Looking at Buildings

Building Types


The Medieval House

The core of the medieval house was the GREAT HALL, a large heated room open to the roof. At first it had an open hearth with a smoke opening or LOUVREGlossary Term in the roof; from the 14th century fireplaces became common, although not universal. From early times a traditional plan was established: the entrance, often through a PORCH, led into a passage screened off from the ‘low’ end of the hall, providing access to service rooms and kitchen, the latter often kept separate to avoid danger of fire. The ‘high’ end of the hall was the place where the lord presided. From here there was access to the SOLARGlossary Term beyond, a more private upper room, often in a separately roofed wing; in the later Middle Ages the private rooms became more significant as communal dining in the hall declined. In larger establishments LODGINGS provided self-contained apartments for the lord’s followers, and a GATEHOUSE presented an opportunity for display as well as security. Other informally grouped outbuildings such as STABLES, DOVECOTE and BARN provided for the needs of the household. Simpler versions of the basic plan of hall, private rooms wing and service end were adopted for lesser establishments and for more constricted urban sites.



Roof opening, often protected by a raised timber structure, to allow the smoke from a central hearth to escape; also one of a series of horizontal boards or slats set at angle to prevent rain entering an opening.


Private upper chamber in a medieval house, accessible from the high or dais end of the great hall.