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What were peasant homes?

Updated: 8/19/2023
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13y ago

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Answervery small AnswerSerfs' homes were different from time to time and place to place, but usually they were, as the first answer indicated, very small.

In the Middle Ages, a serf's home would probably have a thatched roof, which was made of bundles of reeds tied down to rafters. Alternately, slate or wood shingles were used.

The walls might have been wattle and daub, which was basically woven twigs covered with mud, between wooden posts and beams. At other times or places, the walls might have been made of stone, or posts and beams with spaces filled with rocks, rubble, and daub. Where timber was plentiful, they could be made of wood siding on a timber frame. In colder parts of Europe, log cabins were used.

They would have had doors, probably made of wattle or wood. They might or might not have had windows, but the windows would almost certainly have been unglazed, so a covering curtain or shutter would have been used.

A serf's house would most probably not have more than one floor. Since the floor would have been dirt, or possibly stone, a fire could have been built on rocks or earth on the floor. Smoke went through a hole in the roof or in the wall below the peak of the roof. Modern fireplaces and chimneys were invented during the 11th or 12th century, but serfs' homes would probably not have had such luxuries. In a stone house, the fire could be against a wall, with the smoke guided out through a hole in the wall by a canopy, but again, this was probably too luxurious for a serf.

In many places, a section shed structure on the side of the house served for animals. If the winters were cold, chickens might be allowed to roost inside during the winter.

Furniture, if there was any, was crude.

It was basically like camping out in a really heavy duty tent, but for your entire life, with abundant vermin, and with nowhere to go.

An alternate to this was the long house, which was used in areas of northern Germany and Britain from ancient times right up to the 19th century. The long house was very large, and would have provided housing for a large number of people, possibly including several families. The central part had a very large room with a hearth. Typically, at one end there were rooms for people, and there were stalls for animals at the other. Large areas of the building were devoted to storing food, both for human beings and for animals.

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12y ago
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The first thing to consider is that not all peasants were of the same wealth. Some were very poor, others were self sufficient, and a few managed to accumulate significant wealth, at least compared to their neighbors. The size and quality of a peasant's house and possessions would be determined to a considerable extent by their income.

Lets take a "typical" peasants home as an example. By this I mean a peasant who lives in a small village, and holds 10-15 acres of land in the village fields. This was not enough to generate significant surplus wealth, but was generally adequate to support a family via subsistence farming and generate a thin surplus of goods for sale to purchase items that could not be raised or made in the village.

The building material of a house would have varied, but most commonly was a wood frame. The posts might have been sunk into post holes or set onto flat paving stones. The fill material of the walls was generally not wood, unless a heavily forested area was nearby. More common was a technique called "wattle and daub". In wattle and daub construction thin branches and brush are woven together to form a square panel, and then the panel was covered with the "daub", which was a mix of mud, straw, clay, and animal dung, a sort of medieval adobe. These panels were fitted together to form walls. They would have then been painted with a limewash, which made the interior brighter and the exterior more resistant to weather.

The roof material was usually thatch, a form of tightly woven and tied plant fibers, which is both wind and water proof when made by a skilled craftsman. The main drawback of thatch is its vulnerability to fire, so the well off would have replaced it with tiles or boards covered with lead, but these options would have only been in the reach of a fairly wealthy person.

A very simple house would be a single room, but all but the poorest houses had two rooms or more. Floor plans were simple, usually a main hall with a central hearth, and then perhaps a separate bed chamber, with the whole house laid out as a large rectangle. There may have been a loft over the chamber in a more elaborate home. The main room did not have the option of having a floor above, as few peasant homes had fireplaces, and smoke would need to be vented through a roof vent which was covered with a lantern shaped louvered structure to minimize wind and rain entry. Fireplaces began to appear at the end of the 12th century, which allowed for more complex construction, such as upper floors in the home of a wealthy peasant, but fireplaces were uncommon compared to a simple open hearth. The great majority of peasant houses were of a single story, even after fireplaces began to appear.

Windows were small and few to maintain insulation. Glazed windows did exist in the middle ages, but they were very expensive and would have been out of the reach of the average person. Shutters would have covered window openings in cold weather or at night. Interiors would have been lit by light from the fire at the hearth, buy candles or rush lights, or in fair weather by opening the shutters and door. Even in the best of circumstances the interior would have been dim.

The floor of the home was hard packed earth or clay, probably covered with straw which was change from time to time. The door was wood with iron fittings. Excavations of medieval village sites have turned up keys, so doors may have had locks.

Furniture would have been scare and simple. Stools and benches were used for seating. There may have been a trestle table in the main room, but the poor might have gone without. The better off peasant would have had a bedstead, but the poorer would have only a straw stuffed sack-like mattress. Sheets and blankets would have been available. Cooking was done at the hearth or fireplace, and there would have been some metal cooking pots and kitchen tools. The typical peasants house did not have an oven. He either payed a small fee to bake his bread in the lord's ovens, or baked at his hearth in a earthen vessel like a dutch oven.

In some parts of Europe it was common practice to connect the house directly to a structure for housing cattle or other animals. In others these were separate structres. In any case the space for animals and people was segregated. Despite the cliche the medieval peasant did not keep his cow in the living room.

The medieval house lacked closets or other storage spaces. Chests and trunks were used for storage, or possibly cabinets as well, depending, like in other matters, on the wealth of the individual peasant.

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12y ago

They had thatched roofs and were usually very dirty inside.

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10y ago

It was a thin but long building made of a wooden frame with daub, it had a mixture of manure, straw and mud to keep it strong. It usally had a hearth in the middle and a smoke hole at the top

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13y ago

Peasants homes were made out of mud and twigs which were criss-crossed together (wattle and daub).

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13y ago

Homes made for peasants.

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