ML&T: Wattle, daub, and dung

MedievalLifeAndTimesWhile many of us in today’s world want grand status homes, poor peasants in medieval times were lucky to have a small cottage with one room. If they were really lucky, they might have had two rooms. Houses were built with whatever local material was available — mostly wood frames covered in wattle and daub (walls covered with interwoven twigs and branches and filled with mud, dung, and straw). Stone walls may have been erected if good building stone was available. The roof was most often thatched, using reeds or swamp grasses.

We worry about germs and odors, rely on our smoke detectors, and buy chemical-based odor-eliminating products. They must have lived in a perpetual state of smokiness and smell. They heated their cottages and cooked their food, usually, over a fire in the middle of the cottage that burned day and night. The only outlets for the smoke were tiny windows, the door, and a hole in the roof. I can only imagine how warm the cottages were in the summer and how cold in the winter. But, get this: apparently, for those who had the space or had a second room, animals were brought inside in the winter. Imagine the extra heat!

Windows had no glass. To keep out the weather, they had only wooden shutters. Doors were usually wood with leather or iron hinges.

Floors were dirt covered with straw or reeds to absorb spills and other messes and. The straw was periodically swept out and replaced with fresh “flooring.”

Furniture was basic, consisting typically of a roughly hewn table, a few stools or benches, and maybe a chest to store household goods or a few clothes. Beds were usually straw stuffed into a sack. Most peasants had basic cooking utensils, wooden or clay plates and cups, wooden spoons and metal knives.

Yes, it was a simpler life, but it must have been difficult. Today, we should be grateful for even a modest home.

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