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Medieval architecture question - the "common room"

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lsadowsky View Drop Down
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    Posted: 26 Mar 2015 at 20:10

Hi, everyone!

I work for an historic house museum in the United States that was patterned after the King's House (the Salisbury and South Wiltshire Museum) in Salisbury, UK, and there is a certain architectural question I have that I was hoping to find an expert to answer.

We have a room in our house known as the "Common Room" but all we have is a hearsay story about the meaning of its name. The story involves the usage of that name as a room in the medieval and Tudor time periods of England where "commoners" were allowed to approach royalty. I am highly skeptical of this story, especially since in all of my years of amateur study of the architecture of this period I have never once run into this term. I have also attempted to search online and have come up empty-handed except for a similar sounding term, commoners' halls, which has a very different meaning.

Does anyone know if there were rooms in castles or manor houses in England that were called "common rooms" in which commoners were allowed to approach the nobility? Or is this, indeed, a fiction?

Thanks!

Laura

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franciscosan View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote franciscosan Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 29 Mar 2015 at 07:00
Look at Common room under wikipedia, also at the bottom of the page is other names for rooms and shared spaces.  
maybe vestibule??
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote toyomotor Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 30 Mar 2015 at 07:16
Originally posted by franciscosan franciscosan wrote:

Look at Common room under wikipedia, also at the bottom of the page is other names for rooms and shared spaces.  
maybe vestibule??
 
In days gone by, there were certain room in manor houses where women were excluded.
 
We all would have seen TV programes where ladies were asked to withdraw after dinner so that the men could light up their cigars and talk "mens talk".
 
As I understand it, the Common Room was one in which both genders could mix and have discussions.
 
 
It's not that I was born in Ireland,
It's the Ireland that was born in me.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote lsadowsky Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 30 Mar 2015 at 21:40
I have looked under "Common Room" in Wikipedia - good suggestion though! And, yes, our "Common Room" was used by the family as a multi-purpose space - entertaining, dinners, private musical performances where both genders were in attendance.

The problem is that there is this beloved story at the museum about how the "common room" was a traditional space in the medieval/Tudor eras where commoners were allowed to approach the nobility in castles/manor houses. Where this story came from, I have no idea. But I can well imagine the builder of the house where I currently work making that sort of thing up in the 1920s (trust me, he was just that kind of guy :-D ). Being smack-dab in the middle of the United States, most visitors/volunteers/staff who come to the museum aren't familiar with English medieval/Tudor architecture, so no one questions this story.

However, I've been fascinated with the architecture of these time periods since I was a kid but I have never once heard of a room called a "common room" in which commoners were allowed to mix with nobility. I have only ever heard the term "common room" used in reference to mixed-use spaces in academic institutions and European B&Bs/hostels. My reason for posting the question is to try to prove this story wrong so I can get the guides and the rest of the staff to stop telling it like it is fact.

Thanks for the suggestions though!
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote toyomotor Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 31 Mar 2015 at 09:02
Originally posted by lsadowsky lsadowsky wrote:

I have looked under "Common Room" in Wikipedia - good suggestion though! And, yes, our "Common Room" was used by the family as a multi-purpose space - entertaining, dinners, private musical performances where both genders were in attendance.

The problem is that there is this beloved story at the museum about how the "common room" was a traditional space in the medieval/Tudor eras where commoners were allowed to approach the nobility in castles/manor houses. Where this story came from, I have no idea. But I can well imagine the builder of the house where I currently work making that sort of thing up in the 1920s (trust me, he was just that kind of guy :-D ). Being smack-dab in the middle of the United States, most visitors/volunteers/staff who come to the museum aren't familiar with English medieval/Tudor architecture, so no one questions this story.

However, I've been fascinated with the architecture of these time periods since I was a kid but I have never once heard of a room called a "common room" in which commoners were allowed to mix with nobility. I have only ever heard the term "common room" used in reference to mixed-use spaces in academic institutions and European B&Bs/hostels. My reason for posting the question is to try to prove this story wrong so I can get the guides and the rest of the staff to stop telling it like it is fact.

Thanks for the suggestions though!
 
Well, we all know that in days of yore, the peasantry were permitted, on certain occasions, to plead a case to the Lord and receive his decision, much like a modern court.
 
Another thought is that is how it began, but evolved into a mixed gender venue later on, I can't find a reference that says either way.
 
Good luck.Smile
It's not that I was born in Ireland,
It's the Ireland that was born in me.
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