Manor house

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This article is about a type of historical building. For other uses, see Manor house (disambiguation).
Ulrichshusen Manor, a 16th-century fortified manor house in Mecklenburg, Germany
Ightham Mote, a 14th-century moated manor house in Kent, England
Branicki Palace, an 18th-century palatial manor house in Poland

A manor house is a large country house, which was historically the capital residence or messuage within a manor, the basic unit of territorial organisation in the feudal system in Europe, in which dwelled the lord of the manor. It formed the administrative centre of a manor and within its great hall were held the lord's manorial courts, communal meals with manorial tenants and great banquets. The term is today loosely applied to smaller country houses, frequently dating from the late medieval era, which formerly housed the gentry. They were often fortified, but this was frequently intended more for show than for defense. Manor houses existed in most European countries where feudalism existed, where they were sometimes known as castles, palaces, and so on. Many buildings, such as schools, are named Manor; the reason behind this is because the building was or is close to a manor house.

Function[edit]

The lord of a manor may have held several such properties throughout a county or even, for example in the case of a feudal baron, throughout a kingdom, which he occupied only on occasional visits. Even so, the business of the manor required to be directed and controlled by regular manorial courts, which appointed manorial officials such as the bailiff, granted copyhold leases to tenants, resolved disputes between manorial tenants and administered justice in general. A large and suitable building was required within the manor for such purpose, generally in the form of a great hall, and a solar might be attached to form accommodation for the lord. Furthermore, the produce of a small manor might be insufficient to feed a lord and his large family for a full year, and thus he would spend only a few months at each manor and move on to another where stores had been laid up. This also gave the opportunity for the vacated manor house to be cleaned, especially important in the days of the cess-pit, and repaired. Thus such non-resident lords needed to appoint a steward or seneschal to act as their deputy in such matters and to preside at the manorial courts of his different manorial properties. The day-to-day administration was carried out by a resident official in authority at each manor, who in England was called a bailiff, or reeve.

Architecture[edit]

Markenfield Hall, Ripon, North Yorkshire, a 14th-century manor house defended by a moat, wall and gatehouse

Although not typically built with strong fortifications as were castles, many manor-houses were fortified, which required a royal licence to crenellate. They were often enclosed within walls or ditches which often also included the agricultural buildings. Arranged for defence against roaming bands of robbers and thieves, in days long before police, they were often surrounded by a moat with a drawbridge, and were equipped with gatehouses and watchtowers, but not, as for castles, with a keep, large towers or lofty curtain walls designed to withstand a siege. The primary feature of the manor house was its great hall, to which subsidiary apartments were added as the lessening of feudal warfare permitted more peaceful domestic life.

By the beginning of the 16th century, manor houses as well as small castles began to acquire the character and amenities of the residences of country gentlemen, and many defensive elements were dispensed with, for example Sutton Place in Surrey, circa 1521. A late 16th-century transformation produced many of the smaller Renaissance châteaux of France and the numerous country mansions of the Elizabethan and Jacobean styles in England.

In Central Europe[edit]

Germany[edit]

The German equivalent of a manor house is a Gutshaus (or Gut, Gutshof, Rittergut, Landgut or Bauerngut). Also Herrenhaus and Domäne are common terms. Schloss (pl. Schlösser) is another German word for a building similar to manor house, stately home, château or palace. Other terms used in German are Burg (castle), Festung (fort/fortress) and Palais/Palast (palace).

Poland[edit]

Main article: Dwór (manor house)

The architectural form of the Polish manor house (Polish: dwór) evolved around the late Polish Renaissance period and continued until the Second World War, which, together with the communist takeover of Poland, spelled the end of the nobility in Poland. A 1944 decree nationalized most mansions as property of the nobles, but few were adapted to other purposes. Many slowly fell into ruin over the next few decades.

Poland inherited many German-style manor houses (Gutshäuse) after parts of eastern Germany were taken over by Poland after World War II.

Kozłówka Palace, a classicist manor house in Kozłówka, South-Eastern Poland

In Eastern Europe[edit]

Russia[edit]

In Great Britain and Ireland[edit]

Channel Islands[edit]

England[edit]

Before around 1600, larger houses were usually fortified, generally for true defensive purposes but increasingly, as the kingdom became internally more peaceable after the Wars of the Roses, as a form of status-symbol, reflecting the position of their owners as having been worthy to receive royal licence to crenellate. The Tudor period (16th century) of stability in England saw the building of the first of the unfortified great houses, for example Sutton Place in Surrey, circa 1521. The Dissolution of the Monasteries under King Henry VIII resulted in many former monastical properties being sold to the King's favourites, who then converted them into private country houses, examples being Woburn Abbey, Forde Abbey, Nostell Priory and many other mansions with the suffix Abbey or Priory to their name.

During the second half of the reign of Queen Elizabeth I (1558-1603) and under her successor King James I (1603-1625) the first mansions designed by architects not by mere masons or builders, began to make their appearance. Such houses as Burghley House, Longleat House, and Hatfield House are among the best known of this period and seem today to epitomise the English country house.

Appellations and suffixes[edit]

The suffixes given to manor houses today have little substantive meaning, and many have changed over time, thus a manor house may have been known as "Heanton House" in the 18th century and in the 19th century as "Heanton Court" and later as "Heanton Satchville".

-Hall[edit]

The original suffix was simply "Hall", added to the name of the manor, which reflected the reality of the simple but large building referred to.

-House[edit]

The suffix "-House" is common for manor houses, from the grandest such as Chatsworth House to smaller ones:

-Court[edit]

"Court" was a suffix which came into use in the 16th century, and contemporary topographers felt the need to explain the term to their readers. Thus the Devonshire historian Tristram Risdon (d.1640) clarified the term at least three times in his main work, Survey of Devon:

  • "This now lord of these lands Sir Robert Basset hath his dwelling at Heanton-Court, in this parish, an adjunct importing a manor-house in the lord's signiory".[1]
  • "This Nutwell Court, which signifies a mansion-house in a signiory, came to the family of Prideaux".[2]
  • and regarding the manor of Yarnscombe: "Their house is called "Court", which implieth a manor house, or chief dwelling in a lordship".[3]

The biographer John Prince, (1643–1723) in his Worthies of Devon, remarked as follows in his biography of John Hill (died 1408), of Hill's Court in Exeter, Devon:[4]

"The word court annex'd unto the name of the lord, may imply, that Hill had a lordship here; and that the court of his mannor, where the tenants were to pay their suit and service, was usually kept (according to antient custom) at this his mansion-house: this is the reason why many gentlemens' seats, in this county, and elsewhere, are distinguished by the title of court, or court-house, because the court of the mannor was wont to be held there".

The obvious origin of the suffix would appear to be that the building was the location where the manorial courts were held. Well known examples of manor houses named with the suffix "-Court" are:

-Palace[edit]

The suffix "-Palace" is very rarely used for a manor house which is not a royal residence:

-Castle[edit]

True castles, when not royal castles, were generally the residences of feudal barons, whose baronies comprised often several dozen other manors. The manor on which the castle was situated was termed the caput of the barony, thus every true ancient defensive castle was also the manor house of its own manor. The suffix "-Castle" was also used to name certain manor houses, generally built as mock castles, but often as houses rebuilt on the site of a former true castle:

True castles[edit]
-Park[edit]

Nearly every large mediaeval manor house had its own deer-park adjoining, emparked (i.e. enclosed) by royal licence, which served primarily as a store of food in the form of venison. Within these licensed parks deer could not be hunted by royalty (with its huge travelling entourage which needed to be fed and entertained), nor by neighbouring land-owners nor by any other persons. During the 16th century many lords of manors moved their residences from their ancient manor houses often situated next to the parish church and near or in the village and built a new manor house within the walls of their ancient deer-parks adjoining. This gave them more privacy and space.[5] The suffix "-Park" came into use in the 18th and 19th centuries, examples being:

-Place[edit]

The origin of the suffix "-Place" is believed to be a shortened form of "Palace", a term commonly used in Renaissance Italy (Palazzo) to denote a residence of the nobility.

-Tower or -Towers[edit]

This is a rare 19th century suffix for a manor house or stately home. Within this category cannot be included mere surviving gatehouse towers from demolished ancient manor houses such as the 14th century Boarstall Tower or Layer Marney Tower, c.1520.

-Manor[edit]

These houses, although mostly forming residences for the lords of the manors on which they were situated, were not historically named with the suffix "-Manor", as were many grand country houses built in the 19th century, such as Hughenden Manor or Waddesdon Manor. The usage is often a modern catch-all suffix for an old house on an estate, true manor or not:

Double names[edit]

Manor houses employing double-barrelled names generally have no suffix:

Other manor houses[edit]

Several manor houses are commonly called without a suffix, by the name of the manor or estate alone:

Ireland[edit]

Northern Ireland[edit]

Scotland[edit]

Muchalls Castle, a 17th-century house in Aberdeenshire, Scotland

Wales[edit]

On the Iberian Peninsula[edit]

Spain[edit]

Palacio del Marqués de Dos Aguas, Valencia, Spain
Pazo Baión, Vilanova de Arousa, Galicia.

Casa solariega is the catch-all name for manor houses in Spain. They were the places where heads of a noble families resided. Those houses receive a different name depending on the geographical region of Spain where they are located, the noble rank of the owner family, the size of the house and/or the use that the family gave to them. In Spain a good many old manor houses, palaces, castles and grand homes have been converted into a type of hotel called parador.

-Palacio[edit]

A Palacio is a sumptuously decorated grand residence, especially a royal residence or the home of a head of state or some other high-ranking dignitary, such as a bishop or archbishop. The word itself is derived from the Latin name Palātium, for Palatine Hill, the hill which housed the Imperial residences in Rome.

-Palacio Real[edit]

The same as Palacio, but historically used (either now or in the past) by the Spanish Royal Family.

-Palacio arzobispal[edit]

The same as Palacio, but historically used (either now or in the past) by the ecclesiastic authorities (mainly bishops or archbishops).

-Palacete[edit]

Bejewelled and built house as a palace, but smaller.

  • Palacete de Ayora (Valencia)
  • Palacete de las Mendoza (Pontevedra)
  • Palacete del Embarcadero (Santander)

-Alcázar[edit]

It is a type of Moorish castle or fortified palace in Spain (and also Portugal) built during Muslim rule, although some founded by Christians. Mostly of the alcázars were built between the 8th and 15th centuries. Many cities in Spain have its alcázar. Palaces built in the Moorish style after the expulsion of the Moors from Spain are often referred to as alcazars as well.

-Hacienda[edit]

Landed estates of significant size located in the south of Spain (Andalusia). They were also very common in the former Spanish Colonies. Some haciendas were plantations, mines or factories. Many haciendas combined these productive activities. They were developed as profit-making, economic enterprises linked to regional or international markets. The owner of an hacienda was termed an hacendado or patrón. The work force on haciendas varied, depending on the type of hacienda and where it was located.

  • Hacienda de Los Príncipes (Tenerife)

-Casona[edit]

Old manor houses in León, Asturias and Cantabria (Spain) following the so-called "casa montañesa architecture". Most of them were built in the 17th and 18th centuries. Typologically they are halfway between rustic houses and palaces

  • Casona del Indiano (Álava)

-Quinta[edit]

It is a countryside house closer to the urban core. Initially, "quinta" (fifth) designated the 1/5 part of the production that the lessee (called "quintero") paid to the lessor (owner of the land), but lately the term was applied to the whole property. This term is also very common in the former Spanish Colonies.

  • Quinta Verde, Tenerife

-Alqueria[edit]

in Al-Andalus made reference to small rural communities that were located near cities (medinas). Since the 15th century it makes reference to a farmhouse, with an agricultural farm, typical of Levante and the southeastern Spanish, mainly in Granada and Valencia.

  • Alquería del Moro (Valencia)

-Pazo[edit]

A pazo is a type of grand old house found in Galicia. A pazo is usually located in the countryside and the former residence of an important nobleman or other important individual. They were of crucial importance to the rural and monastic communities around them. The pazo was a traditional architectural structure associated with a community and social network. It usually consisted of a main building surrounded by gardens, a dovecote and outbuildings such as a small chapels for religious celebrations. The word pazo is derived from the Latin palatiu(m) ("palace").

-Caserío[edit]

Also called Baserri, is the typical manor house of the Vascongadas Provinces. A baserri represents the core unit of traditional Basque society, as the ancestral home of a family. Traditionally, the household is administered by the etxekoandre (lady of the house) and the etxekojaun (master of the house), each with distinctly defined rights, roles and responsibilities. When the couple reaches a certain age upon which they wish to retire, the baserri is formally handed over to a child. Unusually, the parents were by tradition free to choose any child, male or female, firstborn or later born, to assume the role of etxekoandre or etxekojaun to ensure the child most suitable to the role would inherit the ancestral home. The baserri under traditional law (the fueros) cannot be divided or inherited by more than one person. This is still the case in the Southern Basque Country but the introduction of the Napoleonic Code in France, under which such practices are illegal, greatly upset this tradition in the North. Although the Basques in the north chose to be "creative" with the new laws, it overall resulted in the breakup and ultimate financial ruin of many baserris. In practice the tradition of not breaking up baserris meant that the remaining children had to marry into another baserri, stay on the family baserri as unmarried employees or make their own way in the world (Iglesia o mar o casa real, "Church or sea or royal house").

  • Caserío Bengoetxe
  • Caserío Landetxo Goikoa

-Cortijo[edit]

A cortijo is a type of traditional rural habitat in the Southern half of Spain, including all of Andalusia and parts of Extremadura and Castile-La Mancha. Cortijos may have their origins in ancient Roman villas, for the word is derived from the Latin cohorticulum, a diminutive of cohors, meaning 'courtyard'. They are often isolated structures associated with a large family farming or livestock operation in the vast and empty adjoining lands. It would usually include a large house, together with accessory buildings such as workers' quarters, sheds to house livestock, granaries, oil mills, barns and often a wall enclosing a courtyard. The master of the cortijo or "señorito" would usually live with his family in a two story building, while the accessory structures were for the labourers and their families —also known as "cortijeros".

Portugal[edit]

In Portugal, it was quite common during the 17th to early 20th centuries for the aristocracy to have country homes. These homes, known as solars (paços, when the manor was a certain stature or size; quintas, when the manor included a sum of land), were found particularly in the northern, usually richer, Portugal, in the Beira, Minho, and Trás-os-Montes provinces. Many have been converted into a type of hotel called pousada.

Some famous quintas, paços and solares:

In Northern Europe[edit]

Denmark[edit]

Rosenholm Castle in Denmark

Estonia[edit]

See: List of palaces and manor houses in Estonia

Latvia[edit]

See: List of palaces and manor houses in Latvia

Norway[edit]

Austråttborgen on the Trondheimsfjord is one of the oldest Norwegian manors

Sweden[edit]

A manor house called Charlottenborg in Motala, Sweden

In Western Europe (mainland)[edit]

France[edit]

Château de Trécesson, a 14th-century manor-house in Morbihan, Brittany

In France, the terms château or manoir are often used synonymously to describe a French manor-house. Maison-forte is another French word to describe a strongly fortified manor-house, which may include two sets of enclosing walls, drawbridges, and a ground-floor hall or salle basse that was used to receive peasants and commoners. The salle basse was also the location of the manor court, with the steward or seigneur's seating location often marked by the presence of a crédence de justice or wall-cupboard (shelves built into the stone walls to hold documents and books associated with administration of the demesne or droit de justice). The salle haute or upper-hall, reserved for the seigneur and where he received his high-ranking guests, was often accessible by an external spiral staircase. It was commonly "open" up to the roof trusses, as in similar English homes. This larger and more finely decorated hall was usually located above the ground-floor hall. The seigneur and his family's private chambres were often located off of the upper first-floor hall, and invariably had their own fireplace (with finely decorated chimney-piece) and frequently a latrine.

In addition to having both lower and upper halls, many French manor houses also had partly fortified gateways, watchtowers, and enclosing walls that were fitted with arrow or gun loops for added protection. Some larger 16th-century manors, such as the Château de Kerjean in Finistère, Brittany, were even outfitted with ditches and fore-works that included gun platforms for cannons. These defensive arrangements allowed maisons-fortes, and rural manors to be safe from a coup de main perpetrated by an armed band as there was so many during the troubled times of the Hundred Years War and the wars of the Holy League; but it was difficult for them to resist a siege undertaken by a regular army equipped with (siege) engines.[7]

Netherlands[edit]

Warmond House (Huis te Warmond), the manor house for the Hoge Heerlijkheid of Warmond in the Netherlands

There are many historical manor houses throughout the Netherlands.[8] Some have been converted into museums, hotels, conference centres, etc. Some are located on estates and in parks.

Many of the earlier houses are the legacy of the feudal heerlijkheid system. The Dutch had a manorial system centred on the local lord's demesne. In Middle Dutch this was called the vroonhof or vroenhoeve, a word derived from the Proto-Germanic word fraujaz, meaning "lord". This was also called a hof and the lord's house a hofstede. Other terms were used, including landhuis (or just huis), a ridderhofstad (Utrecht), a stins or state (Friesland), or a havezate (Drente, Overijssel and Gelderland). Some of these buildings were fortified. A number of castles associated with the nobility are found in the country. In Dutch, a building like this was called a kasteel, a slot, a burcht or (in Groningen) a borg.

During the Dutch Golden Age in the 17th century, merchants and regents looking for ways to spend their wealth bought country estates and built grand new homes, often just for summer use. Some purchased existing manor houses and castles from the nobility. Some country houses were built on top of the ruins of earlier castles that had been destroyed during the Dutch Revolt. The owners, aspiring to noble status, adopted the name of the earlier castle.

Buitenplaats Frankendael in Watergraafsmeer, near Amsterdam

These country houses or stately homes (called buitenplaats or buitenhuis in Dutch) were located close to the city in picturesque areas with a clean water source. Wealthy families sent their children to the country in the summer because of the putrid canals and diseases in the city. A few still exist, especially along the river Vecht, the river Amstel, the Spaarne in Kennemerland, the river Vliet and in Wassenaar. Some are located near former lakes (now polders) like the Wijkermeer, Watergraafsmeer and the Beemster. In the 19th century, with improvements in water management, new regions came into fashion, such as the Utrecht Hill Ridge (Utrechtse Heuvelrug) and the area around Arnhem.

Today there is a tendency to group these grand buildings together in the category of "castles". There are many castles and buitenplaatsen in all twelve provinces. A larger-than-average home is today called a villa or a herenhuis, but despite the grand name this is not the same as a manor house.

A few of the more prominent Dutch manor houses are:

Outside Europe[edit]

The term "manor house" can be used to refer to any grand, stately home, including those that do not have a history rooted in European feudalism.

New Zealand[edit]

Sri Lanka[edit]

United States[edit]

Cultural, economic and legal conditions and the total absence of any kind of hereditary aristocracy in the United States militated against the development of a feudal or manorial land-owning system other than in parts of Virginia, the Carolina Low Country, the Mississippi Delta, and the Hudson River Valley in the early years of the republic. Even these exceptions did not produce the social and economic structures or the extravagant manor houses found in Europe. In the American South, the use of slaves for estate labor was another important distinction between the American and European models of agricultural estates. The only manor house in the United States (or North America for that matter) that resembled the form and function of a European-style estate and manor is the Biltmore Estate in North Carolina (which is still owned by descendents of the original builder, a member of the Vanderbilt family). Most manor-style homes in the US were built merely as country retreats for wealthy industrialists in the late 19th and early 20th century and had little agricultural, administrative or political function. Today, many historically and architecturally significant manor houses in the United States are museums.

Westbury House at Old Westbury Gardens
Manor House at the Bloedel Reserve
Vanderbilt mansion at Hyde Park

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Risdon, Tristram (d.1640), Survey of Devon, 1811 edition, London, 1811, with 1810 Additions, p.336, re parish of Heanton Punchardon, Devon
  2. ^ Risdon, p.56, re Nutwell Court in Devon
  3. ^ Risdon, p.319, re Yarnscombe Court in Devon
  4. ^ John Prince, (1643–1723), 1810 edition, London, pp.494-7, biography of Hill, Sir John, Knight[1]
  5. ^ Prince, Hugh, Parks in Hertfordshire Since 1500, Hatfield, 2008, p.8
  6. ^ "European Heritage Open days – Armagh". Retrieved 16 August 2010. 
  7. ^ Barbier, Pierre (2005). Le Trégor Historique et Monumental. Saint-Brieuc: La Decouvrance Editions. p. 419. 
  8. ^ The information in this section has been drawn from various unreferenced articles found in the Dutch version of Wikipedia.

External links[edit]