Medieval Serf

During medieval times, there were several classes of labourers. Some of them owned small amounts of land which they tilled and earned their living from. This class was often called cottagers or small holders. A very important class of labourer was called a medieval serf. These were included in the category of lesser labourers and farmers.

  • What is a Definition of a Medieval Serf?
  • What work did a medieval Serf do?
  • How did medieval Serfs make a living?
  • What was the home life of a Serf like?

Definition of a Serf

A medieval serf was a labourer or a farmer who did not own any land of his own. Thus he had to work on the land of the nobles for which he was paid wages. These wages were usually meager but provided for sufficient sustenance. The lord of the manor had certain rights over a medieval serf and as well as other small land owners such as right of jurisdiction where he would decide disputes and the right of hunting. When the estate was sold, a medieval serf would also be sold with the estate and the serf would then belong to the new lord.

Medieval Serf in Fields

Medieval Serf is Sowing Seeds in ploughed field

Medieval Serf Working Life

The daily life of a medieval serf was quite hard. They had to work for three days every week on the land of their master and usually did ploughing and harvesting. In certain cases, a medieval serf had to make payments to the lord in the form of grain, eggs, honey, and such. For instance, he would pay a small amount of wheat to use his master’s mill for grinding.

How did a Serf Make a Living

The chief source of income of a medieval serf was the money that his master gave him. This was a reward for his work on the land of the master, although it was quite meagre. Sometimes, he would get assistance in the form of grain, wheat or food but this was not very often and he had to live his life on a very small income.

Medieval Serf Home Life

A medieval serf usually lived in the cruck houses. These were small houses made of wood and plastered with daub and wattle. Other elements in the construction of these houses was manure, straw, and mud. These houses had thatched roofs and little furniture. There was hardly any protection against the cold in the winter and it was common for whole families to live in a single room.

  • What was the status of a medieval Serf?
  • What Clothes did a medieval Serf wear?
  • Summary of the medieval serfs life?

Medieval Serf Status in medieval Society

The status of a medieval serf in the medieval society was at the lowest rung of society. He did not own any land and did not enjoy any social prestige. He could be sold, along with the land, to some other master without any consent. Thus the status of a medieval serf in the medieval society was hardly more than a slave.


Examples of Medieval serfs clothes that were made of coarse and uncomfortable material.

Medieval Serf Clothes

The clothing of a medieval serf consisted of a blouse of cloth or even skin which was fastened around the waist by a leather belt. He also used woollen trousers with large boots. Sometimes he also wore an overcoat made of thick wool.

Medieval Serfs Summary

The life of a medieval serf during medieval times was quite pitiable and he did not enjoy any social status of note. He also did not own any land and instead worked on the land of his master who paid him small amount of money for his services. He lived in small houses made of wood and had a very hard life.

  • Medieval serfs were in the lowest level of peasants
  • Medieval serfs worked on the land of the master (the nobleman)
  • A medieval serf did not own any land of his own
  • Medieval serfs were basically slaves that had nor rights
  • If land was sold to another Baron the serf would be sold with the land

This article was written to give you the definition, facts and information on medieval serfs and a medieval serfs role in society, if you would like to improve your knowledge of medieval peasants which will help you to understand the status of a serf with other medieval peasants please see the links at the bottom of this medieval Serfs page.

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