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Saxon Houses, Homes, & Castles

Description of the nature of Anglo Saxon homes, houses, and castles in eleventh century England.

During the period known as the Dark Ages, which covers about six centuries from the breakup of the Roman Empire circa A.D. 400 to the beginning of the foundation of the Gothic nations circa A.D. 1000, dwelling houses and indeed all buildings, with the exception of some important monasteries and churches, were extremely primitive, and thus corresponded with the habits, culture, and daily life of the people, in this case the Anglo Saxons of England.

It is unnecessary to commence our research earlier than the Saxon period, for the effect on domestic architecture of the Roman occupation of Western Europe was not permanent, as the villas of the Imperial Roman officers were not constructed in accordance with the local and climatic requirements.

Anglo Saxon Castles

Among the Saxons, castles were of little account, and were not utilized as residences; they consisted of an earthwork fortification surrounding a central mound, sometimes with a tower built, not infrequently, of wood.

The Hall

The Gothic or barbarian nations, owing to their common origin and similar methods of life, evolved a distinctive type of home, consisting of the Common Hall or House Place ; this latter was a single apartment often some thirty to forty feet in length and about half that in width.

The first essential, due to the rigour of the climate, was shelter from the elements, and this was provided by the hall or covered enclosure, which continued to be the principal apartment throughout the mediaeval period. This is in direct contrast to ancient Roman homes in which the chief feature was the uncovered court or atrium derived from the East, where it prevails even to the present day. In this and even in succeeding centuries the hall sometimes formed the sole living-room, sleeping-room and kitchen for the owner, his family, his guests and his serfs.

Light was admitted through small windows, closed with wicker shutters, and warmth was obtained from the log fire on a central hearth, the smoke escaping through an opening in the roof.

Bedrooms or Chambers

In the better class of homes a second room known as the chamber was sometimes added, and was used during the day as a withdrawing room for business, and during the night as a private sleeping room.

The royal residences, however, were provided with extra accommodation, consisting of the chapel, granary, bakehouse, storehouse and kitchen, the latter being usually detached on account of the risk of fire.

Next: Norman Castles.

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