Take a 360° tour of the ground floor of Blakesley Hall.
Blakesley Hall is a timber-framed house built in 1590 by Richard Smalbroke, a member of one of Birmingham’s leading merchant families. The house is furnished using an inventory taken in the 17th century and reflects the lifestyle of a wealthy family of the late Tudor and Stuart period of English history.
The Great Hall
The Great Hall is where the whole family would have dined. The table you can see is an original piece of furniture that stood in this house in 1684. We know this from an inventory taken when the last member of the Smalbroke family lived here.
Though the family would have dined with the servants in this room, they were certainly not seen as equal. Even the spoons they used would have indicated their status. Richard, as Master of the house, would have eaten from a pewter spoon, the women of the house would have used spoons made of cow horn, and the servants would have used wood.
This is the Grand Parlour, used for private dining and entertaining. Richard Smalbroke would host any businessmen he wanted to deal with in this room. No servants would eat in here, and women would have been ushered out of the room as soon as Richard wanted to talk business.
The drape which hangs around the room was a common feature in parlours like this one to display wealth and grandeur. Each drape told a story and this illustration in particular tells the story of Joseph and his Coat of Many Colours.
Sometimes referred to as the ‘Women’s Parlour’, the Small Parlour is where women would have come after leaving the Grand Parlour to the businessmen. Here, women would continue to drink, eat snacks, gamble and gossip.
We know from the inventory taken in 1684 that there was once a fireplace in this room but its location remains one of Blakesley’s mysteries.
The Boulting Room is named as such because ‘boulting’ is a type of sifting, and this is the room where dough was prepared before being baked in outdoor ovens on site. Once made, the dough would be placed in an article such as those on the left wall of the room to proof. Once proofed, the dough would be placed in the outdoor ovens to bake. In order to time the bake, a piece of dough would be placed on the outer side of the oven door and once that piece had cooked through, you knew the bread inside was ready.
The Buttery was where cider would have been produced and stored. The Buttery is often mistaken as a place where butter is made. In fact, the large contraption in the centre of the room is not a butter churn, but rather, a cider press. Once pressed, the cider would be stored in casks, also known as ‘butts’, hence buttery.
The water in Tudor times was riddled with bacteria and disease. So the most common drink for men, women and even children was beer!
This is the room where the women of the household would have spent their time preparing medicines, remedies and perfumes using the herbs and spices from Blakesley’s herb garden.
Women would often act as the doctor of the household when a family member became sick as recipes for remedies would have been passed down through the family.
The Kitchen dates from c.1650, and would have been a later addition to the original build. However, the kitchen ceiling beams have been dated by dendrochronology (looking at the rings in the wood to determine the date) to c.1350, making them nearly 700 years old! This also indicates that the beams were possibly used in a previous building which occupied the site before the kitchen was built.
Continue to see inside Blakesley Hall by exploring the upper floors.