The Medieval Manor – Tierney Leigh, Kathryn Moran, Jesse Plunkett


Tierney Leigh 8B

How did the medieval manor come into being?
In 176AD, when the Roman Empire fell, there wasn’t an army to protect the citizens from the attacks and invasions of the Vikings. Because of this, A Frankish King, Charlemagne brought in the system – feudalism. This system introduced the poorer people to working on the richer family’s land. The harvest was shared with the lord of the manor, who gave his land to another family. To thank the peasants for working on the land, the lord would offer them protection and loyalty. This later was developed into Manorialism. – After winning the Battle of Hastings, ‘William the Conqueror’ split the land up into manors. He gave the manors as a reward, to his knights and nobles. The king would rely on the manors that he owned for a supply of food. He governed that land by the laws of feudalism.

 Who lived on a manor who owned a manor
During the Middle Ages, life centred around the manor.

Medieval Manor houses were owned by those who were on the upper scale of the feudal system – the wealthiest people. The size of the Manor was an indication of the Feudal Lord’s riches.

The peasants of Medieval Europe lived in daub or wattle huts. Their living circumstance showed people of where the peasants stood in the scale of the feudal system.

 Why did this institution come to an end? The end of feudalism
Feudalism came to an end when The Black Death plagued Europe. In only four years 1 third of the population had perished because of this disease – as there was no known cure. The feudal system was weakened as a result. With a shortage of workers, serfs began to demand wages and lower rents for their labour. In some cases workers’ wages were triples during the time of the black plague.

Peasants moved out of infected towns, trying to flee from the disease. The peasants became so rare in society, that the feudal and manorial system began to break down, leaving the nobles and lords to work their fields and produce their own food.

What is the Lord of the Manor’s role?
The overlord was responsible for everything that happened on his manor. He made sure things were running in an orderly fashion and everything was going to plan on his manor. He checked up on his serfs and saw that they were working hard on his fields. A Lord was expected to bring strong and capable soldiers from his manor to fight alongside him in battles. His job was to provide his workers, and those living on his manor, protection and security from danger.

Life on the manor for women
Women looked after her husband’s household and had some command over the servants, the noble women could not own property. Peasant women did the same amount of labour as the young men and were an important source of labour. They also had household duties such as preparing food weaving clothes and looking after children and livestock. Women of the nobility were ordered to marry at a very young age as they were not needed to work and did not provide any labour. The aim was to gain political power and wealth for the girl’s family.

 Manoralism and feudalism
Manorialism comes from the manors of the Middle Ages. Manors are large farming estates that were the basis of the feudal communities.  It is a system based around self-sufficient farming estates where the Lord and the peasants live off the land together. Manorialism is a result of Feudalism. The people on the land have to work to produce goods and services for their overlord.

Feudalism was the central system of society in Medieval Europe. The nobles held their Lords land in exchange for military service.  Vassals were tenants of the nobles, put to work on the land, while the peasants or serfs were to live on their overlord’s land and provide labour and a share of the produce, in return given protection and loyalty. Feudalism is the system of the vassals and serfs under the nobles, all working for the overlord.

The Physical Layout of the Manor, including fields and buildings

Kathryn Moran 8b

A medieval Manor consists of many different buildings and areas of land, which all had a specific purpose and all are vital to the manors survival. Things that most manors consisted of were:

  • The manor House/Castle
  • The village
  • The church
  • Multiple fields (for different seasons)
  • The mill
  • The woods
  • Meadows
  • The bakery
  • The blacksmith

The main parts of a Manor would be the Castle, Church and Village. The peasants would live in the Village and work for the nobles who live in the Castle. The peasant’s homes in the village are very small in floor space an height and were filthy. The Castle on the other hand was very large and kept clean and cared for by all the peasant servants. The peasant would also have to build the Castle out of wood and stone. The Castles and village were usually fenced off from each other and the Castle is the biggest house in the whole Manor. While the village homes were small and all grouped together. These two parts of a manor combined with all the others combine together on a land space of 1200-1800 acres.

Most castles or ’manor houses’ had a similar physical layout. The land was large and was well looked after. It was the largest building in the whole Manor. The house was separate to the village and was usually built on a hill if possible, or otherwise was fenced off. The house was usually made of wood and stone with bricks. The house consisted of the Lord or Nobel and his family and the house had many rooms such as the solar (the lords families bedrooms or sitting rooms) , kitchen, servants quarters (where the servants would sleep)the grand hall (main meeting  or dining room), The chapel (where members of the household would pray), the Garderobe (toilet), the pantry and buttery (used to store food and drinks), and the storeroom (used to store long lasting food)

Just like the Castel or the manor house, the village had a physical layout as well but had a lot less luxury. Peasant houses were normally be cramped together to form the small village which was separated from the manor house. Each house was only one room.  They were cheap and easy to build because most people who lived in them were poor. They were made of a wooden structure and were plastered together with a mixture of mud, straw and manure. This was quite a strong building material. The floors were just dirt and straw and the roof was thatched. The doors sometimes had curtains and the windows were holes in the wall since glass was expensive. The village was a cramped bunch of peasant houses. There were also othe4r buildings either inside or around the village. These were the mill which was where villagers could ground meat and flour, the smithy which provided farming tools, the church were people went to pray and the forest where peasant could find wood.

In Manor different area or buildings were use by different people. People were normally judges by class and where they went depended on what class they belonged to. Nobles or the highest class would stay in the higher and best places in a Manor as the castle or church. Peasants or the common people who made up most of the population stayed in more run down places like the village including smaller buildings like the mill, or bakery but also the fields where many would work.

There were multiple fields in a Manor that took up a lot of land. There were about 2 or 3 very large fields in each Manor which took up many acres so they required a lot of workers. The fields were o the outskirts of the manor and normally were around the village. Each field was separated by a fence or unploughed ground. The fields are all scattered through the manor so they aren’t all together. The fields that were non-productive at that time were called the common land. It was the peasant’s jobs to look after it. For the fields and farming, they used the three field system. The three field system was where while one field was being planted in autumn the other would be left to gather its nutrients. Wheat, rye and barley were usually planted during autumn and Oats, Barley and Legumes in spring. The fields were a vital part of the medieval manor and provided fertile land for crops, work for peasants and food.

A diagram of a medieval manor showing the physical layout of the church, manor house, village and other fields and woods 

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.
By Jesse Plunkett 8B

What was life like on the manor for different people?

The life you lived in the Middles Ages mainly depended on the position you had in the Medieval Feudal system. This feudal system contrasted from high ranked and respected people to the lowest ranked peasants who were looked down upon.

Lord of the manor– The ‘Lord of the Manor’ was a free man who held land from a lord to which he paid service and swore fealty. The role of a lord of the manor was various. The Lord of the manor was in charge of the manor and all the people who lived in it. The lord was based in his own manor house where he lived separated from the rest of the manor. From here, the lord would control over complaints of the people in his manor and supervise the running of his farm lands on the manor. Everyone was expected to pay for the land the lord gave them on his manor by manual labour. The lord could disappear for large amounts of time during the violent times of the Middle Ages. His absences were common because he was expected to pay for his land by giving faithfulness to the King and his direct superior and giving the services of himself and his vassals as fully trained and equipped soldiers.

Lady of the Manor– The Lady of the manor was regularly misunderstood. She would be married as early as the age of 12. Their matrimony was arranged by the family. The aim was usually to get political influence or riches for the girl’s family. She was expected to produce an heir to continue the noble line of her husband. The law gave a husband full rights over his wife and she efficiently became his property. Her role is most often supposed as undertaking deferential and ‘housewifely’ duties. The lady became the figure of authority when her husband – the lord – was away. She took over the running of the manor. In these cases, the lady of the manor would be expected to look after the finances of the manor including the collection of rents, overseeing the farming, household commands over servants and settling all arguments.

Peasants – The peasants or serfs on a manor lived close together in one or more villages. They each lived in simple one roomed huts with thatched straw roofs and these would be grouped about an open space or on both sides of a single, narrow street. The peasants worked the land and produced goods that the lord and his manor needed from sunrise to sunset, ate coarse fare and suffered with frequent sicknesses. It was a very rough life they lived. They were heavily taxed and were obligated to hand over much of what they harvested. The peasants didn’t even “belong to” themselves.

           – Men –   For quite a lot of peasant men, life was very hard. They had a daily job of farm work which included clearing fields, harvesting, repairing buildings, sawing and paying tithe to the Lord of the manor at the church. Some even worked as blacksmiths or carpenters as well as farming jobs. Men generally were uneducated and couldn’t read or write so they stayed tied to the burden of peasant labour.

           – WomenPeasant women had a difficult position in society, had very few rights and were owned by their men folk. Peasant worked did much the same farm labour as men did and they also had household tasks such as cooking, baking bread, sewing, weaving, spinning, looking after their own children and small livestock. However, they also hunted for food; others were midwives or worked in the fields. Some women were known as witches, capable of sorcery and healing. Others became nuns and devoted their lives to God and spiritual matters.

           –  Children – Children were regarded as important sources of labour. The time of play and schooling was almost non-existent. They would learn how to harvest a field, fix a thatched roof or milk a cow. They would spend their days by helping the women with household chores, but soon enough they were sent to the fields to work. Children were treated as adults from the age of ten because at that age they could then participate in farm labour.

                – BoysSome boys managed to get formal education in the church. This could give them the opportunity to become a parish priest or to work in the manor as a bailiff or a steward. Boys were married off at the age of about 14 and grew up to provide for his family by working hard labour.

                – GirlsPeasant families were hesitant to let their daughters marry as young as 12 like the noble women, but let them marry by the age of 14. This was because they were such a vital part of helping out with the manual labour there had to be done. Girls would usually cook, spin and weave and attend to animals but they also did farm work.

 What were the types of work done on a medieval manor?


There were many, many different kinds of jobs that were carried out on a medieval manor. They were mostly connected to farming and harvesting as the land that the manor sat upon was mainly covered in field. Farm-work included harrowing, planting, weeding, gathering, and stacking the crop into stooks, threshing and almost constant ploughing. Children would be tasked with keeping birds away from newly-sown fields so they could not eat the seeds until it had settled into the ground. There was also a lot of movement of produce from those crops that were taken up to the mill and the miller would turn it into flour and also gathering of the cut hay, straw and cereal crops from the fields to be put into storage in the barns to be used later.

Around the manor, everything is made by someone. From carts, fences, furniture, tools, stone, roofs, buildings all the way down to clothes and necessities, all of these things were produced by all sorts of people in the manor. The forest provided them with lots of useful resources including wood for houses and furniture and food as well. Everybody had a role to play to keep the produce flowing so it wouldn’t slow down. On different sights of construction, tools and other equipment were moved from up and down the manor into different areas to be used for different jobs. The inhabitants tried to produce at home everything they required. Medieval manors were very self-sufficing.



The medieval manors were quite large in size in the Middle Ages, ranging from     1200 – 1800 acres of land. Therefore, there were some maintenance instructions that had to be given out in order to keep the manor in order. Hedging and ditching were constant tasks for the men, who were also required to maintain paths and roads that people travelled on throughout the premises. Also, peasants’ huts were looked after by themselves and they mended their own roofs. Hayward or Hedge Warder’s inspected the fences and hedges around the meadows or gardens. In addition, crops had to be kept in tip top condition so the harvest could grow to its best quality; this meant the crops had to be worked on almost all the time.


Order was also apart of maintenance, but a maintenance of the people who lived in the manor. Reeves would supervise farm work done by the serfs to make sure it was done properly and bailiffs collected taxes and ensured that the steward’s directions were followed. Also, the Lord who was in charge of the manor looked over his land.


Food was a major part of the manor; without it no one could survive. People had to collect water and firewood from the land to make their food and in summer they would also collect berries growing wild in the hedgerows. The land gave them their food. Brewers would make various alcoholic beverages and other concoctions. Crops were also split where one would be planted with vegetables and others would be planted with other things. There was also many other job that contributed to food which were bakers, butchers, grocer’s and of course the cooks who cooked for the Lord and His lady. Also there was trade among the people where they could exchange items that benefitted the other person. Cattle, horses, and surplus grain also formed common objects of exchange between manors.

What were the kinds of people who lived on the manor and what were their responsibilities?

People who worked on the manor are listed as:

  • Lord – He had to oversee the running of his manor and provide knights for the king.
  • Lady – Her main goal was to provide children for the Lord but she also took on his jobs while he was away
  • Vassal –  A Vassal was a free man who held land from a lord to which he paid respect and pledged allegiance.
  • Steward – A Steward was a person who undertook the management of the lord’s business
  • Bailiff – Was in charge of making sure the manor ran smoothly, ensured that rents, fines and taxes were paid and that the stewards directions were being followed
  • Reeve – A Reeve was a manor official chosen by the lord or voted by the peasants who oversaw farm work carried out by peasants and made sure the job was done properly
  • Cottager –  A low class peasant with a cottage, but with little or no land besides their cottage who generally worked as a simple worker
  • Serf – A serf was another name for a peasant or occupant who worked on his lord’s land and paid him with work in return for the use of land. The work was usually in the form of labour on the lord’s land.
  • Peasant – A peasant was a low status tenant who worked as a farming worker or labourer with other small jobs as well.
  • Servant – Servants were house peasants who worked in the lord’s manor house, doing the cooking, cleaning, laundering, and other household chores

Bibliography –

Clausenfan’, Copyright © 2013 Answers Corporation, 10/11/13

© Annenberg Foundation 2013, 10/11/12,

4.6, History Alive 8 for the Australian Curriculum, 10/11/13