The Living Environment
Medieval dwellings varied enormously, from the manorial complexes of the nobility to the hovels of the poor; yet to a modern observer even the most luxurious medieval home, however sumptuous, would probably seem short on comfort and convenience.
At the lower end of the social scale, the typical peasant house had very few rooms--probably just one to three--and consisted of two or three bays, or framed construction units, measuring about 15′ × 15′ each. In some cases the structure sheltered not just the family but its livestock as well, albeit in the far end from the human occupants. The frame of the peasant house was of joined timber, and the walls were commonly filled in with wattle and daub. In this technique, the spaces between the posts and beams were filled with wattling: long stakes fixed upright between lateral beams, with flexible sticks woven densely between them. The surface thus created was covered on both sides with daub: clay or loam mixed with straw or some similar fiber for strength. Alternatively, the walls might be made of turf (peat cuttings), cob (unbaked clay), or even stone, although this was beyond the means of the peasant except in places where stone was locally abundant. The roof was thatched with straw or reeds, although wood shingles, tiles, or slate might be used if these were plentiful in the area. The house normally had a packed dirt floor and only one story; boards might be laid across the overhead beams to create lofts for additional space.