The evolution of the hall can be traced back to the early middle ages, The Anglo Saxons constructed buildings such as the sunken featured buildings (sfb’s or grubenhauser) and halls. The Anglo-Saxon epic, Beowulf has immortalised the hall as a place where warriors would drink and feast and tell of great deeds of glory.
The Vikings are also famous for the their drinking halls and a number have been excavated across Scandinavia.
The hearth was the focal point of these early halls and would have been where bards spoke of tales of Vikingr ( to go raiding). The Icelandic sagas would probably have been told around such halls. Several Anglo – Saxon halls have been excavated most notably at Yeavering, where a large royal hall was excavated. Other Anglo-Saxon wics (villages) have also revealed halls such as at Mucking where one hall was 50ft long and 25 ft wide.
Following the Norman Conquest of 1066 halls began to grow in number, they became the home to the wealthy lords and ladies. Most of the earliest surviving structures date to the 13-14C although nearly all have been altered in some way. Notable examples include Stokesay Castle, Shropshire, Old Soar Manor, Kent and Igtham Mote, Kent.
Old Soar Manor dates to the late 13C and preserves its solar block ( Wilkinson and Ashley, 2006) although the main house has since been altered. Ightham Mote, contains its hall with later additions in the Tudor an Jacobean periods.
This hall was split into two parts the high end and the low end, the pantry and the buttery would normally would be placed to one side and this indicates the low end. The high end was furthest away from the door and this was where the lord of the manor would sleep with his family. This room was called the solar.
Although halls consisted of similar plans there were regional variations. In Kent for example there is the Wealden House, this is characterised by two jettied rooms on the first floor. An example of this can be found at the Weald and Downland Museum.
Wilkinson. J and Ashley.P, 2006 The English Buildings Book, English Heritage, London
List Entries available from (https://historicengland.org.uk/listing/the-list)
Stokesay Castle, List entry Number: 1269939
Old Soar Manor, List entry Number: 1014532
All photos taken by the authorAuthor Jeremy Fazzalaro