Stories Between Storeys: The Uses of Stairs to Gain Domestic Control

Helena Kaznowska


Staircases were increasingly constructed in homes across English society during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Household stairs became a shared space between residents, such as husbands and wives, families, lovers, lodgers, landlords and neighbours, encouraging different and diverse uses of the domestic structure. Early modern attitudes towards stairs are invoked in a variety of contemporary texts, including inventories, court depositions, diaries, plays and prose. This essay considers the significance of domestic stairs, interpreting a range of encounters and actions that were accorded to and occurred upon this marginal yet meaningful space. It argues that the modes of exchange between individuals were entirely dependent on the space in which they took place. Over the period stairs became structures with powerful associations where power was often exercised by their multiple users who sought to gain control over the home and its inhabitants. This essay explores narratives that were produced on, about and as a result of the uses of domestic stairs, investigating the stories that occurred between storeys.


stairs, liminality, domestic space

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