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Posted by Boghound on March 19, 2013


400-year-old bed slept in by 15 generations identified as oldest in the UK

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.

It has been suggested that the male and female figures in the pedestals represent Henry Berkeley, 7th Baron Berkeley, and his second wife, Jane.

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 first feudal baron of Berkeley, Robert Fitzharding, died in 1170 and was reputedly the grandson of Eadnoth the Constable, a high official under King Edward the Confessor.

Henry Berkeley was born in 1534 and named after his godfather, King Henry VIII. His mother, Anne, was a lady-in-waiting and companion of Queen Anne Boleyn, the second wife of the king.

He was a politician and became Lord Lieutenant and Vice Admiral of Gloucestershire.

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.

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