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8-08-2015, 15:55

Halls and Chamber Blocks

The hall, not the tower, became the principal element of domestic architecture. This architectural form served as a royal residence, a hunting lodge, or simply a rural manor house. The king held court in the great halls built at palaces like Westminster and Winchester. The hall, a large, long, rectangular building of either one or two stories, was soon integrated into the total castle design. The three-aisled ground floor hall was the usual form in early days. Later the principal room, used for banquets and official functions, was raised on a vaulted undercroft. The entrance was at one of the narrow ends, and opposite the entrance, the lord’s throne-like chair and the high table stood on a raised dais. Halls could be built of masonry or wood or a combination of both. The most splendid halls resembled the nave of a large church. The Normans, as great church builders, had experience in erecting huge masonry buildings; for example,Winchester Cathedral had a nave and aisles that measure 265 feet, 9 inches by 85 feet, 4 inches (81 × 26 m.). The surviving thirteenth-century royal hall at Winchester was 110 feet long. William Rufus’ late eleventh-century hall at Westminster (probably the largest hall in western Europe) was 240 feet by 67 feet. No one knows how Westminster Hall was roofed, although it may have had wooden pillars and arches supporting a wooden roof. It was painted brilliant red and blue. The Normans also built residential buildings known as chamber blocks within the castle walls. The chamber block usually had two stories; the lower floor was a public space and the upper floor was used by the family. The building had such amenities as garderobes and fireplaces and might also include a chapel. Doors and windows in the chamber block might be decorated with elegant carvings. By the end of the twelfth century, wool and linen hangings on the inner walls would have cut drafts and added to the comfort and of luxury of the room. To summarize, the principal buildings required by a great lord and his household consisted of the great tower (later called the keep or donjon), a hall, and a chamber block—three separate or loosely joined buildings— plus all the necessary support buildings—barns, stables, and workshops. A defensive system of walls, towers, and ditches surrounded the complex, which functioned as a unit to form the twelfth-century castle.