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Vernacular House Forms
in Seventeenth Century Plymouth Colony

An Analysis of Evidence
from the Plymouth Colony
Room-by-Room Probate Inventories, 1633-1685

© 1998-2001 Copyright and All Rights Reserved.
by Patricia Scott Deetz and James Deetz
University of Virginia, 1998



Vernacular House Forms in Seventeenth Century Plymouth Colony
  • Appendix A: House Plan Assessment
  • Appendix B: Lean-tos in the Plymouth Colony Probate Inventories
  • Appendix C: Emic Room Names used by Appraisers
  • Appendix D: Emic Room Names Classified under Etic Categories
  • Appendix E: Room Percentage Values
  • Appendix F: Room/Activity Matrix Charts

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  • In the spring semester of 1996, the University of Virginia's Anthropology 509 seminar on Historical Ethnography(1) examined in detail probate inventories from Plymouth Colony, Massachusetts.(2) The colony, also known simply as the Old Colony, was independent from its foundation in 1620 until October of 1691 when it was incorporated into the Province of Massachusetts Bay. Prior to that date, the government of the colony had been reorganized in 1685 by the establishment of county courts in place of the General Court which had been the means of government from the inception of the colony, and it was the probate records of that court which formed the basis of the seminar's study of households in seventeenth century Plymouth. The systematic maintenance of records at Plymouth began in the 1630s, and the earliest probate inventory in the room-by-room collection studied was that of Will Wright, dated 6 November 1633. What follows is based on the work of the seminar.

    A necessary preface to the study of probate inventories is to raise the question of why it is that we study them. What do we hope to achieve? In studying the historical ethnography of Plymouth Colony, the object in part is to understand the material culture of a discrete seventeenth century society. Culture, in its holistic sense, is that set of plans, ideas and concepts used by human beings to organize, make sense of, and to succeed in their world. Material culture is not culture, but its product, and may be defined as "that sector of our physical environment that we modify through culturally determined behavior,"(3) which includes the way one cuts meat, plows a field, breeds animals, uses space, dresses timber, and even the language which one speaks. Given this, it is evident that there must be an underlying pattern to the way in which people perceive their world and its expression in material form. There are different approaches to the study of culture. Social, political and economic factors have an important role, but when it comes to material culture studies the structuralist approach, applied in a new way by folklorist Henry Glassie in his analysis of houses in Louisa County, Virginia,(4) has provided an additional approach through which to understand the patterns in mind which have created artifacts of whatever kind. Glassie coupled his structuralist approach with an innovative use of Chomskian concepts in his development of a "grammar" for the analysis of domestic space. His interpretation of structuralism provides a theoretical framework for the study of material culture which has influenced the approach of a number of historical archaeologists, architectural historians and folklorists throughout the United States and beyond. The question to be considered in the analysis of artifacts excavated on archaeological sites of the historic period, in reading the footprint of a post-in-ground building, or considering the structure and design of standing houses, their position on the landscape, and the contents of their rooms, is do the artifacts show an underlying pattern that can be observed in all these different manifestations? And if there is a discernible pattern, it is this which will be a key to understanding a world lost in time past, a means of recovery of mind.

    Structural anthropology provides a powerful approach to the study of material culture. Using as a basis the idea first propounded by Claude Levi-Strauss, that human thought is structured by a large number of oppositions, such as that between public and private, open and closed, emotional and intellectual, asymmetrical and symmetrical, natural and cultural, and that these are mediated in different linked ways, it is possible to study different sets of data and through observing the manner in which these oppositions are mediated, to arrive at an understanding of how people of a different culture perceived and organized their world. For example, studies of Anglo-America from the seventeenth century through the nineteenth can be seen to show a shift in mediation from the direction of public, natural, emotional, corporate, and asymmetrical to private, cultural, intellectual, individual and symmetrical.(5) The changes were due to the transition from the essentially medieval world of which the initial English colonists of America were products into an increasingly modern, industrial society. Linked shifts in mediation were discernible in a number of different cultural expressions. Two roomed asymmetrical hall and parlor houses which had direct entrance into the public space of the hall, were gradually replaced by Georgian-style houses, strongly symmetrical, with a central doorway, hall and passage, restraining access to the rooms on either side, a move to greater privacy. This mediation can also be seen in foodways, ceramic usage, gravestone design, and traditional music, and has been discerned in cultural patterns of another English colonial settlement in the Eastern Cape of South Africa. Here, in a nineteenth century context, the pattern observed was a re-mediation to one much more closely resembling that of the seventeenth century in America, a return to a more rural, agrarian lifestyle, with symmetrical Georgian-style house facades masking the asymmetrical hall and parlor within. Ceramics of natural, warm colors, it is suggested, replaced the more intellectual blues and whites, and even gravestones included earlier more emotional, direct epitaphs, in place of more impersonal statements referring to the deceased.(6)

    In a more recent study of the medieval origins of traditional architecture in western Suffolk, England, Matthew Johnson provides a different interpretation based on the approaches of Glassie and Deetz to the analysis of material culture.(7) He follows initially the tradition of grammatical analysis of vernacular architecture in the eastern United States commenced by Glassie, but goes beyond it in developing his own theoretical framework, arguing for a "process of closure" which affected the development of houses in relation to the wider social, economic and cultural changes of the society of which they were an expression. He defines this process as "the material form in which changing attitudes towards the self, the family and household, and the wider social and natural world were played out".(8) He sees the shift from pre-Georgian house forms to Georgian, the move from public to private, from asymmetry to symmetry, as part of a much longer more complex "process of closure" with its roots in the changing social structure of medieval England as it emerged into a modern society, rather than as an eighteenth century phenomenon.(9)

    Whatever the approach to the study of culture in its material expression, it is in only its full context that its elusive patterns can be traced and changes discerned. When the founders of New England left old England for America, they were products of a medieval world. Many of them had been born in the sixteenth century, and they carried with them all their cultural patterns and deliberately set about recreating them in the distant land which they were to call home. In the process of reshaping their world they were shaped by it to create a distinctive English American landscape and way of life. The documentary sources for studying cultural patterns and transformation include probate inventories, and it is through the analysis of data obtained from them that a greater understanding of the society from which they derive can be obtained.

    Probate records comprise wills, inventories and administration accounts, and it is the inventories drawn up under subheadings of rooms, generally termed "room-by-room" inventories, which form the basis of the discussion which follows. Probate inventories are documents compiled for tax purposes, drawn up following the death of a person, often a householder, listing household items as they appeared in rooms within a house. The appraisers, of whom there were usually at least two,(10) would walk through the house of the decedent, and list the clothing, furniture and household goods, and give an appraised value to each item, or set of items, such as a bed and its accessories. The contents of outbuildings, livestock, and property would also be listed and appraised for tax purposes, and any debts owed by the estate as well as to the estate would be noted.

    Until very recently it has not been easy to obtain copies of all the Plymouth probate inventories. In 1996 the Picton Press, Camden, Maine published a complete transcription of the first two volumes of the four books of wills and inventories held by the Plymouth County Register of Deeds. Prior to this The Mayflower Descendant: A Quarterly Magazine of Pilgrim Genealogy and History, published by the Massachusetts Society of Mayflower Descendants in Boston, from its inception in 1899 included at regular intervals both wills and probate inventories transcribed from the original four volumes. Those from the third and fourth volumes, however, were often only abstracted. Apart from these, only unpublished sources can be found for the contents of volumes three and four. Plimoth Plantation holds a four volume set of these wills and inventories, what appears to be the only complete compilation outside of the offices of the Plymouth County Commissioner. This set derives from work done at Plimoth Plantation in the 1970s by Catherine Gates, under the direction of James Deetz, when she transcribed over 200 inventories from the original volumes held in the Plymouth County Commissioner's Office. It was the Plimoth Plantation collection as it stood at the end of the 1970s, supplemented by further copies from the Mayflower Descendant, which formed the collection of 311 probate inventories used by the Spring 1996 UVA seminar. Supplementary material from the Mayflower Descendant was made available through Mary Ellin D'Agostino of the University of California at Berkeley, together with some other probates which she obtained from Plimoth Plantation where there had also been a project in the 1980s, initiated by Anne E. Yentsch, to transcribe and publish all the inventories and their associated wills. Unfortunately the project was never completed. The combined Deetz-d'Agostino collection now numbers over 500, and has been indexed chronologically and by alphabet. The sources are referenced in the bibliography at the end of this paper.

    Vernacular House Forms in England and Plymouth
    Evidence from Room-by-Room Probate Inventories

    Vernacular, folk, or traditional houses are those which have not been designed by architects, but by local builders. Their design may be influenced by formal architecture, but they embody cultural traditions which are a regional expression of the way their builders and users viewed their world within the constraints of their economic circumstances. Probate inventories in which the appraisers of the estate listed the contents on a room-by-room basis can provide valuable information concerning vernacular house forms. They should not be divorced from the material culture of which they inform us, and, where such exist, should also be studied with their associated wills. They should, in addition, be examined in the context of the houses of which they are an integral part, and an understanding of the traditional houses in England from which those in New England derive is a necessary component of any study of room-by-room probate inventories. There were three stages in the examination of these inventories:

    1. Vernacular house types and plans
    2. Rooms and room names - emic and etic
    3. Room functions: assessing patterns of change.

    Vernacular House Types and Plans

    Standing Houses in Plymouth and Massachusetts Bay

    There is considerable difficulty in attributing dates of construction and determining which are indeed the earliest standing houses surviving today in what was Plymouth Colony. Well over three and a half centuries have passed since the first settlers began construction of their houses in the New World. Those which can be dated to the seventeenth century have been extended, altered, remodeled, not once but several times. In some cases it is possible to trace the history of a house clearly though the changes in its construction, at other times it is less than clear. Of the relatively few which remain in Plymouth, more can be dated reliably to the last quarter of the seventeenth century rather than earlier, leaving information concerning house forms for the first fifty or so years after settlement available only through archaeology and the documentary records. The earliest standing house in New England is the Jonathan Fairbanks house in Dedham, Massachusetts, which was originally part of Massachusetts Bay Colony established to the north of Plymouth in 1625. The Fairbanks House dates to 1637, and is the oldest timber-framed house in the New World.(11) Although the house was altered a number of times its original plan was that of a hall and parlor house, and most of the seventeenth century houses that have survived in the Massachusetts Bay Colony reflect this same basic two-room central chimney house plan, or an original one-room plan which was extended, usually in a longitudinal direction, as means and opportunity permitted.(12) Various permutations of design were possible, particularly given the different regions in England from which the colonists came, but with little surviving architectural and archaeological evidence for house plans in the early years of Plymouth Colony,(13) the room-by-room probate inventories provide an important source of primary data. There are dangers in trying to construct a house plan from written records which may be incomplete, and take for granted features which were obvious to the seventeenth century mind, but not to the twentieth. Nevertheless, in the absence of other data, learning to read probate inventories is an important means of furthering our understanding of possible house forms and the meaning of cultural change over time.

    Hall and parlor houses in England

    Hall and parlor houses have their origin in the medieval houses of England, where the hall, or great room, was the most important and largest room in the house, and was open to the ceiling. It was here that the master of the house conducted his public affairs, dined with his household, and where the activities of the house, including sleeping, were centered. The parlor was a smaller, private room, opening out of the hall, where the head of the household could withdraw to entertain privately, sleep in the best bed, and where the dead were laid out before burial. In the sixteenth century the parlor would often have had a chamber above it, and other rooms built on to these two rooms would form a parlor wing. These open hall houses were not confined to high status land owners and wealthy merchants, but were also built by less wealthy townsmen and farmers,(14) and it is with their vernacular or folk houses that we are concerned. In England in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries, what has been described as a "housing revolution"(15) took place in various parts of rural England, a period of architectural change, which amongst other things affected the design of the hall and parlor house. Maurice Barley (1961) discusses the housing revolution in two phases, 1575-1615 and 1615-1642, and argues that it was due to the fact that in England and Wales between 1500 and 1700 the population nearly doubled in two hundred years, despite the effects of the plague and the devastating economic recession of the 1640s. The impact of this growth in population was greatest, he suggests, on the yeoman farmer, whose fortunes rose with the demand for agricultural products, and it took visible form in new housing or the expansion of existing structures.(16)

    During this period of expansion, house forms were expressed differently according to region and within that, economic ability. In the southeastern counties of England, and East Anglia in particular (Essex seems to be loosely included with Norfolk and Suffolk), areas from which Plymouth drew its greatest number of colonists,(17) the richer yeoman on the whole improved their homes, rather than rebuilding them completely. The open hearth was enclosed by a fireplace with a central chimney stack which heated both the hall and the parlor, and the medieval hall was ceiled over to create additional chambers on the second floor. Access to upstairs chambers was from a staircase inserted next to the new chimney stack. Kitchens, in medieval houses of low income classes through to high, were detached from the house until after around 1625, when Cummings notes that the kitchen was increasingly incorporated into it.(18) In this medium to higher income class housing, unheated service rooms, minimally a milk house and buttery, were an integral part of the house from the earlier medieval period, and were most often found the other side of a cross passage at the end of the hall or in a separate wing.

    The form that these changes took spread downwards to the single-room hall houses which were also benefitting from the increase in economic prosperity. There is evidence of medieval Suffolk cottages being extended lengthwise to include a second room, normally a parlor, with a central chimney serving to heat both rooms.(19) A chamber was built above the parlor, and the hall either left as a single story or chambered over. Access to the upper floor was by means of a staircase inserted next to the chimney stack, more often than not behind it in the case of East Anglian farmhouses.(20) The hall seems increasingly to have been used for cooking and to have taken over the function of a kitchen. In Norfolk, in fact, in the early seventeenth century, "kitchen" was a synonym for hall.(21) This new hall and parlor, central chimney design, with some regional variations in regard to service rooms, spread throughout East Anglia and the midlands of England, and had reached the border of Wales by the end of the seventeenth century.

    Repatterning of the hall and parlor house in New England

    From 1620 and through the next couple of decades when emigration was at its height, the hall and parlor central chimney house form was also carried across the Atlantic in the minds of many emigrants to the New England they established. It was repatterned to include service rooms to the rear, ultimately creating a house form, normally constructed of wood,(22) which has become known as the "salt-box" house,(23) with its characteristic steep, down swept roof covering a lean-to addition of service rooms which ran the full length of the house.(24) Henry Glassie has pointed out what appears to be a little known fact, but one of great importance to our understanding of the cultural dynamic which took place in the trans-Atlantic reworking of pattern in mind. He points out that "some seem to argue that East Anglian people came and simply built what they were used to (Fischer). Maybe at first. But in time, they chose and they chose a very rare type for special reasons. Given what would happen, they chose the most modern house, though it was rare in the repertory. New books have examples, and I took lots of pictures in England of saltboxes."(25) This insight opens a whole new perspective on our understanding of the development of one of the most characteristic New England vernacular house forms and also challenges our assumptions about the choices made by the early colonists.

    The central chimney which had replaced the open hearth was retained as it provided the best heating for the severe northern winters, but invariably was placed at the entrance to the house.(26) On a more abstract level, the retention of the central chimney can be read as a symbolic, spatial text(27), continuing the immediately medieval, but timeless position of the hearth as the center of family life, social interaction and continuing folk traditions.

    Two important differences between the two-room central chimney plan houses built in New England and their English prototypes have been suggested. The first was the development of the lean-to extending the full length of the house, attached at the back, but later incorporated into the full design of the structure. House carpenters from the south-eastern counties of England were familiar with the outshot, or cove as it was called in Kent. Medieval in origin, the outshot was a descendant of the aisled hall house, where there were aisles, or through passages, running the length of the hall, but open to it. Evidence of the enclosure of the aisle in the early seventeenth century to provide a service range parallel to the hall and parlor has been found in Yorkshire,(28) but Barley observes that by the end of the second phase of the housing revolution, 1642, the outshot, although a way of extending the house to form a double-pile (two rooms deep), had not become a common feature.(29) Houses still tended to have their service rooms at one end of a rectangular structure in the medieval tradition.

    The second development which was distinctive to New England, Cummings suggests, was the introduction of the cellar as a cool storage facility which took the place of the buttery and dairy or milk house which in England had formed part of the service rooms. Evidence from the Massachusetts Bay data suggests that the lean-to could include a buttery, but that the more typical pattern which emerged and may be seen as a distinctive Americanization, was the replacement of the buttery/dairy service rooms by the cellar as the cold storage area.(30) The evidence of the Plymouth inventories, however, does not support this for the seventeenth century at any rate. Cellars were invariably used to store a variety of goods. Such archaeological evidence as exists points to root cellars, rather than those in which one could stand upright and use as a service room.

    Robert Blair St. George discusses the Fairbanks House (1637-1646, 1668), and the William Boardman House in Saugus, Mass. (ca. 1687), as products of the changes which took place in England and were incorporated into house forms in New England.(31) He also shows the house plan

    of the Winslow House, Marshfield, Mass., 1698-1699, which was constructed with the lean-to fully integrated into the house with chambers above it.(32) He argues that in New England the salt-box design did not last beyond the seventeenth century, and that houses with two front rooms and a working kitchen in a rear lean-to, with its elevation incorporated into a design that permitted regular chambers above it, became the norm.(33) This further development into what is also termed a "double pile" house, two rooms deep, may be a re-patterning to a form known in England from the later seventeenth century, but double pile houses were rare in the northern counties of England, as well as in Devon, Cornwall and East Anglia.(34) It appears, rather, that this transformation of the salt-box house to an "up-and-back" or double pile house may be a distinctively American adaptation, which took place as the kitchen, now a distinct architectural feature, was incorporated into a new house form.(35)

    Repatterning of vernacular house forms in Plymouth:
    evidence from the room-by-room probate inventories

    When the evidence of the Plymouth Colony room-by-room probate inventories was examined, the overwhelming majority, ninety percent, reflected the traditional hall and parlor houses of rural England.(36) The remaining ten percent appeared to have been one-room houses (Hurst 1657, Ensigne 1664, Winslow 1674, and Brook 1682).(37) The inventory evidence therefore suggests that the dominant house form in Plymouth Colony from the 1630s through the 1680s was the hall and parlor house, confirming continuity of the basic East Anglian house form.

    When the probate inventory evidence for the existence of the lean-to extension was examined, a different picture from that which appears to have been the case in Massachusetts Bay Colony emerged. An analysis of house plans based on rooms named in the full sample of sixty Plymouth probate inventories from 1633-1685 showed that only twenty-two percent (13/60) had lean-to's, most of which appear to have been used as supplementary storage areas, particularly for such things as trays, tubs, earthen and iron pots, and the general catch-all, lumber.(38)

    Only one lean-to was in use as a kitchen, that of Nathaniel Thomas (1675),(39) and it appears in his probate as the "outer Roome chimney lean-to" which could mean that it was built on to the rear of the "outer roome", and did not extend the full width of the house, or that it was built onto it as a side extension. The lean-to contained his main hearth equipment, "Andirons, Tramells brasse and Iron Potts and kettles belmettle &c," as well as pewter and tin, earthen wares, pails, "milke vessels,' and supplies of beef, pork and butter. Two lean-tos contained beds as well as other stored goods, those of Timothy Hatherley (1666) and Timothy Williamson (1676). The probate inventory evidence, therefore, would suggest that in Plymouth Colony the development of the salt-box configuration and the up-and-back might not have been as evident in the mid- to late seventeenth century as has been suggested for New England as a whole.

    Archaeological excavation

    To provide hard data to underpin this partial documentary evidence, there is still need for greater archaeological excavation of seventeenth century house sites in the former Plymouth Colony. To date, with the exception of the Wellfleet Tavern which proved to be a large hall and parlor structure, the evidence from excavations has indicated a single-room structure, the Allerton house site, and three possible long houses all of which date from the 1630s, based on pipestem and ceramic evidence, the Standish, the Alden, and R.M. house sites.(40) The earliest was the site of Isaac Allerton's house in Kingston. Built shortly after Allerton was granted the land in 1629, it was an earthfast structure, and when the excavation was undertaken in 1972 by James Deetz, it was the first post-in-ground structure to be excavated in New England. The house was almost square, and measured twenty by twenty-two feet; there were several outbuildings, and the remains of a palisade. Earthfast structures are those which are built directly on the ground, without a sill or footings, or erected with the posts of the buildings sunk in deep postholes. Carson points out that earthfast buildings have their origin in medieval Britain, but that by the fourteenth century fully framed structures on stone foundations had become the norm in many places. Despite this, Carson suggests that there had to be a vigorous vernacular earthfast building tradition which was certainly alive in the seventeenth century, and may well have persisted alongside the more formal building traditions even as late as the nineteenth century.(41)

    The three long, narrow 1630s houses forms, Standish, Alden, and R.M., are briefly examined here in their chronological order of excavation. The Miles Standish house in Duxbury was excavated by James Hall in 1856. Only Hall's plans and some artifacts have been preserved. The house is shown as being fifteen feet wide by sixty, with an entrance leading directly into a hall. There is an adjacent parlor, and a third, smaller room, which could have been separated from the other two by a cross passage. It is a site which would greatly benefit from re-excavation. Long houses, or byre-houses, which contained livestock byres at one end, date from the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, and are particularly associated with south Wales, and Devon in the West Country (part of the English highlands). It appears that they did not survive beyond the middle ages, but hall and parlor type houses with a third room separated by a wide cross passage dating from the early to mid-seventeenth century are to be found in Devonshire farmhouses.(42) In East Anglia, Barley discovered that two-fifths of houses inventoried at over 20 had a backhouse, which was a third room often termed the backhouse, or netherhouse, and sees it as exactly comparable with long houses in Monmouth, south Wales, where it was possible that the third room beyond the cross passage could have been a cow house.(43) The backhouse is also found in Lincolnshire and Yorkshire, and can with some confidence be believed to derive from the room which used to be the byre.(44) In Plymouth Colony the long rather narrow Standish house with its entrance leading directly into the hall, together with evidence from the other two excavations, has been seen by Robert St. George as being typical of the English uplands, where there was a pattern of dispersed settlement which accompanied the grazing economy. Fewer neighbors meant less need for privacy.(45)

    The first person to conduct properly controlled excavations of historical sites in Plymouth was Henry (Harry) Hornblower, founder of Plimoth Plantation, in the early 1940s. At the time, excavations were largely confined to cellar holes with no large scale area survey and excavation. In 1941 and 1942 Hornblower excavated the R.M. site (named for initials scratched on the end of a seal-top spoon excavated there; no details have been discovered concerning the occupant), now under the car park at Plimoth Plantation. The house had no footings, and it did have suggestive soil stains which with hindsight could have been postholes, indicating that it could have been an earthfast structure. It was the same size as the Standish house, fifteen by sixty feet. The John Alden house site in Duxbury was excavated in the 1960s by Roland Robbins and Evan Jones.(46) It was smaller than the Standish and R.M. sites, measuring ten by forty feet, but having the same long dimensions as the other two.

    Mention should be made here of the description of an earthfast building made by William Bradford in the context of the 1635 hurricane which nearly destroyed the trading post at Manomet in Plymouth Colony:

    . . . It took off the boarded roof of a house which belonged to this Plantation at Manomet, and floated it to another place, the posts still standing in the ground. And if it had continued long without the shifting of the wind, it is like it would have drowned some parte of the country.(47)
    Post-in-ground building was certainly known in New England, but at the time the excavations referred to above took place, the early seventeenth century post-in-ground building techniques of the Chesapeake had not yet been identified, and so, given the type of archaeology which was done in Massachusetts through the 1970s, it is not surprising that a critically important question still remains to be answered. To what extent were the building techniques of the Chesapeake found in New England? In Virginia, earthfast or post-in-ground buildings were almost universal for the first eighty or so years of the colony, and persisted into the early to mid-eighteenth century. The building tradition has been associated with tobacco monoculture where profits required a great investment of time in the crop and so less was spent on permanent architecture, as well as with the unstable demographics of the region.(48) In Massachusetts, where there was no tobacco production, and population growth was relatively stable, the implicit assumption has always been that permanent building began at once. The lack of surviving houses from the first fifty or so years of Plymouth Colony, however, in addition to the evidence from the Allerton site, Bradford's Manomet description, and the fact that at the Colony's trading post at the Kennebec in Maine all the buildings were earthfast,(49) strongly suggests that an earthfast building tradition could have characterized Plymouth Colony, and even existed in Massachusetts Bay Colony through the first decades of settlement, and beyond. It is part of the research design of the archaeological program being instituted in Plymouth through the Department of Anthropology at the University of Virginia to test this theory, which could raise further questions concerning the tobacco monoculture explanation which has been put forward for the Chesapeake.

    Clearly there was room in Plymouth Colony for a diversity of regional house forms, which is what these excavations would indicate, and the possible greater presence of earthfast and long houses would be a distinctive difference in the development of house forms in the colony as compared with the pattern in seventeenth century Massachusetts Bay Colony to the north.

    Rooms and Room Names, Emic and Etic

    Emic categories are those used by members of a culture to designate their world. Etic categories are those imposed from the outside by those who are not part of the culture being described, therefore they may or may not, and often will not correspond to emic categories. The nomenclature which appraisers used in seventeenth century probate inventories both in England and in America for different rooms was not settled, and reflected regional diversity. In some regions the terms used to designate rooms varied, and in some instances their functions changed over time, but the way in which domestic spaces were used in the seventeenth century in England formed an initial template for the pattern which emerged in New England in general and Plymouth Colony in particular.

    Emic categories

    An emic classification of room names is that of Randle Holme, in his 1688 Academy of Armory.(50) The volume is a monumental work in which the author set out to describe and illustrate the known and mythical world for incorporation into blazon - the illustration of coats of arms in accordance with the rules of heraldry. Published in Chester, in what probably may be designated the west Midlands, Holme's 1668 classification is as follows:

    The several Rooms in the inside of an House:
    Entry Hall Parlar
    Buttery Seller Pantery
    Stove Wash house Larder
    Pastery Skullery Brew-house
    Above Stairs
    Street Room Dining Room Drawing Room
    Chambers Bed Chambers Lodging Rooms
    Dressing Room Closets Nursery
    Stairs case Galleries Garrats
    Sellars Roofe Rooms Store Chambers
    Lofts Cock Lofts Lanthern [etc.]

    For comparison, emic terms used in four of the Plymouth room-by-room inventories, in the order in which they were listed by the appraisers, and retaining the original orthography, are given below. Two are from the period, 1633 to 1669, and two from the later time span, 1670 to 1685.

    1644 John Atwood, Gent., New Plymouth 1666 Timothy Hatherly, Scituate
    Hall Parlour
    Studdy Parlour Chamber
    Garret Kitchinge Chamber
    Staire Chamber Leantoo
    Kitchen Seller
    Milk House Meale House
    Seller Buttery
    Iner Seller Leantoo goeing into the seller
    Bedchamber Wash [house?], Kitchinge
    1671 John Barnes, Plymouth 1675 Capt. Nathaniel Thomas, Marshfield
    Kitchen Inner Rome
    Parlour Inner Chamber
    Leanto Other Chamber
    Chamber over the Parlour Little Roome below
    Celler Outer Roome
    Middle Rome Outer Roome chimney leanto
    Chamber over outer Roome Celler
    little Rome at the South end of the house Outer house

    Etic categories

    In order to analyze the data from the Plymouth Colony room-by-room probate inventories, due to the diversity of emic terms used by appraisers, it was necessary to classify them under assigned etic categories. The sources are set out in Appendix D, but to place in context the discussion which follows, a summary is given below.(51)

    • HALL
      • first room, hall, dwelling house, fire (fier) room, outer (outward) room outward or fier room)
    • PARLOR (parler, parlar, parlour, parlauer)
      • parlor, inner (iner, inward) room/chamber, great room/great parlor inward room or bedchamber
      • chamber, new chamber, lodging chamber, little chamber, "smaler chamber", old house chamber, bed chamber, easterly/east chamber, westerly chamber
    • ROOM (rome)
      • outlett inner roome, little rome next the studdy, another room, new room, lower room, "the 2 further lower Roomes", middle room , little room at the south end of the house, little Roome below, East and west rooms
    • KITCHEN (kitchinge)
    • LEAN-TO (leantoo) - lean-to, outer Room chimney lean-to
    • STUDY (studdy, studdie)
    • DAIRY (dary, dayerey, darey) - dairy, dairy house, milk house
      • bed chamber (follows "Loft over the first roome'), hall chamber, parlor chamber, chamber over the parlor/inner room (new, outward & old), kitchen chamber, servant's chamber(s), chamber over the house, stair(s) chamber, upper chamber/room, "upper Chamber or loft", lean-to chamber, outer chamber (over the outer/outward room), porch chamber, new chamber, shed chamber
    • LOFT- loft over the first roome
    • GARRET (garrett)
    • CELLAR (celler, cellor, sellar, seller) - cellar, lean-to cellar
    • MALT HOUSE (mault)

    It was not always easy to determine just what function a room was perceived as having, and so in assigning emic terms to etic categories, an analysis of emic terms from the Plymouth room-by-room inventories was undertaken in order to provide the following guidelines.(52)

    (a)Use of the term 'hall'.

    • In England, in the seventeenth century and earlier, the term 'hall' had different meanings according to region. In the midlands, for example, it could be 'house', used to describe a one roomed dwelling.(53) In Plymouth, however, the appraisers of John Jenney's 1644 estate used the term "dwelling house" in a context and with contents which certainly point to its usage as a hall.(54) Other terms for the hall included fireroom or firehouse, the latter a rare usage from Norfolk but also used in West Yorkshire and Lancashire in relation to traditional cruck built peasant houses.(55) The usage refers to the function of the hearth as the focus of the room. In the Plymouth inventories the hall was also sometimes referred to as the outer room.

    • As noted above, the hall in houses which can be considered the English prototype for those in New England, had by the 1630s, in Norfolk and Suffolk, shown a shift in nomenclature and/or function from hall to kitchen, giving rise to what in fact were now parlor-kitchen houses.(56) The hall in Plymouth Colony appears to have been used for food preparation, production and consumption as late as 1664, but thereafter the term 'kitchen' rather than 'hall' came into general use. This seems simply to have been a change in nomenclature, with the house plan remaining hall and parlor in form, and where there was a lean-to it appears to have been used for miscellaneous storage, apart from that of Nathaniel Thomas which, as mentioned above, contained kitchen wares. There are two instances of a hall being mentioned after 1664, and two references to "hall chambers". Joseph Tilden (1670) had a hall chamber, below which appears to have been a "lower rome".(57) This latter contained three bedsteads, and a couple of chests, and appears not to have served as anything other than a sleeping chamber. The main hearth was in the kitchen which also contained the table, stools, chairs, cushions and cradle, and was clearly the social center of family life. John Dicksey's Swansey inventory (1674) includes both a hall and a kitchen, as well as a hall chamber, but no mention is made of a parlor.(58) The hall appears to have served this function and contained the best bed, a table and six joined stools, six leather chairs and a cupboard, round table, books, a globe and a number of other items. It also appears to have had the main hearth equipment, none being listed under the kitchen although it was clearly the center of food preparation and production. The kitchen also included a table, chairs, stools and cushions, the spinning wheel and cards, as well as a cradle bed and pillow. The appraisers of the estate of the Rev. Thomas Walley of Barnstable mentioned a hall when they assessed his estate, but as they grouped related items in their appraisal, such as all the kitchenware, beds and bedding, chests, &c., no reliable evidence as to its usage can be extracted.(59)

    (b) Use of the term 'chamber'.

    • In a few of the Plymouth inventories, the term 'chamber' appeared to be used to designate the parlor. Once a probable house plan had been determined, and it appeared clear that the inventory could have been taken in a hall and parlor house, and that the chamber was downstairs, it was classified as a parlor. The following are the inventories in which this was done:(60)
      • 1652 James Lindale
      • 1654 William Hodges
      • 1667 Anthony Thacher.
    • In all other instances of the use of the term 'chamber', unless its context or emic description indicated that it was downstairs, it was assigned upstairs in accordance with Randal Holme's definition in his 1688 Academy of Armory; he classifies 'chambers' as being above stairs.(61) A confirmation of this in Plymouth usage is the distinction made in the inventory of Governor Thomas Prence (1673), whose new chamber was situated above the new parlor,(62) and in that of Thomas Hatch (1684) whose east and west chambers were situated above the east and west rooms.(63)

    (c)Use of the term 'room'.

    • An examination of the term 'room' used in the sample of sixty Plymouth Colony room-by-room inventories shows that it appears to have been used exclusively for rooms on the first floor of a house except when qualified as 'upper room', and with the exception of one of the four 'middle' rooms. The ones which could have been either up or downstairs were 'another' room and three new rooms. Thomas Howes' 1665 inventory, in an entry following that of items in the dairy, mentions "Item in another Room. . .", and the next entry given is "up in the Chamber. . ." which suggests that the previous room was on the first floor.(64) The new room in Anthony Thacher's 1667 inventory(65) contained the best bedstead and its furniture and appears to have functioned as the parlor, which in Plymouth was invariably on the first floor. Three years later, Henry Howland's new room was the first inventoried after his livestock, cart and plow, and contained four beds, a chest, table, three chairs and stools. The next entry was that for the middle room (contents one bed), followed by three beds "above in the Chambers", and it is reasonable to suppose that the middle room was also on the first floor.(66)

    • The position of the middle room in the inventory of John Barnes (1671)(67) can also be assigned with some degree of confidence to the first floor. It seems clear that he had a basic kitchen-parlor house comprising a kitchen and parlor on the first floor, with a chamber over the parlor and one over "the outer room" which can probably be read as another term for the kitchen. His appraisers listed between these two rooms a cellar and a middle room. The latter had noted in it only some table linen, a quire of paper and eleven cheeses. Gyles Rickard Sr.'s 1685 inventory simply includes mention, in the order of appearance, of a middle room, a chamber, garrets and a lean-to.(68) The contents of the middle room include two feather beds and bedding, the one set with a high value of 9 10s, the other appraised at 4 5s. Later in the inventory mention is made of a bed stead in the middle room, a bedcord, 2 mats and a small curtain, all valued at 14s, as well as four chests worth 16s. The fact that the middle room was mentioned first in the appraisal and then again following items normally found in the kitchen, indicate that this room was most probably downstairs. The appraisers of Thomas Hatch's 1684 estate,(69) however, entered the middle room as being between the east and west chambers, which were above the west and east rooms, so in this instance it seems clear that the middle room was upstairs on the second floor. As noted above, this is the first Plymouth inventory in which room nomenclature shifts from the designation of function to use of points of the compass.

    Emic room names used in Essex, England compared to usage in Plymouth Colony

    In an examination of inventories from Essex in England, 1635-1749, where the majority of houses ranged in size from six to eight rooms, Francis Steer listed all the room names used in the 243 inventories he published and the frequency of their use.(70) It is interesting to see that the variant terms used for 'hall' in the Plymouth inventories (first room, fire room, outer/outward room) were not in use in Essex, and that the designation of the parlor as the inner or inward room was apparently not known. 'Room' was only used twice in the Essex inventories to designate function, 'his lodging room' (1720), and 'music room' (almost certainly also an eighteenth century usage), and in two instances to designate position, "room next to".In the Plymouth inventories, by contrast, there are fifteen instances of the term 'room' being used, the majority of which indicated location (middle room, little room next the study, east room, etc.), and the balance were 'new' rooms (2) and 'another' room. There were some service rooms listed from the Essex inventories which were not found in the Plymouth inventories, pantry or larder (15), scullery (1), but most of which were 'houses' that Steer appears to have regarded as part of the house: quern house or mill chamber (9), meal-house (7), sink-house (2), bake-house, or back room (8), boulting-house (13). There is no mention of a 'lean-to' or 'outer-house', although the 'back house' listed in the Essex inventories as an alternate for 'bake house' could well have been the back house familiar to East Anglians in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries.(71) No mention is made, either, of a study, which also appears in the Plymouth inventories. This was a room which tended to be found in the English midlands, in parsonages and occasionally in the house of an affluent yeoman farmer. Chambers were qualified descriptively in both sets of inventories, as 'old', 'new', or 'little', to indicate position over another room, as 'chamber over kitchen, hall, parlor,'etc. In the Essex inventories, chambers which primarily functioned as storage areas were listed as such: corn chamber (22), cheese chamber or loft (46) (which is particularly valuable in giving a specific location), iron chamber (1), and wool chamber (1). There appears to be no use of compass points to indicate the position of rooms in the Essex collection; in the Plymouth inventories there are six entries for east and west chambers and rooms.(72)

    Room Functions: Assessing Patterns of Change

    Once the list of etic room categories had been drawn up, the room-by-room inventories were analyzed in two ways in order to see whether any changes in room function, which were not discernable through changes in room name, had occurred between 1633 and 1685. The first method was through comparing the value of household goods found in different rooms over two time periods, 1633-1669 and 1670-1685. The object was to see whether or not there was any correlation between a change in the value of goods and the way in which rooms were being used. For example, by the 1640s in East Anglia there were instances of the hall being termed the kitchen, but this name was also applied to a service room which contained items associated with dairy production, or in which beer was brewed.(73) The Plymouth inventories indicated that the function of the hall appeared to be being taken over by the kitchen, but this needed statistical verification. The second method chosen to analyze possible changes was by drawing up a list of household artifacts from the probate inventories, and subsuming them into active and passive activities which were taking place in different rooms. By analyzing the occurrence of activities over time as they occurred in specific rooms, it was hoped that a pattern of change in room functions could be observed.

    The time periods chosen for comparison were 1633-1669 and 1670-1685. The earlier period, 1633-1669, can be seen as representative of the first generation of settlement in Plymouth Colony following its initial establishment in 1620, and the second, 1670-1685 as being the period when the first generation of Plymouth born settlers were becoming American. Ties with England were much looser, and a local, American, character could be emerging.

    When the total value of household goods found in different rooms, using the etic room categories, were averaged and compared, the results indicated that there was no significant change in room functions during the two periods assessed.(74) There was a slight decrease in value of goods in the hall, but as halls were being replaced by parlors and kitchens this is not surprising. There was a marked decrease in value of the contents of studies (-17%), but as there were only five in the sample, it may not necessarily reflect common usage. Lofts in the period 1670-1685 showed an increase in value (+10%), but the value of goods in upstairs chambers remained the same. These results now need to be compared with what was taking place in Massachusetts Bay Colony to the north.

    In order to undertake the second assessment, it was necessary to redefine an initial set of artifact categories which had been drawn up by the University of California Berkeley Probate Seminar taught by James Deetz in 1985 through 1988.(75) The seminar had distinguished fifteen activity categories to achieve a picture of the differential use of space within the household. This classification was further refined by Mary Ellin D'Agostino in a paper presented at the Society for Historical Archaeology Archaeological Congress, Baltimore, Maryland in 1989.(76) Working from this listing, the UVA Probate Seminar, Anth 509, redefined the artifact categories and grouped them into active and passive categories. The reason for distinguishing between active and passive activities was an attempt to make more visible the large volume of stored materials which occupied household space. The active category represented all artifacts connected with activities which took place inside the house, and the passive reflected activities which took place outside the house, but the artifacts associated with them were stored inside. All stored materials were regarded as passive. The artifact categories were then used to record the presence of items in each category for the rooms in a house. This measure was based solely on the presence or absence of any artifact type as such a listing would correct for differences in wealth since rich households contained the same kinds of artifacts as poorer ones, but in greater quantity and of higher quality. The following list of nineteen activity categories includes some of the artifacts used to determine the category into which an item listed in a probate would fall. Individual judgement was used, but members of the class raised problems encountered and these were discussed and the artifact then assigned to an agreed upon category.

    Crafts woodworking tools, spinning & weaving, craft equipment
    Fire making fireplace equipment
    Food Processing grain processing equipment, brewing, food processing equipment (churn, straining dish, bread grater, sieve, sifting trough, powdering tub, funnel, gridiron, dripping pan, querns)
    Food Preparation cooking equipment (iron pots, pans, kettles, skillets, posnet, chafing dish, basin, beer bowls, salt cellar, bottom of a warming pan, ladle, pestle & mortar, skimmer, frying pan, wooden dishes)
    Food Consumption food consumption equipment (spoons & knives, drinking glasses, plates, platters, dishes, saucers, pie plates, bottles, porringers) stone jugs, flagons), wooden ware (bowls, trays, trenchers), earthenware, earthen pots, butter pots, pewter, brass, linens (table cloths, napkins, cubbard cloths, towels)
    Seating chairs, formes, stools, settles, cushions
    Sleeping beds & accessories, bedding, bedsteads, cradles
    Lighting candlesticks & lighting equipment
    Maintenance locks, warming pans, smoothing irons & heaters, wash tubs, ladders, pressing irons
    Reading books, desks
    Weights & Measures hourglasses, still yards, scales

    Display cupboards, carpets, clocks, pictures
    Food Procurement & Production fowling/birding pieces, fishing equipment, farming equipment (iron tools, bill hooks, sickles, scythes, sneets, axes, hoes, spades, forks, horse tackle, including saddles)
    Personal clothing, clothing accessories, chamber pots, looking glasses
    Storage boxes, trunks, lumber, baskets
    Stored Materials foodstuffs (bushels of Indian corn, rye, peas, wheat, &c., meal bags,cheese fat), yard goods, feathers, hides, wool, cotton wool, sheep's wool, tubs, barrels
    Military armor (corselets, headpieces), swords (cutlasses), daggers, pikes, firearms (pistols), bandoliers, powder

    The results of the correlation of data in the Room/Activity Matrix Charts(77) showed that although there are some small differences between the results of the two sets of data, the overall pattern shows that the hall in the 1670s to 1680s no longer had the importance which it had held in the first decades of settlement of the colony. Artifacts relating to various activities traditionally associated with the hall, were increasingly to be found in the kitchen and parlor. The growing importance of the parlor could be seen in the 30% increase in display items, such as cupboards, carpets, clocks, pictures, and in the greater number of books found there, together with other reading related materials. Military equipment was now kept mainly in the parlor (+21%), the rest (+14%), being stored in the upstairs chambers as the hall was replaced. The greater number of tables, seating furniture and fire making equipment in the parlor indicate a higher room usage as the hall was phased out. The multi-purpose nature of the parlor is reflected in an increase in food consumption (+12%), exactly the same level of increase as is seen in the kitchen.

    There was also a marked increase in equipment associated with various crafts found in the kitchen (+32%), at the expense of the hall and parlor. Maintenance had become much more strongly associated with the kitchen (+34%), moving away from the parlor, downstairs chambers, buttery and cellar. In the 1670s to 1680s, the upstairs chambers showed a small amount of change, the most significant loss being a drop in artifacts associated with food consumption (-19%). The greatest increase was in books and other items related to reading (+17%), followed by greater storage of military equipment (+14%) and storage of foodstuffs (bushels of Indians corn, rye, peas, wheat), yard goods, hides, and other such items (+12%).


    To summarize, the Plymouth Colony room-by-room probate inventories from the seventeenth century indicate that, in contrast to the Massachusetts Bay Colony, the vernacular hall and parlor house form, characteristic of East Anglia, was dominant, although there are indications that single-room houses were also built. Cellars do not appear to have replaced cold storage service rooms as was the case in Massachusetts Bay. There were very few lean-tos, so at this time it appears that they may well not have been incorporated into house design. Neither were they being used as kitchens, rather as supplementary storage areas. The inventory record for Plymouth, diminishes considerably from 1685 when a county system of government was established, and the power to tax was granted to the new county courts. It is possible that if sufficient room-by-room probate inventories from 1685 through 1692 could be traced, that house form and room usage in Plymouth Colony would show greater similarity to Massachusetts Bay than the evidence for the first five decades of settlement suggests, although this is too brief a time period in which to assess changing cultural patterns. Cultural entities are not bounded by political divisions, and further research into probate inventories from the counties of Plymouth, Bristol, and Barnstable after the incorporation of the colony into Massachusetts Bay in 1691 should be undertaken,(78) together with archaeological excavation and associated research, to establish over a greater period of time the patterns which characterized folk house forms in southeastern Massachusetts in the seventeenth through the eighteenth centuries, creating its distinctively American landscape.

    The evidence of the standing houses which date from the later seventeenth century is not as reliable as might appear at first sight. The down swept "salt box" roof line of the Richard Sparrow House in Plymouth, for example, which is said to date back to before 1660, has in fact been restored and the authenticity of the restoration is in question. On the other hand, the Howland House, built in Plymouth ca. 1667, does show the roof line incorporating an up-and-back or double-pile lean-to, and the restoration here appears to have been minimal. So the evidence of the Howland House suggests that the probate evidence needs to be combined with any existing architectural survey of all the standing houses which appear to date to the seventeenth century in what was Plymouth Colony, or such a survey be undertaken, to establish for the colony what Abbott Lowell Cummings has been able to do for Massachusetts Bay Colony. It is also clear that there is need for more archaeological excavation of house sites, since that which has been done indicates possible diversity of house forms in Plymouth, the existence of long houses as well as hall and parlor.

    When the two periods of time, 1633-1669 and 1670-1685 were examined, it had been hoped that there would be indications that first generation Plymouth born settlers were becoming Americanized, but when the total value of household goods found in different rooms was examined, there was no change in pattern to indicate this. The artifact data in the room/activity matrix chart, however, did show that second-generation Plymothians were designating the hall as "kitchen" and using the parlor as a more multi-purpose room than had their parents, particularly seeing it as a place where dining could take place in addition to the kitchen. The distinctiveness of the parlor from the kitchen was also seen in the movement of crafts from the parlor to the kitchen. The changes suggest that there was an increasing informality within the nuclear family, which could be seen as drawing the generations closer to each other, and that in this the first movement towards an Americanization of the family can be seen.


    Primary Sources - Published

    Bradford, William. 1952. Of Plymouth Plantation, 1620-1647. Ed. Samuel Eliot Morison. New York: Knopf.

    Farm and Cottage Inventories of Mid-Essex 1635-1749. 1969. Ed. Francis W. Steer. London: Phillimore.

    Plymouth Colony Wills and Inventories, Vol. 1: 1633-1669. 1996. Ed. C.H. Simmons. Rockport, Me: Picton Press. The first published volume of complete transcripts of wills and probate inventories transcribed verbatim et literatim from the original first and second volumes of a set of four which are held at the office of the Plymouth County Court Commissioner. Selected wills and inventories from the third and fourth volumes were either abstracted or published in full in The Mayflower Descendant: A Quarterly Magazine of Pilgrim Genealogy and History published in Boston under the editorship of George Ernest Bowman by the Massachusetts Society of Mayflower Descendants between 1899 and 1937.

    Probate Inventories of Lincoln Citizens, 1661-1714. 1991. Ed. J.A. Johnston. Woodbridge, Suffolk: The Boydell Press for the Lincoln Record Society.

    Rural Household Inventories: Establishing the Names, Uses and Furnishings of Rooms in the Colonial New England Home 1675-1775. 1964. Ed. Abbott Lowell Cummings. Boston, Mass.: The Society for the Preservation of New England Antiquities.

    Primary Sources - Unpublished

    Plymouth Colony Probate Inventories 1670-1685. The compilation of an unpublished set of transcriptions of Plymouth probate inventories, 1670-1685 is currently nearing completion at the University of Virginia as part of the working documents for use in the Anthropology 509 course on the historical ethnography of Plymouth Colony. The core of the collection is that transcribed by Catherine Gates of Plimoth Plantation in the 1970s for James Deetz from originals held in the Plymouth County Court Commissioner's Office, and includes probate inventories from 1633 through 1669, but as these have now been published by the Picton Press it is no longer necessary to include them in this collection. It has been added to by Mary Ellin D'Agostino, Department of Anthropology, University of California at Berkeley, from those published in the Mayflower Descendant from 1899 through 1937, and some have been obtained from Plimoth Plantation and the Plymouth County Commissioner's Office. Many have been scanned and transcribed for computerization by D'Agostino in the 1990s. The collection will be indexed.

    Plymouth County Court Commissioner's Office. The original copies of the Plymouth court records, wills and probate inventories, 1633-1685, as well as other miscellaneous official documents are housed in the office of the Plymouth County Court Commissioner. They have been indexed and photocopies made of the originals. The wills and inventories have been transcribed and they and the photocopied originals are available in looseleaf files. The staff of the County Commissioner's office will make copies on request, currently at 50c a page. There has been discussion about moving these archives to the Massachusetts Archives in Boston, but fortunately this has not yet taken place and there is strong local resistance to any move to do so.

    Secondary Sources - Published

    Barley, M.W. 1961. The English Farmhouse and Cottage. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul

    Barley, M.W. 1979. "The Double-Pile House," Archaeological Journal 136: 253-264.

    Candee, Richard M. 1969. "A Documentary History of Plymouth Colony Architecture, 1620-1700, Concluded" Old-Time New England 60(2):37-53.

    Carson, Cary et al. 1981. "Impermanent Architecture in the Southern American Colonies," Winterthur Portfolio 16(2/3): 135-96; repr. In Material Life in America, 1600-1860, ed. Robert Blair St. George (Boston: Northeastern University Press, 1988): 113-58.

    Cranmer, Leon E. 1990. Cushnoc: The History and Archaeology of Plymouth Colony Traders on the Kennebec. Augusta, Maine: Maine Historic Preservation Commission. The Maine Archaeological Society Inc., Fort Western Museum, and the Maine Historic Preservation Commission Occasional Publications in Maine Archaeology, No. 7.

    Cummings, Abbott Lowell. 1979. The Framed Houses of Massachusetts Bay, 1625-1725. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press.

    D'Agostino, Mary Ellin. 1989. "'Household Stuffe': A Comparison of Probate Inventories from Essex, England & Plymouth Colony, New England." Paper presented at the Society for Historical Archaeology Archaeological Congress, Baltimore, Maryland, Jan. 5-9, 1989.

    Deetz, James. 1967. Invitation to Archaeology. New York: American Museum of Natural History.

    Deetz, James. 1996. In Small Things Forgotten: An Archaeology of Early American Life. rev. ed. New York: Anchor.

    Glassie, Henry. 1975. Folk Housing in Middle Virginia: A Structural Analysis of Historic Artifacts. Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press.

    Holme, Randal. 1688. Academy of Armory. Chester 1688; repr. 1972, Menston, England: Scolar Press.

    Johnson, Matthew. 1993. Housing Culture: Traditional Architecture in an English Landscape. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press.

    St-George, Robert Blair. 1986. "'Set Thine House in Order': The Domestication of the Yeomanry in Seventeenth-Century New England." In Common Places: Readings in American Vernacular Architecture, eds. Dell Upton and John Michael Vlach: 336-65. Athens: University of Georgia Press.

    Scott, Patricia E., and James Deetz. 1990. "Building, Furnishing and Social Change in Early Victorian Grahamstown," Social Dynamics 16(1): 76-89.

    Sherman, Ruth Wilder and Robert S. Wakefield. 1983. Plymouth Colony Probate Guide: Where to find Wills and Related Data for 800 People of Plymouth Colony 1620 - 1691. Warwick RI: Plymouth Colony Research Group, Publication Number Two.

    Winer, Margot, and James Deetz. 1992. "The Transformation of British Culture in the Eastern Cape, 1820-1860," Kroeber Anthropological Society Papers 73/74: 41-61.

    Secondary Sources - unpublished

    Bailey, Richard B. "Pilgrim Possessions as told by their Wills and Inventories." Unpublished ms. 150p. Bound into the first of three volumes of transcriptions of Plymouth Colony wills and inventories taken from The Mayflower Descendant. The volumes are 1: 1620-1639/40; 2: 1641-1649; 3: 1650-1659. They consist of three green bound volumes, with the contents typed on onion skin. They were compiled in the 1950s under the direction of Richard Bailey, Director at the time of the Pilgrim Society, Pilgrim Hall Museum, Plymouth. The different items listed in each inventory were classified under a set of headings which he devised, with the object of making the contents more accessible to scholars. A handwritten note on the title page of volume 2, 1641-1649, states that it was "Classified by Hubert Shaw," and the first page of volume 3, is headed "Classification of Plymouth Colony Wills and Inventories, 1650-1659. . . Items classified for the Pilgrim Society by Hubert Kinney Shaw." Section II of Volume 2 comprises a "Table of Items Extracted from Individual Wills and Inventories 1641-1649," and provides in summary form the classification used by Bailey. "Pilgrim Possessions" also contains a glossary to which additions were made in the subsequent two volumes. A much shortened version of "Pilgrim Possessions - 1620-1640," was published by the Pilgrim Society in their series Pilgrim Society Notes, No. 7. It is undated and consists of 9 typed pages.

    Deetz, James, et al. 1987. "Plymouth Colony Room-by-Room Inventories, 1633-1684," Unpublished ms. Paper presented at the Dublin Seminar for New England Folklife, Boston. Abstract published in Early American Probate Inventories, ed. Peter Benes. The Dublin Seminar for New England Folklife. Annual Proceedings 1987. Boston: Boston University, 1989.

    1. Seminar participants whose combined work contributed to this paper were: Kim Baker, Jason Boroughs, Brandon Brucker, Edith Coleman, Kate Cronin, Colleen Dutson, Clifton Ellis, Garret Fesler, Jeffrey Fleisher, Seth Mallios, Nicole Miller, Edward Myrbeck, Darby O'Donnell, Allison Tillack, Anna Wallen, Derek Wheeler and Elizabeth Windchy.

    2. A collection of 311 probate inventories from Plymouth Colony was available to the seminar, dating from 1633. The collection was divided between participants so that each received about twenty for which they were responsible for general extraction of data as required. In order to study house plans and households, however, a smaller initial sample of sixty room-by-room inventories was used, and this was later reduced to thirty-eight as being the most reliable for data analysis in this context. See Appendix A: "House Plan Assessment: Plymouth Colony Room-by-Room Inventories, 1633-1685."

    3. James Deetz, In Small Things Forgotten: An Archaeology of Early American Life (New York: Doubleday, 1996), p. 35. Deetz discusses the relationship of historical archaeology to the study of material culture in the context of understanding culture. See particularly the first chapter, "Recalling Things Forgotten: Archaeology and the American Artifact", pp. 1-37.

    4. Henry Glassie, Folk Housing in Middle Virginia: A Structural Analysis of Historic Artifacts (Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1975). See in particular pp. 19-65.

    5. See Deetz 1996 in which patterns in Anglo- and Black American culture from the seventeenth century are traced through to the present. Margot Winer and James Deetz have also discussed the application of structuralism to the nineteenth century British frontier of the Eastern Cape, South Africa in "The Transformation of British Culture in the Eastern Cape, 1820-1860," Kroeber Anthropological Society Papers 73/74, 1992, pp. 41-61.

    6. See Patricia E. Scott and James Deetz, "Building, Furnishings and Social Change in Early Victorian Grahamstown," Social Dynamics 16(1), 1990, pp.76-89.

    7. Matthew Johnson, Housing Culture: Traditional Architecture in an English Landscape (Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1993).

    8. Johnson 1993, p. 176.

    9. For his discussion of Glassie's grammatical approach, see Johnson 1993, pp. 35-38. Johnson's concept of closure is rooted in the shift from the open medieval hall to the closure of houses and fields which took place between the fifteenth and seventeenth centuries. His study stresses the need for contextual evidence to account for cultural change (pp. 181-183). He sees closure as "an infectious, emergent process; it divides space and human groups, and through its division it creates a series of new divides: between work and leisure, between public and private. Many of these divides existed before, but in a very different form: the upper/lower divide was a boundary within the open hall, not between two rooms. Closure is equally structured and structuring; it both expresses and enforces new patterns of everyday thinking"( p. 108).

    10. M.W. Barley, The English Farmhouse and Cottage (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1961), p. 45, in the context of sixteenth century inventories taken for probate purposes in England, refers to "the four neighbours" who were appointed as appraisers, which provides a guideline to what could have been taking place in Plymouth Colony. Certainly in Plymouth it appears that in some instances a close friend or relative was appointed among the appraisers. Barley also suggests that where rooms were not specifically noted by the appraisers (the majority of cases in the Plymouth Colony inventories), it could have been either because it was a one room house, or the court did not consider it necessary except in the case of the estate of more affluent persons. Barley also notes (p. 49) that sometimes the order in which household goods are listed makes it possible to infer that the house has two rooms. It could, of course have more than two, and sometimes one or more rooms are referred to in passing, but it is not possible with any certainty to attribute to the rooms more than the specific goods mentioned.

    11. The Fairbanks House is discussed in several contexts by Abbott Lowell Cummings, in his The Framed Houses of Massachusetts Bay, 1625-1725 (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1979), pp. 23,25,27-29,31. See also Deetz 1996, pp. 137-139 and 142-143.

    12. Cummings 1979, pp. 22-39, discusses seventeenth century house plans in Massachusetts Bay Colony in considerable detail. His data present a valuable comparative basis for assessing those of Plymouth Colony for the same period. He draws upon a considerable body of documentary data consisting of room-by-room inventories and building contracts as well as records of 144 houses built before 1725 at Massachusetts Bay of which structural evidence has been recorded. He only mentions seven standing houses, including the Fairbanks house, from the first five decades of settlement of the colony: the Blake House and the Pierce House, Dorchester, both ca. 1650; the Coffin House, Newbury, ca. 1654; the Whipple House, Ipswich, ca. 1655; the Gedney House, Salem, ca. 1665, and the Turner House, Salem, ca. 1668.

    13. The reason for archaeological remains of early buildings in Plymouth Colony being so scarce is due to the fact that their construction was of a type, post-in-ground, to leave minimal archaeological remains visible. The earliest house excavated was the Isaac Allerton house, which was almost certainly constructed in 1630 and destroyed by the mid-seventeenth century. See Deetz, "Plymouth Colony Architecture: Archaeological Evidence from the Seventeenth Century," in Architecture in Colonial Massachusetts (Boston: Colonial Society of Massachusetts, 1979), pp. 43-59, and also In Small Things Forgotten (1996), pp. 130-141, for discussion of the diversity of building types in early New England.

    14. See Johnson 1993, pp. 44-51.

    15. Maurice Barley , in The English Farmhouse and Cottage (1961), was the first to write in detail about the housing revolution, and his work has become the standard text. Cummings, in the first chapter of The Framed Houses of Massachusetts Bay, 1625-1725 (1979, pp. 1-16), discusses at length the post-medieval English vernacular houses which developed during the housing revolution and were the prototypes of structures which were erected in New England.

    16. Johnson, as a result of his research on the traditional architecture of western Suffolk, England, argues that the process of rebuilding in fact began a century earlier than previously believed, from 1450 through 1700. See Johnson 1993, pp. 23-26.

    17. Cummings 1979, p. 3, notes that [from 1629 to] 1643 more than 21,000 individuals had arrived in New England. The regional origin of only some 3,000 head of families was known to him at the time of writing, but of these an estimated 55% were from the eastern counties of England south of the river Trent, and some 37% had been traced to the southwestern counties below the Trent and the Dee. This has important implications for the type of regional architectural influences which were brought across to America to shape the built landscape.

    18. Cummings 1979, p. 5.

    19. Cummings 1979, p. 7.

    20. Cummings 1979, p. 26.

    21. Cummings 1979, pp. 10, 28.

    22. Richard M. Candee has argued that of the approximately thirty-six buildings in Plymouth Colony for which construction data survive, the majority are framed using a vertical board technique which is unique to Plymouth Colony and the area abutting it in Rhode Island which was colonized out of Plymouth. He suggests that this form of house construction dates back to the early years of settlement and was not a technique deriving from England, but from Holland where vertical plank construction of houses was known in the seventeenth century. Given that the core of colonists who settled Plymouth came via a decade or so spent in Holland, he argues that this was the origin of this unique form of house framing. See his "A Documentary History of Plymouth Colony Architecture, 1620-1700," Old-Time New England 60(2), 1969, pp. 37-53.

    23. Johnson 1993, pp. 99-100.

    24. Steeply pitched roofs were a medieval survival, developed for thatching which requires a steep pitch for water runoff. In North America, the harsh climate caused considerable damage to thatched roofs, and by the end of the seventeenth century, they were gradually replaced by wooden shingles, and the roof line was lowered. The lean-to was normally divided into three rooms with the kitchen in the center and a smaller room at either side. As houses were normally sited to face south, the lean-to was generally north facing, and the room on the cooler north eastern side of the lean-to was sometimes used as a buttery or dairy.

    25. Henry Glassie, Personal letter to James Deetz, 1997. See also Ralph Nevill, Old Cottage and Domestic Architecture in South-West Surrey (Guildford: Billing, 1889): Hawland, plan on p. 13, elevation p. 59 for references and drawings relating to saltboxes in England.

    26. Cummings 1979, p. 26.

    27. In his analysis of houses and his search for how they can be understood in terms of cultural values and social meaning, Johnson (1993, p. 59) discusses open halls and suggests that they contain different levels of meaning - physical (circulation patterns); formal symbolic codes (an explicit structuring of space along socially hierarchical, patriarchal lines and spatial text (assertion of communality and community, but simultaneously inequality and segregation).

    28. Barley 1961, p.115.

    29. Barley 1961, p. 178.

    30. See Cummings 1979, pp. 29-30. Cellars below ground only began to appear in England, in the south, after 1650, normally under the parlor in a stone house. See Barley 1986, pp. 251-252.

    31. Robert Blair St. George, "'Set Thine House in Order': The Domestication of the Yeomanry in Seventeenth-Century New England," Common Places: Readings in American Vernacular Architecture, ed. by Dell Upton and John Michael Vlach (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1986), pp. 347, 349.

    32. Ibid., p. 348.

    33. Ibid., p. 349. He terms these houses "up and back", following Dell Upton, and attributes their prominence to increasing density in expanding towns and to the influence of East Anglian house owners and builders. He sees their development taking place "over the course of the seventeenth century, when the up-an-back plan became the rule in New England", and sees the salt-box, with its irregular roof line, disappearing in favor of symmetry at the close of the seventeenth century.

    34. M.W. Barley, "The Double Pile House," Archaeological Journal 136 (1979), pp. 253-264. The term "double pile" was first used ca. 1675 by the architect Sir Roger Pratt.

    35. See Cummings 1979, pp. 31-33.

    36. From the sixty Plymouth probate inventories in which the appraisers mentioned room names, ranging from passing mention to detailed room-by-room coverage, forty-one were considered to contain sufficient data for the analysis of house forms. Of these, 71% (29/41) can be said with a reasonable degree of certainty to have been taken in hall and parlor houses. Of the remaining twelve inventories, 67% (8/12) appeared to be basic hall and parlor in form, with additional room extensions other than the usual lean-to additions. The remaining four appear to have been single unit.

    37. James Hurst (1657), Plymouth Colony Wills and Inventories (PCW&I) 2(1), p. 66; Thomas Ensigne (1664), PCW&I 2(1), p. 18; Josiah Winslow (1674), PCW&I 3, p. 138; William Brook (1682), PCW&I 4(2), p. 22.

    38. The probate inventories which contain mention of a lean-to are: Ralph Partrig (1658), Timothy Hatherly (1666), John Woodfield (1669), Capt. William Hedge (1670), William Lumpkin (1670), John Barnes (1671), Nathaniel Thomas (1675), Jonathan Winslow (1676), Timothy Williamson (1676), Major James Cudworth (1682), Sarah Howes, widow of Capt. Thomas Howes (1683), Thomas Hatch (1684), and Gyles Rickard, Sr. (1685). See Appendix B, "Lean-tos in the Plymouth Probate Inventories, 1633-1685," for a list of their contents.

    39. Nathaniel Thomas (1675), PCW&I 3, p. 137.

    40. The excavations are discussed in Deetz 1996, pp. 44-49 (Wellfleet), 39-41 (Standish), 133-135 (Alden, Allerton and R.M.).

    41. Cary Carson et al, "Impermanent Architecture in the Southern American Colonies," Winterthur Portfolio 16(2/3) 1981; reprinted in Material Life in America 1600-1860, edited by Robert Blair St. George (Boston: Northeastern University Press, 1988), pp. 114, 116.

    42. Barley 1961, pp. 10 and 24.

    43. Barley 1961, pp. 75-76.

    44. Ibid.

    45. St. George 1986, p. 347.

    46. Roland Robbins and Evan Jones, Pilgrim John Alden's Progress: Archaeological Excavations in Duxbury (Plymouth, Mass.: The Pilgrim Society, 1969).

    47. William Bradford, Of Plymouth Plantation, 1620-1647; ed. Samuel Eliot Morison (New York: Knopf, 1952), p. 279.

    48. Carson et al 1981, pp. 135-96.

    49. Leon E. Cranmer, Cushnoc: The History and Archaeology of Plymouth Colony Traders on the Kennebec (Augusta, Maine: Maine Historic Preservation Commission, 1990). The Maine Archaeological Society Inc., Fort Western Museum & the Maine Historic Preservation Commission Occasional Publications in Maine Archaeology, No. 7.

    50. Randal Holme, Academy of Armory (Chester, 1688; repr. Menston, England: Scolar Press, 1972), p. 451.

    51. Appendix D, "Emic Room Names Classified under Etic Categories, with Sources from the Plymouth Colony Room-by-Room Probate Inventories, 1633-1685."

    52. See Appendix C, "Emic Room Names used by Appraisers in the Plymouth Colony Room-by-Room Probate Inventories 1633-1685, Including Possible House Types, Percentages of Household Goods, and Etic Categories".

    53. Barley 1961, p. 46. He sees the use of 'house' as northern, and of 'hall' as southern (pp. 260-261).

    54. John Jenney (1644) PCW&I 1, pp. 50-52. The rooms in the order listed by the appraisers are: Chamber over the parlor, Parlor, in the Dwelling House, in the Dairy House, in the Chamber over the house, Without Doores.

    55. Barley 1961, pp. 77 and 119.

    56. Cummings 1979, p. 10, refers to the kitchen being a synonym for hall in Norfolk in the 1630s. The emergence of the parlor-kitchen in the seventeenth century in both old and New England, persisted in England in lower and lower middling class housing through the nineteenth century. It is of interest that in the mid-nineteenth century, on the eastern frontier of South Africa which had been colonized by English settlers in 1820, kitchen usage changed with the introduction of black servants, and the traditional parlor-kitchen house was replaced by the parlor-dining room house form. See Scott and Deetz 1990, pp. 86-87.

    57. Joseph Tilden (1670), PCW&I 3, pp. 7-8.

    58. John Dicksey (1674), PCW&I 3, pp. 106-108.

    59. Thomas Walley (1678), PCW&I 3, p. 117.

    60. James Lindale (1652), PCW&I 2, pp. 111-112; William Hodges (1654), PCW&I 2(1), p. 4; Anthony Thacher (1667), PCW&I 2(2), p. 45.

    61. Holme, 1688; 1972 repr., Book III, Chap. XII, p. 451.

    62. Thomas Prence (1673), PCW&I 3, pp. 60-70.

    63. Thomas Hatch (1684), PCW&I 4(2), p. 152.

    64. Thomas Howes (1665), PCW&I 2, p. 32.

    65. Anthony Thacher (1667), PCW&I 2, p. 45.

    66. Henry Howland (1670), PCW&I 3, p. 27.

    67. John Barnes (1671), PCW&I 3, pp. 32-36.

    68. Gyles Rickard, Sr. (1685), PCW&I 4, pp. 102-103.

    69. Thomas Hatch (1684), PCW&I 4, p. 152.

    70. Francis W. Steer, Farm and Cottage Inventories of Mid-Essex 1635-1749 (London: Phillimore, 1969), pp. 8-9.

    71. Barley 1961, p. 76.

    72. The two inventories in which these appear are those of Sergeant John Damon (1676), PCW&I 3, pp. 41-42, whose appraisers listed an easterly and a westerly chamber, and Thomas Hatch (1664), PCW&I 4(2), p. 152, whose house included east and west chambers upstairs above the east and west rooms.

    73. Barley 1961, p. 178-179.

    74. See Appendix E, "Room Percentage Values: Plymouth Colony Room-by-Room Inventories 1633-1667 & 1670-1685."

    75. James F. Deetz, et al. "Plymouth Colony Room-by-Room Inventories, 1633-1684." Unpublished ms. Paper presented at the Dublin Seminar for New England Folklife, Boston, 1987. Abstract published in Early American Probate Inventories, ed. Peter Benes. The Dublin Seminar for New England Folklife: Annual Proceedings 1987 (Boston: Boston University, 1989), p. 182.

    76. Mary Ellin D'Agostino, "'Household Stuffe': A Comparison of Probate Inventories from Essex, England & Plymouth Colony, New England." Paper presented at the Society for Historical Archaeology Archaeological Congress, Baltimore, Maryland, Jan. 5-9, 1989, p. 4. Two additional categories, containing & measuring, and transportation, were also recorded for her Essex data, but not discussed in the paper since comparable data for Plymouth was not available at the time. In the UVA Anth 509 Seminar, an active category for weights and measures was included in the list of Active and Passive Artifact Categories (see below).

    77. See Appendix F, "Plymouth Colony Room/Activity Matrix Charts 1633-1685."

    78. From 1686 to 1691 only probate records for estates valued 50 or below were registered at the County Court Offices of Plymouth, Barnstable, and Bristol. All those for estates valued at more than 50 were registered in Suffolk County. In 1983 these were housed in the Probate Office of the Suffolk County Court House opposite the Government Center in Boston . Information from Ruth Wilder Sherman & Robert S. Wakefield, Plymouth Colony Probate Guide (Warwick, RI: Plymouth Colony Research Group, 1983), p. xi.

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