Medieval Houses

Homes in medieval times varied greatly depending on the wealth and status that was held. There were the one room huts for the peasants to the huge castles of the wealthy.

Wealthy

The wealthy often lived in castles. In the early medieval period these were made of wood and mud, but as the period progressed they were constructed of stone. They were built as homes but also as a defensive measure against enemies. They were therefore often built high on hills, many of which were surrounded by a moat and only accessed via a drawbridge.

The buildings were impressive in size. The ground floor dominated by the great hall. This was used to hold all the lords entertaining and would have a big open fire at one end of the room.

There were internal stone stairs up to further floors. The lords private rooms ‘The Solar’ were above the great hall. There were other rooms including women’s quarters, bedrooms and privy. The castle would often have its own chapel and include barracks where the knights lived.

The castles although impressive in size, were dark, damp and draughty places. The windows were small in size and few, so little light penetrated the castle. They also did not contain glass, therefore nothing could stop the cold and damp during the day. The windows were however covered with shutters at night, but these made little difference to the cold.

Tapestries were hung on the walls to try and retain heat and keep out draughts but the castles were always draughty and cold.

The castle servants lived on site and would sleep on the floor of the great hall. They were lucky if they were given straw to sleep on or a blanket to cover them.

Middle Class

The middle classes lived in manor houses. These were known as little castles but were still built to show the wealth of the family and therefore varied greatly. Much time and expense was spent on the entrance hall and the more elaborate the entrance the more wealthy the family.

Manor houses normally had 2 floors, the ground floor being dominated by the great hall, although on a smaller scale to the castles. They were still dark and draughty places that had no glass on the windows.

Peasants

In early medieval times, peasant houses were made from sticks and straw. Over time they progressed to wood and mud huts. Having built the hut with wood the gaps were filled in with wattle and daub (strips of wood woven together and covered with animal hair and clay), and then a thatched roof.

The hut consisted of one room with holes for windows; shutters covered the windows at night. In the middle of the room was built a fire pit with a cauldron over it for cooking. The smoke from the cooking would exit from a hole in the roof.

The one room would house the entire family and also the livestock. The floor of the hut would be hard earth, sometimes covered in straw.

The huts contained little furniture, only normally wooden benches or stools. There were no beds, the family slept on straw on the floor and used wooden logs for pillows.

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