English country houses come in all shapes and sizes, and many have evolved over centuries, transforming from one form to another as time passes by. Some started from humble beginnings, while others were grand from the off.
In this article we’re going to explore the suffix of the country house and whether these house names can give us a clue to a building’s past. Grange, Hall, Park, Villa, Manor, Grove and House are all such examples of house naming. But what do they mean?
A Grange is usually a large farmhouse with farm buildings and grain stores attached. It is likely that the house name prefix ‘Grange’, originally stemmed from a time when England’s land was divided up as part of the monastic system, with monastic granges being outlying landholdings owned by monasteries and Cisterian monks. So essentially, a house named Grange was an agricultural outpost, and where there was a Grange there was often a much larger ‘mothership’ house, often an Abbey or Priory, nearby. The theme of being a ‘religious outpost’ for such house naming stuck right up to the Victorian period when a vicar or landowner would often live in the Grange. As land was sold off over time by Abbeys and the church, Grange’s became independent houses.
The origin of the Hall house is a fascinating and ancient one stemming from house naming conventions in Anglo Saxon times. The original hall buildings were meeting places and they usually consisted of four walls, a roof and a fire around which to gather. Because of the fire they usually had very tall ceilings which were often later filled in with floors which were added to as the hall’s original use as a public meeting space diminished. The retro-fitting of additional floors, with rooms and extensions, allowed users’ private spaces and meeting rooms. As a consequence the layout of a Hall can often be complex as they were usually developed in a piecemeal, ad hoc fashion.
Unlike the house naming origins of the English Hall, which often started from relatively humble beginnings as a meeting place, the Manor was none-such place. It was originally the main house of the lord of the manor with the house forming the administrative centre in the feudal landlord system. Somewhat confusingly, a manor might have originally started as a hall, elevating its house name to a manor to disguise its humble past. A manor was usually the centrepiece of that area’s administrative heart. The older manor houses often had a great hall where meals with tenants or great banquets were held.
The origin of the Park as a house name was often the park itself, sometimes an exceptional plot of land which suited the addition of what was usually a home of considerable size and stature. The original Park was typically owned by royalty or a feudal landlord, and it would have been where they went to hunt deer to feed the household. Park houses often still retain a stock of deer as a nod to the past, with many herds believed to be made up from the original lineage.
It’s not surprising to learn that the house name suffix Villa stems from Europe and the Roman occupation of England, and it principally means large luxurious house with land. These days it’s not commonly used as a suffix to a house name, but more often used as a way of describing a neo Italianate classical house, of which there are many in towns like Cheltenham and Bristol (below). They often had palatial proportions, arched windows and sometimes towers with gently sloping roofs.
Granted, this is not a suffix, but we think it warrants a place in our list.
A Dower House was one which was almost always built for a widow, usually on the estate of the man to whom she was once married. The house name is linked to the term ‘Dowager’, which was the name given to a widow who had a title or owned property. Dower Houses were usually quite large.
It’s our mission to contribute to the evolution of buildings like these, creating joinery led interiors which will become part of the architectural story of the house. Artichoke’s work, under the patronage of our client, will be enjoyed and admired by future generations. If your country house name includes a Grange, a Manor, a Park, Hall or Dower House, it may be the kind of house that we could provide inspiration and direction for.
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