will include new options combining historic sleep medicine, outdoor learning, PSHE objectives, and cross-curricular elements at KS2 and KS3.

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