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Medieval Architecture-Interior View

The 14th Century England saw a marked change in the style of Medieval Architecture, interior design, and comfort.

The reign of Edward the First was one of the most brilliant and flourishing epochs in the history of England. At home people enjoyed peace and prosperity, and made rapid progress in civilization.  Edward encouraged the arts by bringing over workmen and artists from France.

Medieval Architecture-Interior of the Hall
Interior Of The Hall

The ancient arrangement of domestic Medieval Architecture-Interior with one large chamber or hall - is preserved. The hall was a prominent feature in every building, even in farm-houses. It usually occupied the whole of the central part of the house, sometimes from the ground to the roof; in other instances there were cellars or low rooms under it. The fire place was on a hearth in the middle of the hall under a louver (an opening in the roof, like a lantern, used for the escape of the smoke); at the further end, opposite to the entrance, was the dais or platform raised on two steps and boarded, on which the high table was placed. The other tables were long and narrow, arranged on each side and extending on the whole length of the hall. The floor of the hall was either of stone or of tiles, covered with straw or rushes.

The hall was overlooked at one end by the music gallery, at the other by a small window opening from the solar, or the lord’s chamber over the solar. The roof was commonly of open timber work, often richly ornamented. Some have tie-beams and king-posts, others are arched. The windows of the hall are usually of considerable size, with pointed arches, and divided into two lights by a mullion, and generally have a transom also. At the end of the hall opposite to the dais, was the screen with the minstrels’ gallery over it, and under the gallery was a passage through, with a door at each end, one the principal entrance, the other the back door opening into the servants’ court. This passage was called the entry, or the screens and sometimes was separated from the hall by a curtain only. Behind the screen, or in the screens as it was called, was sometimes the lavatory or washing place with its cistern of water, and a sideboard or recess, which was frequently very richly ornamented.

With the hall being such an important component of the domestic Medieval Architecture, interior decoration was rich.  The walls of the hall were usually covered with wainscot in the lower parts, and the upper parts were ornamented with paintings. Hanging on the walls, tapestries were also a favorite ornament of the period. When the hall was on the first floor, the approach to it was by an external staircase from the courtyard. In other cases, the smaller staircases were internal, either newel stairs in turrets, or a straight flight of steps from the lower end of the hall sometimes led up to the minstrels’ gallery and the room at the back of it.

A common feature of the Medieval Architecture, interior chapels were as important as the hall. The chapel was generally near to the hall, and connected with it by a short passage leading from the dais or upper end of the hall. The east window was large and of ornamented character, similar to a church window; the altar was placed immediately under it. The western part, or nave, was frequently divided into two stories, both open at the east end. In these two rooms there were often fire-places. When the chapel was in use, the upper room was the place for the lord and his family and guests, the lower room for the domestics. Sometimes, the upper room was for the ladies.

Medieval Architecture Interior-The Fire Place in the Hall
Fire Place In The Hall

The principal chamber after the hall was called the lord’s chamber, or sometimes the solar. It was the private apartment of the lord and his family, to which he and his chief guests retired from the high table after the feast was over, leaving the commonalty in the body of the hall, where many remained to sleep. This chamber was usually situated behind the dais, separated by it by the end wall of the hall, and had a sore room or cellar under it. There was generally a small opening from this chamber into the hall from which the lord could overlook the proceedings, and hear all that passed. The chamber was transversal to the hall, being of the same length as the hall width, and it had a window at each end. If the house was a larger one, on the other side the chamber joined on to other buildings. The solar and the lord’s chamber were distinct in the larger houses, in which case the solar was of considerable size.

The bed-chamber was not very favored by the earlier Medieval Architecture. Interior decoration was scarce, and the room did not offer too much of a comfort.  Although often small and irregular in shape, the bed-chambers of the 14th Century became more luxurious. They were sometimes furnished with glass windows, and the walls adorned with paintings. Although many of the windows of this period were glazed, yet many others, especially in the servants’ apartments and offices, continued to be protected only by canvas. Attached to the bed-chamber, or in close proximity to it, the higher class of domestic habitations were furnished with a small washing-room or lavatory. It served also as a bathroom. The cistern was made of lead or stone, sometimes of marble.

An important contributor to the Medieval Architecture interior decoration, the iron work is flourishing during this period. It was of a very elaborate character, displayed mostly in the ornamenting of the door. The massive hinges were worked in the most elaborate manner, but also the locks, bolts, and even the nails. The lock became a prominent addition to the door. And not the lock only, but the keys also were of exquisite design. The doors were usually studded with large iron nails. The heads of these also were made the subject of the artist’s skills.

Medieval Architecture-Interior Of The Solar
Interior Of The Solar
The wardrobe was an important part of the house. It was used for keeping the various articles of dress and furniture. It was usually on the ground floor. In smaller houses it was situated under the lord's chamber. In large houses it was distinct from this, sometimes occupying the upper and the lower chamber in a part of the house.

The Garderobes or Privy Chambers

As a general rule, there was one of this conveniences to almost every room. In some cases one of the principal towers is given up almost entirely to this purpose. In other cases, a small turret is introduced in the angle formed by a tower, or in the centre of one face of the building, and looking like a stair-turret, with a series of small openings for windows to give air and light to the closets in which the turret is divided. Leading to these were passages in the thickness of the walls from each room in the house, the passages being lighted by small loop-like openings. Whenever there was a running stream of water, a portion of it was diverted through the pit of the garderobe, as at the Bishops’ Palace in Wells.

The Offices

A large portion of the buildings belonging to the manor-house of the period was devoted to the Offices.

The Kitchen

The kitchen was frequently a detached building, either of a square or rectangular form, connected with the hall by a passage or alley leading from the screens. The kitchen seems to have been generally on the ground floor, and as distinct as possible from the other buildings, as a security measure against fire. It was usually vaulted, and in some instances seems to have been under the hall, the vault in such cases being considered as sufficient security. These instances however are rare. There were usually two or more kitchens in the larger castles. A great kitchen and kitchens are frequently mentioned. Many of the kitchens of this period were large, with fire-places and chimneys of massive brick-work. The furniture appears to have been of the rudest construction and was probably the produce of domestic handicraft. The tables were rough boards laid upon trestles, and the seats mere three-legged stools. The kitchens contained also the ovens, and sometimes even forges were erected in them, as everything necessary for the use of the household was provided on the spot.

The Butlery (Buttery) and the Pantry

Besides the kitchen there were two offices necessary to the preparation of the dinner, namely the buttery and the pantry. They were placed as near as possible to the hall, their usual position being behind the screens, one on each side, sometimes with a passage or staircase between them leading to the kitchen. To a great degree, they were used for the purpose implied by their names: one for the distribution of the bread (from the French “pain”, which means bread), the other for the distribution of the wine (the French “boutellerie”, from bouteille – bottle, the officer was called the butler, and the office butlery or buttery.)

The Larder

The larder was of considerable size. It was used to store provisions preserved by lard (as the name implies), and the various utensils for salting. In some instances it was also the slaughter-house.

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