Chapter 7

S. A. Reilly

The Times 1215-1272

Baron landholders' semi-fortified stone manor houses were improved and extended. They were usually quadrangular around a central courtyard. The central and largest room was the hall, where people ate and slept. If the hall was on the first floor, the fire might be at a hearth in the middle of the floor. Sometimes the lord had his own parlor, with a sleeping loft above it. Having a second floor necessitated a fireplace in the wall so the smoke could go up two floors to the roof. Other rooms each had a fireplace. Often the hall was on the second floor and took up two stories. There was a fireplace on one wall of the bottom story. There were small windows around the top story. Windows of large houses were of opaque glass supplied by a glass-making craft. The glass was thick, uneven, and greenish in color. The walls were plastered. The floor was wood with some carpets. Roofs were timbered with horizontal beams. Many roofs had tiles supplied by the tile craft, which baked the tiles in kilns or over an open fire. Because of the hazard of fire, the kitchen was often a separate building, with a covered way connecting it to the hall. It had one or two open fires in fireplaces, and ovens. Sometimes there was a separate room for a dairy.

Furniture included heavy wood armchairs for the lord and lady, stools, benches, trestle tables, chests, and cupboards. Outside was an enclosed garden with cabbages, peas, beans, beetroots, onions, garlic, leeks, lettuce, watercress, hops, herbs, nut trees for oil, some flowers, and a fish pond and well. Bees were kept for their honey.

Nobles, doctors, and lawyers wore tunics to the ankle and an over-tunic almost as long, which was lined with fur and had long sleeves. A hood was attached to it. A man's hair was short and curled, with bangs on the forehead. The tunic of merchants and middle class men reached to the calf. The laborer wore a tunic that reached to the knee, cloth stockings, and shoes of heavy felt, cloth, or perhaps leather. Ladies wore a full length tunic with moderate fullness in the skirt, and a low belt, and tight sleeves. Her hair was concealed by a round hat tied on the top of her head. Over her tunic, she wore a cloak. Monks and nuns wore long black robes with hoods.

The barons now managed and developed their estates to be as productive as possible, often using the successful management techniques of church estates. They kept records of their fields, tenants, services owed by each tenant, and duties of the manor officers, such as supervision of the ploughing and harrowing. Annually, the manor's profit or loss for the year was calculated. Most manors were self-supporting except that iron for tools and horseshoes and salt for curing usually had to be obtained elsewhere. Wine, tar, canvas and millstones were imports from other countries and bought at fairs, as was fish, furs, spices, and silks. Sheep were kept in such large numbers that they were susceptible to a new disease "scab".

Manors averaged about ten miles distance between each other, the land in between being unused and called "wasteland". Statutes after a civil war proscribing the retaking of land discouraged the enclosure of waste land.

Some villeins bought out their servitude by paying a substitute to do his service or paying his lord a firm (from hence, the words farm and farmer) sum to hire an agricultural laborer in his place. This made it possible for a farm laborer to till one continuous piece of land instead of scattered strips.

Looms were now mounted with two bars. Women did embroidery. The clothing of most people was made at home, even sandals. The village tanner and bootmaker supplied long pieces of soft leather for more protection than sandals. Tanning mills replaced some hand labor. The professional hunter of wolves, lynx, or otters supplied head coverings. Every village had a smith and possibly a carpenter for construction of ploughs and carts. The smith obtained coal from coal fields for heating the metal he worked. Horse harnesses were home-made from hair and hemp. There were water mills and/or wind mills for grinding grain, for malt, and/or for fulling cloth.

Most men wore a knife because of the prevalence of murder and robbery. It was an every day event for a murderer to flee to sanctuary in a church, which would then be surrounded by his pursuers while the coroner was summoned. Usually, the fugitive would confess and agree to leave the nation and never return.

It had been long customary for the groom to endow his bride in public at the church door. This was to keep her and her children if he died first. If dower was not specified, it was understood to be one-third of all lands and tenements.

The county offices were: sheriff, coroner, escheator, and constable or bailiff. There were 28 sheriffs for 38 counties. No longer did the sheriff buy his office and collect certain rents for himself. The sheriff now was a salaried political appointee of the King and employed a deputy or undersheriff, who was a lawyer, and clerks. If there was civil commotion or contempt of royal authority, the sheriff had power to raise a posse of armed men to restore order [posse comitatus: power of the county]. There were about five coroners in each county and they served for a number of years. They were chosen locally under the sheriff's supervision. The escheator was appointed annually by the Treasurer to administer the Crown's rights in feudal land in the county. The constables and bailiffs operated at the hundred and parish level to detect crime and keep the peace. They assisted sheriffs and Justices of the Peace, organized "watches" for criminals and vagrants at the village level, and raised the "hue and cry" along the highway and from village to village in pursuit of offenders who had committed felony or robbery in their districts.

Shire knights performed a number of duties. They served a sheriffs, escheators, coroners, and justices on special royal commissions of gaol-delivery. They sat in judgment in the shire court at its monthly meetings, attended the two great annual assemblies when the lord, knights and freeholders of the shire gathered to meet the justices on eyre, who came escorted by the sheriff and weapon bearers. They served on the committees which reviewed the presentments of the hundreds and village, and carried the record of the shire court to Westminster when summoned there by the kings' judges. They served on the grand assize. As elected representatives of their fellow knights of the shire, they assessed any taxes due from each hundred. They investigated and reported on local abuses and grievances. The king's judges and council often called on them to answer questions put to them on oath. In the villages, humbler freeholders and sokemen were elected to assess the village taxes. Six villeins answered for the village's offenses at the royal eyre.

Everyone was taught to read and write in English. Even obscure villages gathered children together for this schooling. Boys of noblemen were taught reading, writing, Latin, a musical instrument, athletics, riding, and gentlemanly conduct. Girls were taught reading, writing, music, dancing, and perhaps household nursing and first aid, spinning, embroidery, and gardening. Girls of high social position were also taught riding and hawking. Grammar schools taught, in Latin, grammar, logic [dialectic], and rhetoric [art of public speaking and debate]. The teacher possessed the only complete copy of the Latin text, and most of the school work was done orally. Though books were few and precious, the students read several Latin works. Girls and boys of high social position usually had private teachers for grammar school, while boys of lower classes were sponsored at grammar schools such as those at Oxford. Discipline was maintained by the birch or rod.

There was no examination for admission as an undergraduate to Oxford, but a knowledge of Latin with some skill in speaking Latin was a necessary background. The students came from all backgrounds. Some had their expenses paid by their parents, while others had the patronage of a churchman, a religious house, or a wealthy layman.

A student at Oxford would become a master after graduating from a seven year course of study of the seven liberal arts: [grammar, rhetoric (the source of law), Aristotelian logic (which differentiates the true from the false), arithmetic, including fractions and ratios, (the foundation of order), geometry, including methods of finding the length of lines, the area of surfaces, and thevolume of solids, (the science of measurement), astronomy (the most noble of the sciences because it is connected with divinity and theology), music, and Aristotle's philosophy of physics, metaphysics, and ethics; and then lecturing and leading disputations for two years. He also had to write a thesis on some chosen subject and defend it against the faculty. A Master's degree gave one the right to teach. Further study for four years led to a doctorate in one of the professions: theology and canon or civil law.

There were about 1,500 students in Oxford. They drank, played dice, quarreled a lot and begged at street corners. There were mob fights between students from the north and students from the south and between students and townsmen. But when the mayor of Oxford hanged two students accused of being involved in the killing of a townswoman, many masters and students left for Cambridge. In 1214, a charter created the office of Chancellor of the university at Oxford. He was responsible for law and order and, through his court, could fine, imprison, and excommunicate offenders and expel undesirables such as prostitutes from the town. He had authority over all crimes involving scholars, except murder and mayhem. The Chancellor summoned and presided over meetings of the masters and came to be elected by indirect vote by the masters who had schools, usually no more than a room or hall with a central hearth which was hired for lectures. Students paid for meals there. Corners of the room were often partitioned off for private study. At night, some students slept on the straw on the floor. Six hours of sleep were considered sufficient.

In 1221 the Friars established their chief school at Oxford. They were bound by oaths of poverty, obedience, and chastity, but were not confined within the walls of a monastery. They walked barefoot from place to lace preaching. They begged for their food and lodgings. They replaced monks, who had become self- indulgent, as the most vital spiritual force among the people. In 1231, the King ordered that every student must have his name on the roll of a master and the masters had to keep a list of those attending his lectures.

The first college was founded in 1264 by Walter de Merton, former Chancellor to the King, at Oxford. A college had the living arrangements of a Hall, with the addition of monastic-type rules. A warden and about 30 scholars lived and ate meals together in the college buildings. Merton College's founding documents provided that: "The house shall be called the House of the Scholars of Merton, and it shall be the residence of the Scholars forever. . . There shall be a constant succession of scholars devoted to the study of letters, who shall be bound to employ themselves in the study of Arts or Philosophy, the Canons or Theology. Let there also be one member of the collegiate body, who shall be a grammarian, and must entirely devote himself to the study of grammar; let him have the care of the students in grammar, and to him also let the more advanced have recourse without a blush, when doubts arise in their faculty. . . There is to be one person in every chamber, where Scholars are resident, of more mature age than the others, who is to make his report of their morals and advancement in learning to the Warden. . . The Scholars who are appointed to the duty of studying in the House are to have a common table, and a dress as nearly alike as possible. . . The members of the College must all be present together, as far as their leisure serves, at the canonical hours and celebration of masses on holy and other days. . . The Scholars are to have a reader at meals, and in eating together they are to observe silence, and to listen to what is read. In their chambers, they must abstain from noise and interruption of their fellows; and when they speak they must use the Latin language. . . A Scrutiny shall be held in the House by the Warden and the Seniors, and all the Scholars there present, three times a year; a diligent enquiry is to be instituted into the life, conduct, morals, and progress in learning, of each and all; and what requires correction then is to be corrected, and excesses are to be visited with condign punishment. . ."

Issues frequently argued concerned the newly discovered philosophies of Aristotle vis a vis the accepted Christian philosophy. Aristotle emphasized the intellectual use of reason as a road to understanding whereas the church had always taught that understanding came from revelation by God.

Roger Bacon, an Oxford master, applied mathematical knowledge to natural phenomena such as metal work, mineral work, the making of weapons, agriculture, and the remedies and charms of wizards and magicians. He studied angles of reflection in plane, spherical, cylindrical, and conical mirrors, in both their concave and convex aspects. He did experiments in refraction in different media, e.g. air, water, and glass, and knew that the human cornea refracted light and that the human eye lens was doubly convex. (However it was another 400 years before the discovery of the image on the retina.) He comprehended the magnifying power of convex lenses and conceptualized the combination of lenses which would increase the power of vision by magnification. Soon afterwards, eyeglasses were available to correct farsightedness.

Bacon studied gravity and the propagation of force, specifically illustrated by the radiation of light and heat. He realized that rays of light pass so much faster than those of sound or smell that the time is imperceptible to humans. He knew that rays of heat and sound penetrate all matter without our awareness and that opaque bodies offered resistance to passage of light rays. This was the beginning of the science of physics.

He took the empirical knowledge as to a few metals and their oxides and some of the principal alkalis, acids, and salts to the abstract level of metals as compound bodies the elements of which might be separated and recomposed and the general concept of generation of liquids, gases, and solids, which was the beginning of the science of chemistry. He made experiments that led the way to saltpeter being made to explode, which led the way to the formulation of gunpowder. He believed that the principle of explosive energy would one day carry ships across the seas without sails and propel carriages down the streets, and flying machines. He knew the power of parabolic concave mirrors to cause parallel rays to converge after reflection to a focus and was familiar with work done to produce a mirror that would induce combustion at a fixed distance.

He studied man's physical nature, health, and disease, the beginning of the science of biology and medicine. He opined that the use of a talisman was not to bring about a change, but to bring the patient into a frame of mind more conducive to physical healing.

Bacon studied different kinds of plants and the differences between arable land, forest land, pasture land, and garden land.

Like other educated men of his day (and those of the 1200s through the 1500s), he believed that the earth was the center of the universe and in astrology, that is, that the position of the stars and planets influenced man and other earthly things. For instance, the position of the stars at a person's birth determined his character. The angle and therefore potency of the sun's rays influenced climate, temperament, and changes of mortal life such as disease and revolutions. There was a propitious time to have a marriage, go on a journey, make war, and take herbal medicine or be bled by leeches, the latter of which was accompanied by religious ceremony. Cure was by God, with medical practitioners only relieving suffering. Pressure and binding were applied to bleeding. Arrow and sword wounds to the skin or to any protruding intestine were washed with warm water and sewn up with needle and silk thread. Ribs were spread apart by a wedge to remove arrow heads. Fractured bones were splinted or encased in plaster. Dislocations were remedied. Hernias were trussed. Bladder stones blocking urination were pushed back into the bladder or removed through an artificial opening in the bladder.

Bacon studied the planetary motions and astronomical tables to forecast future events. He did calculations on days in a month and days in a year which later contributed to the legal definition of a leap year. He knew about magnetic poles attracting if different and repelling if the same and the relation of magnets' poles to those of the heavens and earth. He calculated the circumference of the world and the latitude and longitude of terrestrial positions, which was the beginning of the study of geography. He foresaw sailing around the world and pointed the way to the Copernican astronomy, which was founded on the concept of the earth and planets revolving around the sun.

His contribution to the development of science was abstracting the method of experiment from the concrete problem to see its bearing and importance as a universal method of research. He advocated changing education to include studies of the natural world using observation, exact measurement, and experiments.

The making and selling of goods diverged e.g. as the cloth merchant severed from the tailor and the leather merchant severed from the butcher. These craftsmen formed themselves into guilds. They sought charters to require all craftsmen to belong to the guild of their craft, to have legal control of the craft work, and be able to expel any craftsman for disobedience. These guilds determined the wages and working conditions of the craftsmen and petitioned the borough authorities for ordinances restraining trade, for instance by controlling the admission of outsiders to the craft, preventing foreigners from selling in the town except at fairs, limiting purchases of raw materials to suppliers within the town, forbidding night work, restricting the number of apprentices to each master craftsmen, and requiring a minimum number of years for apprenticeships. In return, these guilds assured quality control. In some boroughs, they did work for the town, such as maintaining certain defensive towers or walls of the town near their respective wards. In some boroughs, fines for infractions of these regulations were split between the guild and the government.

This jurisdiction was sought from the towns governments, which were controlled by the merchant guilds, with great difficulty. In London, this power was broken in 1261 by the craftsmen forcing their way into the town-mote. By this brute show of strength, they set aside the opinion of the magnates and selected their own candidate to be mayor.

The citizens of London had a common seal for the city. London merchants traveled throughout the nation with goods to sell exempt from tolls. Most of the London aldermen were woolmongers, vintners, skinners, and grocers by turns or carried on all these branches of commerce at once. There are three inns in London. Care- giving hospitals such as "Bethleham Hospital" were established in London. Only tiles were used for roofing in London, because wood shingles were fire hazards and fires in London had been frequent. Some areas near London are disclaimed by the King to be royal forest land, so all citizens could hunt there and till their land there without interference by the royal foresters.

A gold penny was minted, which was worth 2s. of silver. Jews were allowed to make loans with interest up to 2d. a week for 20s. lent.

English ships had one mast with a square sail. The hulls were made of planks overlapping each other. There was a high forecastle on the bow, a top castle on the mast, and a high stern castle from which to shoot arrows down on other ships. There were no rowing oars, but steering was still by an oar on the starboard side of the ship. The usual carrying capacity was 30 tuns [big casks of wine each with about 250 gallons]. On the coasts there were lights and beacons. Harbors at river mouths were kept from silting up. Ships were loaded from piers. The construction of London Bridge had just been finished. Coal was mined. Bricks began to be imported for building.

Churches had stained glass windows.

Newcastle-on-Tyne received these new rights:

1. And that they shall justly have their lands and tenures and mortgages and debts, whoever owes them to them.

2. Concerning their lands and tenures within the town, right shall be done to them according to the custom of the city Winton.

3. And of all their debts which are lent in Newcastle-on-Tyne and of mortgages there made, pleas shall be held at Newcastle-on-Tyne.

4. None of them shall plead outside the walls of the City of Newcastle-on-Tyne on any plea, except pleas of tenures outside the city and except the minters and my ministers.

5. That none of them be distrained by any without the said city for the repayment of any debt to any person for which he is not capital debtor or surety.

6. That the burgesses shall be quit of toll and lastage [duty on a ship's cargo] and pontage [tax for repairing bridges] and have passage back and forth.

7. Moreover, for the improvement of the city, I have granted them that they shall be quit of year's gift and of scotale [pressure to buy ale at the sheriff's tavern], so that my sheriff of Newcastle-on-Tyne or any other minister shall not make a scotale.

8. And whosoever shall seek that city with his merchandise, whether foreigners or others, of whatever place they may be, they may come sojourn and depart in my safe peace, on paying the due customs and debts, and any impediment to these rights is prohibited.

9. We have granted them also a merchant guild.

10. And that none of them [in the merchant guild] shall fight a duel.

The King no longer lives on his own from income from his own lands, but takes money from the treasury. Elected men from the baronage met with the King and his council in several conferences called Parliaments to discuss the levying of taxes and the solution of difficult legal cases, and to receive petitions. Statutes were enacted. Landholders were given the duty of electing four of their members in every shire to ensure that the sheriff observed the law and to report his misdemeanors to the justiciar. They were also given the duty of electing four men from the shire from whom the exchequer was to choose the sheriff of the year. Earl Montfort and certain barons forced King Henry III to summon a Parliament in 1265 in which the common people were represented officially by four knights from every shire [county] and two burgesses from every borough. This seems to be the time that the legend of Robin Hood robbing the rich to give to the poor arose.

The Law

The barons forced successive Kings to sign the Magna Carta until it became the law of the land. It became the first statute of the official statute book. It's provisions express the principle that a King is bound by the law and is not above it. However, there is no redress if the King breaches the law.

The Magna Carta was issued by John in 1215. A revised version was issued by Henry III in 1225 with the forest clauses separated out into a forest charter. The two versions are replicated together, with the formatting of each indicated in the titles below.

{Magna Carta - 1215}
Magna Carta - 1215 & 1225

{John, by the grace of God, King of England, Lord of Ireland, Duke of Normandy and Aquitaine, and Count of Anjou: To the Archbishops, Bishops, Abbots, Earls, Barons, Justiciaries, Foresters, Sheriffs, Reeves, Ministers, and all Bailiffs and others, his faithful subjects, Greeting. Know ye that in the presence of God, and for the health of our soul, and the souls of our ancestors and heirs, to the honor of God, and the exaltation of Holy Church, and amendment of our realm, by the advice of our reverend Fathers, Stephen, Archbishop of Canterbury, Primate of all England, and Cardinal of the Holy Roman Church; Henry, Archbishop of Dublin; William of London, Peter of Winchester, Jocelin of Bath and Glastonbury, Hugh of Lincoln, Walter of Worcester, William of Coventry, and Benedict of Rochester, Bishops; Master Pandulph, the Pope's subdeacon and familiar; Brother Aymeric, Master of the Knights of the Temple in England; and the noble persons, William Marshall, Earl of Pembroke; William, Earl of Salisbury; William, Earl of Warren; William, Earl of Arundel; Alan de Galloway, Constable of Scotland; Warin Fitz-Gerald, Peter Fitz-Herbert, Hubert de Burgh, Seneshal of Poitou, Hugh de Neville, Matthew Fitz-Herbert, Thomas Basset, Alan Basset, Philip Daubeny, Robert de Roppelay, John Marshall, John Fitz-Hugh, and others, our liegemen:}


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