Cultural heritage of manor houses

The shared history of manor houses

The South Baltic has historically been an area, where people, goods, ideas – and armies – moved around. Tied together through family connections, economic activities, and everchanging borders, the region share many histories.

The EU Interreg project South Baltic Manors highlights manors and manorial life in the past and present in areas of Sweden, Denmark, Germany, Poland, and Lithuania. There will be an exhibition at 7 places around those countries, a festival of manorial culture is held in each area and touristic routes and offers will provide access to the versatile landscape of Baltic Manors.

Manorial ownership and manorial life in the South Baltic region have through the centuries been heavily influenced by movements of borders and movements of people across existing borders. In the the 16thto 19thcenturies noble families often moved from serving one king to another and subsequently also bought or were given land in different countries and regions. Thus, the same families can be found all over the region, which was connected through the Baltic Sea – not divided by it.

Historic estates

Palaces, castles and manor houses share a common history around the Baltic Sea Coast. But you find also distinctions in the regions. Houses in Denmark and Sweden are well preserved, whereas houses in Eastern Germany, Poland and Lithuania have been through phases of demolition and abandonment because of wars and political systems.

What is a Manor House?

A small world in itself
A manor house is a representative family house and the centre of a large agricultural estate. Thus, the manor house is not just a large house, but a part of a large-scale environment, which also includes farm buildings, as barns and staples, garden and park, and the production landscape: fields, meadows and forests.

Historically the agricultural land belonging to manors was worked by tenant farmers, who rented farm and land from the manor owner and paid the rent in work hours, agricultural produce and money. Personally they were free.
At the end of the 17. century the landlords more and more acquire the land of the peasantry and the former farmers became unfree workers. At the 19th century the large manor estate was the determining element of the East Elbe/ Baltic landscape.

Manors are often, but not always, owned by noble families. Until the end of the 19th century manors were exempt from taxes, because owners since the Middle Ages had plight to support their sovereign in war. As democratic systems developed the privileges belonging to manor owners disappeared.