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Virgin soils: traces of sites of early villages: "wild field-grass" husbandry; the permanent division of pasture from tillage; manors and trade-guilds; origin of manors; the thirteenth century manor and village; divisions of land according to differences of tenure; villages isolated and self-sufficing; importance of labour-rents in the economy of a manor; the cultivation of the demesne; the crops grown; the live-stock; miscellaneous produce; the manorial courts: the social grades among the villagers; the system of open-field farming; the arable land; the meadows; the hams; the pasture commons; the prevalence and permanence of the open-field system; the domestic industries of the village.
IMPROVEMENTS in the art and science of English agriculture were in its infancy dependent on the exhaustion of virgin soils. So long as land was abundant, and the people few or migratory, no rotation of crops was needed. Fresh land could be ploughed each year. It was only when numbers had increased and settlements became permanent, that farmers were driven to devise methods of cultivation which restored or maintained the fertility of their holdings.
The progress of farming is recorded in legal documents, in manorial accounts, in agricultural literature. But the story is also often preserved in the external aspect which the land, the villages, or the hedgerows bear in the twentieth century. Dry uplands, where the least labour told the most, were first occupied and cultivated; rich valleys, damp and filled with forest growth, remained uninhabited and untilled. In spite of difficulties of water-supply, light or sandy soils, or chalky highlands seem to have been the sites of the oldest villages. Patches of the lower slopes of downs were cleared of self-sown beech, and sheltered dips tilled for corn; the high ground behind was grazed by flocks and herds; the beech woods supplied mast for the swine. Salisbury Plain, a century ago, bore no sign of human life except the proverbial " thief or twain "--no contemporary mark of the hand of man but the gallows and their appendages. Yet here are to be found traces of numerous villages. Scored on the sides of the Wiltshire, Dorset, Hampshire, and Sussex downs, "Lynches," "Lynchets," or "Daisses,"--grass-grown terraces or benches, still run horizontally, one above the other, along the slopes. The "elf-furrows" of Scotland seem to record a similar occupation of hill sites. Local tradition attributes their formation to spade husbandry. Marshall, in 1797, suggested, but only to reject, the operation of the plough. Fifty years later, Poulett Scrope adopted a similar suggestion; more recently Seebohm revived the same theory. Whatever explanation of the formation of these terraces may be correct, they indelibly indicate the sites of the earliest settlements, and the nature of the soil first selected for tillage.
(Lynchets are to be found in many parts of the country other than on the chalk downs. The method and date of their formation is still in dispute. See The Countryman, Jan. 1936)
The most primitive form of agriculture is that known as "wild field-grass" husbandry. Joint occupation and joint tillage were probably its characteristics, as they afterwards were of tribal or village communities. The essential difference lies in this. In the open fields of the village, pasturage and tillage continue to be separated; grass-land always remains meadow or pasture; it is never broken up for tillage. Under the more primitive form of convertible husbandry, fresh tracts of grass were successively taken in, ploughed, and tilled for corn. As the soil became exhausted, they reverted to pasture. Such a practice may belong to some portions of the Celtic race, or to nomadic stages of civilisation. In 1804 Marshall thought that he could trace the "wild field-grass" system in a custom of the south-western counties. In some districts lords of the manor enjoyed rights of letting portions of the grass commons to be ploughed up, cultivated for corn, and after two years thrown back into pasture. Over the whole country, from the Tamar to the eastern border of Dorsetshire, he found that open commons, such as the wide expanse of Yarcombe and the hills above Bridport, which from time immemorial had never known the plough, were distinctly marked with the ridge and furrow. Other features of rural life, which a century ago were more peculiar to the south-west of England, suggest that arable tillage by village communities, if it ever prevailed in this district, was soon exchanged for a system of convertible husbandry better suited to a damp climate. The cultivated land is divided into little patches by the high Devonshire earthwork, or hedge; the large open-fields of the parish can rarely be traced; fewer of the inhabitants are collected into villages, more are scattered in single houses or tiny hamlets. Cornwall and parts of Devonshire, like Brittany, are a country of hedges, and of a Celtic race.
This "wild field-grass" husbandry was displaced in most parts of England by the permanent separation of arable from pasture land. The change indicates an advance towards a more settled state of society, but not necessarily an advance in agricultural practice. The fixed division of tillage and grass may have been introduced into this country by a people accustomed, like the Romans or the Anglo-Saxons, to a drier and less variable climate. If so, it was on this alien system that the agricultural organisation of the mediaeval manor was based. On it also were founded the essential features of those village communities which at one time tilled two-thirds of the cultivated soil of England, survived the criticism of Fitzherbert in the sixteenth century, outlived the onslaught of Arthur Young in the eighteenth century, clung to the land in spite of thousands of enclosure Acts, were carried to the New World by the Pilgrim Fathers, and linger to this day in, for instance, the Nottinghamshire village of Lexington, now Laxton, where half the land of the parish is tilled by an agricultural association of partners.
In the early stages of history, the law itself was powerless to protect individual independence or to safeguard individual rights. Agriculture, like other industries, was therefore organised on principles of graduated dependence and collective responsibility. Mediaeval manors, in fact, resembled trade guilds, and it would be difficult to frame an organisation which, given the weakness of law and the infancy of agriculture, was better calculated to effect the object of mutual help and protection. Communities grouped together in villages were less liable to attack than detached farmhouses and buildings; common methods of farming facilitated that continuous cultivation which otherwise might have been interrupted by the frequent absence of the able-bodied men on military expeditions; the observance of common rules of management may have hindered improvement, but, if strictly enforced, it also prevented deterioration. Thus the system was suitable to the times and their conditions.
The origin of the legal relation of manors to village communities lies outside the scope of the present enquiry. It concerns tenures rather than systems of cultivation. Two theories explain the rights of manorial lords and rights of common exercised over manorial lands. The legal theory, in its crudest form, is that the lord of the manor is the absolute owner of the soil of his manor, and that rights acquired over any part of it by freeholders and tenants are acquired against him, and originate in his grant or sufferance. The historical theory, stated baldly, is that self-governing, independent communities of freemen originally owned the land in common, and were gradually reduced to dependence by one of their members, or by a conqueror, who became the lord of the soil. There seems to be no doubt that individual ownership belongs to an earlier stage of civilisation than communal ownership. But if the second theory is correct, the legal position of the lord of the manor represents a series of encroachments, which transformed the Mark of freemen into the Mark of bondmen, and changed the rights of the villagers over the wastes of the district into customary rights of user over the lord's soil. Questions of the origin and antiquity of manors, and the extent to which they prevailed before the Norman Conquest, have been to a great degree reopened by recent studies. Seebohm, for example, practically supported the legal view by historical argument. He traced the feudal manor to the Roman villa, with the lord's estate as the centre round which clustered cultivators, who tilled the soil under servile or semi-servile conditions. This system, according to his view, was taken over by the Anglo-Saxon invaders, and the agrarian results of the Teutonic occupation may be summed up in the transfer of the Roman villa, with its servile labourers, to the conquerors. As a complete explanation of social development the legal theory, in spite of this historical support, seems inadequate. But whether the early stages of village communities reveal a movement from serfdom or originated in freedom, whether their relations to manors represent encroachments by the lord or advances by the serf, whether the rights of agrarian associations underlay, or were acquired against, the manorial rights of the feudal baron--whether, in other words, the land-law of the noble became the land-law of the people, or the reverse--is here immaterial. Roughly and generally speaking, the immediate lordship of the land farmed by a village community, including the wastes and commons, was, after the Norman Conquest, vested in the lord of the manor, subject to regulated rights enjoyed by its members.
On a manorial estate, at the beginning of the thirteenth century, only the church, the manor-house, and perhaps the mill, rose out conspicuously. There were no detached, isolated farm-houses; but the remaining buildings of the village, grouped together in a sort of street, were the homes of the peasantry, who occupied and cultivated the greater part of the land. At some little distance from the village stood the manor hall or grange, with its outbuildings, garden, and fishpond, surrounded by clay-built walls with thatched tops. The style and extent of the buildings depended on whether the house was the permanent or occasional residence of the lord; they also varied with the importance of the manor, and the wealth of its owner. The house itself was built either of timber and clay, or of stone, for brickmaking was still a forgotten art. It often consisted of a single hall, plastered inside, open to the roof, and earth-floored, which served as court of justice, diningroom, and bedchamber. At one end of the central room was a stable; at the other a chamber, kitchen, or larder. Below one part of the ground floor was a cellar; above another part was, perhaps, a "solar," or parlour, approached by an outside staircase. If the manor was sufficiently important, there were probably added a detached building for the farm servants, and a chamber for the bailiff. The outbuildings consisted of bake-house, stables, dairy, cattle and poultry houses, granary, and dove-cote. Some of the oldest specimens of domestic architecture are granaries, like Hazelton or Calcot in Gloucestershire, or the dove-cotes which still in country districts mark the former sites of manor-houses. Repairs of the walls and buildings of the manor-house were among the labour services of the tenantry, who dug, tempered, and daubed the clay, cut and carted the timber, and gathered the straw or reeds for thatching. Where technical skill was needed they were aided by craftsmen, who either held land in reward for their special services, or, on the smaller manors, were hired for the occasion.
Tufts of trees, conspicuous in the hedgeless expanse of arable land by which they were surrounded, marked the sites of villages, as they still do in the high table-land of the Pays de Caux. Under their shelter clustered the homes of the peasantry, clay-walled, open-roofed, earth-floored, chimneyless sheds, covered in with straw or reeds or heather, and consisting of a single room. Here, divided by a hurdle or wattle partition, lived, not only the human inhabitants, but their cows, pigs, and poultry. Close by were the tofts and crofts of the open-field farmers, each with its miniature hay-rick and straw-stack; and the cottages and curtilages of the cottagers, "fencèd al aboute with stikkes." Here were the scanty gardens in which grew the vegetables, few but essential to the health of a population which lived almost entirely on salted meat and fish--often half-cured and half-putrid. These homesteads were in early times the only property held by members of the township in exclusive separate occupation. They were also, at first, the only permanent enclosures on the commonable land. But, as agriculture advanced, pasture paddocks ("gerstuns" or "garstons") for rearing stock, calves, or fattening beasts, or for the working oxen, which could not endure his "warke to labour all daye, and then to be put to the commons or before the herdsman," were enclosed in the immediate neighbourhood of the village. In these enclosures, or "happy garstons" as they were called at Aston Boges, were held the village merrymakings, the rush-bearings, the May games, the summerings at St. John's Eve, the public breakfasts, and the distribution of bread and ale in Rogation week.
The land comprised in a thirteenth century manor was generally divided into four main portions, and, speaking generally, was cultivated on co-operative principles; the demesne or "board" land, reserved for the lord's' personal use, surrounding the manorhouse, and forming the smaller portion of the whole; the free land occupied by freemen holding by military service, or by some form of fixed rent in money or in kind; the unfree land, occupied by various classes of bondmen, holding by produce-rents and labour services which varied with the custom of the manor; the common pastures and untilled wastes on which the tenants of the manor and the occupiers of certain cottages, in virtue of their holdings, fed their live stock. This right of pasture must be clearly distinguished from those rights which, at certain seasons of the year, were exercised by the associated partners over the cultivated arable and meadow lands of the village farm. Thus the lord's demesne, using the word in its narrower sense, might be kept in hand, or let on lease to free or unfree tenants, or thrown into the village farm, or dealt with as to portions in each of these three ways. But whether the land was treated as a compact whole, like a modern home-farm, or whether the landlord, as a shareholder in the village association, allowed it to be cut up into strips and intermixed with other holdings, the demesne was mainly cultivated by the labour services of the unfree peasantry. The rest of the land of the manor, forming the larger portion of the cultivated area, was farmed by village partners, whose rent chiefly consisted in the labour, more or less definite in amount, which they were obliged to perform on the lord's demesne.
In this method of cultivating a manorial estate there are many contrasts with the modern system. The three-fold division of the agricultural interests into landlord, tenant farmer, and wage-earning labourer was practically unknown. Landowner and tenant-labourer owned, occupied, and cultivated the soil, and the gradual relaxation of the labourer's tenure of the land, and the interposition of the tenant farmer between the two existing classes, sum up the early social history of English farming. In the thirteenth century, muscles were more essential to the prosperity of the landlord than money rents. The cultivators of the soil grew their produce, not for sale, but for their own consumption. Each manor or village was isolated and self-sufficing. Only in the neighbourhood of towns was there any market for the produce of the farm. Few manufactured articles were bought. Salt, tar, iron (bought in four-pound bars), mill-stones, steel for tipping the edges of implements, canvas for the sails of the wind-mill, cloths for use in the dairy, in the malthouse, or in the grange, together with the dresses of the inhabitants of the hall, and a few vessels of brass, copper, or earthenware, satisfied the simple needs of the rural population. Hands were therefore more required than money on manorial estates. If the manor was well stocked with labour, the land paid; when the stock of labour shrank, the profits dwindled. It was in order to retain a sufficient supply of labour on the land that bondmen were restrained from leaving the manor to assume the tonsure of the clerk or the flat cap of the apprentice, to become soldiers or to work outside the manor. Even their marriages were carefully controlled by licences. It was, again, in order to exact and supervise the due performance of. labour services that the lord of the manor maintained his large official staff--his seneschal, if he owned several manors, his steward, his bailiff, and the various foremen of the labourers, such as the reeve, the hayward, the head-reaper, and the granger. But with the thirteenth century begins the practice of keeping estate accounts, in which the amount and cash values of the labour services are entered. Thus the uncertainty of villein-tenure was modified, and the means were prepared for commuting obligations to work into their money equivalents. Already the causes were operating which hastened the process, and changed agriculture from a self-sufficing industry into a commercial system of farming for profit. Population was increasing; trade was growing; urban classes, divorced from rural pursuits, were forming; means of communication were improving; money taxes took the place of personal services; the standard of living rose; coin was needed, not only to meet the demands of the government, but to buy the luxuries of more civilised life.
The obligations of the peasantry to cultivate the demesne varied, not only with local customs, but with the seasons. Their most important services were the autumnal, Lenten, and summer ploughings on the three fields, into which the arable land of the demesne was generally divided. The crops grown were, as winter seeds, wheat and rye, and, as spring seeds, oats, barley, beans, peas, or vetches. In smaller quantities, flax, hemp, and saffron were locally raised in separate plots. Roots, clover and artificial grasses were still unknown. Rotations of crops, as they are now understood, were therefore impossible. The soil was rested by fallowing the one-half, or the one-third, of the arable land required by the two or the three course system. Red rivet, or a lost white variety, was then recommended for wheat-sowing on light land, red or white pollard for heavy soils, "gray" wheat for clays. But on the tenants' land, rye was the chief grain crop. It is the hardiest, grows on the poorest soils, makes the toughest straw. Rye was then the bread-stuff of the English peasantry, as it still is in Northern Europe. The flour of wheat and rye were often mixed together, and bread made in this form was called "maslin." It retained its moisture longer than pure wheaten bread, and, as Fynes Moryson says in his Itinerary (1617), was used by labourers because it "abode longer in the stomach and was not so soon digested with their labour." Wheat and rye were sometimes sown together. But as rye was slower to ripen, the better practice was to sow it alone and earlier, lest, as Tusser (1557) writes, " rye tarry wheat, till it sheds as it stands." The mixed cultivation was, however, recommended as a cure for mildew, and for this reason prevailed in Yorkshire in 1797. Barley was the drink-corn, as rye was the bread-corn, of the Middle Ages. It was of two kinds. The head with two rows of grain seems to have been used exclusively for brewing ; the coarser four-rowed head, known as "drage," was used partly for brewing, partly for feeding pigs and poultry. Barley and oats were often sown together. In the North, oats were extensively cultivated; but they were grey-awned, thin, and poor. In the Midlands and South of England they were comparatively rare on tenants' land.
The fallows were three times ploughed in preparation for wheat and rye. The seed began to be sown after Lammas Day (August 12), and at latest was completed by Hallowmas (November 1). For oats, beans, and peas, the land was ploughed and the seed sown between the Feast of Purification (February 2) and Easter. Oats were said to be best sown in "the dust of March." "On St. Valentine's Day cast beans in clay. But on St. Chad sowe good or bad." That is to say, the time for sowing beans was between February 14 and March 2. Barley came last. The land was ploughed and sown between Hoke-tide (the third Tuesday after Easter) and Pentecost. The ploughings were performed, and the teams supplied and driven, partly by the servants of the demesne, partly by the tenants. Sometimes ploughmen seem to have been hired. The harrowings were similarly provided for, and the harrow, often a hawthorn tree, weighted on its upper side with logs, was supplied from the lord's waste. Here also harrowers seem to have been sometimes specially hired. In this case they possibly provided their own home-constructed implements with sharp points or teeth like the modern type of harrow. When the fallows were first broken up, as was then the practice, in March, or when the land was prepared for barley, the ground was often so hard that the clods had to be subsequently broken. For this purpose the ploughman, holding the principal hale of the plough in his left hand, carried in his right a "clotting beetle," or "maul," such as that which is depicted in the Cotton MSS. A "Dover-court beetle" was a necessary tool in the days of Tusser; and Plot, whose Natural History of Oxfordshire appeared in the seventeenth century, recommends its use after the land was harrowed.
The amount of wheat, rye, beans, and peas usually sown to the acre was only two bushels; and of oats and, strangely enough, of barley, four bushels. The yield of wheat rarely exceeded five-fold, or ten bushels to the acre ; that of the leguminous crops ranged from three- to six-fold, or from six to twelve bushels to the acre ; that of oats and barley varied from three- to four-fold, or from twelve to sixteen bushels to the acre. Considerable care was exercised in the choice and change of the seed-corn, which was often one of the produce-rents of the tenants. On the Berkeley Estates (1321) the seed was changed every second or third year; the upland corn being sown in the vale, and vice versa. Wheat rarely followed a spring grain crop. If it did, it may be supposed that it received the greater part of the manure mixed with earth, which the tenants carted from the demesne yard, and spread on the manor farm. From the point of view of manuring the land, the right of folding was a valuable privilege. Tenants, unless they purchased a licence to fold their sheep on the land they occupied, were often obliged to feed and fold their flocks on the lord's land for fallow or in his own fold. Sometimes the herbage of the lord's land for fallow was sold to a sheep-master to be depastured on the land. Lime was used on heavy clays, or to destroy moss. The value of marl in improving the texture of sandy soils and some kinds of clays was appreciated. On the Berkeley Estates it was first used in the fortieth year of Henry III. But the cost was excessive. "Marl," says Fitzherbert, "is an excellent manure, and . . . exceeding chargeable." Sea sand was used near the coast; soot and even street refuse were employed on home farms. Drainage, except in the form of ridging the surface of wet soils, was rarely practised. Sometimes, as Palladius recommends (Book VI. st. 6), shallow trenches filled with gravel, stones, or hollow alder stems, and turfed over, were cut, and, on the manors belonging to the Collegiate body of St. Paul's Cathedral, it was one of the labour services to clean out the ditches. But the science of deep drainage made little progress before the nineteenth century. Beans were often dibbed; but all other seed was sown broadcast. The actual labour of sowing was probably performed by the lord's bailiff, or the hayward, with his own hand, as, at the beginning of the last century, all seed was sown by the farmer himself. The hoeing and the weeding of the crops were among the labour services of the tenants. In cleaning land the maxim was ancient:
"Who weeds in May
Throws all away,"
and the crops were generally weeded in June or the first few days of July. Walter of Henley (thirteenth century) gives St. John's Day (June 24) as the earliest date for cleaning the land. "If," he says, "you cut thistles fifteen days or eight before St. John's Day, for each one will come two or three." On a Suffolk manor, in the fourteenth century, sixty "sarclers," or weeders, were employed in one day, armed, if the weather was dry, with a hook or forked stick, and, in wet weather, with nippers.
The meadows of the demesne were mown, and the hay made, carted, and put on the manorial ricks, by the labour services of the tenants. They also reaped, bound, gathered, loaded, carted, and stacked the corn crops in the lord's grange. They also threshed the corn, and winnowed it, unless, as was sometimes the case, the duty of winnowing fell to the dairywoman, or "Daye." If any corn was sent for sale to the markets, it was carried there by the labour services of the tenants, in their carts drawn by their teams. Harvestings in the Middle Ages were picturesque scenes of bustle and of merriment among the thousands to whom they meant the return of plenty. On 250 acres at Hawstead in Suffolk, towards the close of the fourteenth century, were grown wheat, oats, barley, peas, and "bolymong," a mixture of tares and oats. The grain crops were cut and housed in two days. On the first day appeared thirty tenants to perform their "bedrepes," and 244 reapers; on the second day, the thirty tenants and 239 reapers, pitchers, and stackers. Many of this assembly were the smaller peasantry on the manor; the rest were the lord's farm servants, together with wandering bands of "cockers" or harvesters, who had already begun to travel the country at harvest time. A cook, brewer, and baker were hired to supply dinner at nine and supper at five. Reapers were organised in bands, or "setts," of five. The anonymous author of Hosebonderie (thirteenth century) calculates that each band could reap and bind two acres a day. Barley and oats, as well as peas and beans, were generally mown; rye and wheat were reaped. But the reaping, as in Roman times, seems to have consisted of two operations: the first was to cut the ears, the second to remove part of the straw for thatching, or to be used as forage for cattle, as litter for strewing the sheep-house, folds, and yards, or as bedding for men. Often the value of the straw of thin short corn hardly paid for the expense of removal, and the stubble was either grazed or burned on the ground, or ploughed in.
The most important crops of the farm were the corn crops of wheat, rye, and barley, which were raised for human food and drink. Their consumption, especially if the lord of the manor lived on the estate, was enormous. Domestic households were considerable, and often only the bailiff was paid money wages. Rations were also allowed to tenants when performing many of their services. Though the manual and team work of the tenants provided most of the labour of the farm, the lord also employed a large permanent staff of agricultural servants, most of whom were occupied in the care of live-stock. Such were the horseman or waggoner, oxherd or ploughman, cowherd, shepherd, swineherd, warrener, and keepers of hawks and dogs, whose wages were mostly paid in kind. There were, besides, other servants in husbandry, hired for special occasions, whose food and drink formed a large portion of their payment. The granary was, therefore, rarely so full that any surplus remained for sale. For such ready-money as he needed, the lord looked mainly to the produce of his live-stock. For their consumption were grown the remaining crops--the hay, beans, peas, and oats; though oats were not only used for human food, but in some districts were brewed into inferior beer.
Horse-farms appear in some estate accounts; but they probably supplied the "great horse" used for military purposes. On an ordinary farm the horses used for farm-work were mostly home-bred, and were divided into cart-horses, and--under the names of stotts, "affers," or "avers"--plough-horses. Colts, not needed to keep up the supply, were sold. Plough-teams were seldom made up of horses only; if horses were used at all, they were mixed with oxen. But, as a rule, oxen were preferred to horses. Though horses worked more quickly, when the ploughman allowed them to do so, they pulled less steadily, and sudden strains severely tested the primitive plough-gear. On hard ground they did less work, and only when the land was stony had they any advantage, Economical reasons further explain the preference for oxen. From St. Luke's Day (October 18) to April, both horses and oxen were kept in the stalls. During these twenty-five weeks neither could graze, and Walter of Henley calculates that the winterkeep of a horse cost four times that of an ox. Horses needed more attendance; they required to be rubbed, curried, and dressed. Oxen were less liable to sickness than horses. The harness of the ox, mainly home-made from materials supplied on the estate, was cheaper to provide and repair. Shod only on the forefeet, the shoeing of the ox cost less than that of the horse. When either horse or ox was past work, the profit of the one lay in his hide; of the other, not only in his hide, but the larder: the ox was "mannes meat when dead, while the horse is carrion." Great care was taken both of horses and of oxen. In Seneschaucie (thirteenth century) the duties both of the waggoner and oxherd are carefully defined; each was expected to sleep every night with his charges.
Cattle were seldom fatted even for the tables of the rich; oxen were valued for their power of draught: cows for their milk. It may, indeed, be said that fresh butcher's meat was rarely eaten, and that, if it was, it was almost universally grass-fed. No winter-keep or feeding stuff was available; not even carrots or parsnips were known. The commons, generally unstinted, carried as much stock as could keep skin and bone together in the winter, and the lord could not only turn out on them his own sheep and cattle, but license strangers for money payments to do the same. Even if the commons were stinted, the margin was too bare to mean abundance. The best pastures were either in the lord's own hands, and were saved by him at the expense of the commons, or were let out to individuals in separate occupations. Even among these superior feeding-grounds, there were few enclosures which would fatten a bullock. At the wane of the summer, the cattle had the aftermath of the hay meadows, and the stubble and haulm of the arable lands. During this season they were at their best. They only survived the winter months in a state of semi-starvation on hay, straw, and tree-loppings. It was, therefore, the practice at the end of June to draft the aged cows, worn-out oxen, and toothless sheep, or "crones," prepare them as far as possible for the butcher, slaughter them in the autumn, and either eat them fresh or throw them into the powdering tub to be salted for winter consumption. "For Easter at Martilmas (November 11) hange up a biefe" is the advice of Tusser.
The dairy produce was a greater source of money revenue, though the home consumption of cheese must have been very large. But the management was necessarily controlled, like the management of the stock, by the winter scarcity. The yield of a cow during the twenty-four weeks from the middle of April to Michaelmas was estimated at four-fifths of her total annual yield. Six to ten ewes gave as much milk as one cow; but the best practice was to cease milking ewes at Lammas Day (August 12). Cheese-making formed an important part of the dairywoman's duties, and the purchase of the cloths and utensils used in its manufacture are a serious item in estate accounts. Cheese seems generally to have been made of skim-milk, though superior varieties were doubtless found on the lord's table. Most of the butter made in the summer months was either sold, or salted and preserved in pots and barrels for winter use. The butter-milk was either drunk, made into curds, or more rarely used to fatten pigs. The curds were eaten with wine or ale; the whey, under the name of "whig," made a cool and wholesome summer drink. During the winter months, milk fetched three times its summer price, and was generally sold. For this, among other reasons, calves were timed to fall before autumn. In the scarce months of winter, the price obtained for milk during eight weeks was supposed to be worth more than the calf. Small open-field farmers must usually have sold their calves as soon as possible. The same practice prevailed on the demesne. The total number of live-stock, including horses but not including sheep, sold from the manor of Forncett in thirteen years, between 1272 and 1306, was 152. Out of this total 99 were calves. The cows of the demesne were under the care of a cowherd, who was required to sleep every night with his charges in the sheds.
Sheep were the sheet anchor of farming. But it was not for their mutton, or for their milk, or even for their skins, that they were chiefly valued. Already the mediaeval agriculturist took his seat on the wool-sack. As a marketable commodity, both at home and abroad, English long wool always commanded a price. It was less perishable than corn, and more easily transported even on the worst of roads. To the Flemish weavers it was indispensable, for Spanish wool could not be used alone, and the supply from Saxony was not as yet developed. The washing and shearing of sheep were among the labour services of the tenantry. Certain districts, especially Shropshire, Leominster, and the Cotswolds, were from very early times famous for the excellence of their wool. So far as its quality depended on breed rather than on soil, some care, as evidenced by the higher prices paid for rams, was taken to improve the flocks. From Martinmas to Easter sheep were kept in houses, or in moveable folds of wooden hurdles, thatched at the sides and tops. During these months they were fed on coarse hay or peas-haulm, mixed with wheaten or oaten straw. For the rest of the year they browsed on the land for fallows, in woodland pastures, or on the sheep commons. But in the autumn they were not allowed to go on the ground, till the sun had purified the land from the "gelly or matty rime," which was supposed to engender scab. So also they were driven from the damp, low-lying grounds lest they should eat the white water-snails which our ancestors suspected of breeding the rot. These two diseases made sheep-farming, in spite of its profits, a risky venture. The scab does not seem to have attacked sheep before the latter end of the thirteenth century; but, from that time forward, the tar-box was essential to every shepherd. The rot is carefully treated by Walter of Henley, if he is the real author of the passage interpolated in the Bodleian manuscript of his work . The writer discusses the symptoms of the disease. White veins under the eyelids, wool that can be easily pulled away from the ribs, a skin that will not redden when rubbed, are signs of unsoundness. Another sign is when the November hoar-frost melts rapidly on the fleece, for the animal is then suffering from an unnatural heat. The losses of the flockmasters from the "murrain," to use the generic term for diseases employed by mediaeval writers, were so severe as to create another danger. The minute instructions against fraud given to the official staff show that shepherds not infrequently produced the skin, and explained the disappearance of the carcase by death from disease. "Let no sheep," says the author of Seneschaucie, "be flayn before it be seen and known for what fault it died." The value of the flock made the shepherd one of the most important of farm servants. He was required to be a patient man, "not overhasty," never to be absent without leave at "fairs, markets, wrestling-matches, wakes, or in the tavern," and always to sleep in the fold together with his dog. Later writers insist on the value of lameness in the shepherd, as a lame man was unlikely to overdrive his sheep.
Swine were the almost universal live-stock of rich and poor. As consumers of refuse and scavengers of the village, they would, on sanitary grounds, have repaid their keepers. But mediaeval pigs profited their owners much, and cost them little. It was a Gloucestershire saying
"A swine doth sooner than a cowe
Bring an ox to the plough."
In other words, a pig was more profitable than a cow. For the greater part of the year pigs were expected to pick up their own living. When the wastes and woodlands of a manor were extensive, they were, except during three months of the year, self-supporting. They developed the qualities necessary for taking care of themselves. The ordinary pigs of the Middle Ages were long, flat-sided, coarse-boned, lop-eared, omnivorous animals, whose agility was more valuable than their early maturity. Growth and flesh were the work of time: so also were thickened skin, developed muscles, and increased weight of bone. The styes were often built in the woods, whence the pigs were only brought to feed on the arable land after the crops were cleared, or, at times of exceptional frost, to subsist on the leavings of the threshing-floor. During most months of the year they ranged the woods for roots, wild pears, wild plums, crab apples, aloes, haws, beech-mast, and acorns. Only when the sows were farrowing, or when animals were being prepared for the rich man's table, were they specially fed. Pigs were fatted on inferior corn, especially coarse barley, peas, beans, skim- and butter-milk, or brewers' grains which were readily obtainable when nearly every household brewed its own barley beer. The amount consumed varied with the purpose intended to be served. The boar was fatted for the feast on ten times the grain bestowed in finishing ordinary animals for conversion into salted pork or smoke-dried bacon. Walter of Henley implies that some attention was given to breed, as he recommends the use of well-bred boars. But the only quality on which he insists is that the animal should be able to dig, or, in other words, support itself. Modern ideas of purchasing corn for fattening purposes, or of converting into pork or bacon farm-produce for which no ready market was available, scarcely entered into the heads of mediaeval farmers. On the contrary, they tell us that, if pigs were entirely dependent on the crops of the arable land, they could not be kept at a profit, when the wages of the swineherd, the cost of the grain consumed, and the damage done to growing crops had been taken into account. Some trade was, however, carried on in stores. This is proved by the records of Forncett manor (A Norfolk Manor, 1086-1565), which show that, in years when no pigs were kept, stores were bought and fatted for the larder.
The poultry yard was under the care of the dairywoman, who sometimes seems to have had the poultry to farm at so much a head. Ducks are not mentioned in any of the mediaeval treatises on farming, though they appear in the Berkeley accounts in 1321: guineafowl and turkeys were unknown. But the number of geese and fowls, and, on important estates, of peacocks and swans, was large, and it was swollen by the produce-rents which were often paid in poultry and eggs. The author of Hosebonderie gives minute instructions as to the produce for which the dairywoman ought to account. "Each goose ought to have five goslings a year:" each hen was to answer for 115 eggs and seven chickens, "three of which ought to be made capons, and, if there be too many hen chickens, let them be changed for cocks while they are young, so that each hen may answer for three capons and four hens a year. And for five geese you must have one gander, and for five hens one cock." Besides the poultry yard, the dove-cote or pigeon-house was a source of profit to the lord and of loss to the tenant. Prodigious numbers of pigeons were kept; not only were they eaten, but their dung was prized as the most valuable of all manures. The privilege of keeping a pigeon-house was confined to manorial lords and jealously guarded, and every manor had its dove-cote. The story of the French Revolution shows how bitterly the peasants resented the plunder of their hard-earned crops by the lord's pigeons. Doubtless many a British peasant in mediaeval times was stirred to the same hostility by the same nuisance.
To the produce of the crops and the live-stock of the demesne must be added game, rabbits from the "conygarth" or warren, cider from the apples, oil from the nuts, honey and wax from the bee-hives, and sometimes grapes from the vineyards. Bee-keeping was an important feature of agricultural industry. The ancient proverb says: "He that hath sheep, swine, and bees, sleep he, wake he, he may thrive." Honey, besides being the only sugar, was invaluable in the still-room, and in the arts of the apothecary, physician, and "chirurgeon." It was an ingredient in mead and metheglyn. It was used in embalming, in medicines, and in such decoctions as mulse water, oenomel, honey water, rodomel, or quintessence. Wax was not only necessary for the candles of the wealthy, but, like honey, was largely used in mediaeval medicine. Mixed with violets, it was a salve: it was also one of the ingredients of "playsters, oyntementes, suppositories, and such like." In some districts of England, vineyards formed part of the equipment of manors; one was made by Lord Berkeley towards the close of the reign of Edward III., and his biographer suggests that he learned the "husbandry . . . whilst hee was prisoner in ffrance or a Traveller in Spaine." Few great monasteries were without vineyards, which are mentioned thirty-eight times in Domesday Book. It is not necessary to explain the disappearance of the vine by a change of climate. Wine was then often sweetened with honey and flavoured with blackberries and spices. Unless it came from abroad, it was rarely drunk in its pure state. It would, therefore, be unsafe to found any theory of climatic change upon the production of a liquid which, in its natural state, may frequently have resembled vinegar.
Besides the produce of the live-stock and crops of his demesne, the lord of the manor had other sources of revenue. There were the fixed money or produce rents for their land paid by free tenants and bondmen, and the money payments which were sometimes accepted in lieu of labour services. Sales of timber and underwood, of turf, of herbage, licences to fold on the tenant's land, or licences to turn pigs into the lord's woods for beechmast or acorns, brought in varying sums of money. The mill at which the tenants ground their corn was his property. Whether the miller was his servant, or farmed the receipts, a considerable proportion of the tolls went into the landlord's purse, though the cost of repairs and upkeep diminished the net profits. On some manors the oven in which the bread was baked was also the property of the lord of the manor. The fees and fines levied and settled by the manorial courts in the course of a year were surprisingly large; besides their administrative work, they were at once the guardians and the interpreters of the customs of the manor. The range of business administered in these courts, to which the tenants, both free and bond, were summoned as jurors, therefore embraced the domestic and financial affairs of the manor. Here were paid the fees for permission to reside outside the manor, to send children to school, to enter minor orders, to apprentice a son to a trade, or to marry a daughter. Here too were imposed the fines for slovenly work at harvest, for selling cattle without the lord's leave, for appropriating commons and wastes, for moving a neighbour's landmark, for neglecting to repair a cottage, for failing to discharge labour dues. Here too were fixed the contributions of the tenantry in money or labour towards the maintenance of the by-roads within the manor, and the fines for neglect of the duty to keep their surfaces in repair, to provide for their proper drainage, and to remove obstructions. Here also crime was punished; offenders against life or property, as well as poachers, were mulcted; wrangling scolds and tavern-hunters were presented; idlers were deprived of their holdings, and, as a last resort, expelled from the manor. Here too were fixed and levied the necessary contributions for the repair of the stocks, the pillory, the ducking-stool, and the pound. Here the miller would be fined for mixing rubbish with his flour, the baker for selling short weight, the brewer who adulterated his beer, the ale-wife and tavern-keeper who used false measures or mixed the drink they sold with peony seed, salt or garlicky, the carrier for failing to deliver goods, the householder who harboured a stranger without a licence. Here also were received and entered the fees of tenants for admission to their holdings, and the payment of fines by sons who succeeded their fathers. Here, finally, on the sworn evidence of a body of jurors chosen from the tenants, were drawn up the surveys of the manor which recorded the exact condition of the estate--the total acreage of the demesne, and of each of the arable fields, of the meadows, the several pastures and the pasturage, and their annual values; the state of the woods and the coppices, how much could be cut, and what they were worth yearly; the acreage of the commons and the stock which they would carry; the number of the live-stock of various kinds; the holdings of the free tenants, and their rents or services; the holdings of the villeins, bordars, and cottagers, their services and money equivalents; the profits of fisheries, mills, and incidental manorial rights; the number of tenants who had finally commuted their services for fixed payments in cash, of those who, at the discretion of the lord, either rendered labour services or paid the money values, and of those who still discharged their personal obligations by actual work.
The remainder of the cultivated land of the manor was occupied by tenants who paid rents in the form of military or labour services, or money, or produce. Their farm practices, crops, and live-stock were the same as those of the demesne, though their difficulties in combating winter scarcity were greater. Free tenants, whose tenure was military service, or who had commuted the personal obligations for quit-rents, may sometimes have held land, like modern farmers, in their exclusive occupation for individual cultivation. But the area of free land was comparatively small, and, as often as not, it was thrown into the village farm, occupied and cultivated in common by an agrarian association of copartners, free and unfree.
The varieties of tenure were great. So also were the varieties of social condition, and of the obligations by which the grades of those social conditions were governed. The distinctions between freemen and bondmen and between freehold and bond tenure had been, in the eye of the law, broad and deep. But custom had gradually intervened, and, with endless variety of practice, mitigated the severity of legal theory. At law the bondman's position was subject to the lord's caprice. Unlike the freeman, he was tied to the manor; he could not leave it without licence from the lord, and payment of a fine. His services were uncertain in amount, and could be increased at the lord's pleasure. He paid a fine to marry his daughter, to send his son to school, to make him a priest or an apprentice. His lands and his goods and chattels might be seized by his lord, and when he died, his holding was given to whom the lord willed: his heir bought a licence to inherit even his moveables, and paid a fine when he was admitted to his father's tenancy. In the thirteenth century, some at least of these conditions had been modified. The bondman's services had become fixed; he could buy and sell, hold property, and dispose of his possessions by will. In theory he might still be at the mercy of the lord's will: but custom had so regulated the exercise of that will that it could no longer be capricious.
Speaking broadly, the mass of the occupiers of land were, in the eye of the law, unfree--bondmen who rented the shares in the land which they cultivated for themselves by labour services on the lord's demesne. It was the amount and certainty of their services which determined the rank of the unfree. Sometimes the service was for the autumn only, or for autumn and spring work, whether on specified days or at particular periods; sometimes of team work, sometimes of manual labour, sometimes of both; sometimes of week-work throughout the year, and either of one, two, or three days in each week. All their spare time was spent on their own holdings. Of this semi-servile class the villeins formed the aristocracy. The villein was neither a servant in husbandry nor a labourer for wages. He occupied land, and, like Chaucer's ploughman, had "catel" of his own. He was a partner in the village association, holding land of various amounts. In theory the size of his holding was based on the number of oxen which, in discharge of his share of the joint liability, he could contribute to the manorial plough-team. A "hide" of land, which Professor Maitland considers to have been " the land of a household," was treated as the area which a team of eight oxen could plough in a working year. Its extent may have varied. But, if the size was 120 acres, then each hide consisted of four portions of 30 acres, called "virgates," or 8 portions of 15 acres, called "bovates." Thus the eighth part of the hide, or "bovate," was the land of one ox; the fourth part of the hide, or "virgate," was the land of two oxen; and the whole hide was the land of the complete team of eight oxen. It was on this basis that the tenemental land, in theory, and sometimes in practice, was divided. The typical holding of the villein was regulated by his capacity to furnish one or two oxen to the team. In other words, it was the "virgate " or " yardland" of 30 acres, though one-ox holdings or "bovates" of 15 acres, and even half-ox holdings, were frequent.
Villeins of the higher grade were generally distinguished from inferior orders of the semi-servile classes of the peasantry by the size of their holdings in the village farm, by the certainty of their agricultural services on the demesne, and by the obligation to do team-work rather than manual labour. The smaller the holding, the vaguer the labour obligations, the more manual the work,the lower was the grade of the villein. Besides the villeins there were other orders of bondmen--such as the rural handicraftsmen who were specially provided with land, and the bordars and cottars, who rented particular cottages and garden ground, which often carried with them from two to five acres of arable land, together with common rights. The two latter classes, besides their obligatory manual services, probably eked out their subsistence either as hired labourers on the demesne or by supplying the labour for which their wealthier neighbours were responsible. At the bottom of the social ladder were the serfs, to whom strict law assigned no rights, though there were many varieties in their grades and position. Their chief badge of serfdom was the indeterminate character of their services--the obligation to labour in the manner, at the time, and for the wage, if any, which the lord directed. But the serf might occupy land, own cattle, and labour for himself. Thus, out of these various classes, free and unfree, sprang small landowners, tenant farmers, copyholders, and wage-earning labourers.
Round the village, or "town," in which were gathered the homesteads of the inhabitants, lay the open arable fields, which were cultivated in common by the associated partners. Here were grown the crops which Shakespeare enumerates. These were the lands "of Ceres":
"--thy rich leas
Of wheat, rye, barley, vetches, oats, and peas."
Here, at harvest time, the yellow of the corn crops alternated with the dark and light greens of beans or peas and the brown of the bare fallows. This cultivated area, which included the driest and soundest of the land, was hedgeless, open, and unenclosed, divided by turf-grown balks into fields--two, three, or, rarely, four in number. If the former, one field lay fallow, while the other was under tillage for corn, or beans, or peas. This dual system still prevailed near Gloucester in the nineteenth century, and existed at, Stogursey in Somersetshire in 1879. But from the Norman Conquest onward the three-field system was the most prevalent. Down to the middle of the reign of George III. the arable land received the unvarying triennial succession of wheat or rye, of spring crops such as barley, oats, beans, or peas, and of fallow. During these seven centuries a more scientific rotation was in some districts adopted. Thus at Aston Boges, in Oxfordshire, a fourth course was interposed. But, speaking generally, open-field husbandry rather retrograded than advanced, as the discipline of manorial officials relaxed.
Each of the three arable fields was subdivided into a number of shots, furlongs, or flats, separated from one another by unploughed bush-grown turf balks, varying in width from two to sixteen feet. These flats were in turn cut up into parallel acre, half-acre, or quarter-acre, strips coinciding with the arrangement of a ploughed field into ridges and furrows. If the strips were acre strips, they were a furlong in length (220 yards) and 4 rods (22 yards) in breadth. Ploughmen still measure the acre in the same way as the open-field strip. Theoretically each flat was square, with sides of 40 poles, containing 10 acres; in practice every variety of shape and admeasurement was found. But, though the pole from which the acre was raised varied from the 13½ feet of Hampshire to the 24 feet of Cheshire, two sides of the flats always ran parallel. Thus each of the three arable fields resembled several sheets of paper, cut into various shapes, stitched together like patch-work, and ruled with margins and lines. The separate sheets are the flats; the margins are the headlands running down the flats at right angles to, and across the ends of, the parallel strips which are represented by the spaces between the lines. The lines themselves are the "balks" of unploughed turf, by which the strips were divided from each other. The strips appear under different names. For instance, in Scotland and Northumberland they were called "rigs"; in Lincolnshire "selions"; in Nottinghamshire "lands"; in Dorsetshire "lawns" ; in North Wales "loons"; in Westmorland "dales," and their occupiers "dalesmen"; in Cambridgeshire "balks"; in Somersetshire "raps"; in Sussex "pauls"; elsewhere in southern counties "stitches." When the strips were stunted by encountering some obstacle, such as a road or river, they were called "butts." Stray odd corners which did not fit in with the parallel arrangement of the fiats were "crustae," that is, pieces broken off, "pightels," "gores," "fothers," and pykes," because, as Fitzherbert explains, they were "often brode in the one ende and a sharpe pyke in the other ende."
The arable fields were fenced against the live-stock from seed-time to harvest, and the intermixed strips were cultivated for the separate use of individuals, subject to the compulsory rotation by which each of the three fields was cropped. On Lammas Day separate user ended, and common rights recommenced; hence fields occupied in this manner were, and are, called Lammas Lands or "half-year lands." After harvest the hayward removed the fences, and the live-stock of the community wandered over the fields before the common herdsman, shepherd, or swineherd. The herdsman, in the reign of Henry VIII., received 8d. a year for every head of cattle entrusted to his care, and the swineherd 4d. for every head of swine. When sheep were folded on the cultivated land, each farmer provided, during the winter months, his own fold and fodder for his flock. Richard Hooker, while he held the country living of Drayton Beauchamp in Buckinghamshire, was found by two of his former pupils, "like humble and innocent Abel, tending his small allotment of sheep in a common field." That no occupier might find all his land fallow in the same year, every one had strips in each of the three arable fields. If the holding of the open-field farmer consisted of thirty acres, there would thus be ten acres in each field. In other words, he would have ten acres under wheat and rye, ten acres under spring crops, and ten acres fallow. The same care was taken to make the divisions equal in agricultural value, so that each man might have his fair proportion of the best and worst land. To divide equally the good and bad, well and ill situated soil, the bundle of strips allotted in each of the three fields did not lie together, but was intermixed and scattered.
In the lowest part of the land--if possible along a stream--lay the "ings," "carrs," "leazes," or meadows, annually cut up into lots or doles, and put up for hay. These doles were fenced off to be mown for the separate use of individuals either from Candlemas (February 2), or, more usually, from St. Gregory's Day (March 12) to Midsummer Day; from July to February, or later, they were open, common pasturage. Sometimes the plots, which varied in size from a half-acre downwards, went with the arable holdings, so that the same man annually received the same portion of meadow. Sometimes the plots were balloted for every year. Each lot was distinguished by a name, such as the cross, crane's foot, or peel, i.e. baker's shovel, which will often explain puzzling field-names. Corresponding marks were thrown into a hat or bag and drawn by a boy. This balloting continued up to the last century in Somersetshire, and still continues at Yarnton in Oxfordshire. After the hay had been cut and carried, the meadows reverted to common occupation, and were grazed indiscriminately by the live-stock of the village, till they were again fenced off, allotted, and put up for hay.
On the outskirts of the arable fields nearest to the village lay one or more "hams" or stinted pastures, in which a regulated number of live-stock might graze, and therefore supplying superior feed. Brandersham, Smithsham, Wontnersham, Herdsham, Constable's Field, Dog Whipper's Land, Barber's Furlong, Tinker's Field, Sexton's Mead, suggest that sometimes special allotments were made to those who practised trades of such general utility as the stock-brander, the blacksmith, the mole-catcher, the cowherd, the constable, the barber, the tinker, and the sexton. The dog-whipper's usefulness is less obvious; but possibly he was employed to prevent the live-stock from being harried by dogs. Even the spiritual wants of the village were sometimes supplied in the same way. Parson's Close and Parson's Acre are not uncommon. It is significant that no schoolmasters seem to have been provided for by allotments of land.
Besides the open arable fields, the meadows, and the stinted hams, there were the common pastures, fringed by the untilled wastes which were left in their native wildness. These wastes provided fern and heather for litter, bedding, or thatching; small wood for hurdles; tree-loppings for winter browse of live-stock ; fuzre and turves for fuel; larger timber for fencing, implements, and building; mast, acorns, and other food for the swine. Most of these smaller rights were made the subject of fixed annual payments to the manorial lord ; but the right of cutting fuel was generally attached to the occupation, not only of arable land, but of cottages. The most important part of these lands were the common pastures, which were often the only grass that arable farmers could command for their live-stock. They therefore formed an integral and essential part of the village farm. No rights were exercised upon them by the general public. On the contrary, the commons were most jealously guarded by the privileged commoners against the intrusion or encroachments of strangers. The agistment of strange cattle or sheep was strictly prohibited: commoners who turned out more stock than their proper share were "presented " at the manorial courts and fined; cottages erected on the commons were condemned to be pulled down; the area within which swine might feed was carefully limited, and the swine were to be ringed. Those who enjoyed the grazing rights were the occupiers of arable land, whose powers of turning out stock were, in theory, proportioned to the size of their arable holdings, and the occupiers of certain cottages, which commanded higher rents in consequence of the privilege. It was on these commons that the cattle and sheep of the village were fed. Every morning the cattle were collected, probably by the sound of a horn, and driven to the commons by the village herdsman along drift ways, which were enclosed on either side by moveable or permanent fences to keep the animals from straying on to the arable land. In the evening they were driven back, each animal returning to its own shelter, as the herd passed up the village street. Similarly, the sheep were driven by the village shepherd to the commons by day, and folded at night on the wheat fallows. Sheep were the manure carriers, and were prized as much for their folding quality as for their fleeces. In some districts they were kept almost entirely for their agricultural value to the arable land. Until the winter they were penned in the common fold on the fallows or the stubbles. After the fallows had been ploughed, and before the crops on the other fields were cleared, they had only the commons. During winter each commoner was obliged to find hay for his sheep and his own fold, the common shepherd penning and folding them so as gradually to cover the whole area.
The open-field system, thus briefly sketched with its arable, meadow, and permanent pasture land, prevailed at some time or other throughout England, except perhaps in the south-west. The following description of the crofters' holdings in Skye in 1750 might have been written, with but few alterations, of half the cultivated area of England in the eighteenth century: "A certain number of tacksmen formed a copartnery and held a tract of land, or township, for which they paid tribute to the chief, and each member was jointly and severally responsible. The grazing was in common. All the arable land was divided into ridges, assigned annually by lot among the partners. Each might have a dozen or more of these small ridges, and no two contiguous except by accident; the object being to give each. partner a portion of the better and inferior land. The copartner appears to have had cotters under him, for whose work he paid." The prevalence of the system may still be traced with more or less distinctness in rural England. The counties in which it was most firmly established are counties of villages, not of scattered farmsteads and hamlets. Turf balks and lynches record the time when "every rood of ground maintained its man." Irregular and regular fences, narrow lanes and wide highways, crooked and straight roads, respectively suggest the piecemeal or the wholesale enclosure of common fields. The waving ridges on thousands of acres of ancient pasture still represent the swerve of the cumbrous village plough with its team of eight oxen. The age of the hedgerow timber sometimes tells the date of the change. The pages appropriated to hedges by agricultural writers of the eighteenth century indicate the era of the abolition of open fields, and the minuteness of their instructions proves that the art of making hedges was still in its infancy. The scattered lands of ordinary farms, compared with the compact "court," "hall," or "manor" farm, recall the fact that the lord's demesne was once the only permanent enclosure. The crowding together of the rural population in villages betrays the agrarian partnership, as detached farmsteads and isolated labourers' dwellings indicate the system by which it has been supplanted.
Accurate comparison between the conditions of the rural population in the thirteenth and twentieth centuries seems impossible. Calculations based on the prices of commodities, involving, as they must, the translation of the purchasing power of mediaeval money into its modern equivalent, are necessarily guess-work. They are also to a great extent irrelevant, for few of the necessaries of life were ever bought by the cultivators of the soil, and whether the corn that they raised was fetching 3s. or 6s. the quarter in a distant market made little difference to the inhabitants of villages. They grew it for their own consumption. Owing to difficulties of communication, every village raised its own bread-supply. Hence a great extent of land, which from a farming point of view formed an excessive proportion of the total area, was tilled for corn, however unsuited it might be for arable cultivation. As facilities of transport increased, this necessity became less and less paramount. Land best adapted to pasture no longer required to be ploughed, but might be put to the use for which it was naturally fitted. Improvements in means of communication were thus among the changes which helped to extinguish village farms. But for the time, and so long as the open-field system prevailed, farming continued to be in the main a self-sufficing industry. Except for the payment of rent, little coin was needed or used in rural districts. Parishes till the middle of the eighteenth century remained what they were in the thirteenth century--isolated and self-supporting. The inhabitants had little need of communication even with their neighbours, still less with the outside world. The fields and the live-stock provided their necessary food and clothing. Whatever wood was required for building, fencing, and fuel was supplied from the wastes. Each village had its mill, and nearly every house had its oven and brewing kettle. Women spun and wove wool into coarse cloth, and hemp or nettles into linen; men tanned their own leather. The rough tools required for cultivation of the soil, and the rude household utensils needed for the comforts of daily life, were made at home. In the long winter evenings, farmers, their sons, and their servants carved the wooden spoons, the platters, and the beechen bowls. They fitted and riveted the bottoms to the horn mugs, or closed, in coarse fashion, the leaks in the leathern jugs. They plaited the osiers and reeds into baskets and into "wheels" for catching fish ; they fixed handles to the scythes, rakes, and other tools; cut the flails from holly or thorn, and fastened them with thongs to the staves; shaped the teeth for rakes and harrows from ash or willow, and hardened them in the fire; cut. out the wooden shovels for casting the corn in the granary; fashioned ox-yokes and bows, forks, racks, and rack-staves ; twisted willows into scythe-cradles, or into traces and other harness gear. Travelling carpenters, smiths, and tinkers visited detached farmhouses and smaller villages, at rare intervals, to perform those parts of the work which needed their professional skill. But every village of any size found employment for such trades as those of the smith and the carpenter, and the frequency with which "Smiths Ham" appears among field names suggests the value which the inhabitants attached to the forge and the anvil. Meanwhile the women plaited straw or reeds for neck-collars, stitched and stuffed sheepskin bags for cart-saddles, peeled rushes for wicks and made candles. Thread was often made from nettles. Spinning-wheels, distaffs, and needles were never idle. Homemade cloth and linen supplied all wants. Flaxen linen for boardcloths, sheets, shirts or smocks, and towels, as the napkins were called, on which, before the introduction of forks, the hands were wiped, was only found in wealthy houses and on special occasions. Hemp, in ordinary households, supplied the same necessary articles, and others, such as candlewicks, in coarser form. Shoe-thread, halters, stirrup-thongs, girths, bridles, and ropes were woven from the "carle" hemp; the finer kind, or "fimble" hemp, supplied the coarse linen for domestic use, and "hempen homespun" passed into a proverb for a countryman. Nettles were also extensively used in the manufacture of linen; sheets and tablecloths made from nettles were to be found in many homes at the end of the eighteenth century. The formation of words like spinster, webster, lyster, shepster, maltster, brewster, and barter indicated that the occupations were feminine, and show that women spun, wove, dyed, and cut out the cloth, as well as malted the barley, brewed the ale, and baked the bread for the family.