Medieval Villein

During medieval times, a medieval villein was a kind of tenant farmer whose status was somewhere between a free peasant and a slave. The status of a medieval villein changed somewhat over the course of centuries. However, what remained constant is the fact that a medieval villein worked on the land of the lord of the manor and his status was little more than a slave.

  • Was a Villein a medieval Peasant?
  • How was a Villein defined?
  • What work did a Villein do?
  • Where did a Villein live?
  • What clothes did a Villein wear?
  • Was a Villein poor?

Was a Villein classed as a medieval Peasant

A medieval villein can be classified as a medieval peasant or more appropriately, a serf. Both serfs and villeins laboured on the land of their masters and could be sold to a new master along with the land. They did not possess any land of their own and were thus dependant on their master for their sustenance. Thus a medieval villein was a peasant who did not own any land.

Medieval Villein Peasants

Picture of French Medieval Villein peasants at home

Working Life of a Villein

Just like a medieval serf, a medieval villein was expected to work for at least three days on his master’s land. The most important duties of his life included harvesting and sowing, other than taking general care of the land. During the busy seasons, he would have to work extra and was compensated for his work with a small amount of money. But he also had to pay the lord of the manor in certain instances. For instance, after grinding wheat in lord’s mill, a medieval villein had to pay a certain amount of wheat as a charge.

Villein Home Life

A medieval villein lived in small homes made of wood, mud and thatched roofs. These houses were not a dependable protection against cold and rain but nonetheless acted as shelters for a medieval villein. Villeins lives were tough and they went about in rough clothes. The lord of the manor had a right to expel a medieval villein from the village which made his life more miserable.

Wealth of a Villein

There was hardly any positive things or wealth for a medieval villein to speak of, a Villein lived on whatever little he earned for his services on the land of his master. Considering that he did not own any land and could not indulge in any trade, he did not have any wealth.

  • A medieval Villein was very similar to a serf
  • Like serfs a Villein had no rights
  • Just like a Serf a Villein could be sold when the land was sold
  • Villeins live in small shabby houses made of wood
  • Sowing and harvesting were the main duties of a Villein
Clothing of a Peasant Villein

Medieval Peasants Clothing

Clothes of a Villein

The clothes of a medieval villein were similar to the clothes of a serf. A blouse of cloth or skin was the most common dress which was fastened with a belt around the waist. A sheath or knife usually hung at the belt for protection. Other components of a medieval villein’s clothing included woollen trousers, an overcoat of thick wool, and large boots.

Villeins status in medieval times

A medieval villein did not enjoy any status of note in society. Along with medieval serfs, he was at the lowest rung of society without any wealth and any land of his own. Thus he did not possess any social role to speak of.

Where did a Villein live

Cruck houses were the common abode of a medieval villein. These were small houses with no protection against cold and rain. Sometimes whole families would live in a single large room. During the night, even the domestic animals were brought inside for protection against beasts found in the forests.

Summary of a Medieval Villein

A medieval villein was a kind of medieval peasant who did not own any land of his own and had to till the land of his master for sustenance. Villeins did not enjoy any worthwhile social status and could be sold like slaves to new masters along with the land.

  • Villeins wore basic clothes like a cloth blouse
  • A Villein had no status in medieval society and was very poor
  • Villeins lived in cruck houses and shared their houses with farm animals
  • The house (cruck) of a Villein was small and badly built
  • Medieval Villeins worked for barons on their land

This article on Villeins gives you a good all round understanding of the work that Villeins did, Villeins were poor and were classed as peasants. You can learn more about medieval peasantry similar to Villeins by following the links at the bottom of this medieval Villein’s page

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