1. The Medieval Village
Medieval farming was not based as it now is on individual family farms situated in
fenced blocks of fields, woods, and pasture. In the year 1000, a bird's-eye view of
Europe would have consisted of a green sea of forest with scattered brown islands of
human habitation. Each of these islands would have consisted of a
surrounded by two large and unfenced open fields. The village would have
consisted of several small huts. These huts were built with whatever local materials
were most common. They might be built of whitewashed sod or
(woven reeds plastered with clay). They often housed the family's animals also.
There would be one or two rooms, with a loft for storage. The family lived in a single
room, in the center of which was a few flat stones on which the fire was placed. The
roof was thatched, with a hole at the top through which the smoke escaped. There
were probably no windows, and light came in through the smoke hole and an open
door. The floor was dirt, sometimes covered with leaves or rushes. The furniture was a
trestle table, a few stools, and a storage chest or two for whatever pallets the family
might spread on the floor as their beds. Attached to each hut was a
half an acre of land used by the family for a garden, chicken coop, pig pen, bee-hives
and so forth.
The huts were sometimes grouped around a central open place, or green, in which the
peasants might graze their animals. There was usually a source of water nearby, and a
stream might run through the green, perhaps ponded to raise fish, ducks, and geese.
Along the stream grew tall grass that the villagers mowed regularly to store for winter
feed for their animals. Not too far away was the forest or brush in which the villagers
pastured their pigs, gathered nuts, berries, herbs, and other things, and, when allowed
to do so, picked up sticks and twigs to use as fuel.
Most villages had a church with its own grounds clearly distinguished, perhaps with a
fence or even a wall from the village lands. There might also be a larger fortified
house of the lord or his steward. If the villages were populous enough, the lord might
have had built a stone mill along the stream and even a village bakery set apart from