[Smashy the Hammer] [An Aspiring Luddite]
I carry no phone
An aspiring Luddite
In a wired world.
[Jeff Berry]
Jeff Berry is an early adopter of the Internet and the Web, a late adopter of Twitter, and declines to adopt Facebook. With the death of Google+, he's experimenting with federated platforms. He admins a medievalist Mastodon instance, and can found on t he PlusPora diaspora pod. He hates cell-phones.

Previous Entry

First Entry

Over on my Mastodon account I've started posting threads about some medieval accounts from Munden's Chantry. Every now and then, I'll collate them, lightly edit them, and post them here. If you want to comment on them, Mastodon would be the place to do it ...

Here's the first batch.

Tales From Munden's Chantry

First Post

There's a lovely little book out there called 'A Small Household of the XVth Century, being the Account Book of Munden's Chantry, Bridport.' It's essentially a weekly record of the expenses of the two priests and I find much of interest in it. I thought I might work through it as time permits, and digress as the spirit moves me. So let us begin ...

The first entry is from 1453, and the writer made several corrections, which I wil try to indicate:
Die sabbato et in festo S. Edwardi regis et confessoris, in pane 12d. In servicia 8d. In carnibus 11d. In piscibus 7d. In candelis 1 1/2d In farina avenarum 1/2d. Extranii Ricardus Carpentarius cum duo sibi servientibus per 2os dies et 2o sibi servienties per 3 dies et dimidium.
 Summa 3s 4d

Saturday in the feast of St Edward King and Confessor. For bread, 12d. For beer 8d. For meat, 11d, for fish 7d, for candles, 1/1d for oatmeal, 1/2d. From outside the household Richard the Carpenter for 2 days and two of his servants for 3 days and a half. Total: 3s 4d.

Some interesting stuff to unpack there. This record is for the week including the feast of St. Edward, Oct. 13, in the year 1453, and includes items which will occur regularly.

The presence of Richard Carpenter and his servants suggest that work was being done at the chantry, and that the workers were being fed there. There is no mention of extra pay for the work, so it is unclear from this entry alone what was done and what, if any, remuneration was made other than the meals.

One thing that I find particularly interesting is the entry for oatmeal - the farina avenarum.

Oatmeal is not something that often appears in medieval recipes. Off the top of my head, I can't think of any - although I've not done an exhaustive search.

This might mean the oatmeal was not being eaten but used for animal feed or some other purpose.There are a couple of points to consider,though.

Surviving recipe collections skew heavily towards wealthy or very wealthy households,so if oatmeal was a low prestige food, it would not feature prominently (or at all) in them.

The idea of oatmeal as low-prestige food is reinforced by an entry in Great Gild Book of Beverley in 1485, which talks about which professions contribute to the support of the various pageants. The cooks are to pay 8d, but:
 'Those who sell certain things belonging to the Cooks craft as the Pye-bakers, Pasty-bakers, Flaune-bakers, and Chese cake makers to pay yearly 6d., and Otemele makers 4d., and the Dyner makers 2s'

This tells us two things.

First, oatmeal makers (and therefore oatmeal) belong to the cooks' craft, and are food for people. Second, there is a hierarchy with oatmeal makers at the bottom - they pay half what cooks do and 2/3s of what the various pie-makers do. This in turn suggests that the priests of the chantry are eating simply and inexpensively and least some of the time.

Second Post

The next entry from Munden's Chantry looks much like the first:
Die Sabbati et in vigilia Simonis et Iude proxima post festum S Luce, in pane 8d. In servicia 8d, in piscibus 7 9 1/2 d In carnibus 6d. in uno casio 2d In farina avenarum 1 1/2 d.
 Summa 3s

A few interesting things to note here.

First, in English:
Saturday in the vigil of Simon and Jude just after the feast of Saint Luke, for bread 8d, for beer 8d, for fish 7 9 1/2 d, for meat 6d, for one cheese 2d, for oatmeal 1 1/2 d. Total 3s

The first thing to note is that the date was wrong, the feast of Simon and Jude is Oct 28, so the vigil is Oct 27, St Luke's feast is Oct 18. Did the writer miss a week, and then go back to fill it in, putting in the current week and then correcting it? The whole entry feels a little rushed. Not only is the date wrong, but the amount for fish is wrong (and corrected). Cheese is spelled casius, which is a variant spelling for caseus in use in Britain. (Per the Dictionary of Medieval Latin from British Sources). And 8d+8d+9.5d+6d+2d+1.5d=35d, which is a penny short of 3s.

Finally, we can already see the regular shopping list developing: bread, beer, fish, meat, and oatmeal appear in both entries. There were no extranii/guests eating with them this week, and as one would expect the costs are less for 2 than for 5, even if the 5 were only there half the week. The fish cost is similar, as is beer, but bread is down a 1/3 and meat nearly halved.

Third Post

The accounts are published in "A Small Household of the Fifteenth Century" by K.L. Wood-Legh. In her introduction, Dr Wood-Legh identifies the writer as William Savernak, whose earlier career gave him the skills and inclination to keep such detailed records. Last time, Savernak misdated his entry by a week, correcting it from 'vigilis Simonis et Iude' to 'proxima post festum S Luce.'

This week, the entry reads:
Die sabbati in vigilia Simonis et Iude, in pane 8d. In servicia 8 1/2d 9d. In carnibus emptis 9d. in piscibus 5d.
 Summa 2s 7d

Saturday in the vigil of Simon and Jude, for bread 8d, for beer 9d, for meat bought 9d, for fish 5d. Total 2s 7d.

This entry has the date which was erroneously entered in the previous entry, prompting my speculation that perhaps Savernak was catching up for two weeks at once. This is the least expensive week so far, by a few pence. The savings is down to no cheese and no oatmeal this week. Bread and beer are steady, while the costs for meat and fish have swapped. Perhaps there was a bit of fish leftover from last week, but the meat had all been eaten. In any case, the staple foods are becoming clear with bread and beer the clear front-runners, while meat and fish are regular purchases.

It is worth noting however that records indicate that the chantry had both a garden and an orchard,so the diet was augmented by their own produce at times. In October, there might still be apples to harvest, and potentially a wide variety of garden vegetables and herbs,but without knowing what they were growing it's impossible to tell what they might be harvesting. Although we can make some guesses based on other sources and surviving recipes. Maybe next time.

('Tales From Munden's Chantry' is a nod to Ostrander and Truman's Grimjack, in case you care.)

Luddite'sLog, 4 May 2023
© 2023 Jeff Berry
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