Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 20 September 2014

15-generation bed 'is oldest in UK'

Berkeley Castle's 400-year-old bed has been identified as the oldest still in use in the UK (Berkeley Castle/PA)

A 400-year-old bed which has been slept in by 15 generations of the same aristocratic family has been identified as the oldest still in use in the UK.

The antique four-poster with its ornate carved headboard has been providing a good night's rest for residents of the Berkeley Castle estate in Gloucestershire since 1608.

Far from being roped off into retirement like many pieces of historic furniture, John Berkeley, 81, and his wife Georgina, 73, still use the bed in the castle's Great State Bedroom.

Furniture historians say the style of the bed posts date them to the period 1560-1640. They believe the royal arms in the middle of the headboard are those of the Stuart monarchy, dating the bed more specifically to the period after the accession of James I in 1603.

The bed was identified by retailer Furniture Village which launched a challenge to find the piece of furniture that has remained in continuous use by the same family the longest.

Georgina Berkeley said: "Despite its great age, it is the most comfortable bed in the castle. Sleeping in such a wonderfully historic bed conveys a real feeling of British history."

The Berkeley family is recognised in British noble history for having an unbroken, identifiable male line of descent from a Saxon ancestor who lived before the Norman Conquest of England in 1066. The bed is listed on an inventory taken on September 20 1608 of New Park Lodge, a family property on the Berkeley Castle estate.

The grade I building is believed to be the oldest private castle in England still inhabited by the family which built it. The Berkeleys stay in private apartments in the castle, which is open to visitors between April and October.

Charlie Harrison, marketing director at Furniture Village, said: "Our research revealed that, although people pass on items of furniture to loved ones and treasured items can remain in the family, after a few generations the stories of the original owners become forgotten. What makes the Berkeley bed so unique is that it is still used by the same family and its moment of appearance can be accurately dated.

"Most importantly, of course, the 400-year-old Berkeley Castle bed offers compelling evidence that nothing beats British furniture for craftsmanship and durability."

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