Lecture Details and Reviews

The Reeve's Tale: what life was like in 1450 for the Reeve

3rd April, 2012 Hugh Granger
Hugh Granger has delighted and informed us with his talks five times in the last fifteen years, on topics such as 'How Our Language Evolved' , and this recently revised talk is about life in an English village of 1450, seen through the eyes of the Reeve, who was the link between the Squire and the community. It covers their customs, farming methods, housing, architecture, family life, diet, pottery and social structures and ends with the tale of how a village mystery was solved.


Reviewed by Valerie on 4th April, 2012

As a long-time resident in Haddenham of a cottage built in 1450, Hugh Granger adopted the role of a Reeve and told Henley Archaeological Group at its April meeting about what life was like in 1450 for the reeve. His amusing tales of village life at that time covered who did what in their short, hard and monotonous life and their minimal diet.

Everything was planned by the reeve, who was the link between the squire and the villagers, for the benefit of the Norman lord who owned the village and had the power to demand not only the tithe but also, under the feudal system, two days work by each villager on the squire’s land plus military service when required. The reeve had to give an annual detailed account of everything in the village, including the requirement that every Parish was to repair the main roads running through it. He described the medieval agricultural strip system where 15 acres was needed to support one family, the yields being so poor without pesticides or fertiliser.

Henley’s Kings Arms Barn was a suitable venue in which to outline how buildings were erected in Haddenham using local materials. Surprisingly, some of those cottages, somewhat modernized, still survive.

Ruth Gibson thanked “the reeve” for his fascinating talk, though she did not envy the hard life lived at that time.

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