Social History

In the social history of the bedroom, we look at the number of bedrooms in Georgian, Victorian and Edwardian houses, and their use by the family and servants.

In 1821 the Census showed an average of 5.75 people living in a house. By 1839, there were examples of six people per room, and the average was of 10 people in a house. Thus for many in the early decades of the 19th century, rooms used solely as bedrooms were a luxury. As the century progressed, increasing affluence, changes in the law, and social customs, all improved the situation.

Even so, in the 1840s a medium-sized house with four bedrooms and two reception rooms might typically be occupied by a man and his wife, a relative such as an elderly mother, five children and two live-in servants. The parents would have had one bedroom, the relative a second, the children all slept in the third and the servants in the fourth.

In larger houses, such as a four-storey terraced house, there might be five large bedrooms, or a six-storey home might have had two bedrooms for the house-keeper and butler, and then eight more bedrooms. However, some of these were small, perhaps nine feet by seven, with room for a bed, a chair, and a chest of drawers.

In small back-to-back houses, there was often only one bedroom, one living room, a cellar and a privy outside shared with neighbours.

As the century passed, houses got bigger, even the smallest. There was better provision for sleeping, and in the larger houses, there were more rooms for servants. At the same time family sizes were dropping. In the Edwardian era, there was a decline in the numbers of live-in servants and so a house of three or four bedrooms gave the family more room.

In larger houses the main bedroom may have had an adjacent dressing room, and in the largest, the man and wife slept in separate but connecting rooms.

From the 1850s, boys began to sleep in a different room from the girls, if that was possible.