Life for the average citizen in Tudor times was pretty tough. Hard work and an ability to dodge various diseases were the only path to survival. Agriculture was the primary industry and animals were an integral part of daily life. Here are ten facts to bring you up to speed on Tudor farming:
- As many as 90 percent of the population of Tudor England lived in rural farming communities, earning the majority of their income from either livestock or arable farming.
- The Tudors commonly kept sheep as a source of wool, milk, meat and lambs. Sheep provided the vast majority of the milk used by farming households; more sheep’s milk was used than cow’s milk.
- Cattle were kept almost exclusively as working animals, unlike today, few herds existed. The cattle were used above horses to work the land due to their strength and small expense.
- The most popular animal of the period was the pig with almost every country person keeping at least one. However, Tudor pigs would bear more resemblance to the modern wild boar than the modern pig (like the Managalitzas here at the Farm).
- Farm life in Tudor times required long hours and hard work. Due to the constrictions of daylight hours in which they could work, Tudor farmers often began work almost at dawn.
- All the animals on the farm had more than one use, for example cattle not only provided work but also milk, meat and leather, often their horns could be used to form spoons or drinking vessels.
- An enclosure known as a ‘Hogbog ‘ was used by farmers to house both pigs and poultry. The pigs would occupy the ground space while the poultry resided in a raised hen house. This design saved both space and danger to the hens at night.
- Tudor farmers did not like to waste precious resources. When an animal was sent to the slaughter, the entire body was made use of, and not just for meat – even a pig’s bristles would be used to make brushes.
- Pigs were considered to be an incredibly useful animal to keep; it was not uncommon for a Tudor peasant to receive a young pig in the spring time as part of his wages.
- The food required to sustain the animals was largely sourced by farmers from either their own or local farms. Many Tudor farmers carefully grew grasses on their farms to be dried and fed to cattle as hay in the winter.
It is nearly impossible to imagine this lifestyle through our 21st century lens, if you want to see some Tudor farming in action, come and visit Mary Arden’s Farm and experience Tudor life for yourself!