Posted by: Jodi | March 11, 2015

Medieval Village Anatomy 101

If you are writing a historical fiction, or epic fantasy, chances are one of your settings will be in a medieval village.  Not all villages are set up in the same way, but for the most part they will all share many of the same features.  These features include:

Wheat fields – Every town needs to eat, and chances are there isn’t a Walmart nearby. They can only eat what they grow.

Black Smith – To be able to harvest food and build and repair buildings you need tools, and those tools need to be made. He also shoes horses.

Mill – Situated next to a stream or river, the mill grinds the grains that the village grows into flour to make bread and other items.

Village Church – Almost always located in the center of the town near the village green, this is where people would go to worship and also settle minor disputes.  Often the church would also function as a town hall.

Rectory – home of the clergy of the church and also serves as the administrative offices as well.

Fallow Fields – Before industrial fertilizer it was common to leave a field unplanted for a season for the dirt to regain some of the nutrients that had been stripped from it the season before. It makes for healthier, more productive crops.

Village Green – this was a large grassy area where celebrations and tournaments were held.

Lord’s Manor House – You can’t have a village without a Lord.  He is the one who owns the land and it is his responsibility to see that it is developed and defended.  The village comes as an extension of his needs. His manor would be located off to one side, on a hill when possible.

Lord’s Forest – Located near the Lord’s manor and meant for the use of the Lord.  The game animals living with the Lord’s forest are the property of the Lord and it was a crime to hunt them for personal use.

Vegetable fields – Man cannot live by bread alone, so it makes sense that they planted a variety of foods. Most vegetables were grown in kitchen gardens to leave the fields for more important crops like grains that would keep for years in silos and store houses.

The Common – is land owned collectively by a number of people and they use the land for their livestock to graze, to collect firewood, and to cut turf for fuel.  Those who own part of a common were called commoners, which is the origin of the term. The common was originally owned by the manor and was legally part of his estate.  Occasionally the village green was also considered a common as well.

Lord’s Oven or Bake House – To supply bread for the Lord’s tables there was a bakery in town that used the grain from the mill.

Tannery – In more developed towns there would be a tannery to process animal hides into leather.  This leather would then be used for apparel, boots, and saddles.

Tithe Barn – Devote peasants gave one tenth of their increase to the church to be used to support the clergy and feed the poor and sick.

Tavern – A place of business where people could get alchoholic beverages. Historically, a tavern served wine whereas an inn served beer and ale.  These terms became interchangeable over time. The tavern or inn also had lodging for the night.

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To learn more, check out these resources:

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Responses

  1. This is fascinating! Thank you. What a great resource.

  2. Very interesting. Also makes me nostalgic for village life.

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