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What Is a Still Room?

By Donn Saylor
Updated May 16, 2024
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In castles and manor houses, a still room is an area of the house, usually located off the kitchen, which functions as a distillery. Food is often preserved, medicines and herbal treatments are concocted, and beer and spirits are made in these rooms. A still room may also serve as a pantry, larder, or storeroom.

The modern still room has its roots in ancient times. Both Roman and Greek cultures utilized distinct rooms to make herbal medicines and distill the essential oils from plants; lavender, roses, and rosemary plants were commonly found in the ancient still room. In the 16th century, those who lived and worked in European castles found they needed a distillery room that could function separately from the kitchen, and, as a result, took a cue from the ancient Romans and Greeks and implemented still rooms.

During the medieval age, women were typically in charge of the still room. The matriarch of the family oversaw the functions of the room, which grew to include brewing beer, alcohol, and wine, creating cosmetics, and mixing household cleaning agents. These manor house rooms combined the functionality of a kitchen with the technological capabilities of a laboratory and were considered an integral part of any grand household. A still room was also a sort of makeshift hospital, allowing those with medical ailments to receive treatments as those treatments were being created.

The classic still room was also used as a training room for mothers to teach their daughters practical household skills. The more skills of this variety possessed by a daughter, the better her prospects to make a good marriage match. As times changed, the still room became less and less populated by the upper crust and, eventually, the room was handed over to the use of poverty-stricken relatives or household servants. Eventually, the position of still room maid was formed.

Though still rooms remain in existence in many castles and old manor homes, they are not typically part of newer homes. With food, alcohol, and medicines now easily acquired, the still room has fallen out of favor. Some, though, are implementing still rooms as a way to make their own products and avoid the harsh chemicals used in many modern food and household products. They also use these rooms as the ancient Greeks and Romans did and make essential oils and other healing medicinal concoctions, free of dyes and harmful chemicals.

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Discussion Comments
By Mykol — On Nov 24, 2011

When I was visiting friends out east, I ran across a small gift and tea shop that was called the Stillroom.

This was a very unique, quaint shop that was absolutely delightful. I imagine this shop was named after some type of Greek or Roman still room.

The second you walk in the shop you are greeted with all kinds of herbal fragrances. Many of the items that are sold here are made with herbs, oils and plants.

After reading about how the still rooms were used in castles, I think this is a perfect name for this little shop.

By golf07 — On Nov 23, 2011

I would love to have a still room in my house. I have an open kitchen area, which I really love, but there are times it would be nice to have a separate room for some of my creations.

This would not only keep my kitchen area free of clutter, but allow me to work on more than one thing at a time.

I have always been interested in using essential oils and herbal remedies, and a room like this would be the perfect place to do this.

Now when I am trying something new like this, I always have to clean up the area before I can begin fixing a meal in the kitchen.

Having a separate room like this that was just off the kitchen sounds like a perfect solution for what I like to do.

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