The manor is really another name for a village. It can get a bit more complicated but in most cases a manor is the village around a Manor House. In some cases a single manor house might have a large village around it and up to another 2 - 3 satelite holdings, like smaller villages around it. In these cases these villages were specialized for logging, mining, quarrying and so forth. In the article we will focus on the, by far most common manor which was primarliy rural-agricultural.
On average, a manor (what we'd call now a village) covered an area of 1000 - 5000 acres, and although the size of the manor varied greatly the actual "recipe" of the infrastructure, laws and traditions remained constant for most of the time.
With very small exceptions most villages were built on the sides of a river, and in the most organised of manors the flow of the river was altered slightly to create a beneficial location for the village's water mill and in order to create "the pond". The pond was an artificial lake that allowed for easy access to clean water, trap fishing (in some cases breeding) and a safe place for water fowl like ducks.
The manor's arable land was separated into 3 fields. At any given time 2 of them were cultivated and one of them laid fallow to replenish. From those cultivated one was sown with grains like Wheat, Oats or Rye (depending on the temperature and fertility of the soil) and the other was sown with peas, beans or other legumes. The Peas and Beans are nitrogen fixing which meant that during the growing season they gave a boost to the soil and prepared it for next season's grains. Peat and manure was not used commonly mostly because there was not enough production, when there was any production this was used by the lord of the manor's own parts of the field.
Each field was separated between the land owned by the Lord of the Manor (demesne) and the free farmers. In the beginning of each season the lord would allot to his rentors part of his land to be sown. The best parts were always kept for the lord, followed by parts given to the local parish church and the remaining would be alloted to the rentors.
The Orchard / Vineyard
The orchard, and less commonly the vineyard of the estate belong and was exploited almost entirely by the Lord of the manor and in some cases the parish church. The Lord, during some annual celebrations would charitably give some of the produce to his serfs. The Orchard and the vineyard was worked from the serfs as part of their rentor obligations.
The Woods (Woodland)
The woodland of the estate was also separated between the Lord of the Manor and the freemen of the estate (if any) and the lord would give partial access to his serfs to gather wood for repairs and heating and acorns during autumn to feed the pigs that were not slaughtered during the winter months.
The Waste (The Open)
Or as it is also called the open, was the uncultivated and unoccupied lands parcel of the manor, in some cases it was used for hunting or for growing herbs. In some cases the waste's marshland was also used as a source of bog iron, nodules of iron ore that were used in the creation of tools.
Pastures are grassed or wooded areas, moorland or heathland, generally used for grazing of animals like sheep that were used for wool and the oxen that were used to till the soil by dragging the ploughs. As with the fields and the woodland the commons were separated between the manor and the freemen and the lord of the manor would allocate part of it to his serfs. The commons used to be in the middle of the houses of the village to protect it or between the houses and the manor. It is also referred to as the "village green" and it also tend to have the pond of the village in it.
Meadows are areas or fields whose main vegetation is grass, or other non-woody plants, used for mowing and haying and followed exactly the same rules as the common pasture.
The Village Houses
The Village was the part of the manor that everyone apart from the Lord and the Priest lived. Depending on the status of the villager their house could have been anything from a wattle and daub, single room thatched roof hut, to a wood and stone, clay tile roof with multiple rooms and in some cases two stories, but most of the buildings fell under the first category.
Cottars the lowest class of serfs could easily have a multi generational family of 12 - 18 people living in a single room with their pigs and the rest of the animals in beds made of insect infested hay.
Each house regardless of its size also had a garden of varying size that allowed the villagers to grow vegetables and some fruit.
As I mentioned before, most medieval villages were built by a river, and most chosen rivers had enough flow to move a watermill. The mill was used to crush grains into flour and it was by far the most technologically advanced building in the village, requiring proper maintenance and daily support. The miller of the village was also the carpenter and had a good understanding of both the mechanics of the mill and carpentry. The miller as with most other freemen was not taking care of the mill as a full time job. He and his family also had their own fields and in many cases also animals like sheep, pigs, and more rarely cows. In rare occassions, mostly in islands or coastal lowland areas, the mill was replaced by a windmill.
The blacksmithy was responsible for the creation and maintenance of tools, animal equipment, carts etc. and in most cases it was attached to the house of the smithy. Most smiths were able to create things like basic tools and equipment but military equipment was beyond their abilities unless they have been trained by a master smith in a town. In medieval times iron was easier to find than nowdays but not easy. In most regions of the world the iron and other precious materials mines were contolled directly be the crown or were leased out and kept the largest percentage of the profits. Some iron was found in marshes (bog iron) and it was the only iron that was not controlled by the crown.
As with the smithy the bakehouse was also attached to the Baker's house. In most cases it consisted of 1 or 2 stone masonry ovens and a large area for preparing and mixing the dough. Bread in medieval times was made to last so having a hard crust that would protect the bread was important. This was an art and villages with good bakers stood much better chances of surving a harsh winter.
Depending on the location and the ecology of the location some villages had also a variety of freemen with other specialties. Tanneries, furriers and smoke houses existed mostly in locaations that there was an abundance of animals to be hunted and the lord allowed the freemen to hunt in their forest or wastes. Other commonly forgotten but very important professions was the lumberjack, charcoal maker and the lime maker that were done in most cases deep into the forests. These specialties were extremely important for the local economy and provided some of the manors with important resources to improve its buildings and life in general.
The Manor house
The manor house was by far the largest building of the village. in most cases built opposite to the church with a large walled garden surrounding and a pond. In most cases the manor was build around the manor house to make access to the most important locations easy for the inhabitants of the manor.
The manor, most cases was a two story building with an undercroft, it was able to hour by itself upwards of 30 people comfortably and had separate rooms sleeping, dinning lounging and working. In some cases the manor also had its own workshop and stables. As time past it was very common for the manor to expand by adding new rooms or expanding the ones already present, and of course, a larger manor was a status symbol for its lord. The largest of manors had banquet halls and minstrel galleries for the resident of visiting bards and lodgings for a good number of guests.
Manors were made of stone and fine lumber and in contrary with all other houses the walls were cladded to keep the house warm.
Depending on the location of the manor (closers or farther away from the borders of the kingdom) and the status of its Lord (military focus or higher nobility rank) the manor could have been fortificated. In some cases manor houses were in fact castles. Many of the medieval castles were in fact made of wood, so not much of them survived, but we know that many of the manors, even of low nobles close to the borders were fortified by using wooden or stone walls more often moats that were connected to the pond of the manor, getting a good part of the manor into the pond of the manor.
People living in the manor was a combination of mostly Commoners and a family within the Nobility Ranks. From the commoners, the vast majority were Serfs of some level (cottars or villeins) and about 1/15th of them were freemen. There was a very small percentage of slaves which were even under serfs.
The manor had no real policing as we know it, matters of law or disputes were resolved by the villagers and if an issue was not possible to be resolved that way, it was the Lord's perogative to deliver justice. Public humiliation, lashing, amputation and death were all delivered punishiments depending on the severity of the crime. The Sheriff or Reeve was a freeman who in some cases had the responsibility to protect the lord's hunting grounds from poachers but also to resolve conflicts, collect taxes, and sit in the stead of the Lord, when the Lord was away
The life of a serf was hard, but it was bearable because of the close relationships that were created between the people living in the same manor. Serfs and freemen would help each other. The serfs would share the oxen and the ploughs and in many cases would supplement their income by helping the freemen living in the manor. On the other hand the freemen in many cases would help the serfs by supplying services, food, medical care and in some cases even education.
Taxes, Tithe and Fees
Simply put the manorial system was created to make sure that the serfs will have no chance of ever becoming free of the land, taxes, tithe, and fees that needed to paid and monopolies and minimum quotas made sure that there was a much better chance for the serfs to feel obligated and thankful, but making any real profit.
All serfs had to pay rent to the lord of the manor. In most cases that was paid as a alloted amount of hours per week that the family of the serf had to contribute to the manor. On average that was 6-man days, which meant 72 hours distributed across the members of the family. This time was used to take care of the fields allocated to the lord, to take care of the manor house and house industry around the manor house, for repairs or public works around the manor.
Both freemen and serfs had to pay tax annually to their overlord, on average that was about 2% of the value of their property. Although in later years that was paid in coin, initially it was paid either in the form of work or assets. For example a serf would have to pay the equivalent of 16kg of butter. Many freemen paid their taxes in the form of military or craftsman obligations. The Smith, Baker, Miller and other craftsmen living in a manor were in most cases freemen that would give part of their work as taxation to the lord of the manor (the Lord used their services pretty much for free)
Serfs and Freemen would pay one-tenth of their profits to the church, that could have been in coin or grain, animals or produce.
The miller was paid by taking for themselves part of the grain (most cases about 1/13th as compensation for milling.
The Baker, which in some cases was also the same person as the miller, would also take 1/13th of the flour in order to make bread. For both the miller and the baker there were laws that gave them monopolies within the manor, the serfs could not bake or mill their grains.
In the not so uncommon case that a serf was not able to make enough money to feed their family, the church (which originally took 1/10th of his produce) would show charity and make sure that the family is fed during the winter months. The practice of alms from both the church and in cases the lord, was one of the reasons that the serfs were grateful for their horrible living standards, but this
Most manorhouses produced a variaty of products, most of those produced by the serfs were used for their own survival, but some of the serfs, the freemen and the lord would take their products to the local town during market day and sell them for coin to merchants, craftsment and other freemen living in the town.
Most towns with the right to hold market on specific days would impose taxation on items brought into the town in the form of a percentage of the items coming in. A good example of this is the Baker's dozen which was 12 loafs or bread after the 13th was given as tax to enter the market.
List of products produced in a Manor
VIllages are the producers of the food that medieval society needed to survive and grow, most people lived and died into a 9 miles radius and that was it. But villages were static, innovation came slow and it was focused on agriculture. It is the towns that made all the difference, it is the towns that great discoveries, invention and innovation took place and changed the world forever.
depending on the location, quality of soil, importance of local lord
The VIllage Green
The Barn and Stables
Interesting article. Sometimes the alms were the bottom crust of loaves during lordly feasts where the leftovers were placed in and then handed out. Helped to keep down on waste and showed that the lords 'looked after' their serfs. The bakers dozen would have came from this time and worked out at 13 loaves so the devil could theoretically spoil one and still have 12 loaves that were fine. And the idea of acreage came about too, being the amount of land that could be tilled in a day with oxen. And cows were sometimes kept for milk (sometimes drank or cooked with, or turned to cheese, butter, curds & whey, cream).The bulls & older cows could be killed for meat but was that expensive was usually only for the nobility as the animals had many uses (as in the case of oxen for tilling the land & milk production). Sheriffs and the like appeared at this time to stop poaching as the lords of the manors would be the ones who had first dibs on any hunting on the land. Also, many places would have 'deer parks' where the deer were hunted for sport. It's also why some lordly emblems etc have a stags head with antlers appear on them.
Ooh yeah I forgot to write about the Reeve - but Reeves were not only there for poaching, they were enforcers and tax collectors as well and in many cases Lords of the Manor in the cases that the Lord did not live there. Where did you find about the cows? I cannot find.a proper source about that, I do have, and forgotten to talk about goats held, pretty much for the same reasons and goat milk but not cows. - will have a look The Baker's dozen appears with both reasons in literature and the 13th for produce was well established in England. Nice one about the Alms I had no idea.
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I remember watching a couple of Youtube videos where it was mentioned and had came across this (Myth 4) https://www.moadoph.gov.au/blog/myth-busting-medieval-cuisine/#. Damn nobles, haha.