The Officers and Servants of the Manor

This list sheds some light on the various jobs involved in running a medieval manor.

“The following descriptions of some of the principal officers who superintended the work of the manor applies to manors generally, Monastic or otherwise, and are mainly drawn from the work of Sir Walter de Henley.
THE STEWARD. The steward’s duty is to hold the Manor Courts and there to enquire if there be any withdrawals of customs, services and rents or of suits to the Lords, courts, markets and mills, and as to alienation of lands. He is also to check the amount of seed required by the reeve for each manor for, under the steward, there may be several manors. On his appointment, he must make himself acquainted with the condition of manorial ploughs and plough teams. He must see that the land is properly arranged, whether on the three field or two field system, and the ploughing regulated accordingly. Besides the manorial ploughs and plough teams, he must know how many tenant or villein ploughs there are, and how often they are bound to help the Lord. He is also to enquire as to the stock in each manor whereof an inventory indented is to be drawn up between him and the reeve, and as to any deficiency of beasts, which he is at once to make good with the Lord’s consent.
THE REEVE. The best husbandman is to be elected by the villeins as reeve, and he is to be responsible for the cultivation of the arable land. He must see that the ploughs are yoked early in the morning - both the demesne and villein ploughs - and that the land is properly ploughed and sown. He is a villein tenant and acts on behalf of the villeins, but is overlooked by the Lord’s bailiff.
THE BAILIFF’s duties are stated to be: To rise early and have the ploughs yoked, then to walk in the fields to see that all is right. He is to inspect the ploughs, whether those of the demesne or the villein or auxiliary ploughs, seeing that they be not unyoked before their day’s work ends, failing which he will be called to account. At sowing time, he and the Reaper must go with the ploughs through the whole day’s work until they have completed their proper quantity of ploughing for the day, which is to be measured and if the ploughman has made any errors or defaults and can make no excuses the Reaper is to see that such faults do not go uncorrected or unpunished.
THE HAYWARD is to be an active and sharp man. He must arise early and look after and go round and keep the woods, corn and meadows and other things belonging to his office, and he is to superintend the sowing. He is to look after the customary tenants that may come and do the work they are bound to do. In hay time he is to overlook the mowers, and in August assemble the reapers and the labourers and see that the corn is properly gathered in. Watch early and late that nothing be stolen or eaten by beasts and spoilt. In some Manors he attended to the fences and hedges and was answerable for stray cattle which it was his duty to impound. This office was often combined with that of Beadle, the verger of the Manorial Court. He was accustomed to superintend the work in the hay and harvest fields, carrying his rod or verge.
THE PLOUGHMAN is to be a man of intelligence, and should know how to repair broken ploughs and harrows and to till the land as well. He should know how to yoke and drive the oxen without beating or hurting them, and he should forage them well. He must ditch the land so that it may be drained and he must not carry fire into byres for light or warmth, nor have any light there except from a lantern.
THE WAGGONER must know his trade and keep his horses and curry them, and he must not overload, over-work or over-drive them. He must know how to mend the harness and the gear of his wagon, and he shall sleep every night with his horses, as does the Oxherd with his oxen.
THE COWHERD must be skilful, knowing his business and keeping his cows well, and foster the calves from the time of weaning. He must see that he has fine bulls of good breed, pastured with the cows to mate when they will; and no cow to be milked or allowed to suckle her calf after Michaelmas, for the cows will thus become weak, and mate later the next year. Every year from each vaccary the old cows and the barren, and the young that do not promise well, have to be sorted and sold.
THE SWINEHERD should only be kept in manors where swine can be kept in the forest, woods, wastes or marshes, without sustenance from the grange.
THE SHEPHERD must enclose his fold with hurdles and keep it in good repair. He should sleep in the fold, he and his dog, and he should pasture his sheep well, and keep them in forage and watch them well so that they be not killed by dogs, stolen or lost; not let them pasture in bogs or moors to get sickness or disease. He should not leave his sheep to go to fairs, markets, wrestling matches, wakes or the tavern, without putting a good keeper in his place that no harm may arise. The shepherd could be a hired servant but more usually was a tenant who gave his service as rent for his holding with certain allowances being allowed; a lamb or fleece and often had the Lord’s fold on his land for twelve days at Christmas for the sake of the manure. He had occasional use of the Lord’s plough, fifteen sheep in the Lord’s fold and their milk if mother sheep. His wife was dey or mistress of the dairy, and he had to find a milkmaid. Walter of Henley recommends the Lord to watch if the sheep are scared at the approach of the shepherd, for if so he is no good shepherd.
THE DAIRYMAID should be of good repute, and keep herself clean and know her business well. How to make cheese and salt cheese and to save and keep the vessels of the dairy that it need not be necessary to renew them every year. She should help in the winnowing of the corn when available, and take care of the geese and hens and answer for the returns.
THE TITHING MAN, HEADBOROUGH or CONSTABLE was another of the officers chosen by the tenants themselves at the Court Leet, his duty was to summon fines, arrest vagabonds and nightwalkers, distrane on the goods of defaulters and preserve in his district the King’s Peace.
THE ALE-TASTERS or CONNERS were appointed similarly to see that brewers within their district brewed beer of the requisite strength and purity, that they did not sell at excessive price or use false measures and to see the Assize of Beer was not broken in their locality. The Assize of Beer and Beer was a franchise conferred on the Lords of Manors from a very early period, frauds being severely punished.
THE CARPENTER and SMITH were generally tenants who gave their service in exchange for rent. The carpenter had to make a plough and harrow out of his own timber and assist the tenants in making their carts. The smith, in addition to helping the carpenter in making ploughs, was to shoe certain of the Lord’s horses. If one died he was allowed the skin for making bellows and a dish of butter to grease them. He had to sharpen the scythe of the mowers in hay time and to bind with iron hoops certain wooden vessels.
THE SURVEYOR OF HEDGES was required to see that the temporary hedges erected at certain seasons around the holdings of the tenants were duly erected and kept in repair. The surveyor of ditches and watercourses had to see that they were kept open and scoured.
THE KEEPER OF THE POUND fulfilled his ancient office as did the Hayward and Woodward, or Woodreeve. Under the rule of the Abbey and extending into post suppression times, the Woodward to the Manor of Froyle was a most important officer and is specifically referred to in Henry VIII grant after the suppression and where the exact rate of this officer’s pay is set out.”