A typical great hall was a rectangular room between one and a half and three times as long as it was wide, and also higher than it was wide. It was entered through a screens passage at one end, and had windows on one of the long sides, often including a large bay window. There was often a minstrel's gallery above the screens passage. At the other end of the hall was the dais where the top table was situated. The lord's family's more private rooms lay beyond the dais end of the hall, and the kitchen, buttery and pantry were on the opposite side of the screens passage.
Even the royal and noble residences had few living rooms in the Middle Ages, and a great hall was a multifunction room. It was used for receiving guests and it was the place where the household would dine together, including the lord of the house, his gentleman attendants and at least some of the servants. At night some members of the household might sleep on the floor of the great hall.