Life in a Medieval Village

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Most villages in medieval England had a least three large fields which were planted with wheat and barley.

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Nothing was planted in the third field and it was left empty fallow the reason for this was that was always a need to have one spare field available for planting the following year. These fields were divided up into sections for different families to work on and grow their own crops.

Usually a medieval family would have more than one section of the field in which to grow their crops. Medieval peasants living in a medieval villages lived in cottages which were fairly basic, there was no glass in the windows and they usually had bare floors. In the thatched roof of a medieval peasant home would be a smoke hole that released the smoke from cooking on the stone fireplace.

The building structure of a medieval peasants home was a timber frame, and the walls were made using a technique called wattle and daub which was basically covering twigs with mud and straw. Medieval people would sleep on straw mattresses and animals would live in stables or inside the house.

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Tools and equipment were hanging on the walls, food for winter was stored in the roof area. And clothes were kept in wooden chests. Life in a medieval village peasants at work in a medieval village. The family ate seated on benches or stools at a trestle table, disassembled at night.

Food and Drink in the Medieval Era

Chairs were rarities. A cupboard or hutch held wooden and earthenware bowls, jugs, and wooden spoons. Hams, bags, and baskets hung from the rafters, away from rats and mice. Clothing, bedding, towels, and table linen were stored in chests.

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A well-to-do peasant might own silver spoons, brass pots, and pewter dishes. When they bathed, which was not often, medieval villagers used a barrel with the top removed. To lighten the task of carrying and heating water, a family probably bathed serially in the same water. At night, the family slept on straw pallets, either on the floor of the hall or in a loft at one end, gained by a ladder. Husband and wife shared a bed, sometimes with the baby, who alternatively might sleep in a cradle by the fire. These were bread, pottage or porridge, and ale.

Stronger or weaker, more flavorful or blander, the pottage kettle supplied many village families with their chief sustenance. If possible, every meal including breakfast was washed down with weak ale, home-brewed or purchased from a neighbor, but water often had to serve. The most serious shortage was protein. A hood or cloth cap, thick gloves or mittens, and leather shoes with heavy wooden soles completed the costume. The women wore long loose gowns belted at the waist, sometimes sleeveless tunics with a sleeved undergarment.

Peasant couples usually spoke their vows at the church door, the most public place in the village. Here the priest inquired whether there were any impediments, meaning kinship in a degree forbidden by the church. The bridegroom named the dower [dowry] which he would provide for his wife, giving her as a token a ring and a small sum of money to be distributed to the poor.


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Vows were then exchanged, and the bridal party might proceed into the church, where a nuptial Mass was celebrated. In the village as in castle and city, babies were born at home, their birth attended by midwives. Men were excluded from the lying-in chamber. Literary evidence suggests that the woman in labor assumed a sitting or crouching position. Childbirth was dangerous for both mother and child.


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  • The newborn infant was immediately prepared for baptism, lest it die in a state of original sin. If a priest could not be located in time, someone else must perform the ceremony, a contingency for which water must be kept ready. Under normal circumstances the child was washed and sometimes though not universally swaddled, the godparents were summoned, and godmother or midwife carried the baby to the church, where the font was kept ever ready.

    Preliminary baptismal rites were performed, as in marriage, at the church door. The party then moved into the church to the baptismal font. The child was immersed, the godmother dried it and dressed it in a christening garment, and the priest anointed it with holy oil. Priests officiated at weddings, baptisms and funerals.

    Though the Church justified women's lowly position with references to Eve, it also gave them more than 50 holidays a year. Indeed, many of these were set aside strictly for women. However much the Church despised Eve, it could not ignore the fact that Mary had also been a woman. Yet just how much of this peasant women understood remains unclear.

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    Medieval Rural Life

    Most peasants were uneducated and would not have understood a rote mass recited in Latin by a village priest who was also illiterate. By the late s, the old feudal order was on the wane. Following the peasant uprising, King Richard II swore to abolish serfdom altogether.

    The fact that he later went back on his promise was of little importance. By that point, the Black Death had made feudal laborers more valuable by drastically reducing their numbers. Village women now became upwardly mobile, able to command considerable wages for themselves. But by this point, the Middle Ages were coming to a close, and women everywhere were transitioning into a new phase of their history.

    Village Life of Medieval Women in the Middle Ages

    A longtime author of lifestyle articles, Gregg Newby has written extensively on personal finance, health and wellness, fitness, education, and more. Newby holds a master's degree in history and is an ardent pluviophile. College Life.

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