manor house, dwelling house of the feudal lord of a manor, occupied by him only on occasional visits if he held many manors. Although not built specifically for fortification as castles were, many manor houses were partly fortified; they were enclosed within walls or moats that sometimes included the farm buildings as well. The primary feature of the manor house was its great hall, to which subsidiary apartments were added as the lessening of feudal warfare permitted peaceful domestic life. By the beginning of the 16th cent., manor houses as well as smaller castles began to acquire the character and amenities of the residences of country gentlemen. This transformation produced the smaller Renaissance châteaux of France and the numerous country mansions of the Elizabethan and Jacobean styles in England.
See M. Holmes, ed., The Country House Described: An Index to the Country Houses of Great Britain and Ireland (1986).
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.