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A serf on a medieval manor

A serf lived on a manor and the largest house belonged to the lord of the manor. A serf's home was a very small house made of wattle and daub walls. There was an earthen floor and a thatched roof. There was no chimney and just a hole in the roof for the smoke to escape through. A serf also kept animals inside at night to protect them.

Most of a serf's time was spent farming. All the crops were sown in strips of land and all the work was done by hand. A lot of time was spent travelling from one strip to another. There was one huge field called the Common where all the animals of the serfs could graze every day. The main crops grown were barley, wheat, oats and flax and the lord's mill was used to ground the wheat and barley. A serf also had to work two days per week for the lord of the manor and had to give 10% of his crops to the Church. This was called a tithe.

For food and drink, a serf ate a lot of bread and porridge and also lots of milk, butter and cheese. Animals were sometimes killed and the meat was salted for special occasions, such as the feasts of special saints. All the serf's clothing was hand-made and most people used both wool from the sheep they reared and linen from the flax they grew on their strips of land. Wild berries were used as a dye and shoes and coats were made from animal leather.

The local lord made all the laws and serfs were not allowed to fish in local rivers or to hunt in forests. The lord could punish serfs and he had the power to put the serf in stocks for minor crimes, while very serious crimes were punished by death.