A long gallery is a long, narrow room commonly associated with British architecture. These long galleries are traditionally found in manor homes, or great houses in England and throughout Europe. Only very wealthy homeowners could afford a property equipped with a long gallery, and this room often played many roles in both business and leisure. Today, some classic examples of the long gallery can still be found in well-preserved British homes. A few are even open to the public for tours, allowing a glimpse into this by-gone era.
The concept of a long gallery dates back to the Elizabethan era, which lasted from the middle of the 16th century to the early 17th century in England. These years were considered a Renaissance period in Great Britain, where architecture and the arts reached a peak in popular culture. Prior to this time, many medieval manor homes featured a similar space, known as the great hall or great room. These predecessors to the long gallery represented the center of family life, and served as a space for banquets, entertaining and even as a sleeping area for kitchen staff.
The average long gallery was highly ornate, with elaborate architectural details, gilded finishes and fine artwork throughout. They featured high ceilings and a long, narrow shape like a modern corridor. Many were designed to run along the entire length of one floor of the home, with windows lining an entire wall. Long galleries in the Elizabethan period were often situated on the upper floor of the home in order to provide great views for residents and guests.
These rooms served a variety of functions in both everyday life and special events. They were often used to display collections of art, furniture, or tapestries. On cold or rainy days, the long gallery allowed occupants to walk indoors for exercise without having to venture outside. They also served as a sitting room for entertaining guests, as well as an event hall for other important gatherings.
One important feature of the long gallery was that it was designed to function as a room within the home, not as a corridor for traveling between other rooms. Surprisingly, homes during this period did not include hallways or corridors. Instead, guests simply traveled directly out of one room and into the next. This room often had small rooms located off to the sides, such as offices, bedrooms, or studies, which were often referred to as cabinets during this period.