The Rural Homestead

During the 17th century, the English rural homestead was usually placed along the Chesapeake By, or upon one of its tidewater tributaries. Behind the main house, or on either side of it, were out houses which were usually arranged in rows or around courtyards. The water served as the principal highway, and the plantation depended upon it. Certain Indian paths became narrow lanes for carts which assisted in reaching the oldest interior roards in Virginia which extended from Jamestown to Middle Plantation, now Williamsburg. Other than the mansion-house there were offices, kitchens and bake houses, slave quarters, school houses, dairies, barns, stables, granaries, smoke houses, spring houses, and dovecots. Also, dwellings for servants, spinning houses, smithies, tan houses, bin houses, well houses, hogsties, cornhouses, and guest houses. The gardens were sometimes called “hortyards” and included summerhouses, greenhouses, and arbors. Then there were bloomeries and ironworks, wharves for landing goods, called “bridges,” warehouses, windmills, watermills, sawmills, glassworks, silkhouses, brick and pottery kilns, lime kilns, saltworks, and blockhouses. For all intents and purposes such grandiose estates were self-sustaining. Those goods not produced in Virginia were exported from England at considerable cost and were usually landed upon the wharf in front of the plantation-dwelling. The kitchen outhouse was frequently placed at a distance from the dining room because that was the medieval custom of carrying food across the service courtyard. The wooden parts of these edifices were painted, proven by importations of color pigments and oils to make paint.

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Jeannette Holland Austin

Jeannette Holland Austin

Author of 100+ genealogy books. Owner of 8 genealogy websites available by subscription. https://georgiapioneers.com/subscribe/subscribe.html