The Rich History of Boarders and Lodgers

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  • The practice of taking in a boarder, or renting out a room in your home, is a tradition steeped in history. From the days of ancient travellers looking for shelter to the modern era of digital house-sharing platforms, the concept of sharing your living space with a non-family member has evolved significantly. In this article, we'll delve into the rich tapestry of this practice, exploring how it has been shaped by economic, social, and cultural shifts through the ages.

    Ancient and Medieval Beginnings

    In ancient Greece and Rome, hospitality was a valued community practice. Homeowners often welcomed travellers and pilgrims into their homes, providing them with a place to rest. This practice was less about financial transactions and more about cultural norms of hospitality and community support.

    Moving into the medieval period, the concept began to take on a more structured form. In Europe, it was not uncommon for families to house students, apprentices, and travellers, providing a crucial source of additional income. Monasteries and inns played a similar role, but private homes offered a more personalised lodging experience.

    The Rise of Boarding Houses in the 17th to 19th Century

    As urban areas expanded in Europe and America, the 17th and 18th centuries saw the rise of boarding houses. These establishments, often managed by widows or single women, provided not just accommodation but also meals and laundry services, filling a crucial need in the burgeoning urban centres.

    The Industrial Revolution further accelerated this trend. With a massive influx of workers moving to cities for employment, affordable housing became a pressing need. Boarding houses flourished during this period, offering a practical solution to the housing challenges of an increasingly industrialised society.

    20th Century Changes and Modern Adaptations

    The mid-20th century saw a decline in traditional boarding houses, influenced by rising incomes and changing social expectations. However, the essence of boarding adapted and survived in various forms, such as bed-and-breakfast establishments and more recently, digital platforms like The Room Xchange. These modern versions have reinvigorated the concept, blending the age-old tradition of hospitality with the efficiency and reach of today's technology.


    The history of having a boarder in one's home is a fascinating journey through time, reflecting the economic and social dynamics of different eras. What began as a simple act of hospitality has transformed into a global phenomenon, showcasing the adaptability and enduring nature of this practice. Today, as we embrace the digital age's approach to house-sharing, we continue a tradition that has been an integral part of human society for centuries.

    Ready to share your home?

    If you'd like to become a part of this historical tradition, make better use of your empty spare bedroom and enrich your home life, then get started now. It's free to register and create your profile.