There were, however, local market fairs when trade was brisk to obtain items in short supply by the exchange of surplus provisions. At the centre of the village was the Village Green which was used for leisure activities. The village houses consisted of half - timbered buildings with thatched roofs and were surrounded by countryside and woodlands. The number of people who lived in small villages varied but a small town consisted of only a few hundred. Village life offered a close community where everyone knew everyone else. There were close family ties - brothers, sisters, uncles, cousins and marriages between other local people. This provided a good support mechanism if people fell on to hard times. The noble families also tended to stay static. Lands, titles and property were handed down from generation to generation and the same families would remain in the same homes for many generations.
Elizabethan Village Life
Elizabethan Village Life changed with the seasons - the busiest being during harvest and hay making periods. People lived and worked in close family units and trades and specific skills were passed from Father to son. A village would contain a variety of skilled men helping to maintain the self-sufficiency of the village - blacksmiths, carpenters, builders, roofers, ploughmen, cowmen , farmers and the peasants and labourers. Rural England had its own social hierarchy
- The Lord of the Manor
- The Gentry - gentlemen owners of local land
- Yeoman - English freemen who took on various roles of responsibility - jury service, church wardens etc Free holders of land
- Skilled Laborers
- Landless Laborers (unskilled)
Other work such as milkmaids, servants and millers were usually beholden to the Lord of the Manor.
The role of Women in Elizabethan Village Life
Elizabethan women were expected to look after small animals - geese, chickens etc. Weaving, spinning and making and mending clothes were also part of a woman's work as well as cooking, preparing rushes for lighting and making preserves. The house, the vegetable plot, dairy and poultry yard was the Elizabethan woman's domain. Women were also responsible for the children and need an understanding of medicines and herbs for basic nursing requirements.
Elizabethan Village Life - Hours of Work
Elizabethan Village Life started in the summer as early as 3am. Cock crow summoned the servants to work. Breakfast of pottage was the usual fayre. Laborers were in the fields by 5am. By 10am preparations had to be started in order to provide the midday meal. Everyone was expected to wash before a meal and 'Grace' would be said before each meal. A break from work was allowed after the midday meal. Employers were obliged to give their workers during the day for meals and 'drinkings'. The terms of the Elizabethan Statute of Artificers fixed working hours for laborers as follows:
- March to September - 5am to 7 or 8 pm
- September to March - From Dawn until Dusk
Elizabethan Village Life Leisure time
Elizabethan Village life became quiet after sundown and evenings were spent in talk and games. On Sunday there was some free time. The men met for church in the morning, with time to gossip, play games and enjoy a few pints of ale after the service was over. Women worked communally at sewing or spinning whilst men bowled, played skittles or ball games. Many enjoyed board games like Nine Man's Morris, chess or draughts (checkers).
Elizabethan Village Life - the Decline in Village life
Changes in agriculture during the Elizabethan period led to people leaving the countryside and their village life to search for employment in the towns. The wool trade became increasingly popular during the Elizabethan age, which meant that land which had been farmed by peasants was now dedicated to rearing sheep and a process known as land enclosure meant that the traditional open field system ended in favour of creating larger and more profitable farming units which required fewer people to work on them. Village life was changing and the movement towards town life started during the Elizabethan era.