Function of the Tudor Hall
The Great Tudor Hall was the focal point of all activities in all the sumptuous Tudor palaces and great houses. Only the most wealthy could afford the luxury of a Great Hall and to use it for dining and entertaining noble guests and royalty. Many halls included a Minstrel's Gallery which was intended for the noble's musicians and was situated on a raised gallery overlooking the Great Hall. Entertainment was a major feature of the Tudor Hall with music, dancing, masques, jugglers, acrobats, jesters and plays. Heralds, or Harkers, would present all visitors. The Steward supervised the events in the Great Hall.
Rich tapestries and banners displaying coats of arms decorated the halls. A limited number of Carpets and mats were introduced to the 15th and 16th century Hall interiors but floors were usually strewn with straw or rushes. Sweet smelling herbs such as lavender, camomile, rose petals, daisies and fennel were added to disguise bad smells which were prevalent due to the inadequate plumbing systems. Cleanliness improved during the Tudor period and lavers ( stone basins used for washing ) were provided at the entrances of the Tudor hall. The Tudor Hall was often located at some distance from the kitchens so often food was served cold.
This room was based on the great halls of the Medieval castles. It was a large one-room structure with a loft ceiling. At one end of the Tudor Hall was a Dais which was a raised platform for the high table where the highest ranking Nobles and Royalty were seated. In medieval England salt was expensive and only afforded by royalty and nobles. These great men and women sat on the dais at the 'high table' and everyone else sat at lower trestle tables. The salt was placed in the centre of the high table and only those of the appropriate rank had access to it. Those less favoured on the lower tables were "beneath the salt".
Tudor Hall Dining
The Great Hall was centred around the dining arrangements. All of the meals were served in the Tudor Hall. Pages and servants waited on the tables. Servants ensured the Hall was cleaned, the fires were laid, the lighting was adequate. Individual chairs were a luxury and wooden benches were more commonly used to sit on. In some of the great Halls were a series of wooden planks with a number of stepped shelves called 'Buffets'. The number of shelves indicated rank - the more shelves the higher the rank. The 'Stepped Buffets' were covered with rich drapes and assembled for use at Banquets and Feasts. The finest plates of gold or silver were displayed on the 'Buffet' and servants served from them.
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