see it clearly
Learn more

Medieval Houses

Medieval houses did more than put a thatch roof over the family's head. It also served as a stable for the family's farm animals at night.

Medieval Houses

The Average Home

The average medieval house was constructed with oak supports with wattle filling the spaces between the supports and acting as the roof. Wattle was a woven, wooden mesh that provided insulation against the chill of winter and other elements. The wattle was sealed with a homemade mixture called daub, a combination of horsehair, mud, clay, and animal dung that sealed the wattle and ensured that it was waterproof.

Dirt floors could be covered in a layer of reeds or grass to cushion the feet (and provide for easy clean up from animal visitors and other spills). Homes were typically one or two stories high. A second story was reserved for sleeping or storage while the main living occurred on the bottom floor.

A peat fire was tended throughout the day for cooking and to provide heat. The smoke would drift up through openings under the edge of the roof. While the homes were warm and dry, they were not secure. Walls could be cut through silently and easily.

Stabling the Animals

Like craftsmen, most peasants couldn't afford to build a second barn or stable for their chickens, cattle, and pigs. The animals would be brought in at night to stable with the family in the home. In addition to warmth, the animals were safe from predators, poachers, and thieves.

A Craftsman's Home

Similar in construction to an average house, a craftsman would typically add a large frontal window to his home. The window would usually have an awning or horizontal wooden shutters that could provide a counter. The window would then double as a storefront, allowing the craftsman to display their wares.

Most craftsmen could not afford a second home or building for their business, so their homes were almost always two stories to provide room for family and business. A smith, for example, could display many wares in the window while working in a courtyard area for a forge.

Beyond the Wattle and Daub

In most medieval towns, manors, and cities, the only buildings constructed of stone were the noble manor houses, castles, and churches. Even the poorest village would boast of a stone church. The church was the center of a town's religious life and most town residents would pitch in to help for building and repairs, hauling stone from quarries miles away to shape and fit into place.

Few medieval homeowners could afford glass windows, settling for shuttered windows that could be open to fresh air or bolted against the elements. Church houses, however, would feature stained glass in windows shaped like lancets (with a point). The church was a monument to the town's dedication and efforts. It was a point of pride for the community to make it as fine a house as possible.

Tudor Houses

In the late medieval period, the Tudor style of house came into fashion among the wealthy. Brick was a popular building material, but was far too expensive so houses constructed of half-timber and half-brick grew in popularity. The houses featured tiled roofs, chimneys, and glass in the windows. In dense population areas, such as London, building upwards afforded a family with more space, so Tudor houses boasted two or more floors with the servants sleeping in the narrow upstairs or attic.

Sticks and Stones

Constructed from wattle, daub, straw, and sticks, most peasant housing did not survive the medieval period. The stone structures such as the castles, manor houses, and churches, however, have survived into the 21st century, relatively intact.