By Edward Potts Cheyney
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Additional resources for An Introduction to the Industrial and Social History of England
Hudson, W. : Nature in Downland. ) The variety of food crops raised was small. Potatoes were of course unknown, and other root crops and fresh vegetables apparently were little cultivated. Wheat and rye of several varieties were raised as bread-stuff, barley and some other grains for the brewing of beer. Field peas and beans were raised, sometimes for food, but generally as forage for cattle. The main supply of winter forage for the farm animals had, however, to be secured in the form of hay, and for this reliance was placed entirely on the natural meadows, as no clover or grasses which could be artificially raised on dry ground were yet known.
The result was that the various acres or other parts of any one man's holding were mingled apparently inextricably with those of other men, customary familiarity only distinguishing which pieces belonged to each villager. In some manors there was total irregularity as to the number of acres in the occupation of any one man; in others there was a striking regularity. The typical holding, the group of scattered acres cultivated by one man or held by some two or three in common, was known as a "virgate," or by some equivalent term, and although of no universal equality, was more frequently of thirty acres than of any other number.
The hours of labor were regulated. Night work was very generally prohibited, apparently because of the difficulty of oversight at that time, as was work on Saturday afternoons, Sundays, and other holy days. Provisions were made for the inspection of goods by the officers of the gild, all workshops and goods for sale being constantly subject to their examination, if they should wish it. In those occupations that involved buying and selling the necessities of life, such as those of the fishmongers and the bakers, the officers of the fraternity, like the town authorities, were engaged in a continual struggle with "regrators," "forestallers," and "engrossers," which were appellations as odious as they were common in the mediæval town.