The seizure of English land and estates was ruthless and only two Englishmen, who had turned traitor, were left with their own land. The estates of land given to the Normans, a
fief, became known as Manors. The lord of the manor owed allegiance to the King and his immediate superior. Everyone was expected to pay for the land by providing the following services:
- Work days - completing any chores required
- Providing trained soldiers to fight for the King and clothes and weapons for the soldiers
The lord of the manor can be described as a Vassal or Liege. The 'Lord of the Manor' was a free man who held land ( a fief ) from a lord to whom he paid homage and swore fealty. A vassal could be a lord of the manor but was also directly subservient to a Noble or the King.
The lord of the manor - The lord's land
The land owned by the lord of the manor varied in size but were typically between 1200 - 1800 acres. The land belonging to the 'Lord of the Manor' was called his "demesne," or domain which he required to support himself and his retinue. The rest of the land of the Manors were allotted to the peasants who were his tenants. A manor would typically include farming land, forests, common pasture land, a village, a mill, a church and a Manor House. The Manor House was the place of residence of the lord of the manor and his family which was built apart from the village where the peasants lived. The lord of the manor was all powerful over the peasants, holding privileges including Hunting and Judicial rights.
The lord of the manor - The Manor House
The Manor House was the residential property of the lord of the Manor. It differed from castles in that it was not built for the primary purpose of attack or defence. The Manor House varied in size, according to the wealth of the lord but generally consisted of a Great Hall, solar, kitchen, storerooms and servants quarters.
The people who worked for the lord of the manor
The lord of the manor was based in the Manor House and from here he conducted the business of the manor. The names and descriptions of the Medieval people who worked for the lord of the manor included the following:
- Bailiff - A Bailiff was a person of some importance who undertook the management of manors
- Reeve - A Reeve was a manor official appointed by the lord or elected by the peasants
- Serf - A serf was another name for a peasant or tennant. Medieval Serfs were peasants who worked his lord's land and paid him certain dues in return for the use of land, the possession (not the ownership) of which was heritable. The dues were usually in the form of labor on the lord's land. Medieval Serfs were expected to work for approximately 3 days each week on the lord's land.
- Peasant or Villein - A peasant or villein was a low status tenant who worked as an agricultural worker or laborer. A peasant or villein usually cultivated 20-40 acres of land
- Cottager: A low class peasant with a cottage, but with little or no land who generally worked as a simple laborer
- Servant: Servants were house peasants who worked in the lord of the manor's house, doing the cooking, cleaning, laundering, and other household chores
The Role of the lord of the Manor
The role of a lord of the manor was varied. His base was the manor house. From here the lord of the manor would preside over complaints of the people in his manor and oversee the running of his farm lands on the manor. His role also revolved around his Oath of Fealty to his immediate superior, a great noble or even the King. He would be expected to fight and to provide soldiers and arms from his manor. During his absence his role was taken over by his wife, the lady of the manor.
The lord of the Manor - Income and Taxes
The peasants who worked on the manor paid the lord of the manor certain dues in return for the use of his land. The dues were usually in the form of labor on the lord's land. Medieval Serfs were expected to work for approximately 3 days each week on the land designated to the lord of the manor. Serfs also had to make certain payments, either in money or more often in grain, honey, eggs, or other produce. When Serfs ground the wheat he was obliged to use the lord's mill, and pay the customary charge. These fees were called 'Banalities'. A feudal lord imposed Banalities on his serfs for the use of his mill, oven, wine press, or similar facilities. It sometimes included part of a fish catch or the proceeds from a rabbit warren.In theory the lord of the manor could tax his serfs as heavily and make them work as hard as he pleased.
Fines - Cases arising on the lord's manor were tried before him and the vassals whom he called to his assistance in giving justice. Since most wrongs could be atoned for by the payment of a fine, the conduct of justice on a large manor produced a considerable income. These judicial rights were therefore seen as a valuable property by the lord of the manor.