Monday, August 17, 2009

Question from Colleen - Layouts of castles and palaces

I am looking for information on the layout of Tudor homes - specifically castles, but anything the nobility might have lived in would be great. I did Google as many different terms as I could but came up with far too many links to floor plans for Tudor Revival houses, which is NOT what I'm looking for. If anyone knows of any books, websites or even has the ability to explain things to me (like where the Great Hall was exactly, lol) I would greatly appreciate it!


  1. I'll make my usual recommendation on thing Tudor architecture: Simon Thurley's "Royal Palaces of Tudor England". It has a combination of materials on palaces built by the Tudors and of older medieval residences that were added to or renovated in that period.

  2. To answer your one specific question, Colleen, on the location of "the great hall":

    The answer depends on the era during which the "castle" or residence was built. Castles as residences, and castles that contain great halls, are mostly a pre-Tudor architectural form. True "castles" date to the medieval period and before, and they were essentially fortresses that included living quarters as one part of the larger whole. By the beginning of the Tudor period, "new home construction" tended to differentiate between castle-fortresses and palace-residences. Many Tudor-era figures remodeled or added on to older castles that they had inherited, but few built new castles in the old style with the intention of living in them. Instead, they built palace-style houses. Examples of "new-build" residences include Greenwich Palace, Whitehall Palace, Hardwick Hall, Hampton Court Palace, Hatfield House, Bradgate House, etc. None of those Tudor-era houses or palaces could correctly be called a "castle." Castles were still built in the Tudor period, but they were intended almost exclusively as military installations, not noble residences.

    Still, many great houses built in the Tudor period did have Great Halls. But the location of that hall within the larger house often depended on the particular tastes of the owners. By the end of the Tudor period, the traditional "great hall" began to give way to the "long gallery," which often extended across what we would today call the backside of the house.

    There is a growing body of academic literature on the use of space in both public and private buildings, some of which contains floor-plan diagrams of houses of all periods that you might find useful (the text will probably be boring). So if you have access to a university library, you might look for books or academic journal articles dealing with "built space" or "domestic space" and its uses. Online catalogues will usually tell you whether or not a book is illustrated, so that should make your search easier.

  3. Thanks Lara! It looks like my county library system doesn't have that book but I will check Amazon and other resources.

    PhD, you nailed my problem on the head - since I was specifically thinking of houses belonging to the nobility, of course I should have looked earlier than Tudor-era architecture. I don't know why that didn't occur to me but your answer, as always, was a great help! I do have access to a local university. I'll check out their resources.


  4. Colleen - you might want to check out David Macaulay's award winning book - Castle. Yes, it is a children's book, but sometimes the easiest place to start is the simplest. Plus all the illustrations of medieval interiors are just gorgeous!

  5. Great suggestion. My county library system has several copies of "Castle" - except they're ALL on hold! But I managed to find a copy on Amazon, which should be here in a few days.

    I love using children's books for research - the simple wording and usually brilliant illustrations make for far more enjoyable research. I especially love them for researching costumes and dress. Thanks again!

  6. Bearded Lady - Excellent suggestion!

  7. Echoing KB, I agree that BeardedLady's suggestion is superb.

  8. i know you wanted a palace but have you thought of hardwick hall which PhD historian mentioned, when it was being constructed it was not only of the old Tudor style of a great hall but with the private chambers which was very Elizabethan. she is supposed to have been created it as a palace with a presents chamber so beautifully decorated shame Elizabeth didn't go. i have hunted for the guide to this house as i believe it shows the layout but i must have lent it out and lost it. have had a quick look on the net and you can buy online a guide book form the hardwick hall site or try hope this may help you

  9. There is a very nice castle in Kilarney Ireland that has been redone to its origial plan that you can tour, was a great tour not sure if its Tudor or earlier

  10. Emma - thanks for the suggestion! Your link cut off so I couldn't access the site but I live about 20 minutes from Drexel (I actually went there for my freshman year of college) so I might be able to check out their library.

    Joyce - are you referring to Ross Castle? I'm looking it up now - haven't found any diagrams of the interior, but I'm still looking. A trip to Ireland isn't in the cards for right now but hopefully I will be able to find something.

    Thanks for the ideas!

  11. Yes it was Ross castle, I looked it up and it said it was 15th century so a little early but Im sure it was used during Tudor times . One thing about the bedrooms was interesting , on the wide window sills they said the little ones when they were out of the cradle were laid side by side wrapped to keep warm as there was only one cradle. Maybe you can contct tourist info in Killarney etc, they have redone all the rooms with authentic furnishings etc

    was the web site if you type in floor plan then the place name in my case hardwick hall, you can find a few old buildings. also if you do blue prints not much but i was only looking for hardwick.though you now have got me thinking of what buildings i have been to and how they would have been laid out but that's the problem with this site someone suggests something and you just have to try to follow it up, even if your not really interested in it keep up the good work

  13. Thanks Emma! That's perfect. Thank you so much.

    Bearded Lady - I received my copy of "Castle" and you're right - it's amazing and has been really helpful.

    Thanks to everyone for the answers! I think I'm set :)


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