The Manor System
The Manor System refers to a system of agricultural estates in the Middle Ages, owned by a Lord and run by serfs or peasants. The Lords provided safety and protection from outside threats and the serfs or peasants provided labor to run the manor.
How did the manor provide protection? The Lords were usually also military leaders. Because they had serfs to run their estates for them they were able to focus on their battle tactics and military strengths so they could lead men in defense of the manor should the need arise.
The Three-Field System
A key component of the Manor System, the three-field system was a method of crop rotation designed to maximize the amount of food the manor produced. The fields were used for different purposes and were rotated each year. The rotation allowed the fields to regain nutrients needed for crops to grow.
The first field would be planted with winter crops such as rye and wheat. The second field would be planted with spring crops such as peas and beans. And the third field would lie fallow, meaning nothing was planted in it that year, allowing the field to rest.
Located within the manor would often be a mill used to grind wheat and other grains to make flour. The mill was located along a stream or river because they ran on water power (picture an old-fashioned water wheel). As the wheel turned, the grain was ground by large stones.
The Manor House was a large, elaborate house where the Lord and his family lived. Sometimes this was an actual castle! The bigger the manor house was and the more powerful the Lord, the more protection it offered against threats and other invasions.
The church was a very important part of life in the middle ages. Almost everyone practiced Christianity and both the serfs and the Lord and his family would attend church in the village. The church also collected tithes, which is a 10% tax on a person’s income. This made the church very wealthy and powerful.
The village would be located near the manor and was where most people (other than Lords and their families) lived. This often included the serfs, who lived in the village in small houses and worked during the day at the manor.