Medieval Manor Houses

Medieval Manor Houses

The rich who were at the top of the feudal system owned medieval manor houses. Not many of the original manor houses are still existing today as a lot of them were built over the following centuries. Because of this, it is important to take note of Tudor and Stuart manor houses to see where medieval architecture originated and where it had improvements.

Peasants during medieval England lived in huts made of wattle and daub, designed to represent their poverty and feudal system ranking. Lords would certainly not have lived in these huts - their manors were made from natural stone and were built to be long lasting. Their large size represented the lord’s wealth but compared to Tudor and Stuart designs, medieval manors were smaller. However, to the people of Medieval England they were most likely the biggest buildings to have been witnessed aside from castles and cathedrals - such as Penshurst Place in Kent.

Penshurst’s original medieval manor has now been taken over by additional changes but the essentials can still be clearly made out.

Medieval Manor House
Medieval Manor House

This manor house’s medieval section was overruled by the Great Hall in the central point of the photo. Everyone who worked on the manor would sleep in the hall (which could be as many as 100 in places like Penshurst) apart from the lord and his family - they would go to the solar at night which was the lord’s private chamber. This got its name from being lit by large windows. The kitchen was located on the far right by the arched doorway and this also contained the buttery. The kitchen’s food was grown on the estate with its own supply of water.

Lords would want other nobility members to feel impressed by the manor so they could feel more important about themselves. Even the entrance was seen as making an important statement about yourself.

The Door within a Door at Penshurst
The Door within a Door at Penshurst

Penshurst features a door within a door and this would be used for everyday circumstances, but for much more important occasions when it was essential to make a good impression, the entire would be open and lead directly into the Great Hall.

Life in a medieval manor house would have been reasonably comfortable for a lord and his family. Modern home comforts were not available but the family would have privacy from their workers. On the other hand, a winter night for the estate workers would mostly be very cold. The Great Hall at Penshurst had a large fire but the actual building would have been very draughty. Everyone would have to sleep on straw and washing resources would not have been very hygienic, with people not having much time to wash as they were working from sunrise to sunset.

Penshurst Place did not offer any obvious toilets, just like medieval England in general apart from the monasteries. Life was still difficult for peasants working on the land and they were not given any freedom by the feudal system. The lords were also tied to the feudal system’s required tasks and they risked having their manor taken away if they or their family angered the king.

See also: Building a Medieval Cathedral

MLA Citation/Reference

"Medieval Manor Houses". HistoryLearning.com. 2015. Web.