Bed warmers puzzle & answers

pottery hot water bottle with stopper and carrying handle A beautiful antique brass warming pan filled with glowing embers warms the sheets well and so does a modern hot water bottle. But who warmed their bed with a pig? Who used a monk? And where did people use cherry stones?

The pig was a Scottish stoneware hot water bottle. Even though children could see its nice little snout, the name pig has no animal origins at all. It's a Scottish/northern English word for a round pot. (The snout - see right - is a handle that stays cool. The other knob is the stopper.)

The monk was the French (moine) and Italian (monaco) name for a large wooden frame with a container of glowing embers perched inside it. The frame made a nice big warm cave between the top and bottom sheets. It would heat up gradually without any risk of scorching the sheets and without anyone having to stand there moving a bedwarmer on a handle up and down. In Italy it was also called priest (prete) or nun (monaca).

section through cherry showing stone The cherry stones were collected by Swiss children, cleaned and sewn into a bag. When this was warmed in a moderate oven the result was just like today's microwaveable heat packs. In fact, cherry stone “cushions” (Kirschsteinkissen or Chriesisteichüssi) are now on sale as natural alternatives to other kinds of warmer.

Different explanations are given for calling the framed bed warmer a monk, but there surely must be a monk-in-the-bed joke in there somewhere. In England these were called bed wagons

The pottery hot water bottle had its own jokes, not only about pigs but also about calves. To follow these, you need to know that a chaff/straw mattress was filled with caff [calf?] in Scotland.

30 May 2007                          

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