One of the wonderful things about museums is their ability to take us back in time, to help us imagine the lives of generations gone by. Museums encourage a fascination with history through reenactments of everyday scenes from the lives of everyday people where we get a glimpse of how things once were. To recreate these scenes original pieces are often used, such as the rather charming bed warmer that forms part of the ‘bedroom’ exhibition at the Bergtheil Museum in Westville, KZN.
Read the description below of how bed warmers would have been used during the late 18th and early 19th century.
The information was provided by one of our dedicated museum officers, Ayanda Ngcobo:
Some say it’s a frying pan, some say it’s a large bell and some say it’s a clock….it’s actually a bed warmer! You can just imagine how cold winter is without electricity. People in days gone by had to be creative to find ways of keeping warm during cold nights. The bed warmer is one of those interesting inventions. It was used to keep beds warm and also to get rid of damp. To use this one had to open the pan section, put in hot charcoal or ashes, lock it, and then slip the bed warmer into the bed before sleep. The pan would have been moved in a circular motion to ensure that the whole bed was warm before one went to bed. The bed warmer was also known as a warming pan. It was hung next to the fire place in most households, as the hot charcoal or ashes would be taken from the fire. It also came in handy for decorating the room during the day. The length of the handle ensured that it was easily moved around. The bed warmer was mainly used in the 19th century.
For more information about the Bergtheil Museum, and the exhibitions it houses please follow this link, or alternatively click on the ‘Museums’ tab on our homepage.
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