Life in the Middle Ages centred around the manor, or large estate or a feudal lord. The wealthier people lived in large castles, but the majority of people lived on the Manor. Manorialism helped organise the people when the Roman Empire fell due to the fact everyone felt insecure about their lives and belongings.
Manorialism (also known as Seigneurialism) is a system used in the Middle Ages in which landless labourers and poor farmers gave their land, their freedom and/or services to powerful landowners who had the military power to defend them from harm. The powerful landowners were known as the Overlord/s and the farmers were known as Serfs.
How did it come into being?
When the Roman Empire fell in 476AD, there was no army to protect the peasants from thefts, murders etc. After a period of time, a Frankish king named Charlemagne decided to bring in a system called Feudalism which later developed into Manorialism after the Battle of Hastings which made ‘William the Conqueror’ the King of England.
The Manor house was the largest building in the village. It was often separated from the rest of the village. The wealthiest type of Lord’s would have a Manor House built from stone or brick whilst the poorer (yet not poor) lord’s would have their house made from wood.
The Manor house was often a luxurious home in the medieval time and had many types of rooms for different uses. It would generally include –
- The Solar – A private living area for the lords and senior woman for relaxing and dining in.
- The Great Hall – A large hall with many decorations and beautiful windows usually with a large fireplace used for meetings and sometimes even cooking.
- The Kitchen – An area where they would cook their meals, had large ovens and fireplaces to cook.
- The Garderobe – A simple hole that removed the human waste into the moat.
- The Pantry – A place where short lasting food was stored.
- The storerooms – Where most of the items were stored.
- The Buttery – Where the beverages were provided and stored.
- The Chapel – Where people were prayed for, the higher ranking people sat in the upper side whilst the lower ranking people sat in the lower side.
Outside the Manor house was the peasant village where all the peasants/serfs lived.
The peasant would usually consist of a –
- Bakehouse – A bakery in which bread was baked.
- Mill – A building in which meat was beat/grounded and flour/wheat was grounded.
- Church – Where the worship of God happened and people prayed.
- Cruck house – The houses which peasants lived in, they were usually materials baked in the sun and provided good insulation.
The fields and farms would usually be on the edge of the Manor and be surrounding the peasant village. The fields would usually be in strips of ploughed/unploughed. There would usually be a side with the seeds for Spring and a side with seeds for Autumn.
- (Manor House) http://www.middle-ages.org.uk/manor-house.htm
- (Manor House Rooms) http://www.middle-ages.org.uk/manor-house.htm
- http://www.castlesandmanorhouses.com/manorhouses.htm (No publisher or name available for the above)
- (Holt, Rinehart and Winston) http://go.hrw.com/hrw.nd/gohrw_rls1/pKeywordResults?ST9%20Medieval%20Manor
- Langi.P (2012) “The Manor.” https://wccshoeing.wordpress.com/category/8c-the-manor/
Picture one is a picture of the Manor House made of wood and has a watch tower at the top, I would have coloured the bottom in brown but I ran out of brown texta. Clearly it is much larger than the peasants houses and it is seperated from the peasants as well.
Picture two is a picture of the little peasants house all placed together because this is how they were placed back then in the middle ages, and a watch tower made of logs which is what they used to build houses and other buildings.
Full Description of my Diorama – As you can see there is a river, and on the left is the manor house which is of course bigger than the peasants houses which is shown on the right. And a watch tower made of wooden logs to keep an eye out for robbers and thieves that could go pass their gate which is around the border.
What is the Manor?
The manor was introduced by William the Conqueror. He divided bits of his land and gave them to his noble men and knights, who now became Lord of the Manor. The land they owned was mostly on valleys and hills and had space up to 1800 acres. In the manor we would’ve found a farming land, forests, common pasture land, a village, a mill, a church and a Manor House. The Manor House was built for the Lord of the Manor which was built separately to the peasants that worked under him.
What is the role of the Lord of the Manor?
The Lord of the Manor had many different jobs. One of them was to make sure everything was running smoothly on his Manor, make sure everyone was satisfied and had no complaints, and his serfs were working hard to maintain his farm lands. Another one was during battles he was expected to fight and bring along strong soldiers and men from his Manor. As a noble man he was to also protect his people living on his Manor and keep them from danger. If the Lord of the Manor was to be away his wife, the lady of the Manor, would take his place.
What were the buildings made of?
Most of the buildings built on the Manor used wood to construct their houses. They were not as fancy or as strong as the castles were, but the Manor Houses were the strongest buildings there. On the Manor gates and watch towers were placed around the border, so they could watch out for robbers or thieves.
How did the Manorial system start to decline?
At the end of the Crusades both the manorial system and feudalism started to decline. A disease known as the Black Death played a role in how the manorial system started to decline. The hygiene back then was terrible nobody knew what to do with their filthy rubbish so they threw it onto the streets, and let the rain wash it away. What they didn’t realise though that their filthy rubbish was attracting disgusting rats everywhere, and so the fleas on the rats had passed on to the humans which caused the Black Death disease. Because no doctor knew how to cure this disease people everywhere were dying rapidly which caused the prices of funerals to get higher, as well as food.
Also the serfs now began to see how important they really were, so they demanded better working conditions if they were to stay and help the Lord of the Manor. They soon got what they asked for and Europe changed to the monetary system. This now meant that the serfs could buy their own freedom from their Lords and run away or move out of the country away from the Black Death disease.
Life on the manor- for both lord & peasant, including the kinds of people who lived there, the types of work done, and the lifestyles of the manor’s inhabitants, responsibilities of each person.
- Pantry- Pantler, looked after the pantry.
- Buttery- Buttler, looked after the buttery.
- Kitchen- Cooks, scullions. Prepared the meals for the household.
- Larder- Larderer, looked after the larder.
- Cellar- Cellerer, looked after the cellar.
- Constable- Was in charge of the horses, grooms and pages.
- Chamberlain- Was in charge of making sure the chambers were clean.
- Marshal- Was in charge of all things military, including arms and discipline, knights and squires.
- Master of the wardrobe- Was in charge of choosing what the lord and lady would wear and other domestic things.
- Bailiff- Was in charge of making sure the manor ran smoothly.
- Serf- Paid the lord out of their crops for letting them use his land.
- Reeve- Was a manor official elected by the peasants or the lord himself.
- Peasant/villein-Usually worked as farmers of labourers.
- Cottager- Worked as a labourer doing simple jobs. They had little if not no land at all except for the cottage they lived in.
- Servant- Worked in the manor house cleaning, cooking and doing all other chores around the manor.
- Lord- Was expected to fight and provide soldiers for the king and he had to oversee the running of the manor.
- Lady- Her main goal was to provide children for the Lord but she also took on his jobs while he was away, purchased special items like material and spices and assist or supervise the preparation of the food.
The physical layout- of the interior of the manor.
The manor contains 12 main rooms. The great hall was where everything happened. This was where the lord or king sometimes had his court. There was a screen at both ends of the hall. One end was the entrance to the hall the other was the only wall that separated the sleeping lords and ladies from the servants. The second room of the manor was the bed chambers. These rooms were where the lord and lady slept. This room offered them privacy and their personal attendants were fortunate enough to sleep on the floor in the same room. The solar was a small room that was sought of like a sitting room, it also included a wardrobe. This was the room that the lady of the house could come to that would give her more privacy when the hustle and bustle of the hall grew too much for her. The garderobe was the toilet that the people of the manor used. This was generally a hole that leads to the moat or elsewhere. There were no baths or showers back then because they were classified ungodly. The kitchen was where the dining room was so that the heat was spread around evenly. In the time that the great hall existed the pantry was where the bread was kept. There were separate rooms for other foods. The larder was used to keep food cool prior to preparation. These were generally close to the kitchen so that the food was easy to access. The buttery was not for storing butter, but for storing beer for the lower people of the household who couldn’t drink wine. The word buttery came from beer butts (barrels). The gatehouse was the structure that protected the entrance to a manor. These would have many lines of defence so that it would defend the manor from intruders. The chapel was built close to the great hall and could be used by everyone in the household. It had two floors the top one being for the nobles and the lower one for the servants. The cabinet was usually a man’s private study these were scattered throughout the castle. A boudoir was a noble ladies version of a cabinet. This was where they dressed and bathed. Later in the medieval time period this room was used for embroidery and other activities. The casemate was said to be impenetrable and it was used to store troops. Under crofts were generally used as cellars but they were often rented out as stores. The ice house was used to store ice that was kept from the winter months. It was used to keep people cool in the summer months and would usually last until next winter. They mostly built underground. The dovecote was used to house doves or pigeons. There were holes in the sides of the rectangular or cylinder buildings so that the birds could come into nest at night. They were used for their eggs and flesh. Aparments were given to important residents of the house hold they contained everything they needed just like the ones we have today.
Food preparation- What did they use and was it hygienic. What did they eat.
Food preparation was always done over an open fire. In the manor if the lord was rich enough he could afford an oven allowing the cook to make more fancy meals. In a very rich manor there could be several ovens. Fruits were often included in the meal because they could be dried, preserved or fresh. Fruit was also used in desserts because honey and sugar were so expensive and it was a natural sweetener. The most common vegetables in the medieval times were cabbage, onion, garlic, carrots and beets. Fish wasn’t eaten as much as meat was but it could be salted and preserved for when they felt like it. Meat such as pork and lamb were common in their diets because these meats were easy to obtain and cheap to look after until they are killed. Beef was rare because they were good for milk and were more expensive because of the feed that was needed. Medieval citizens didn’t know how to preserve milk so it was mostly turned into cheese which was used a lot in the cooking. Spices were very expensive because they had to be imported so not many people had it. There were other spices like mint that grew all over Europe and was much cheaper. Desserts would usually consist of mulled wine, aged cheese and fruit. Wine was commonly drunk in the southern region of Europe as they grew grapes there it was also popular because it was said to be healthy and aid the digestion. Beer was drunk in the northern area because wine had to be imported and beer was therefore easier to get because it was made from ingredients they already had.
What did the peasants live in, what were the conditions and was their food and water safe?
The peasants lived in small huts on the manor. The huts were made of wood woven together and the gaps were sealed with mud. The floor was packed down earth but straw was laid over for more warmth. There were no panes of glass making it very cold in the winter. The animals had to live with them and there was only one fire used for cooking and keeping warm. There was a cauldron over the fire that was used for cooking. Chairs were too expensive so they used stools instead. The only other furniture in the room was a chest of drawers and a table. Peasants were too poor to afford beds or pillows so they slept on the floor with only logs as pillows. They couldn’t afford candles so they used rushes dipped in animal fat for their light. Peasants couldn’t afford bread because wheat was so expensive but they could afford the common vegetables of the day.