It is understandable that no internal wooden stairs of early date survive especially as stone was the dominant material, although there are a few oak treads at Stokesay Castle, Shropshire, serving doorways in the hall. A spiral staircase took up little space and could be built in the thickness of a Norman wall or in a corner turret. They could therefore be put into the defensive position, in the angles of great towers, and were usually built clockwise so .hat the defender had space for his sword arm." There are two excellent fifteenth-century domestic staircases rising in a clockwise direction at Clevedon Court, Avon, although the early-sixteenth-century Sandford Orcas Manor, near Sherborne, Dorset, has both clockwise and anti-clockwise examples. At both Lytes Cary, Somerset, and Sandford Orcas, the newel, or central pillar round which the steps wind, has a wooden top with stone below.
When the hall of the house was divided laterally to give upper rooms it ,became necessary to put the staircase in some form of stairs tower. Doe's Farmhouse, Toothill, Essex, has a handsome stairs tower containing its original newel stair and mullioned windows.26 By the early sixteenth Century, the circular staircase, now with newels and steps with wall panelling and oak panelling wood, was Being replaced by a straight or double-backed form, in an open well, with a handrail and balustrade rather than a second enclosing wall.
Measured drawing of wall with chimney-piece and cupboards
Measured drawing of wall with doorway
The arrangement in the great hall of a raised dais at one end and a screen and screens passage at the other meant that diners only saw the arched openings to the service areas. These included the kitchen, pantry and buttery and, perhaps, the stairs to wine and beer cellars. There could also be areas 0r bakery and butchery and for the servants themselves to eat. Cooking was done on open fires although the baking was in brick-lined ovens.
A number of these fine, high, medieval secular kitchens survive, for example at Raby Castle, Durham, from the mid fourteenth century, at Haddon Hall, Derbyshire, from the end of the fifteenth century and at Stanton Harcourt, Oxfordshire, from c. 1485, where there is a splendid octagonal timber lantern allowing ventilation. The ecclesiastical kitchens are always impressive and there is an excellent late-fourteenth-century abbot's kitchen at Glastonbury, Somerset.
It has been shown that the three arches in the screen had a ceremonial as well as a practical function. They acted, of course, as entrances when food was carried into the hall, but the ceremonial could be lavish, with musicians in a gallery above. The dressed swan or boar's head was carried through the central arch to great acclaim, with the accompanying retinue of servants and servers filtering through the other two. 'The lord was then facing a fanciful portal crowned with trumpeters', and as the kitchen staff sent forth the platters they 'could burst into sound at the exact moment that the food and its escort emerged from underneath it'.
This arrangement can be seen clearly at Penshurst Place in Kent, an impressive survival of the 1340s, and in a setting of about 150 years later at Haddon Hall, Derbyshire. At Penshurst, the service areas are hidden by a later wall panelling and oak panelling screen but access to them originally was directly through the three arches in the kitchen wall. At Haddon Hall, entry from the lower courtyard is through a west door directly into the screens passage. On the left, lie the buttery and pantry with a passage leading to the old kitchen, which retains its medieval fittings. There is an enormous stone-arched fireplace and originally a second hearth stood against the northern wall. During the restorations in the 1920s, this was taken out to give access to the tunnel from the new kitchens (which had its own small 'railway' to transport food). Passing from the kitchen there was a bakehouse, with its own ovens, and a butcher's shop with bench, salting-trough, hanging-rack and choppingblock.
Medieval Patterns Wall Panelling and Oak Panelling Design Criteria through the Last 500 Years
It is easy in a modern society, with elaborate and efficient systems of plumbing and sewage disposal, to forget that English house wall panelling and oak panelling interiors in the past had to include privies, or as they were politely called 'garderobes'. As a term, it seems to derive from the French garde-robe or medieval storage chamber for dress materials and for dressmaking. The king and queen's storage room, or wardrobe, will be encountered many times in later pages. To these rooms, which also served for dressing, a privy chamber was a sensible addition, with rain-water diverted for flushing the privy shaft." It could be incorporated in a thick wall, or be corbelled out to resemble an external buttress, and there are examples of this on the north tower at Stokesay Castle, Shropshire, at Broughton Castle, Oxfordshire, and at Longthorpe Tower, Northamptonshire. Such privies discharged by a shaft into a stream, river or cess-pit, and precautions were taken in medieval castles to build covers in order that an intrepid invading party could not enter up this shaft in time of siege. The eventual tendency was to separate the privy from the dwelling-house, and life was intended to be a little easier when Sir John Harington, godson of Queen Elizabeth I, invented the watercloset." Unfortunately, no one took much notice of his efforts and the old and noisome practices continued.