Life on the Manor and the 3-field rotation :) By Ashwini ChelliahPosted: November 11, 2011
The layout of the Manor
The Mill – Grain such as wheat was ground into flour here
Castle/manor house – The overlord usually lived in the castle or a manor house
House of the steward – The lord’s business manager lived in the house of the steward
The house of the bailiff – The person in charge of collecting taxes lived here
The house of the reeve – The person who supervised farm work carried out by serfs stayed here
Church – The place where people would go to worship God and where they paid their tithes and often help simple markets.
Tithe barn – Where peasants deposited one-tenth of all they produced for use by the church
Most of the life in the Middle Ages centred around the manor, or large estate, of a feudal lord. Most lords’ lived in manor houses, but wealthy lords lived in castles. Most of the village were the lord’s fields, pasture land, and woods for hunting. Lords often owned most of the land in a manor.
The three-field rotation
Throughout the feudal period, most farmers used the three-field method of farming. One field was usually planted with wheat or rye in Autumn. The second field was normally planted during spring, this time either with barley for making beer or in beans, peas and oats. The third field was left fallow (unplanted).
The purpose of the three-field rotation was to preserve the fertility of the soil and usually each year, a different field was left fallow. Crops were normally rotated to prevent the same nutrients in the soil always being used.
The overlord provides a portion of land for a vassal in exchange for his service and loyalty. There often is a ceremony that marked the contract. Usually, the vassal knelt in front of the lord and put his hands on the lord’s hands. He then swore an oath of fealty (a solemn promise of faithful service to the lord), promising to serve the lord for life. The lord then kissed the vassal and lifted him to his feet. Even though the vassals promised to serve the lord for life, they were still taxed and had to surrender a portion of crops to the overlord.
Feudalism was important because it created ties of obedience and loyalty between the vassal and the lord. Usually it was better if you were a king/lord rather than a serf or vassal.
Role of the people who lived on a manor
The Feudal Lord
The overlord was a powerful man who gave a portion of land (fief) to a vassal and provided protection for them in return for their loyalty and service. Unfortunately the vassals were still taxed and had to surrender a portion of crops to the overlord. The feudal lord was also responsible for protecting the family of any vassal who was killed.
Normally a ceremony marked the contract of the vassal. The ceremony consisted of the vassal kneeling in front of the lord and putting his hands in the lord’s hands. He then swore an oath of fealty, promising to serve the lord for life. The lord then kissed the vassal and lifted him to his feet.
The wealthier lords often lived in large castles, but most lived in manor houses. Life in the Middle Ages usually centered around the manor, or large estate of a overlord. The huts and shops of serfs and freemen, together with the chapel and a mill created a small village. Beyond the village, were the lord’s fields, pasture land, and woods for hunting.
The lord and his family in their castle or manor house enjoyed all the comforts associated with being a lord. Whereas the peasant and his family struggled just to survive.
There were two types of peasants: freedmen and serfs. Freedmen usually had a higher status because they weren’t bound to anyone. Peasants had no way of defending themselves, which is why many of them entered into contracts with powerful lords. In return for staying in the lord’s castle or manor house in times of trouble, many peasants agreed that they (and their descendants) would become serfs and work the fields of their protectors. They also agreed to give their lords a certain percentage of the crops they grew on the land as well as some livestock they raised!
Serfs were not slaves! They had rights that slaves never had. One was the right to portions of land on which they met their needs for food, clothing and shelter. Another was a guarantee that they could not be sold separately from the land they were bound to.
Some serfs only owned a small amount of land, but others received as much as 30 acres. Serfs were usually free to work their own fields three days a week, but the rest of the week, except for Sunday, was given to the lord’s land. A serf was required to give a portion of his own harvest to his lord. The lord also received a portion of the serf’s chickens, pigs and livestock.
The serfs job extended beyond the lord’s fields. A serf often had to run errands for his lord’s lady usually had to cut firewood and hay on the lord’s land and give a portion to his lord. The serf’s agreement with his lord also required him to give extra on feast days (Christmas and Easter etc.)
The serfs’ wives and daughters didn’t get it easy either, they too worked very hard for their lord. They usually helped out in the manor house, made clothing, baked bread and brewed beer.
Sometimes, a serf who could no longer work with the conditions on the manor would run away. A runaway serf always had the risk of being killed. If he was captured, he would be returned to his lord and would have to suffer the cruellest of punishments.
In the thirteenth century, it was announced that if any serf ran away and hid for a whole year and a day would be considered a free person. Many serfs became free when their lords were killed on crusades and even more were able to buy their freedom when the Black Death raged through Europe. With the force of the labor becoming so reduced, serfs were able to bargain for their freedom or at least for more rights in return for working the land.
The Decline of feudalism
As the barbaric raids stopped, as food stocks increased, and as money rather than personal services began to be given to lords in exchange for rights and privileges, the feudal system began to break down. The people began to drift away from the manors to start new lives in towns. Some people created their own farms, while other learned new skills such as spinning, weaving, baking, music, acting, armour construction, ropemaking, butchery, banking and cloth dying.
Our Group – Jade Ting , Ashwini Chelliah and David Ong