Life on a Manor

Life on a Manor

  • What were the roles of noblewomen and girls, called ladies, in the castle?

Girls from noble families usually married when they were around the age of thirteen or fourteen and they had very little, if any say in who they would marry.  People thought that the most important role of a noblewoman was to have children, especially boys, to carry on her husband’s name and inherit his land and wealth. A healthy noblewoman had a baby every year from the time she married to her mid 30’s, although many of these children died young from illnesses and accidents.

A lady also had the enormous task of running a large, busy household. She planned meals, arranged large feasts for guests, supervised cooks and other servants, ordered supplies from the nearest village or town and made sure that bills and servants were paid on time. When her husband was away fighting or visiting his other manors, she defended the manor if it got attacked and took care of any manor business. Ladies taught young girls from other noble families how to manage a household and behave like a lady. These girls were sometimes called ladies in-waiting and came to live in the lady’s home at around seven or eight years old. In her spare time, she embroidered, played chess, read stories about knights, ladies and love, and sometimes went hunting with her husband.

  • What did the Lord do in and outside of the castle?

A lord looked after his manor, from his castle or manor home. He protected the people who lived in his manor, collected taxed from them, and punished people who broke the law. The lord controlled everything in the manor, from the mills to the bread ovens, where peasants paid to have their grains ground, and bake their bread. Some lords had manors in different parts of the country. Stewards and bailiffs helped the lord look after each manor. The lord visited from time to time to make sure there were no problems.

The lords had many servants, including some that took care of his hawks and falcons he used to hunt small birds and rabbits. When the lord wasn’t fighting or taking care of his manor, he hunted wild animals and played games such a backgammon and chess. The lords liked to show off their wealth by eating lavish meals. The lord held large feasts to celebrate the births of his children, their marriages, visits from important people and religious festivals. During these great feasts fancy dishes were served and after each course fancy sweets made from almond paste and sugar brought from the Middle East were served. After eating musicians, dancers, acrobats and jugglers performed for the lord and his guests.

  • Different rooms in the Castle

The Great Hall

The Great hall was for the main meetings and the dining area and it was used by everyone in the castle. The life of castle revolved around this room. All meals were served in this room. Pages and servant waited on the tables. Servants made sure the Hall was clean, the fires were laid and the lighting was adequate. The musician, dancers, jugglers, acrobatics, jesters would perform in the Hall. The steward supervised all the events in the Great Hall.

The Solar

The Solar was intended for sleeping, private quarters and used by the Lord’s family. It later became a private sitting room that the noble family loved. The solar suite was extended to include a wardrobe.

The Wardrobe

This room was used for dressing and storage for clothes used by the Lord of the castle. It became the storage room for expensive, personal items such as; jewels, coins, fur, spiced and plates. The wardrobe was later connected to the room where dressmaking and hairdressing was carried out.

The Kitchen

Kitchens were introduced into the Medieval castles- they included several cooking ovens for baking and huge fireplaces for smoking and roast food. They also had a water supply with a sink and drainage.

  • What did the nobles eat and drink?

Nobles ate vegetables, fruit, bread made from wheat, a lot of fish and meat, including: beef, goat, pork, deer, rabbit and mutton. They also ate wild game, which they had hunted on horseback with the help of their dogs. The cooks flavoured the noble’s food with vinegar, wine and herbs grown in the castle garden. The wealthier nobles could also afford spiced such as pepper, cinnamon, cumin and cloves, which they bought from merchants at markets and fairs.

In the winter, when fresh food was limited, nobles ate meat and fish that had either been covered in salt or smoked over a fire. Salt and during food kept it from rotting in the winter. Fruit and vegetable were also preserved.

The lord, lady and their guests usually drank wine with their meals. Everyone else, including children, drank ale. Mead, a drink made from fermented honey, was also very popular.

By Angela Muturi