Heritage > Medieval Life
The Lord of the Manor
Most country people lived on a manor which consisted of a village, the lord's house or castle, a church and the surrounding farmland. The lord of the manor governed the local community under his control by appointing officials who made sure that the villagers carried out their duties. The lord's main duty however was to the king, he was a knight and as such would provide arms to the crown whenever he was required.
Typical duties for the villagers included farming the lord's land and paying rent to the lord in the form of produce. Criminals were also brought before the lord for swift justice. He had the power to fine those who broke the law. Manors were usually very isolated and as such the villagers had to produce everything they would need themselves. Few things such as salt (for curing meat) and iron for tools came from outside. The only visitors were travelling salesmen, pilgrims or soldiers and few people ever left their own village.
Lords and ladies had a great deal of spare time as most of the day to day running of the manor would be left to others. Hunting became one of the main pursuits with many of the gentry keeping hawks and packs of hounds with which to hunt for game in their private woodland.
The lord appointed many officials but the most important was the steward. The steward organised the farmworkers and kept records of the estate's money. Also if the lord of the manor had to go away the steward had control and presided at the manor court until the lord's return. Stewards were the most well paid and powerful of all the lord's officials.
After the steward came the bailiff. The bailiff was usually a peasant who would wear the same style as the farmworkers but would have slightly better quality clothes. The bailiff was a freeholder who owned his own land and it was his role to allot the jobs to the peasants whilst taking care of running repairs to buildings for which he would hire in skilled labourers such as carpenters and blacksmiths.
The lord and his family would live in a large house that was often made of stone. It would be surrounded by stables and be surrounded with a wall or moat. The manor house, with the exception of the church, would be the centre of the community. The manor court would be held in it's hall which at other times would be used as the venue for feasts on special occasions such as Christmas and after the harvest. Just like the steward the bailiff also had a right hand man, he was called the reeve. The reeve was a peasant chosen by the other villagers and it was his job to check that everyone turned up for work on time and that no-one stole any produce from the lord.