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.