Life on a ManorPosted: November 7, 2011
Life on a manor for an everyday peasant was extremely hard. Approximately
ninety percent of the people in the middle ages were considered to be peasants.
There were two types of peasants: freedman and serfs.
Freedmen were not bound to anyone and were free to do what they pleased. Some owned their own
businesses, usually as carpenters, blacksmiths, weavers, or bakers. But their
life wasn’t much easier than a serf’s life. Because war was everywhere it was
very hard for them to find protection. With bandits and invaders, killing
anyone they wished, they had no way of defending themselves. Many made
agreements with powerful lords, to work on the land and become one of their
serfs in exchange for protection.
Serfs were not slaves, they but they couldn’t leave the
manor without permission. They did not receive their land as a free gift, they
had to work and do certain jobs around the manor for their master. Their master
assigned them their jobs, which would include being a craftsman, baker, farmer,
tax collector and many more. A life of a serf was dedicated to the requirements
of the lord of the manor. If the manor land was sold or reassigned to a new
owner, the serfs had to stay with the land and obey the new owner.
Serfs could buy their freedom from the manor; however it was very hard
for them to save the amount of money. Especially in those violent times, being
a part of the land offered them a certain amount of protection. The lord could tax his serf as much as he
wished and also make them work as hard as he wants. But in fear of losing his
tenants, that prevented him from putting heavy burdens on his serf.
Some serfs owned land spread throughout the fields. Some own only a small amount of land;
however others owned as much as 30 acres. Serfs were allowed to work on their
own land three day a week. The rest of the week was dedicated to the lord’s land (except for Sunday) where he would
grow vegetables or do whatever the lord asks of him. Serfs’ wives and daughters
also worked hard alongside the men labouring in the fields. They also helped
out in the manor where they made clothing, baked bread or brewed beer.
The peasants were at the bottom of the Feudal System and had to
obey their local lord to whom they had sworn an oath of obedience on the Bible.
Peasants were expected to pay rent for their land to their lord; then they had
to pay a tax to the church called a tithe, which was 10% of the value of what they had farmed. After they had paid
all of their taxes, they could keep what was left, which wasn’t normally much.
Peasants could be grouped into two main professions: farmer or
craftsmen. The farmers worked out on the field’s everyday doing jobs such as, planting,
harvesting, and fertilizing the plants. They paid for their rights to use the
land directly from their harvest, and kept the remains to either sell or keep
for family uses. Most farmers were bound to their land and not free. However some
were free and were known as villeins. These people were allowed to leave and go
where they wished.
The craftsmen were usually trained by a parent who was in the
profession, or by going into an apprenticeship with another craftsman in the
town. The craftsmen built their goods to either sell or to pay taxes to the
lord for their rights to use the land. Their profit from the sales was used to
buy food from the farmers. Their life mainly consisted of making their goods and providing services that were available
to the public in the town.
Peasants lived in houses called – cruck houses.
These houses had a wooden frame plastered with wattle and daub. This was a
mixture of mud, straw and manure. The straw added insulation to the wall while
the manure was considered good for mixing the whole mixture together and giving
it strength. The mixture was left to dry in the sun and formed what was a
strong building material.
Beds were definitely not a common thing for a peasant as most slept on a straw
mattress on the floor. They slept in their work clothes, usually covered by an
animal skin to keep them warm at night. Some houses had linen towels, woollen
blankets, and livestock was also very common for them to own such as, chickens,
cows, or a pig. The wife in the family usually occupied her time with raising
the children and having a small garden, called a croft, located next to the house.
(This is my diorama of what a life of a peasant would look like)