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Medieval Life. A brief look at life in the Middle Ages. Miss K. Guppy. The Feudal and Manorial Systems. The feudal system refers to the system of government based on obligations between the lord or king and vassal (subordinate)

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medieval life

Medieval Life

A brief look at life in the Middle Ages

Miss K. Guppy

the feudal and manorial systems
The Feudal and Manorial Systems
  • The feudal systemrefers to the system of government based on obligations between the lord or king and vassal (subordinate)
  • The manorial system refers to the economic and social system of Medieval Europe

Both concepts are linked, but feudalism connects to the military and political leadership while manorialism connects to the economy and society.


In the Middle Ages the most valuable commodity of all was LAND

the king
The King
  • The Feudal System was introduced by King William I after the Battle of Hastings (1066) when he became King of England.
  • William said that he owned all of the land in England having killed many of the Saxon Earls and taken the land from most of the others he had defeated.
  • He gave large estates to the Norman Barons who had supported him at Hastings as a rewards for loyal service and also to keep them on his side in future.
the nobles
The Nobles
  • In return for their land from the King each noble had to provide trained knights for the army. This is how Kings since William have raised their armies.
  • The Barons gave land (Manors) to their Knights as a reward for service. They became Lord of the Manor.
the knights
The Knights
  • In return for his land the Knight has to serve in the army for a specified number of days per year (in the 12th century this was around 40 days per year).
  • Knights could control more than one Manor at a time.
  • Knights did not spend all of their time at the Manor – they may be serving in the army or training other young knights – so their Steward and Bailiffs ran the farming of the estates
the villeins and freemen
The Villeins and Freemen
  • Villeins were not slaves, but they were not exactly free.
    • They were permitted to live on the Manor in exchange for service to the Lord of the Manor.
    • They were not free to leave the Manor and could be brought back by force if they tried to ‘escape’.
    • They were subject to a number of obligations required by the lord:
      • Working on the demesne (the lord’s land), additional work at harvest, payment of dues and extra charges for priviledges for things like brewing ale or baking bread
  • Freemen were peasants that were not tied to a Manor. Although they had greater freedoms they did not have the protection the Manor provided.
A Typical Medieval Manor
  • Common Pasture was typically unfit for farming
  • The Lord’s land is sometimes called demesne
  • Only very poor knights had to work the own land
  • Crop rotation was typically practiced in Medieval Manor farming
  • Most Manor’s also had a Church and Priest

The ruins of the medieval castle at Pevensey (Sussex)

Manor House in Cornwall

Church in Pevensey built 1068


what every village needed
What Every Village Needed…
  • Fields to produce various food crops
  • Wood for fuel and for building
what every village needed1
What Every Village Needed…
  • Access to stone (either a quarry or by trading) for building
  • Water for people, animals, crops and as an energy source (especially for milling)
what every village needed2
What Every Village Needed…
  • Protection – being close to a castle


  • Protection – being on high ground so you can see who is coming
assignment design your own village
Assignment: Design Your Own Village

Your task is to design a medieval village. This may be done as either:

  • An ink drawing similar to an architect’s sketch or town plan. This will include an appropriate key and annotations.
  • A colour diagram including appropriate annotations and/or key.

You should assume that YOU are the Lord (or Lady) of the Manor. Your village will need to include:

  • An appropriate setting (natural features of the land)
  • Appropriate relative size (does the Lord live in a Castle or a Manor House? How will this impact the size of his holdings?)
  • All the natural resources required for the village to survive
  • Appropriate living/business spaces – village housing, market spaces, businesses, church etc.
  • A name for your village
  • A title and a name for the Lord and/or Lady of the Manor

Be prepared to describe your village’s features and justify your

design to the teacher.