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Perpendicular Gothic Style Architecture

15th century English Gothic manor homes, castles, and interiors in the perpendicular style.

Historical Background

During the fifteenth century many new influences affected the social condition of the people and naturally left their mark on the architecture of the time. Most powerful among these new factors were the Renaissance in Italy, the dispersion of scholars from Constantinople, the wider establishment of scholastic foundations and the invention of printing with its consequent increase of knowledge and higher standards of learning. At the same time that this increase of opportunities gave the people a wider mental outlook the use of the mariner's compass opened up distant parts of the world. Wealth was largely increased by the discovery of India and America and by the progress of industrial arts ; while the commercial classes grew in importance through the establishing of Trade Guilds and the granting of commercial charters.

Mention must also be made of the effect of the use of gunpowder, which rendered ancient castles obsolete as defensive strongholds and thus incidentally strengthened the power of the Crown against the barons.

There was also a gradual reduction in the number of feudal dependents or retainers, for the duties which to a large extent had heretofore been performed by them were now carried out by independent craftsmen who lived in dwellings of their own outside the castle.

The serfs became the hired labourers, and had greater freedom than their predecessors.


The castles of the border counties, such as Alnwick, however, still retained the same military character owing to the troubled state of these districts, so that the border manor house or Pele Tower was built on the old lines even as late as the sixteenth century.

Warwick Castle, dating from the end of the fourteenth and the beginning of the fifteenth century, retained features which before the invention of gunpowder must have rendered it wellnigh impregnable. Among these were the portcullis, the walls of enceinte, the battlements and allures behind them, bastions and machicolations from which hot tar, stones and other missiles could be dropped on the besiegers.

The hall, as in other examples of the period, had its former prominence somewhat diminished by the provision of separate dining and drawing rooms.

The remains of Hurstmonceaux Castle (Sussex), Lumley Castle (Durham), Warkworth Castle (Northumberland), Tattershall Castle (Lincolnshire) are other examples which date from this period.

Manor Houses

The Manor houses of the period on the borders of Scotland and Wales, although still fortified to a considerable extent, show the conflict between the increasing desire for domestic comfort and the occasional necessity for resisting attack. The authority of the Crown and increased efficiency of armaments rendered the fortification of the houses useless ; so that when the gatehouse, battlements and towers of the earlier period were still retained, they were more as ornamental features than for defence, The entrance porch, the screens with minstrels' gallery above and the brazier in the centre of the hall were still sometimes kept, while newer features were introduced, such as the large bay window at the side of the dais, and the wall fireplace.


The hall no longer appears to have been used as a general dormitory in this century, although when the house was crowded on special occasions the retainers no doubt still slept upon straw laid down for the purpose.

Family Rooms

The withdrawing room and lady's bower, which in the previous century had contained beds, were now in many cases reserved entirely as sitting rooms.

The bedchambers, such as the camera (for one bed), cubiculum (for two or three), and the dormitorium (for many), increased in number as the hall diminished in importance, showing a desire for greater comfort and refinement.

Wardrobe closets, washing closets (eweries) and cupboards were common ; the latter were used instead of chests and lockers.

The Kitchen and Domestic Rooms

The kitchen, which in the previous centuries was often detached from the main building, was now for greater convenience frequently connected with it. Some fine examples exist at Stan-ton Harcourt (Oxfordshire), New College (Oxford), Christ Church (Oxford), Hampton Court and Berkeley Castle.

The buttery and pantry were often formed as one in the fifteenth century, hence the compound term butler's pantry. The word buttery is still used in collegiate establishments, but while the office of the butler is retained that of the pannetier is lost.

It also became the custom to provide a scullery (scutellarium), bakehouse (pistrina), brewhouse, dairy and mill, while granaries and outbuildings became more numerous.

Stables were sometimes built apart round a special court or stable yard.

Original furniture of the period is rarely seen, and our knowledge of it is obtained principally from illustrated manuscripts. Chairs were not commonly used, but window recesses had stone benches on each side such as still exist in college rooms at the Universities, and these were the favourite nooks and corners of the apartments.

Tables were principally formed of boards and trestles, and chests were also used for this purpose.

The floors were still covered with straw, rushes or matting, carpets not having yet come into general use.


Wolterton Manor house at East Barsham (Norfolk) is very complete as an example of the development of this period. It has a fine detached gatehouse, while the main building contains the porch, screens and hall with bay windows. The family rooms are reached from the dais and the kitchen and Offices from the Screens. South Wraxall Manor house and Great Chalfield (both in Wiltshire) are fine examples of convenient dwelling-houses erected in a peaceful county, with scarcely any attempt at fortification, although the latter house is surrounded by a moat.

Oxburgh Hall (Norfolk), a moated quadrangular example, Haddon Hall (Derbyshire), with a double Court partly built in the Elizabethan period, Hever Castle (Kent), a castellated moated house, and Ockwells (near Windsor) are other examples of the change from the older fortified castle to the newer and more fully developed dwelling-house.

The Bishop's Palace, Wells, is an ecclesiastical structure which still has its separate wall of enceinte with gatehouse and moat.

Town Houses

The smaller town houses underwent considerable improvement ; but as they were mostly constructed of wood, few remain, although some are still to be seen in Coventry, in the Butcher Row at Shrewsbury, in Chester and other old towns.

Peasants' Dwellings

The peasants homes probably showed little improvement on the preceding centuries, as in many cases they merely consisted of a single apartment used as living-room and bedroom by the whole family. The accommodation appears to have improved in the latter part of the century, when the dwellings may have resembled the Irish cabins of the present day, which frequently have two rooms separated by the chimney-stack.

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