13th C. Farm

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13th C. Farm

Postby Thalion » Sat Nov 30, 2013 12:45 am

Hi, I'm clearly new to this forum but I am part of a Re-enactment Group, but we portray medieval lifestyle as being part of the Knights Hospitaller. I'm curious to dig deeply into the average lifestyle of a farmer (Preferably in England.), and I don't just mean the agricultural side, but everything. I myself am a Stable & Farm hand, and I'm very interested in what it'd be like back then. I'm currently watching the BBC Series Tudor Monastery Farm, which has sparked my interest even further. And also buildings of the 13th C. and how they were built. I'm currently building a woven fence out of branches from a Silver Birch (It is the most recent tree to fall due to storms) to which I'm curious if it's possible to pick up a section of the fence and move it with it still entact like done on the BBC series. Anybody who I could have a good chat with about these subjects would be great! But I'm also open to reading an article if need be (I'm a very social creature).

Thanks for taking your time to read this!
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Re: 13th C. Farm

Postby Brother Ranulf » Sat Nov 30, 2013 4:29 pm

English vernacular (that is non-Church) building was surprisingly regional, using techniques and materials traditional to each location. So: cruck-framed buildings in the Midlands, Wales, the West and Northern England; box-framing in the South and East. Some areas used cob walls almost exclusively, the far south-west made extensive use of local stone while other areas used wattle-and-daub more than anything else. Similarly, roofs might be thatched with reed in fenland areas, straw in other places and "thick tiles" in more urban locations (London fire regulations 1189 refer).

One notable development in the late 12th century was the "proper" mortice and tenon joint; previously a very insecure-looking "side tenon" fixed with trenails was used even in large barns and halls.

Sheep hurdles like those seen on the tv series were a very old way of temporarily penning sheep or other livestock (Old English hyrdel, Middle English hirdel).
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Re: 13th C. Farm

Postby guthrie » Sat Nov 30, 2013 5:42 pm

In Scotland in the 13th century, judging by remains found, admittedly mostly in towns, houses were long hall houses with some internal partitions, usually one storey high. The walls were wattle, perhaps wattle and daub, or stakes/ wattle with earth between/ around. The roof was held up by large vertical timbers along the wall, or in wider halls, by timbers rising from closer to the centre.
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Re: 13th C. Farm

Postby Thalion » Sun Dec 01, 2013 1:10 am

Thanks Brother Ranulf and guthrie, is it possible to find a diagram or article containing appropriate pictures? Also, what'd be the most common cattle for england, Midlands or lowlands (Sorry Scotland)? I know Sheep were pretty much the best thing (or I think) due to the high demands for sheepskin and wool. (And it still is for re-enactors whom don't want something of -great- value frozen off while sleeping in an authentic tent, in a creaking wooden frame bed.) But what other cattle or animals would be commonly stocked? Not forgetting, how popular would chickens be compared to geese?
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Re: 13th C. Farm

Postby Brother Ranulf » Sun Dec 01, 2013 8:46 am

My own research has mainly concentrated on monastic buildings, much of which was in stone. There are some remaining English wooden structures from the 13th century on the medieval architecture site, including this hall at Wherewell Priory which was later used as a stables:

http://www.medievalarchitecture.net/ima ... /index.htm

Details of construction are clearly shown. The rest of the site is well worth exploring. You may come up with domestic vernacular buildings if you spend some time looking on the internet.

The same goes for my knowledge of livestock, for example the surviving pipe-roll of the Bishop of Winchester for the years 1208-1209 available here:
http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/source/1 ... hester.asp
This is effectively an account kept by the Bishop's estates for every financial transaction and every product and animal bought, sold or disposed of in that period - these pipe-rolls are an extremely valuable and detailed resource and I have confidence that they closely reflect the proportions of livestock kept in manorial contexts. You can see it details stock accounted for at the end of the period:

- 91 oxen
- 2 geese
- 2 goats
- 24 cows
- 9 heifers and bulls
- 11 yearling cattle
- 12 calves
- 972 sheep
- 692 wethers
- 300 old sheep
- 569 lambs
- 77 pigs
- 306 chickens

The total for sheep of all kinds is 2,533 (82% of the total) - clearly reflecting the huge importance of wool and other by-products as compared with the other kinds of stock. The cheeses mentioned in the pipe-roll are likely to be from sheep and goat milk as well as from cows. Eggs would be the major product from the geese and chickens, which in most cases would only be killed when they stopped producing those eggs (by which time they would be old and fairly tough for eating).

Your question about the "common types of cattle" reflects the view of many people today that there were "breeds" in the modern sense - there were definitely not. Selective breeding was unknown; you simply had the type of animal available in and suited to your own locality (many of which, like oxen, are either close to extinction or no longer exist as a distinct species today). Horses were categorised by their size, temperament and the way they moved, not by breed; sheep were categorised by the quality of their fleece, dogs by the type of work they were best suited to do. So there were no breeds of cattle, horses, dogs or sheep, just the traditional local animals which had naturally evolved to cope with local conditions. It is thought that most cattle (as opposed to oxen) at that time were small, hardy and fairly good milkers, having smaller horns than modern types.

I hope this helps.
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Re: 13th C. Farm

Postby Merlon. » Sun Dec 01, 2013 9:24 am

As Brother Ranulf says you are before the time of agricultural reforms and the emergence of distinct breeds.
Another point to bear in mind is that the agricultural reforms significantly increased the size of animals, below are a number of examples from the Stockholm Medieval Museum which demonstrate the difference in size between the modern and historical beasts.

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Re: 13th C. Farm

Postby Brother Ranulf » Sun Dec 01, 2013 11:53 am

There are many manorial records surviving, detailing work commitments and rents owed by the field workers. One of these from 1279 is quoted here:

http://www.shsu.edu/his_ncp/Manor.html

It is clear from various recent studies that while certain practices and principles were universal across all English manors, the details of how these were applied were left to the individual lord of the manor to dictate; so even two neighbouring manors could have entirely different rules. For example there was the universal principle that "field workers are entitled to perks at the completion of the corn harvest". This study shows how very different those perks could be:

http://www.bahs.org.uk/AGHR/ARTICLES/25n1a3.pdf

This one covers the hay harvest:

http://www.bahs.org.uk/AGHR/ARTICLES/25n2a2.pdf

These are useful studies of sheep farming practices:

http://www.bahs.org.uk/AGHR/ARTICLES/51n2a1.pdf
http://www.bahs.org.uk/AGHR/ARTICLES/50n2a2.pdf

I just came across this helpful little model made for Birmingham Museum showing the construction of a 13th century cruck-house with one of the crucks being raised; on the left is a box-framed larger house:

http://sarahhayesdotorg.files.wordpress ... _047-7.jpg
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Re: 13th C. Farm

Postby Thalion » Tue Dec 03, 2013 12:06 am

Brilliant, thanks guys :-)
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Re: 13th C. Farm

Postby Ezykle » Tue Dec 03, 2013 9:04 pm

It might be a bit late for your period, but 'Food in Medieval England: Diet and Nutrition (Medieval History and Archaeology)' was a very good point of reference. It has quite a bit from monastic estates. I warn you now, it is a hard slog to read! its extremely fact and value heavy.
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Re: 13th C. Farm

Postby Karen Larsdatter » Sat Dec 14, 2013 1:00 am

While it's a bit later than your period of interest, there are a lot of interesting details of rural life in the Luttrell Psalter (c. 1325-1340); you can see some modern interpretations/recreations of the illustrations in the Luttrell Psalter Film, which is online at http://youtu.be/O0AnUM1tt54
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Re: 13th C. Farm

Postby Brother Ranulf » Sat Dec 14, 2013 10:50 am

Karen is right - that short piece of film is a real gem and should be compulsory viewing for any re-enactor. It not only replicates the costume, equipment and buildings of the time but evokes the atmosphere and sense of time and place. I wish there were more projects like that.
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Re: 13th C. Farm

Postby DanceswithCows » Fri Jan 24, 2014 6:31 pm

Brother Ranulf wrote:Your question about the "common types of cattle" reflects the view of many people today that there were "breeds" in the modern sense - there were definitely not. Selective breeding was unknown; you simply had the type of animal available in and suited to your own locality (many of which, like oxen, are either close to extinction or no longer exist as a distinct species today)........... It is thought that most cattle (as opposed to oxen) at that time were small, hardy and fairly good milkers, having smaller horns than modern types.


Sorry, struggling to follow, are you suggesting that oxen are a distinct species to cattle?
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Re: 13th C. Farm

Postby Merlon. » Fri Jan 24, 2014 7:37 pm

DanceswithCows wrote:Sorry, struggling to follow, are you suggesting that oxen are a distinct species to cattle?

In an sense Brother Ranulf is right. Whilst Ox are bovine and therefore cattle, not all cattle are bovine...
Historically the word cattle was used to describe all livestock, not just cows.
The OED wrote:"The application of the term has varied greatly, according to the circumstances of time and place, and has included camels, horses, asses, mules, oxen, cows, calves, sheep, lambs, goats, swine, etc. The tendency in recent times has been to restrict the term to the bovine genus, but the wider meaning is still found locally, and in many combinations"
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Re: 13th C. Farm

Postby Brother Ranulf » Fri Jan 24, 2014 7:40 pm

I have been waiting weeks for someone to ask that question!!!

Take a look at the Winchester Pipe Roll mentioned above and you will see that cattle and oxen are treated as two entirely different beasts. This was normal practice but it was not new, since the Romans took exactly the same view. Latin vacca is a cow, taurus is a bull and bos is an ox (either sex).

By the Middle Ages the two things, although members of the same species, were treated as if they were entirely different animals - just like horses, where a top quality equus would command a huge price and be saved for the battlefield, while a sway-back, knock-kneed nag with a useless gait (exactly the same species) would be consigned to pulling a harrow.

Ordinary cattle were primarily for milking, so you put grass/hay/clover etc in one end and got milk from the other. Oxen were entirely for work, so they needed stamina, muscle power, docility, endurance and patience; you put plenty of food in one end and took out nothing but labour. A full ox team (8 animals) included males, females and young; they would be kept together but separate from all other animals, training them gradually with cart or plough, building them to work efficiently as a team and encouraging muscle growth beyond any other consideration. Over time this was almost (but not quite) selective breeding, where temperament and strength were the main outcome.

Today, of course, the tradition of keeping certain cattle apart as ox teams is long extinct, but it is certainly possible to take "likely" cattle and train them for the cart or plough - in exactly the same way as the earliest Romans first did almost 3,000 years ago. What has been lost is the inborn long-established instinct that Medieval animals had.
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Re: 13th C. Farm

Postby DanceswithCows » Fri Jan 24, 2014 7:56 pm

Interesting. Not quite what I have come across though, and I have done much research on the subject. Oxen are cattle as we understand the term (not a separate species), and breeding specifically for work oxen seems extremely rare in this country, as few male animals could have just sat around growing beef when they could have been working! Most 'oxen' were simply picked out from the herd when young and bunged in the yoke until they matured into a decent amount of beef. Breeding and growing them especially for draught erodes a lot of the economic advantages of using oxen, makes them more like horses, but with less in the way of results to show for it, so doesn't particularly make sense. Draught would have been a consideration, but along with milk and meat, until breeds started to truly specialise, by which time oxen were largely forgotten about.
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Re: 13th C. Farm

Postby DanceswithCows » Fri Jan 24, 2014 8:01 pm

Brother Ranulf wrote:I have been waiting weeks for someone to ask that question!!!

Take a look at the Winchester Pipe Roll mentioned above and you will see that cattle and oxen are treated as two entirely different beasts.


Not really: breeding stock are bulls or cows, youngstock and babies have a label, and nonbreeding males (or females) could be oxen: the term could even have applied to anything NOT growing or breeding, therefore 'meat' aswell as work animals. I would imagine if work oxen were considered a separate 'thing' just for work, the males, females and youngstock would have had their own terms too, separate from the meat and milk animals. Why would the meat and milk animals and the horses have a plethora of terms to describe them, but not the 'work oxen' race?
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Re: 13th C. Farm

Postby Brother Ranulf » Fri Jan 24, 2014 8:11 pm

Again, I would point you to the pipe roll, which is just one of hundreds of similar surviving documents listing oxen and cattle as two completely different entities. This is known as concrete primary evidence. Domesday Book lists 80,000 ox teams and ignores milk cows, since ox teams indicated value while milk cows represented expenditure in terms of feed and care (and Domesday was in no way concerned with expenditure).

Perhaps your research has overlooked Robert Bartlett's "England Under the Norman and Angevin Kings" (pages 302-303 and 306-307), which details Domesday and 13th century Winchester livestock - including cattle but excluding draught oxen.

12th century account records also give oxen and ordinary cows distinct monetary values (in 1190, 48 pence for a draught ox, 40 pence for a milk cow), emphasising their relative importance.
Last edited by Brother Ranulf on Fri Jan 24, 2014 8:38 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: 13th C. Farm

Postby DanceswithCows » Fri Jan 24, 2014 8:15 pm

I don't see how any of that contradicts what I've said? They were treated differently because they played different roles, not because they were separate breeds, races or species. How do you explain the lack of terms for ox breeding and youngstock?
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Re: 13th C. Farm

Postby Brother Ranulf » Fri Jan 24, 2014 8:36 pm

Where did i say they were separate breeds or species? I said that they were treated as distinct animals. The nobility did the same thing, using the terms affre or beste for draught oxen that could not be forfeit under legal distress if other livestock were available (Anglo-Norman Dictionary under affre):

qe nul soit destreint par les avers de sa carue

Draught oxen therefore had a distinct legal status as well as the other distinctions of price and use I mentioned earlier.
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Re: 13th C. Farm

Postby DanceswithCows » Fri Jan 24, 2014 10:39 pm

I repeat:

Brother Ranulf wrote:Your question about the "common types of cattle" reflects the view of many people today that there were "breeds" in the modern sense - there were definitely not. Selective breeding was unknown; you simply had the type of animal available in and suited to your own locality (many of which, like oxen, are either close to extinction or no longer exist as a distinct species today). Horses were categorised by their size, temperament and the way they moved, not by breed; sheep were categorised by the quality of their fleece, dogs by the type of work they were best suited to do. So there were no breeds of cattle, horses, dogs or sheep, just the traditional local animals which had naturally evolved to cope with local conditions. It is thought that most cattle (as opposed to oxen) at that time were small, hardy and fairly good milkers, having smaller horns than modern types.


The boldened sections strongly suggest that 'oxen' are a distinct species to 'cattle', when nothing I have read or experienced backs that up. Oxen are a thing, a concept, so you might pay more or less for one than you would a bull a cow or a calf, just like you would pay more for a plough horse than a filly or less than a stallion, but it is nothing to do with breed, type or species on the whole.
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Re: 13th C. Farm

Postby Brother Ranulf » Sat Jan 25, 2014 7:16 am

Breeding and growing them especially for draught erodes a lot of the economic advantages of using oxen, makes them more like horses, but with less in the way of results to show for it, so doesn't particularly make sense.


you would pay more for a plough horse


Clearly your research has misled you regarding the use of draught animals in the 12th/13th centuries since you have a warped understanding of what was available in real life. Where are the horses in the 1208-1209 pipe roll? They are notably absent.

If you do some real research you will discover that horses made up about 1% of demesne animals, rarely used and then only for for harrowing and carting. They were "light draught animals" and a tiny minority. Draught oxen formed 85% of all draught animals and in some regions might be even more dominant, such as the heavy clay lands mentioned in the book on Goltho and Barton Blount I reviewed recently. On the Bishop of Winchester's estates in 1210 to 1211 over 87% of draught animals were oxen. The concept that anyone would eat their own tractor or the motive unit of their HGV is laughable; the value of these oxen was in the work they performed, which could not be done by horses because they were not available/not strong enough for the task. Heavy draught horses did not exist at that time. The plough was the basis and root of the feudal economy, making a plough team a separate and legally protected commodity.

Take the time to read Bartlett's account and research the pipe rolls, the many estate accounts, the Origines Murensis Monasterii, the Glastonbury Customal, the Rectitudines Singularum Personarum, the Burton Abbey Survey, the Templar survey at Temple Ewell and the survey of the Bishop of Durham's holding at Boldon and you can then say you have done some reseach - and it will overturn your ideas about draught animals at that time. Let me know if you need any help with the Latin.
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Re: 13th C. Farm

Postby DanceswithCows » Sat Jan 25, 2014 10:01 am

I have done very real research and I find it extremely odd that you dispute that people ate oxen on a regular basis :crazy: I can give you a list of sources as long as your arm for that! The clue to the dominance of the ox at the time is in the contrast between them and horses - they had more all-round value for a populace with few, precious resources. Dedicated draught animals were too much of an extravagance. In these inventory listings there is also not always indication that the label 'oxen' refers to a working or trained animal. It may indeed have just applied to non breeding or youngstock ie: meatstock, as all other groups have their specific labels.

The plough horse example was just that, to explain that different animals had different values according to their health, training, age, and breeding status, not a concrete fact. Of course, anyone with half a brain would know that the relative values of a 'draught ox' and 'plough horse' would vary massively. (It was also said in relation to other horses, not oxen.)

None of that has anything to do with your apparent suggestion that oxen are a 'distinct' species or even breed to 'cattle'.
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Re: 13th C. Farm

Postby Brother Ranulf » Sat Jan 25, 2014 10:54 am

Back up your opinion with some fact - post here, today, some primary evidence for the existence of plough horses in England at any time in the 12th or 13th centuries.
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Re: 13th C. Farm

Postby DanceswithCows » Sat Jan 25, 2014 10:56 am

I would if that was my point. :^)
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Re: 13th C. Farm

Postby Alan E » Mon Jan 27, 2014 3:02 pm

DanceswithCows wrote:I repeat:

Brother Ranulf wrote:Your question about the "common types of cattle" reflects the view of many people today that there were "breeds" in the modern sense - there were definitely not. Selective breeding was unknown; you simply had the type of animal available in and suited to your own locality (many of which, like oxen, are either close to extinction or no longer exist as a distinct species today). Horses were categorised by their size, temperament and the way they moved, not by breed; sheep were categorised by the quality of their fleece, dogs by the type of work they were best suited to do. So there were no breeds of cattle, horses, dogs or sheep, just the traditional local animals which had naturally evolved to cope with local conditions. It is thought that most cattle (as opposed to oxen) at that time were small, hardy and fairly good milkers, having smaller horns than modern types.


The boldened sections strongly suggest that 'oxen' are a distinct species to 'cattle', when nothing I have read or experienced backs that up. Oxen are a thing, a concept, so you might pay more or less for one than you would a bull a cow or a calf, just like you would pay more for a plough horse than a filly or less than a stallion, but it is nothing to do with breed, type or species on the whole.

I think you would have to be reading it rather out of context to make that interpretation. I have underlined rather more than you bolded, to bring in the full context of what the Brother wrote. To paraphrase:
The distinct modern breeds did not exist, selective breeding was unknown. Different local types existed and the specific types used as oxen do not exist today (as either distinct types, breeds or species) because we do not generally need or use draught cattle.. Most of the cattle not used as draught beasts (that is, not oxen) "were small, hardy, fairly good milkers, having smaller horns than modern types".
Brother Ranulf, I would question "fairly good milkers" - this would be relative to oxen rather than to modern breeds selectively bred for milking presumably?
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Re: 13th C. Farm

Postby Fox » Mon Jan 27, 2014 5:01 pm

Brother Ranulf wrote:Selective breeding was unknown

I agree, it seems apparent that "breeds" did not exist in the modern sense; just types of animals for particular roles.

But to say that selective breeding was unknown is misleading.
The domestication of animals and plants in prehistory is almost certainly the product of selective breeding.
The diversity in dogs, especially for the variety of human uses they appear to be put to, cannot be down to evolution alone.

Texts, going back at least as the Romans (and IIRC further), give advice on choosing animals for breeding for particular purposes.

Perhaps you meant that the science of selective breeding, which gives the more extreme livestock we see today, is an 18thC innovation?
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Re: 13th C. Farm

Postby Brother Ranulf » Mon Jan 27, 2014 7:48 pm

Fox,

That's just what I mean.

We know that the Portland sheep is a rare remnant of a type known as the South Dorset - this was the kind of sheep that you would have found in that area in the 12th or 13th century but it was not scientifically bred by medieval man, it simply evolved on its own from much older bloodstock to cope with some extremely bleak landscapes (I used to live on Portland and I can vouch for the winter conditions). Soay sheep are a similar remnant of Scottish Western Isle sheep. Putting either of these in a reconstructed village in the Cotswolds (for example) and claiming to have authentic medieval sheep is missing the point; there was a medieval type in each location, many of which no longer exist because later breeding programmes destroyed those local medieval strains in favour of more milk, more meat, more fine wool or whatever.

An example would be the medieval Romney sheep, with wool graded as extremely coarse at the time. Despite the low-grade and poor quality fleece, it was used to produce cheap and hard-wearing cloth that was very popular. Later breeding "cured" this feature and modern sheep on the Marsh are not the same as those medieval animals.

Horses are a minor exception; the best bloodlines came from Arabs and Spanish horses and there is some evidence for these being imported in small numbers specifically for breeding.

I am not convinced about dogs; as you say there was a long period of development before the medieval and a large range of shapes and sizes was already around, but I don't known that medieval man did any more than select the best type for hunting, guard dogs, sheepdogs and so on out of what was already around. Calling a dog a brachet, for example, doesn't say anything about its size, its shape or its colour - only that it has a good sense of smell.
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Re: 13th C. Farm

Postby Fox » Mon Jan 27, 2014 9:28 pm

Quite.

So, if I understand correctly, selective breeding in the medieval period is not about creating/maintaining a breed, in the modern sense, but about choosing to breed (usually with a sire) which has traits that one wishes to see in the offspring.

This might largely be restricted, not just by the environment, as you suggest, although clearly that's key, but also by the availability of variety to a particular farmer.

Dogs are interesting.
For instance Mastiff, as you imply, simply refers to large dogs used for guarding and baiting.
Although illustrations of mastiffs through history seem to show dogs with traits that you can recognise in modern mastif breeds like Danes, St. Bernards and so on. And perhaps not surprisingly so.
And when Harrison writes about dogs in Elizabethan England, he talks about mastiffs as if they have common traits, not just physically but also of personality.

Also, as an interesting exception, Lyme Park claim that the Leigh family bred their mastiffs as a breed, kept seperate from other dogs, from Agincourt onwards; although whether that's true or not is hard to say, especially as the "pure breed" died out at the begining of the 20thC.
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Re: 13th C. Farm

Postby Biro » Tue Jan 28, 2014 5:56 pm

There are many manorial records surviving, detailing work commitments and rents owed by the field workers. One of these from 1279 is quoted here:

http://www.shsu.edu/his_ncp/Manor.html



I found this really interesting. Although its not the kind of thing I'd usually look at.

But I did struggle with much of the terminology. Brother Ranulf, do you mind helping me out with a few questions on it? (will do a separate thread or pm)
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Re: 13th C. Farm

Postby Brother Ranulf » Tue Jan 28, 2014 6:04 pm

I guess I have got too used to all those period terms over the years and I forget that they probably don't mean much to most people. Why not post a list of the unfamiliar words and I will do a kind of glossary - others might be interested to see it as well.
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"Patres nostri et nos hanc insulam in brevi edomuimus in brevi nostris subdidimus legibus, nostris obsequiis mancipavimus" - Walter Espec 1138
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