What Are Castle Floor Rushes?

Fresh sweet flag plants, wrongly referred to as “rushes,” were scattered as a floor covering on mediaeval castle floors on a regular basis. These reed-like plants were cheap and plentiful, and when combined with fresh herbs, they were an effective technique to conceal dirt while also sweetening the air.

Sweet flag is a fragrant, tall, smooth plant that thrives in wetlands and bogs. Bundles of these plants were gathered and laid around the dirt floors of many mediaeval churches and cathedrals during the Middle Ages. Fragrant, often therapeutic herbs were strewn amid the rushes, partially to sweeten the maturing rushes and, in part, to keep bugs and moulds away.

Fresh rushes were laid on top of the old rushes at times, and the entire floor was swept clean of old rushes and debris and scrubbed first at other times. This approach worked to hide filth and trash while also keeping rooms warm.

Loose rushes gave way to woven or stitched rush mats on floors in the late Medieval and early Renaissance periods, which provided similar benefits but wore well and were easy to replace. Floor coverings at castles were largely purchased rush mats by the time of the English Tudors. Carpets were also utilised, however they were often put atop rush mats for special occasions and then removed for regular use.

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Misha Khatri
Misha Khatri is an emeritus professor in the University of Notre Dame's Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry. He graduated from Northern Illinois University with a BSc in Chemistry and Mathematics and a PhD in Physical Analytical Chemistry from the University of Utah.

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