History is constantly evolving—our knowledge grows and, at museums, our exhibits change to reflect that new knowledge. If you’ve visited us in the past ten years, you may remember a bed on display in our Great Parlor (please see the photo below for a refresher). Beds may have been used in a parlor, but our research indicates it probably would have been in very specific instances—perhaps if an ill or elderly family member needed it or the manor house had a lot of overnight guests (people traveling the roads of England after the monasteries were dissolved but before taverns and inns were commonplace would have called on the hospitality of manor houses for room and board for the night).
Your first impression of the new space may be that the Parlor looks empty, but that is a 21st century perspective. The room’s Tudor inhabitants would have thought it was furnished appropriately so that it could be adapted to the many uses of the room.
A Great Parlor was a room where the family would gather, play music or games, read, or just enjoy each other’s company. Guests may have been invited to join in the family fun in the parlor. In order to serve all these purposes, furniture needed to be relatively easy to move around. Tables and chairs could have been easily pushed aside for dancing or gaming, or, conversely, grouped together to form different sized sitting areas, depending on need. Our parlor now has several separate areas set up to accommodate different family groups. People can warm themselves by the fire while others who may have wanted to read or play a board game could gather around the table set in the window where there is more light. Musical instruments lie out, ready to be played and there is plenty of space in the middle for children to play or for family members to practice their dance steps. The Great Parlor would have essentially functioned much like family rooms in homes today. Please see the below photo for a glimpse into the “new” Great Parlor.
As a note, we’ve moved the beloved German chest (the one with the Green Man depicted in its inlay) back into the Great Parlor to help protect it for another 400 years; the flow of the tour exposed the chest to bumps and bangs from guests navigating the narrow front hallway and the chest was getting a bit too dinged up for this curator’s liking. As an added bonus of the new design, the space we’ve created in the Great Parlor will allow our living history staff to have more space for public programs as well as create more space for our regular tour groups, both of which we hope we will be able to resume with greater frequency in the near future.