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Visiting the "Millstone Rebellion" Manor House

I'm diving into another draft of my novel set in 1351 and I thought I would share with you the building that I'm using as a model. This is a schematic entitled Michaelhouse circuit 1348[i] , "a college for scholars in Holy Orders" that existed between 1323 and 1546 and has now been incorporated into the College at Cambridge. Despite it being a college, it has features that can be found in many medieval manors.


  • First, note that this manor is nearly self-sufficient. It has a fruit orchard, kitchen gardens, and a fishpond for food, with a brewery and bakery for bread and ale.
  • Everything is enclosed within walls as protection against marauders, and to keep deer from eating the fruit trees, foxes from raiding the fishponds or rabbits getting into the kitchen garden.
  • The bakery and the brewery are next-door to each other since both require large fires, and they are separated from the main building to protect the living quarters from both heat and the spread of an accidental fire.
  • The freshwater well is at the junction of the two buildings and the main house kitchen which means that the fresh water supply is near the big consumers of water while being secured within the walls, protected from any attempt at a siege.
  • This location has two kitchens and three pantries, and you'll note that there are stairs that take you down from one of the pantries to a buttery where it is cooler.
  • The servants quarters are over the top of the building housing the laundry, which on the one hand seems damp and unpleasant, but on the other, perhaps the quarters were warmed by the fires under the laundry kettles. These quarters are only accessible by stairs from the outside.
  • Interesting to me that it's a spiral staircase in the middle of the building that takes you to the second story.
  • The hearth in the main room shares a chimney with the hearth in the conclave. The main hearth has a 'high table' in front of it for those of high standing and four long table perpendicular for the students or monks.
  • There is an additional hearth at the far end of the hall.
  • The front courtyard is very large and can be closed off at the main gate so that riders and wagons can pull onto the grounds and the gate closed behind them, protecting all against enemies, keeping horses and any other animals in and to unload wagons without the goods being exposed to thieves.
  • The porters lodge is next-door to the main gate, and the stables are in the corner, also easily assessable to the courtyard and gate.


As this was a monastery/college for religious scholars it had a number of small, identical rooms on two floors that did not open to each other. Michaelhouse held, by my count, 22 people (not counting those in the servants quarters.) Twelve students, ten named persons/monks, a commoner's room on the second floor that is larger than the others (presumably for multiple guests or pilgrims) which was accessible from a staircase and a hall.


This monastery, though of the correct period, is much larger than I need for my story so in the novel I have eliminated one of the kitchens and two of the pantries. The conclave becomes a smaller library, with a door into the Baroness's bedroom, and the upper floor bedrooms at the far end are re-imagined as a large room like a ballroom or banquet room which becomes the focus of much of the book's activity. I keep the schematic on my desk and watch my characters weave in and out.


[i] Both Wikipedia and Susanna Gregory say there are no layouts available of the actual building, and I can't find the book I photocopied this from (drat) so I own up to my research mistake.  Since it's just a frame of reference, please take the name with a grain of salt.

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