Manor House
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Basic Information

A manor house is, at least in origination, the building from which a feudal manor is run - typically a large house with associated outbuildings. The complex as a whole will be home to the landowner and/or his steward, plus household staff and retainers and will have the appropriate outbuildings to support itself (mostly those found in a normal farmyard). If the landowner is not typically in residence the steward may live in the house itself (especially if the manor is one in which the landowner never intends to reside), but otherwise may have his own house or apartment adjacent to or within the complex. Such buildings were typically the bottom tier of government in the societies that created them - being the home of gentry such as landed knights and squires or a subset of the estate of a greater noble, but they also tended to be working farms as well and required to make concessions thereto.

It was not unknown for a manor house to be fortified - depending on the time and place of construction - but even if they weren't it was to be expected that like any farmyard they would be arranged for security with the buildings forming a compound and facing into a central yard. Later, richer and more peaceful times would sometimes see a prestigious residence stuck onto the side of the farmyard where it could back onto a decorative garden and pretend not to work for a living, but the basic design, as noted above, was merely a higher end version of a farmyard. Materials of construction would depend on culture, location and period and design would vary likewise. The most primitive might be made of wattle-and-daub and consist of little more than a hall with a solar (or even just a mezzanine platform) at the back for the landholder's family, whilst the upper end could be substantial stone built mansions with many rooms over several floors.

In later years, the term "manor house" became somewhat debased, and now can be found attached to residences with no historic feudal role - such things tend to be an artifact of the early modern period, build by wealthy members of the upper-middle class "aping their betters" (who could often be a lot poorer than they were).

Interestingly, the manor house's ancestor can arguably be found in the Roman villa with its combination of stately home and farmyard - and the transition from the late Roman colonial system to the feudal one makes a great deal of sense in this light.


1. full source reference

Game and Story Use

  • These, not castles or town halls, will be the centre of government for most villages in a traditional feudal setting.
  • They are also likely to be the entry level landholdings for PCs climbing the social tree. Some players may vanish completely into the mini-game of building and upgrading their manor house - others are better off avoiding the whole issue and sticking to killing things.
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