Manor homesteads: distribution and architectural features

Dalė Puodžiukienė

The object of the investigation discussed in the article is the heritage of the manors in the rural district of Naujamiestis. An attempt has been made to find out the architectural features and peculiarities of the buildings that stood in the homesteads during the 16th-20th centuries, as well as to reveal the territorial distribution of the homesteads and the development of their internal plan structures.  The 16th–17th century inventories, documents of the 18th century visitations, 19th century settlement census, cartography done in 19th and early 20th centuries, scientific and regional literature, as well as the material from the author's expeditions in situ, and other sources have been used. The author's professional experience and understanding of the heritage context were important for the formation of research conclusions.

After a brief overview of the changes in the territorial distribution of manor homesteads, it can be stated that a dense network of manors and folwarks were being gradually formed in the Naujamiestis area, which have been inhabited for a long time. Royal estates fell into private hands in the 15th–16th centuries; later, other large estates were also divided. The prosperous farms of the rich middle nobility prevailed in the 19th century. From the late 19th to the early 20th centuries, they turned into average capitalist farms. In the early 20th century, as the nature of production and society changed, estates and sometimes homesteads were shared among family members. The number of manor homesteads more than doubled during the 19th century (the documents of the late 18th century show seventeen homesteads in the manors and folwarks, which grew to more than forty in those of the 20th century). Next to larger land holdings, there have always been small estates as noble villages.

The investigation revealed that all homesteads, with a few late exceptions (production sectors of Naudvaris, Naujamiestis, Birželiai and Liberiškis, as well as several other manors), had wooden houses built. Based on the source material it can be said that the wooden architecture of the homesteads during the 16th–17th centuries was rich, however, the buildings did not survive due to the wars and turmoil at the second half of the 17th century. The buildings of the 18th century, thanks to the income provided by the fertile land, were remodelled by the owners of the manors. The 20th century historical events generally destroyed the building areas of the homesteads. The wooden architecture of manor houses is the worst preserved and least researched part of the architectural heritage both in the whole of Lithuania and former Naujamiestis rural district. However, two objects of wooden architecture, such as  Jutkoniai and Švaininkai manor houses, can be called a very common case: in the Lietuvos Architektūros Istorija (History of Lithuanian Architecture) publication, they illustrate the general development of Lithuanian architecture. The architecture of the mansions of Vadaktėliai, Augustava and Upytė I conveys certain historical era. The buildings have many authentic details. Sometimes valuable parts of an old building are hidden beneath the tarnished and lived-in exterior. From this point of view, the Upytė I mansion and the Liberiškis house are interesting. The homestead of Ustronė folwark has preserved the elements of the typical folwark structure, illustrating traditional buildings of this size of a homestead. The wooden barns of the Upytė I, Liberiškis and Narutiškis manors are notable among the wooden farm buildings. This is almost all that remains of the heritage created during five hundred years, representing the era, when homesteads consisted of several to several dozen wooden structures surrounded by impressive gardens and parks.