Hardwick Old Hall
A hall is a relatively large space enclosed by a roof and walls and is often known as a manor or country house. In the 5th century, a mead hall was such a simple building and was the residence of a lord and his retainers. In a medieval building, the hall was where the fire was kept. Later, rooms were partitioned from it, so that today the hall of a house is the space inside the front door from which the rooms are reached.
Many halls or manor houses were partly fortified but not typically built with strong fortifications as castles. They could be enclosed within walls or ditches that often included the farm buildings as well. Mostly the fortifications were for defense against robbers and thieves. Some halls were surrounded by a moat with a drawbridge, even equipped with small gatehouses and watchtowers.
By the beginning of the 16th century, manor-houses as well as small castles began to acquire the character and amenities of the residences of country gentlemen. Many were modified in the Elizabethan and Jacobean styles.
During the 18th and 19th centuries, the highest echelons of British society theses country houses served as a place for relaxing, hunting and running the country with one's equals at the end of the week. The country house was the centre of its own world, providing employment to literally hundreds of people in the vicinity of its estate.
The 20th century saw halls and country houses in decline. It coincided with the rise of modern industry, which provided alternate means of employment for large numbers of people and contributed to upwardly mobile middle classes. The ultimate demise began immediately following World War I. The huge staff required to maintain them had either left to fight and never returned, departed to work in the munitions factories, or to fulfill the void left by the fighting men in other workplaces. Of those who returned with the cessation of war, many left the countryside for better-paid jobs in towns. The final blow for many country houses came following World War II. Many halls having been requisitioned during the war, were returned to the owners in poor repair. Many of whom having lost their heirs, were now paying far higher rates of tax, and agricultural incomes from the accompanying estates had dropped. One sad solution appeared to be to hold contents auctions and then demolish the house and sell its stone, fireplaces, and paneling. Many of Britain's finest halls were lost this way.