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hall

hall, a communicating passageway or, in medieval buildings, the large main room. In the feudal castle of N Europe it was a single apartment, and in it lord and retainers lounged, ate, and slept. From the hearth in its center the smoke rose to an outlet in the roof. At one end was the raised dais reserved for the master and those of his own rank. With developing amenities extra spaces were added for cooking and sleeping, and the hall advanced beyond its early rude and unfinished appearance. In English manor houses of the 14th and 15th cent. the characteristic great hall was covered by a fine open-timber roof, heated by one or more huge fireplaces, and lighted with lofty windows often arranged in deep, projecting bays. Westminster Hall, part of the ancient royal palace commenced in the 11th cent. and rebuilt in the 14th cent., was the most splendid. By the 17th cent., with the addition of drawing room, library, and bedrooms, the hall of the English house was no longer of great size and dominance. The English colleges of the Middle Ages and Renaissance also had halls or commons, chiefly for dining, that were architecturally similar to the baronial examples. Some were covered with fine fan vaults, others with timber roofs as at Christ Church, Oxford, perhaps the most splendid hall next to Westminster. The various guilds of N Europe had their halls, especially impressive in Flanders, e.g., the cloth halls at Bruges, Brussels, and Ypres. In Italy communal independence produced the remarkable series of local civic halls, often with imposing towers, as at Siena and Florence. The word hall came to be used in the title of many great English houses (Haddon Hall) and similarly in that of some Southern estates in the American colonies.

See J. A. Gotch, Growth of the English House (1909).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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