Centre for Medieval & Early Modern Studies

Ways of Seeing the English Domestic Interior, 1500-1700: the case of decorative textiles



A bedroom decorated with rare late 17th century painted cloths at Owlpen Manor in Gloucestershire is the venue for one of the workshops


Catherine Richardson from the Canterbury Centre for Medieval and Early Modern Studies secured funding from the AHRC for a research network that investigated peoples’ experience of household life in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries – the time in which Shakespeare was writing – and considered how we might use this information to enhance our experience of visiting historic properties in the twenty-first century.

The network used the latest developments in computer science and cognitive science in order to understand how the domestic interior was experienced in early modern England. Dr Richardson and her co-investigator Dr Tara Hamling from the University of Birmingham brought together researchers in the humanities and sciences, conservators, museums curators and heritage professionals, including individuals from English Heritage, the Victoria and Albert Museum, Historic Royal Palaces and the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust. We experimented with, for instance, virtual reality environments that recreate historic atmospheric effects and eye tracking equipment that measures where and for how long we look at our surroundings, and saw how this technology might be used to reconstruct historical perception. In order to make the task more manageable, we focused on a specific case study – ‘how did early modern men and women respond to decorative textiles in their houses?’

We asked the following questions:

1. How did someone living in Tudor or Stuart England prioritize, interpret and assimilate the various messages being communicated by the combination of domestic surfaces, materials, colour, form, imagery and texts?
2. What was the effect of this combined visual, material and textual dynamic on how people experienced the space in which they lived and on how they thought and behaved?
3. How can we use new technologies to interrogate these issues and represent our findings to academics, heritage professionals and visitors to museums and historic houses?

The main events of the Network have now taken place. For more information about those events please see the individual tabs at the top of this page.


Centre for Medieval & Early Modern Studies, Rutherford College, University of Kent, Canterbury, CT2 7NX

Telephone +44 1227 823140. Fax +44 1227 827060

Last Updated: 30/06/2014