Medieval Domesticity: Home, Housing and Household
25th Annual Medieval Studies Conference
Saturday March 12-Sunday March 13, 2005

Buttery and Pantry: Categories of Thought and the Late Medieval House in England

Mark Gardiner, Queen's University, Belfast

The late medieval domestic plan is so familiar that it rarely occasions any comment. The services were situated near to the entrance of the hall and comprised two equal-sized rooms, the buttery and pantry. The idea of the division between these two offices was deeply embedded in medieval thinking about formal behaviour at meal times. Bishop Grosseteste's Rules (c. 1240), for example, describe how the butler and pantler should approach the table before grace to serve drink and bread. The division between the two can be traced back to at least c. 1000, although it was not formalized in the architectural record by the construction of two separate rooms before the twelfth century.

The ideas underlying distinction between the two categories evolved during a period of five hundred or so years. It was reinvigorated by developing ideas of the proper organization of the household and concepts of diet. During that period it became fundamental to the organization of domestic space both at the level of gentry and vernacular buildings.

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