"A man's house is his castle," wrote the jurist Sir Edward Coke in the early seventeenth century. The sentiment still resonates today, yet the meaning of one's house for people in Coke's day was not the same as it is for us. Today the house is a place of refuge, the place for private life. Although these trends had roots in the Elizabethan period, the distinction between a person's private and public life was much less obvious then than it is today. For the Elizabethan, the home was not just a private space: it was the focus of all aspects of life. People were born in their homes, they died in their homes, and often they worked in their homes too.
Then as now, the nature of one's dwelling varied between the city and the country, as well as between social classes. There were also distinctive building traditions in each area of the country, as well as differences of design between any one house and another. For the sake of simplicity, we will concentrate on three primary types: the rural cottage, the gentleman's manor house, and the town house.
The houses of the country folk were based on jointed frames of oak: instead of nails, which would be too weak, the timbers were carved with tongues (tenons) and slots (mortices) so that the whole frame fit together, with the tenons secured in their mortices by thick wooden pegs. Ideally the frame would rest on a stone foundation, since prolonged contact with moisture in the ground would eventually cause the timbers to rot. However, the
The Peasant House