Introduction and notes © Andy Staples, 2000

Very little is known of the Anonymous Husbandry. It is thought have been written during the reign of Edward I at the latest, for the earliest datable copy, by a known scribe at Canterbury, was completed by then.

A few words are in order concerning the Husbandman’s use of numbers. The description of the different areas of local acres, based on different lengths of the perch, offers a correct comparison to a perch of 16 feet. The “King’s perch” was in fact 16.5 feet long; whether the Husbandman came from an area which used a 16-foot perch or whether he wanted to simplify an already complicated mathematical procedure is unknown.

The grain yields described by the Husbandman seem very high in comparison to those recorded in 13th century accounts (compare with yields listed in my medieval farming calendar). Oschinsky suggests this was an attempt to stamp out potential fraud by encouraging lords or auditors to question yields more closely, but it is possible such “bumper crops” did occur on occasion1. The Husbandman does not say grains always yield as much as he indicates, he says they “ought” to yield that much, but advises lords to keep track of local yields “by right and common return”. Titow’s study of the Winchester data during the 13th century shows significantly above-average harvests occurring once in every 20 years, which implies that when a harvest was good, it was usually very good (bad harvests occur more frequently, but are correspondingly less severe – at least until the agricultural disasters of the late-13th and early 14th centuries)2, so it is also possible the Husbandman is painting a “best case” picture.

This translation, like that of Walter of Henley, was first published in 1890, a year before Ms Lamond died. To the best of my knowledge it is public domain.

1 Oschinsky, D. Walter of Henley and other Treatises on Estate Management and Accounting (Oxford, 1971)

2 Titow, J.Z. Winchester Yields: A Study in Medieval Agricultural Productivity (Cambridge, 1972)

This is husbandry

Translated by Elizabeth Lamond FRHS, 1890

This writing teaches the way in which a man ought to direct bailiffs and provosts about rendering the account of a manor, and how a man ought to look after a manor.

In the first place he who renders account ought to swear that he will render a lawful account and faithfully account for what he has received of the goods of his lord, and that he will put nothing in his roll save what he has, to his knowledge, spent lawfully and to his lord’s profit. And the clerk shall swear that he has lawfully entered in his roll what he understands his master has received of the lord’s goods, and has entered nothing in the roll but what he understands may be to the profit of the lord. And if he has rendered account before see how it compares, and if he is found in arrears of money, or of corn, or of stock, or of any other thing, put the whole in a stated money valuation, and charge it at the commencement of the roll, and then charge it with all other receipts of assize rents and with all other things for which any money can be raised, and charge it with the whole and put it at the end in a sum total and then go on to expenses.

The cost of carts

First as to the cost of carts. It is right that the smith should take a certain sum to find what is necessary in iron and steel for the ploughs and to shoe the horses and avers [draught horses] of the place, as well as one can bargain with him, according to what is paid elsewhere in the country. And then it must be seen if there is underwood on the manor, or large wood or large timber that can be taken for poles and harrows and other necessary things without buying as well for carts as for ploughs, let them be taken to save money, and for the rest which is not found but what must be paid for let him be paid justly. It would be well if he could have carters and ploughmen who should know how to work all their own wood, although it should be necessary to pay them more.

At the end of the year ought all the necessary small things and stock, horseshoes, and all things which belong to the manor, small or great, to be seen and put in writing, that one may see another year what thing must necessarily be bought, and make allowance for it and subtract the surplus.

The office of provost

The provost [reeve] must cause all the hair of the avers to be gathered to make ropes for which he shall have need, and he must cause hemp to be sown in the court to make ropes for the waggons, for harness and other necessary things, and an allowance must be paid for making them if there is anyone in the court who knows how to do so. For repairing houses, walls, hedges and ditches if need be an allowance must be paid according to what is right. And the provost must not buy, sell, receive, or deliver anything unless by tally and good witness.

And the provost must make all the servants of the court, when they come for their labour, work in the court in threshing corn or making walls or ditches or hedges or other works in the court to save money. And if there is a servant who knows how to do work in the court for which it would be necessary to pay another highly, let him do the work and pay another in his place.

The seneschals or head-bailiffs ought to see all purchases and all sales that the provosts or under-bailiffs make to see that they are well made and to the lord’s profit. And the seneschals and chief bailiffs who hold court must, immediately after Michaelmas [September 29], give up their rolls to the lord or the auditor of the account that they may be able to charge by these rolls the provosts and bailiffs who must account for the purchases of the court throughout the year.

And the provost must answer for the issue of the mares of the court, that is to say, for each mare one foals in the year, and if there be any which has no foal let it be inquired if it be by bad keeping, or want of food, or too hard work, or want of stallion, or because it was barren, that she bore no foal; and if she could have been changed for another in time and it was not done, let him be charged fully for the issue or the value. And if there be any horse or beast dead in the court, let it be inquired if it was for want of keeping or because the bailiff and provost could have saved it or made any amendment and did not let them pay for it themselves, and if they died by mishap that they could not help, as murrain which falls sometimes on beasts, the provost must answer for the skins and hides and flesh and issues, and put it to the profit of the lord as well as he knows or is able.

And if there be anything lost in the court or without, or stolen, whether it be live or dead, small or great, where the lord can have any kind of loss, either by fire or any other way, the lord must take (the value) from the provost and the provost must take it from those of the court who may be to blame.

And make it known that all the servants of the court, men and women, ought to obey the provost, because he must answer for their doings, and the provost must put those in the court for whose doings he will be answerable. And the seneschal must see that the provost has good pledges for all those in court who are put there by him, and if the lord receive any damage by the provost, all those of the township who elected him shall make up for him the amount he cannot pay. And if the lord place a parker or messor or granger or other, whoever he be, and the lord receive damage from any of these he places, he must take the value from them, because he put them there, and nothing from the provost.

Make it known that on the manors which are kept by bailiffs they must answer for the manor, just as the provost renders account even so must he render account for everything, and move and change nothing as the provost.

All those who hold in villeinage on a manor must elect as provost such a one as they will answer for, for if the lord suffer any loss by the fault of the provost, and he have not of his own goods the wherewithal to make it good, they shall pay for him the surplus which he cannot pay.

The return for seed sown

All the land ought to be measured in each field by itself and each cultura [furlong; subsection of an open field] of the field named by its name, and each meadow by itself, and each pasture and each wood and each waste and turbary and moor and marsh also by themselves, and all by the perch of sixteen feet and a half, because one can in many places reasonably sow four acres with a quarter [eight bushels] of seed, where the land is measured by the perch of sixteen feet and a half, and in many places it requires a quarter and a half to sow five acres with wheat, rye and beans and peas, and two acres with a quarter of barley and oats, but, because some lands must be sown more broadly than others, let there be measured how much one can sow each kind of corn on a measured acre, and thereby you can always be sure of your corn.

And because barley is sown in a wheat field and peas and vetches and oats, therefore each cultura which is sown with barley among the wheat must be named and each division of other corn which is sown among the oats. And there where the fields are divided in two, winter seed and spring seed are both sown in one field, for which each division must answer as it was sown with one corn or another. And if there is inhom [barley sown as the second crop after fallowing] it must be seen what cultura he takes in inhom, and with what corn he sows each cultura, and such sowing he must tally all by itself and answer for all by itself apart from the other corn.

How one must pay labourers in August and in time of haymaking

You can well have three acres weeded for a penny, and an acre of meadow mown for fourpence, and an acre of waste meadow for threepence-halfpenny, and an acre of meadow turned and raised for a penny-halfpenny, and an acre of waste for a penny-farthing.

And know that five men can well reap and bind two acres a day of each kind of corn, more or less, and when four take a penny-halfpenny a day and the fifth twopence, because he is binder, then you must give fourpence for the acre. And, because in many places they do not reap by the acre, one can know the reapers by the band, that is to say, that five men or women, whichever you will, who are called half men, make a band, and twenty-five men make five bands, and twenty-five men can reap and bind ten acres a day working all day, and in ten days a hundred acres, and in twenty days two hundred acres. And see then how many acres there are to reap throughout, and see if they agree with the days and pay them, and if they account for more days than is right according to this reckoning, do not let them be paid, for it is their fault that they have not reaped the amount and have not worked so well as they ought.

How the land ought to be measured

Because acres are not all of one measure, for in some countries they measure by the perch of eighteen feet, and in some by the perch of twenty feet, and in some by the perch of twenty-two feet, and in some by the perch of twenty-four feet, know that the acre which is measured by the perch of eighteen feet makes an acre and a rood, and the sixteenth of a rood, of the perch of sixteen feet; and four acres make five acres and a quarter of a rood, and eight acres make ten acres and a half rood, and sixteen acres make twenty acres and a rood.

And the acre which is measured by the perch of twenty feet makes one acre and a half and the quarter of a rood, and four acres make six acres and a rood, and eight acres make twelve acres and a half, and sixteen acres are twenty-five acres.

And the acre which is measured by the perch of twenty-two feet makes one acre and a half, and a rood and a half and the sixteenth of a rood, and four acres make seven and a half and quarter of a rood, and eight acres make fifteen acres and half a rood, and sixteen acres make thirty acres and a rood.

And the acre which is measured by the perch of twenty-four feet makes two acres and a rood, and four acres makes nine acres.

The return from the products of the grange

As to the issue of the grange, one must see how much there is sown of each corn and how much it yields for issue by right and common return; barley ought to yield to the eighth grain, that is to say, a quarter sown should yield eight quarters; rye should yield to the seventh grain, and beans and peas to the sixth. And dredge of barley and oats, if equally mixed, to the sixth, but if there is more barley than oats it ought to yield more, and if there is less barley than oats, less. Also the mixtelyn of wheat and rye, if it is equally mixed it should yield to the sixth, and if there is more rye than wheat it ought to yield more, and if there is more wheat than rye, less.

And wheat ought by right to yield to the fifth grain and oats to the fourth, but because lands do not yield so well one year as another, nor poor land as the good, and besides it may happen that the winter sowing takes well and the spring sowing fails, and sometimes the spring sowing takes well and the winter sowing fails, and because, if the land does not yield more than was sown, then the lord loses, and if it yield less he who renders account pays for it himself.

And so one cannot be sure of the yield above mentioned, and not because many people take it so by the grain. And he who does not wish it so, let him put a true man in whom he trusts over the threshing. And it is well that he who is over the threshing should tally the product of each mow of the grange by itself to see how many quarters each mow yields by itself. And if there be a stack outside, let it be measured by rod and by foot, the breadth, length and height, when it is about to be threshed, and tally each stack by itself, and then it will be possible to know the yield and issue of each mow outside as well as of each stack within the grange; but let the stacks be of each year the same size in breadth and length and height.

And if he wish to sell his corn in gross, he will know much better how much each stack is worth according to the price of corn. And although he sell the corn in gross, it is well to tally it and see the issue of each mow and of each stack, as the more he proves it the more sure he will be of the yield, because corn does not yield equally each year.

Take care that he who is over the threshing, if he thresh any old corn among the new, that he thresh and tally the old quite by itself; and let the provost answer in his roll for the sale of the corn quite by itself, to see the issue of each year, if it yields its seed.

And if you make malt, he must always answer you, for nine quarters, a tenth at the least; and this is a little yield, but it is fixed thus because corn can be made to sprout too much to make a good return for profit, whereby the malt is worth much less and will yield less ale.

The yield from the dairy, and how the dairywoman ought to answer for the small livestock of the court and for their issue

You must have, in each place where there is a dairy, a man or woman to keep the small livestock there, as said before. If it is a man, he must do everything as a woman would, and he ought to take every sixteen weeks a quarter (of corn), because of the advantage he has from the milk, where other servants take it every twelve weeks.

And she must winnow all the corn, and shall be paid a half-day for the woman who helps her. And she ought to winnow four quarters of wheat or of rye and six quarters of barley and peas and beans and oriace, and eight quarters of oats for a penny. And one must always take for four a fifth over for the comble [heap; pile – the Husbandman is describing a rule of thumb for estimating quantity] of all kind of corn. Also, one ought to thresh a quarter of wheat or rye for twopence, and a quarter of barley, and peas and beans, for a penny-halfpenny, and a quarter of oats for a penny, but always allow for four a fifth for the comble.

And the dairywoman must take care of all the small animals in the court, as sucking-pigs and peacocks and cocks and hens and chickens and eggs and their issue. And you must know that a sow ought to farrow twice a year, having each time at the least seven pigs, and each goose five goslings a year; and each hen, for a hundred and fifteen eggs, seven chickens, three of which ought to be made capons, and, if there be too many hen chickens, let them be changed for cocks while they are young, so that each hen may answer for three capons and four hens a year. And for five geese you must have one gander, and for five hens one cock.

And each cow ought to answer for a calf a year, and each ewe a lamb a year, and if there be a cow which has not calved or a ewe which has not lambed, let it be inquired whose fault this is, either the bailiff’s or the provost’s or the keeper’s, for want of keeping or want of food in summer or winter, or want of a male, or if the provost could have changed it for another in time and did not, and, if it be found to be the fault of any of them, let them be fully charged for the issue or its value. And also if any (beast) die in any way by their fault, let them answer for the live beast or its value.

And if this is a manor where there is no dairy, it is always good to have a woman there, at much less cost than a man, to keep the small animals there and what there is within the court, and answer for all produce there as a dairywoman would – that is to say, when the sows farrow for their pigs, for peacocks and their chicks, if there are any, for geese and their goslings, for capons, cocks, hens, and their chickens and eggs – and she ought to answer for half the winnowing of the corn also as the dairywoman.

The return from cows, heifers and their milk

Each cow ought to yield, from the day after Michaelmas [September 30] until the first kalends of May [May 1], for twenty-eight weeks, one day with another, tenpence for all that time, more or less. And it must be understood that all cows do not yield alike; some give more and some give less, some give milk sooner than others and are sooner dry, and heifers do not give as much milk at their first bearing as after, but, one with another, they ought to yield as much reasonably.

And from the morrow after the first kalends of May until Michaelmas [September 29], for twenty-four weeks, one day counted with another, makes one hundred and sixty-eight days; then ought the yield of milk of each cow to be worth, during that time, three shillings and sixpence, and all the other season the yield is worth tenpence, and by this reckoning each cow ought to yield milk to the value of four shillings and fourpence.

And be it known that each cow shall give as well, from the kalends of May to Michaelmas, six stones of cheese and as much butter as shall make as much cheese – that it to say, always, to seven stones of cheese, one stone of butter. And cheese should always be made from the morrow after Michaelmas until Martinmas [November 11], at least; but in the other season, after Christmas until the summer, it is more profitable to the lord to sell the milk, for then a gallon of milk, if sold, is worth as much as three in the summer or at another time. And if you should make cheese, then a gallon of milk is not worth more than at another time.

The return from sheep and their milk

Each ewe should answer sixpence for the yield of its milk through the summer, while it is giving milk, for ewes do not give milk after August; and no one would willingly have them give milk after August, because they would be worth less and be more difficult to keep in the winter. And if they be sick or weak, let them be milked less.

And the dairywoman ought to answer besides for the yield of a gallon of milk, cheese and butter from the sheep, as a gallon and a half of milk from the cow. And a gallon of butter weighs seven pounds, and two gallons weigh fourteen pounds, and fourteen pounds are a stone, and fourteen stone are a wey.

And let it be known that a mare is in foal forty-nine weeks, and a cow is in calf forty weeks; a ewe goes with lamb twenty-one weeks, and a sow can farrow five times in two years and not more; and a goose will hatch once a year if she is good, but she will not do this every year, nor can she be made to, but, according as they are well kept, they will yield more or less.

How one ought to farm out the issue of the stock

If you wish to farm out the issue of your stock, you can take four-and-sixpence clear for each cow and acquit the tithe, and save yourself the cow and calf; and for a sheep sixpence and acquit the tithe, and keep the sheep and lamb; and a sow should bring you six shillings and sixpence a year and acquit the tithe and save for yourself the sow; and each goose ought to bring you sevenpence-halfpenny clear and acquit the tithe and save you the goose; and each hen should bring you ninepence clear and acquit the tithe and save the hen.

And ten quarters of apples and pears should yield seven tuns of cider; and a quarter of nuts should yield four gallons of oil. And each hive of bees ought to yield for two hives a year, one with another, for some yield nothing and others three or four a year, and in some places they are given nothing to eat all winter and in some they are fed then, and where they are fed you can feed eight hives all winter with a gallon of honey; and if you collect the honey every two years, you should have two gallons of honey from each hive.

The end of Husbandry