Thursday, 24 February 2011

Medieval Village

A while back, I posted about a model church I built. I used the same method to construct some vilage houses and have finally got them finished (more or less!).
I based the church with a small graveyard.
There are some crosses to mark the graves though they are so difficult to see that they are actaully more trouble than they are worth. The fence is from Hovels as part of their Dark Age range.
There are records of a bishop ordering the enclosure of the area around the churches in his diocese dating from this period. This was seemingly a twofold reason. It kept animals from wandering around the graves. It also helped to stake a claim to the land - there was often dispute between church and village over the rights to wood grown next to the church. When I took the photo I forgot to include a tree which I bought for the purpose. It is a Skale Scenics oak though it does a fair job of being a large yew.

These are two of the three houses I built. They are cruck houses as in this diagram
They were often quite standardised in size. This was due to various factors; many villages were planned by the local landowner so plots were of equal size. The building width was influenced by the size of the animals kept inside since they shared the dwelling with the humans. This continued in many areas of Europe until really quite recently. There is a diagram of a 19th century house - French I think - where the animals tails are tied strategically to avoid slurry being sprayed around the kitchen.
This article gives a table of house widths - they are pretty close to being 16' (around 5m) across. The length of houses is given by the number of bays - again, each bay is around 16' wide - with two or three bays being typical.
The pig sty is from Hovels. It comes with lengths of fencing. I used Donnington pigs though the ones from Hovels are fine. For England the pigs should probably be similar to Tamworths with upright ears and ginger hair. Those on the Luttrell Psalter are really quite lithe by modern standards.

I've based the buildings individually for convenience and to allow the village to be varied in size. The hight of the bases is actually an advantage since each house was built on a toft - a raised area. These would have been larger in proportion to the houses than I have shown. The raised area helped with drainage and would often have continued to rise with time compared to the roads due to erosion of the road and deposition on the toft. Much of the toft would be given over to vegetables and would often have been fenced to protect against wandering animals - for much of farming history fences etc. were for keeping animals out of an area rather than keeping them in.

While I'm discussing farming, there is a great site which is useful for the whole history of British farming. It shows a typical landscape at various points in history and discusses factors such as tree cover. One of the things which surprised me was that there was less tree cover in England at the beginning of the 14th century than there is now. More land had to be cleared for farming, partly because so much was left fallow, and many marginal areas were planted which were abandoned due to the various scourges of the 14th century. By the time the population had recovered, farming was more efficient so much of the marginal land was never recleared, despite the subsequent massive rise in population.

This is a place I must get round to visiting: Cosmeston Medieval Village.


David said...

Nice models. I'd just like to point out that there was (and still is) great regional variation in British vernacular architecture, just as there is in landscape ecology and history so speaking of a "typical" piece of landscape or building only works within specific regions. Oliver Rackham's wonderful book "The History of the Countryside" is a great guide and introduction to landscape history in Britain:



Swampster said...

I agree - 'typical' is a bit of a misnomer. There are changes of farming style as you go more than a dozen miles from here. Still, it's a handy website.

Ray Rousell said...

Very nice work!

James said...

Lovely village. Nice addition to the table.

fesa said...

tee hee