House features

two doorways
Doorways at Norwich and Canterbury
Photos © S. Alsford

two doorways
Doorways at York
Photos © S. Alsford

Few doorways to domestic buildings survive that are clearly medieval, although some from the sixteenth century are much of the same style. Those shown above are:

  • (top right) The doorway to a typical Kentish merchant's house of the fifteenth century, in All Saints Lane, Canterbury.
  • (top left) South door of Dragon Hall, Norwich, a fourteenth-century residence converted (ca.1450) into a trading hall by merchant Robert Toppes. It was likely he who added, to the entrance of the original residence, this impressive stone doorway, perhaps purchased second-hand from some religious institution, to impress clients entering the cloth emporium; Toppes' coat-of-arms may have adorned one or more of the shields.
  • (bottom left) Doorway to a sixteenth century house in Colliergate, York.
  • (bottom right) The door into the lower level of Barley Hall, York, beneath the exterior staircase.

Windows at Barley Hall, York
Photos © S. Alsford

Window technology has developed far more than that of doors, and so little now remains in medieval houses of the original windows. Barley Hall provides reconstructions of those: (left) a large window, with multiple folding shutters, threw plenty of light into the Great Hall; (top right) single-shutter window in the storeroom, covered with treated linen to let in light but keep out drafts; (bottom right) window in the upper floor parlour. Even in a building such as London's Guildhall only one of the medieval windows has survived.

Medieval roof support structures have occasionally survived, in part because hidden from view and interference. The crown-post roof truss is the most striking form. The timbers on which roofing was laid were supported by multiple arms attached to the central post; the post itself sat atop one or more tie-beams, which distributed the weight of the roof back into the walls of the building. These elaborate support structures are usually found in large rooms such as halls.

roof supports
Roof support structures:
(top left) The merchant's 'showroom' at Dragon Hall, Norwich (ca.1450); (top right) the chapel of the Poor Priests Hospital, Canterbury (1373); (bottom) the Merchant Adventurers Hall, York
(late 14th century)

Photos © S. Alsford

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