Solar (room)


Solar (room)

The solar was a room in many English and French medieval manor houses, great houses and castles. In such houses, the main room was known as the Great Hall, in which all parts of the household would eat and live, with those of highest status being at the end, often on a raised dais, and those of lesser status further down the hall. But a need was felt for more privacy to be enjoyed by the head of the household, and, especially, by the senior women of the household. The solar was a room for their particular benefit, in which they could be alone (or "sole") and away from the hustle, bustle, noise and smells (including cooking smells) of the Great Hall.

The solar was generally smaller than the Great Hall, because it was not expected to accommodate so many people, but it was a room of comfort and status, and usually included a fireplace and often decorative woodwork or tapestries/wall hangings.

In manor houses of western France, the solar was sometimes a separate tower or pavilion, away from the ground-floor hall and upper hall (great hall) to provide more privacy to the feudal lord and his family.

The etymology of "solar" is often mistaken for having to do with the sun but this is not so. This misconstruction may result from the common usage of the solar; embroidery, reading, writing, and other generally solitary activities. These activities would need good sunlight, and it is true that most solars were built facing south to take maximum advantage of daylight hours, but that characteristic was neither required nor the source of the nameFact|date=February 2007. The name fell out of use after the sixteenth century and its later equivalent was the drawing room.

Examples

In the 13th century Beverston Castle in England there is a surviving but ruined solar in the south tower of the west range, with a vaulted undercroft below.


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