Published November 27, 2013 by Kat

I’m a sucker for floor plans, especially floor plans for sprawling 17th, 18th, and 19th century houses. So of course I’ve thought about the floor plan of the manor house at Broch Tuarach, affectionately called Lallybroch. Haven’t you? Oh–I’m still on about Outlander, here, btw.

In the first book Jamie tells Claire that it was built in 1702 and was full of forward-thinking innovations, such as brick ovens built into the kitchen fire and ceramic stoves to warm the rooms instead of fireplaces. Later, Herself seems to forget these details, and says that 1721 is carved on the lintel (which is supposed to be Jamie’s year of birth, though it couldn’t have been, not if he turned 23 on May 1, 1743. Details details.) There are fireplaces everywhere. Details details.

Here is my disclaimer: I am not a scholar of architectural history. I am not even British. I am just a house nerd who has read books. So here are my thoughts on the probable floorplan of Lallybroch.

First, it would have been symmetrical. This was the heyday of Palladian symmetry. Double-stack houses had become the norm by 1700, by which I mean, the main rooms were in the center of the house with a symmetrical sprawl of smaller rooms on either side.

Second, the main stair was likely in the front hall. By now the “hall” was nothing more than a grand entryway and passage. The family dined elsewhere, the servants had their own hall in the basement. Some words in the fourth book made it sound, to me, like Herself agreed that the main stair is in the front hall. So there.

Third, it would have been built on a half-sunk basement, and that basement is where the kitchen would have been. It is easy to read the text and imagine the kitchen on the same level as the main rooms, but that would have been unlikely. Approaching the house from the front or back, one probably took a half-flight of stairs either up to the main rooms or down to the kitchens and offices, and when the family is entering the kitchen from the back door, they’re going down stairs to do it.

Fourth, it probably had the basement, the “ground” level with major rooms, the first floor with another major room plus the family’s bedchambers, and an attic under a hipped roof, where lived the house servants and the children. One of the books, I can’t remember which, corroborates this, though another has Jamie descending two staircases to get from his bedchamber to the main rooms, so (question marks). Probably Herself wanted to emphasize the moment where Jamie stopped hurrying (on the family stairs) and switched into stately Laird mode (on the hall stairs), and forgot. Herself is wonderful, but sometimes she does forget.

This leaves us with the question of Lallybroch’s size. It was the main house of a modest estate, with approximately sixty crofts. There don’t appear to be masses of servants running the place, because the family does some of the cooking–Jamie says that his mother had just put dinner on to cook when he was born, and his sister cooked dinner the day after their mother died. There is enough of a staff to provide some upstairs/downstairs division of labor, however. We know this because Mary MacNabb is taken on as a kitchen maid, not a house maid or maid-of-all-work.

All right, now to the floor plan. I have been thinking about Coleshill House when I think about Lallybroch. The plans for Coleshill House were drawn up in 1650, and they were revolutionary in several ways. I think a house that was revolutionary in England in 1650 would probably still be fairly fresh in the Scottish Highlands in 1702. Coleshill House is a flexible, sensible floor plan with plenty of rooms, but not so many they wouldn’t be used. It has the right number of floors. The ends of its corridors have backstairs in them, instead of the window seats described at Lallybroch–backstairs were a fairly new innovation at the time. While the house’s footprint provides for a huge basement, that doesn’t mean that the basement was full of swarms of servants. Much of the space is set aside for storage and chores that require space of their own, such as dairy and laundry. I think Coleshill is just about right.

Here are plans of all four floors of Coleshill House from Google Books. Look at page 161 (sorry I couldn’t point the link directly there). There is also text about why the Coleshill floorplan is notable.

If you don’t care to click through, my own drawings of the two main floors are at the bottom of this post. I have flubbed the hall stair a little bit, but these drawings gives you a broad idea of the “fine” part of the house. A two-part central space, four medium-sized rooms, eight closets or cabinets. These would have been quite small, perhaps 8’x 8′, and used for wardrobes, studies, or body servants. It would certainly be easy to renovate them into bathrooms, updating the house for the 20th century. The only non-symmetrical room is the Steward’s, or Factor’s, room on the ground floor. This is where Ian and Jamie did business, and where tenants went to pay rent on Quarter Days. Instead of closets, this room has a broad staircase down to the basement, which would have been used for bringing food up from the kitchens. The large room on the ground floor would have been the dining parlor. The large room on the upper floor would have been the grand chamber, used for the most formal of receptions. The hall is two stories tall, with a railing looking down in the second story.

If you didn’t click through above, the attic is divided into six roughly equal spaces. The basement contains kitchen, pantry, larder, tripartite store room, servant’s hall, housekeeper’s room, cellars, dairy, and still room.

The only thing Lallybroch has that Coleshill doesn’t is a small “gun room” in between the hall and the parlor. I wonder if Herself was thinking of the armoury at Abbotsford House, the sprawling fairy-tale home of Sir Walter Scott. I have looked at a lot of 18th century house plans, and never seen one with a room for weapons on the ground floor. Powder rooms in the basement, yes.

Lallybroch level 1

Lallybroch level 2


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