Medieval Manor

Learn about the Medieval Manor and the Manor Estate that was Controlled by the Lord of the Manor under the Feudal system!

A manor was a country estate, usually a district over which a medieval Lord had domain over.

Medieval-Lord-Lord-of-the-manor

The Lord could also exercise certain rights and privileges during the medieval period over what was allowed inside the estate. Typically, a medieval manor included a manor house built apart from the villages where peasants and other workers lived.


Medieval Manor House

Medieval manor houses were usually very grand imposing buildings, in accordance with the wealth of the Lord who owned it.

Medieval-Manor-Estate-Buildings-Land

Medieval Manor Estate

Typically, a manor house had a Great Hall *Kitchen *Storerooms *Servants’ quarters

The dining area of a manor house was usually found in the Great Hall as it was where meetings were held and generally used by everyone who lived in the manor.

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Manor House

Most manor houses also had solar rooms located on the upper floors of the manor house which were private living and sleeping areas of the Lord and his family.

Manor-House-Manor-Estate

Manor House

Sometimes, the medieval manor house would include wardrobes that were intended as dressing rooms and storage spaces for clothes. In some cases, a wardrobe could be used as a storage room for expensive items such as jewelry, coins, furs, plates, and sometimes spices. On some rare occasions, they were also used for dressmaking and hairdressing.

Inside a Medieval Manor


Medieval Manor Estate

Medieval Manors were self-sufficient estates. Medieval manor estates were composed of agricultural lands, villages, and a manor house.

A Medieval Manor Estates could also include orchards, gardens, woods, lakes, and ponds depending on the size of the property and the wealth of the Lord.

Medieval-Manor-Estate-Buildings-Manor-House

How did Manorialism Start?

Manorialism origins started before the medieval period began and had their true beginnings in ancient Rome, in the late Roman Empire, when large landowners had to improve efficiency and control over their lands and the laborers who worked on them.

Feudalism in England and the Manor System

The Feudal system was a combination of military and socio-political systems in the Middle Ages, which was mainly based on the exchange of lands for a fee or exchange of services commonly labor. Originally, the feudal system started in England when the Duke of Normandy conquered England and became King.

Manor-Estate-Lord-of-the-Manor

King William rewarded the Norman nobility who helped him conquer England with the granting of large areas of land which commonly formed into manor estates.

Medieval Nobility and Medieval Nobles

 

Manor-Estate-Feudalism-Pyramid

Feudalism in Europe


Medieval Manor Estate BuildingsSince Medieval Manors were agricultural estates, most historical accounts of its buildings included a range of buildings that were built for agricultural purposes. Barns were the most accounted for buildings since this was where harvested crops were stored. A Granary was another building popular in medieval manors’ estates. These are smaller storage spaces than the barn. Granaries usually held the crops after threshing.

Medieval-Manor-Estate-Tithe-Barn

The barn used to store one-tenth of the produce of peasants

Ox-houses and stables were also among the many buildings found in and scattered around the manor. During the medieval period, plows and carts were their primary means of cultivating the lands, and villeins needed oxen and horses to pull them.

Medieval-Manor-Estate-Medieval-Peasants-Ploughing-Fields

Peasants plowing field

In order to keep the animals in shape, stables and ox-houses were constructed. Animal houses were also common in medieval manor estates as horses were not the only animals found in manors. They also needed animal houses for cows, pigs, chickens, and other livestock.

A Medieval Peasant Family of Farmers

The kitchen was one of the most important buildings in the estate. Other manors included bake and brew houses. Kitchens in medieval manor houses included huge cooking ovens and enormous fireplaces for roasting and smoking food.

Medieval Bread Oven

Oftentimes, medieval manor house kitchens were connected to the Pantry and Buttery where beverages were stored. There were also other buildings where some of the products were processed before they could be consumed by the Lord and his family.


Manor Estate *Daily Life

Medieval peasants called Serfs worked in the villages and fields in and around the manor. They lived in villages where they work on lands and paid dues to the Lord. Serfs lived in a mud-brick-type house in the same village.  Medieval peasants were very religious, so they often worshiped in village churches.

Serfs and Serfdom

Manor Estate Jobs

Several people lived in the medieval manor apart from the Lord and his family as follows:

Vassal 

Also called a Liege. A vassal is a free man who owned lands from Lords they paid homage to. He could be a Lord of the Manor who may directly serve a King or a higher ranking Noble.

Bailiff 

A vital person to the Medieval Manor as he managed most of the undertakings in the estate.

Reeve 

An official that was appointed by the Lord. He could also be selected by the peasants themselves.

Serf

Also known as peasant or tenant. They were peasants who worked the Lord’s lands and paid dues in return. They were expected to work three days a week on these lands.

Villein 

A peasant or tenant was classified as lower class. Villeins were dedicated to working on agricultural lands. On average, they worked and cultivated 20 to 40 acres of agricultural land.

Cottager 

Another form of the lower-class peasant has a cottage. Thus the name, Cottager. There were peasants that did not have any lands and worked only as general laborers.

Servants 

Also called house peasants. They specifically worked inside the Lord’s manor house. Servants perform kitchen chores, cleaning the house, doing laundry, and other tasks the Lord’s family wants them to do.

Reeve and Serfs - Medieval Farming

Reeve organization of the farm


Manor Estate Rules

The manor estate was a self-sufficient system, self-contained system. Lords collected their revenues for their return of labor or fees, while the tenants experience the benefits of working the lands.

The direction of the manor was primarily provided by a manorial court and was presided by the Lord’s appointed personnel called stewards. These included the freehold tenants, Reeves and Bailiff.

Peasants Costume Labelled

Peasants’ Clothes

The manor’s productivity, profitability, and efficiency depended on several factors which included the location of the manor, the climate, natural resources as well as labor availability.


Summary

Manor houses were usually owned by the affluent and influential people of Medieval England, who were at the top of the feudal system.

They were commonly Noblemen such as Dukes and Lords and could be Knights. However, the manor house, built by the Lords primarily for their families, was only a fraction of a Manor estate. A manor estate comprises lands, buildings, farm animals, and workers such as peasants that worked at the lower levels of production within the feudal system.

What was a Manor again?

When the term ‘Medieval Manor’ is used in a medieval context it usually refers to a Manor Estate that was controlled by a Lord, the ‘Lord of the Manor’. But it can also simply mean the Manor House of that Lord on the Manor Estate depending on the context.

A manor estate was the land granted to a Lord commonly by a king under the feudal system, usually large tracts of agricultural land in which the inhabitants lived and worked such as peasants like Serfs who toiled in the food-producing fields.

A ‘Manor House’ is where the lord who controlled the manor estate lived, usually a very large grand property.

Learn More about a Medieval Manor

The English Manor C.1200 To C.1500

Life On A Medieval Manor (Medieval World) Paperback – October 30, 2004

Medieval Manor Definition

Further reading and Resources for the Medieval Manor and Manorialism

The Medieval Manor