Tabitha Pennywarden summed up plates and trenchers with:
<<< My source is a medieval English evening put together by college
students at SUNY Plattsburgh, so I can't say it is definitive, but
here is what I remember about what we were told about the plates in
use around that time:
The originals were trenchers made of hard flat bread - oval in shape -
on which everything else was piled; meat, vegetables, etc.
The bread absorbed the juices, and was either eaten at table, or
handed out later in the week as alms.
Eventually, someone got the bright idea to keep the table clean and
safe from knife scars by putting a piece of wood under each one - that
would be the origin of what we think of as plates, or trenchers.
If this info is in error, blame my faulty memory, this dinner was in
the late 70's!
If someone wanted to do some research on the origins of trenchers or
plates, that could be a fun study, and I hope they'll share the
results with us. >>>
In general you are correct. However it looks like plates both precede
and follow the use of bread trenchers. They were probably used by the
lower classes throughout our period. However in the upper level
households trenchers came into fashion as a bit of conspicuous
When you go looking for studies on trenchers they are apparently few
and far between. Much of the work on them has been done by Bear, an
SCA baker of high renown in Oklahoma. And yes, until I read his
papers, what I knew of trenchers was much as you sum up.
So, for more information on period trenchers, see these files in the
FOOD-BREADS section of the Florilegium:
Trenchers-Hst-art (14K) 9/15/06 "Trenchers - A Brief History" by HL
Baric Firehand (Bear).
trenchers-msg (106K) 9/26/06 Wooden and bread trenchers. Plates.
For some info on period plates, there is also this new file in the
eating-plates-msg (18K) 7/25/09 Period eating plates. Roundels.
THLord Stefan li Rous Barony of Bryn Gwlad Kingdom of Ansteorra
Mark S. Harris Austin, Texas StefanliRous@...
**** See Stefan's Florilegium files at: http://www.florilegium.org