The earlier manors, about which there is documentary evidence, date from the 13th century, ie the time when Estonian territories were converted to Christianity and written records began to be made. The diocese, order and private persons started to establish numerous manors to govern the areas.

In the Middle Ages, the manor often performed only an economic function and its owner did not live in the manor. Initially, it was limited to wooden buildings. Stone manors from the Middle Ages have not survived in Lääne County.

During the Livonian War, a large part of Estonia’s building heritage was destroyed. The new manor houses were modest, the wooden buildings built around the mantle chimney with a thatched roof, made of reed or straw. Only three wooden manor houses survived – Keskvere, Suur-Rõude and Väike-Lähtru.

During the Swedish rule, new manors were constantly established in Lääne County. The Great Northern War saved the manors of Lääne County from looting. The construction boom of the more representative manor houses began in 1750-60 years and lasted until the beginning of World War I. At the beginning of the period, the Baroque style prevailed. One of the most monumental buildings was the wooden manor of Virtsu, which was destroyed in 1917. In the 1770s, classicist elements appeared in the manor houses.

The main buildings of Suure-Lähtru (1779), Matsalu (ca 1770-1780) and Vatla manor (1810) could be mentioned as early Classicist manor houses. the Vatla manor complex includes a unique in Estonia arched barn and stable barn.

Those interested in manor tourism sould go and discover the ruins of Väike-Rõude manor and auxiliary buildings. A great example of early neoclassical wooden manor houses is the Uue-Varbla manor house (ca 1800).

Neoclassical style prevailed from the 1820s, a number of manor houses date back to that time: Lihula  (1824), Massu (1840) and Penijõe. However, the poor soil of Lääne County did not allow the manors to flourish, so the vast majority of the manors were modest with some exceptions.

In the 1850s, the boom of Neoclassical style began to end and Historicism took over. Veltsa manor (1840s) was built in the English Tudor style (now in ruins). The medieval Episcopal Castle of Koluvere obtained new look in luxurious neo-Gothic syle.

In the riots of 1905, more than 20 manors were burned down in Lääne County. This was followed by a short wave of manor construction (Illuste manor). At the end of the manor era, there were a total of 183 manors in Lääne County (together with Hiiumaa Island).

The manor era ended when Estonia became independent. The manors were nationalized and the manor lands were divided. Attempts were made to give new function to the big manor buildings, but large buildings began to fall appart. In 1939 the last owners of german manors fled from here. During the Soviet period, only newer and better preserved manor complexes were used, others were allowed to continue to decay.

Text is from the book “Manors of Lääne County” by Valdo Praust.

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