Villages--Alehouses and inns -- Health of people--Food--Medical knowledge--Relative conditions of agricultural labourers in fifteenth century and at present--Agricultural wages--A bondman's career--Taxation --Land tenures--Political condition of rural population--Tenant farmers --A farm in Leicestershire--The poor--Home life--Manor houses-- Frankelyns and country gentry--Sources of a landowner's income.
THE villages where the agricultural labourers lived were small, and the houses they tenanted slight. A few boards, a load or two of loam dug on the spot and strengthened with moss, straw, or stubble, made the walls of the cottages; a few bundles of heather from the common or reed off the fen supplied the thatch. These were all the materials required. In 1306, the master and fellows of Queen's College, Oxford, built on one of their manors a house for two of their agricultural labourers, and the bill for the erection of this cottage still remains: "To a carpenter making a new house . . . for the swineherd and shepherd, five and eight pence." Materials for building and assistance rendered comes to a little over fourteen shillings. "Sum total, twenty shillings." The cost is but small, but then the house was only like peasants' houses in general, a covered shed without floor, without ceiling, without a chimney, and almost certainly without plastering.1 Eighty years later than this, in 1388, the authorities of St. Peter's College, Cambridge, rebuilt some dilapidated houses belonging to that college, and the houses appear to have been as humble as those built by the Oxford college. In the Cambridge accounts we read, "Twelve pence paid to the men for two days, for pulling down the antient houses . . . also twelve pence paid to three men for one day in raising the new houses."2 There could have been no improvements in these houses over those built at the com____________________