The Jew's House, Lincoln. The Jew’s House at Lincoln is, perhaps, one of the most celebrated of the domestic remains of the Norman period
We know little of Norman lay structures, as most purely domestic buildings appear to have been constructed in wood. A low-gabled timber house, roofed with straw, reeds and similar materials, seems to have been the usual type. Fires were frequent, and we read later of special privileges being granted to householders in congested districts who erected, as a precaution against fire, " party " walls not less than sixteen feet high and three feet thick. There was a later edict saying that all houses that were covered with reed or rush were to be plastered.
Apart from keeps, buildings connected with cathedrals, and portions of a few manor houses, most of the stone structures of this period appear at one time to have been occupied by Jews. The best known of these are Moyses' Hall at Bury St. Edmunds, and what is called the Jews' House at Lincoln. The latter is small and appears to have consisted of two rooms only ; one on the ground floor and one above : these may, however, have been originally divided by partitions ; the interior has entirely lost all its original character. There are no marks of an original fire-place on the ground floor, and the principal room appears to have been upstairs.
Oakham Castle—Exterior. This Hall, at Oakham, in Rutlandshire, is part of a stone structure which was erected about 1180.
Although the gloomy, comfortless keep ranks among the earliest of our stone built houses we must look rather to the fortified manor house of stone for the germ of our modern home. In this, as in the keep, the hall was the chief room.
So dominating was it in size and importance that the whole building was called the " hall," a title which is carried to this day by the principal house in a parish.
The hall at Oakham (though with some alterations to adapt it to its present use as the Assize Court) is still in a remarkably perfect state of preservation, and is typical of the ordinary hall of a twelfth century manor house.
The manor house usually consisted of a hall with subsidiary buildings annexed to it-the pantry, buttery, kitchen, etc. at the lower end : the solar, the lady's bower, the owner's private rooms at the upper end. The hall usually presented an elevation equal to or superior to the subsidiary buildings, and thus separated the two groups from each other. It was the only large apartment in the entire edifice and was adapted in its original form to accommodate the owner and his numerous followers and servants, who not only took their meals in the hall, but also slept on the floor there. At the end opposite the entrance there was usually a raised platform or dais.
The private room, or bed-room, there being frequently only one annexed to, the hall, was situated on the second storey, and was called from an early period the " solar " ; the chamber beneath it, on a level with the hall, was called the " cellar " and was used as such.
The Hall, Oakham Castle - Interior
Oakham Castle has several indications of the transitions from the Norman to Early English style of architecture. The windows are pointed without and rounded within, with shafts at their sides. The violette, or dogtooth ornament, a typical Early English decoration, is also used; the columns are slender and the capitals, which are “Corinthian” in type, have foliage which is very suggestive of Early English work. One of the two doors at the end led to the buttery: the other into a passage which led to the kitchen. In many early halls there was a third door in the middle where bread, butter, etc. were served out. The roof is a king-post roof, but with nothing original except the pitch, part of it having been put up by Villiers, Duke of Buckingham, and the rest being modern.
Large halls were generally divided, as Oakham, by rows of pillars and arches into a nave and aisles like a church. Church and domestic architecture differed at first only in so far as their purposes differed. We find square-headed windows and transoms in windows earlier in domestic than in church architecture because such windows were more convenient for domestic purposes. Notice in the illustration of the window that the masonry is not carried up to the level of the sill. There is usually a bench of stone on each side. This is the commonest distinction, in mediaeval buildings, between church and domestic windows.
Window, South Side (Interior), Oakham