spelling has been modernised, although some archaic words have
as a general comment, 'meat' is here used as a general term for
'food', 'corn' for all grain and legume crops, 'cattle' is used
for all four-legged and hoofed livestock, and the odd 'countries'
equates to counties.
book was written in the early sixteenth century. While much
of what it describes equates very well to medieval life, there
are two major differences. First, feudal society had long since
collapsed, Fitzherbert's husbandman is his own man, he has no
feudal ties, and he rents or owns his land outright. Secondly,
land is more enclosed than it would have been under the medieval
three field system.
is better, a plough of horses or a plough of oxen:
is to be known, whether is better, a plough of horses, or a plough
of oxen, and therein me seemeth ought to be made some distinction.
For in places an ox-plough is better than a horse-plough, and
in some places a horse-plough is better: that is to say, in every
place whereas the husband hath several pastures to put his oxen
in when they come from their work, there the ox-plough is better.
For an ox may not endure his work, to labour all day, and then
to be put to the commons, or before the herdman, and to be set
in a fold all night without meat [food], and go to his
labour in the morning. But and he be put in a good pasture all
night, he will labour much of all the day daily.
oxen will plough in tough clay, and upon hilly ground, whereas
horses stand still. And whereas is no several pastures, there
the horse-plough is better, for the horses may be tethered or
tied [up], whereas oxen may not be kept: and it is not
used to tether them, but in few places.
horses will go faster than oxen on even ground or light ground,
and be quicker in carriage; but they be far more costly to keep
in winter, for they must have both hay and corn [grain]
to eat, and straw for litter; they must be well shod on all four
feet, and the gear that they must draw with is more costly than
for the oxen, and shorter will it last. And oxen will eat but
straw, and a little hay, the which is not half the cost that horses
must have, and they have no shoes, as horses have. And if any
sorance [injury] come to the horse, or he wax old, bruised
or blind, then he is of little worth. And if any sorance come
to an ox, and he wax old, bruised or blind, for [2 shillings]
he may be fed, and then he is man's meat, and as good or better
than ever he was. And the horse, when he dieth, is but carrion.
And therefore me thinketh, all things considered, the plough of
oxen is much more profitable than the plough of horses.
plough for peas and beans:
to plough for peas and beans were necessary to know. First, thou
must remember which is mostly clay ground and that plough first,
and let it lie a good space, ere thou sow it: because the frost,
the rain, the wind and the sun may cause it to break small, to
make much mould, and to rigge it. And to plough a square furrow,
the breadth and the depth all one, and to lay it close to his
fellow. For the more furrows, the more corn, for a general rule
of all manner of corns. And that may be proved at the coming up
of all manner of corn, to stand at the lands end and look toward
the other end; and then may ye see, how the corn grows.
all manner of corn should be sown:
In some countries [counties] they begin to sow peas soon
after Christmas: and in some places they sow both peas and beans
under furrow: and those of reason must be sown betimes. But most
generally, to begin soon after Candlemas is good season, so that
they be sown ere the beginning of March, or soon after. And especially
let them be sown in the old of the moon. For the opinion of old
husbands is, that they should the better coode and the sooner
be ripe. But I speak not of hasty peas, for they be sown before
good husband hath his barley-fallow well dunged and lying rigged
all the deep and cold of winter; the which rigging makes the land
to be dry, and the dunging makes it to be mellow and rank. And
if a dry season come before Candlemas, or soon after, it would
be cast down and water furrowed between the lands, that the wet
rest not in the rain: and in the beginning of March, ridge it
up again, and to sow in every acre five London Bushells, or four
at the least. And some years it may be so fortune, that there
comes no seasonable weather before March, to plough his barley-earth.
And as soon as he has sown his peas and beans, then let him cast
his barley-earth, and shortly after rig it again, so that it be
sown before April ... [much discussion on various types of
in March is time to sow oats, and especially upon light ground
and dry, how so be they will grow on wetter ground than any corn
else; for wet ground is good for no manner of corn; and three
London bushells will sow an acre.
it is to be known, that there be iii manner of oats, that is to
say, red oats, black oats, and rough oats. Red oats are the best
oats, and when they be threshed, they be yellow in the bushell,
and very good to make oatmeal out of. Black oats are as great
as they be, but they have not so much flour in them, for they
have a thicker husk, and also they be not so good to make oatmeal.
The rough oats be the worst, and it quitteth not the cost to sow
them: they be very light, and have long tails, whereby they will
hang each to the other. All these manner of oats wear the ground
very sore, and make it to bear quyche. A young husbandman ought
to take heed, how thick he sow all manner of corn, two or three
years: and to see, how it cometh up, and whether it be thick enough
or not: and if it be thin, sow thicker the next year: and if it
be well, hold his hand there other years: and if it be too thin,
let him remember himself, whether it be for the unseasonableness
of the weather, or for thin sowing. And so his wisdom and discretion
must discern it.
harrow all manner of corns:
these lands be ploughed, and the corn sown, it is convenient,
that they be well harrowed; or else crows, doves and other birds
will eat and bear away the corns. It is used in many countries
[counties], the husbands to have an ox-harrow, the which
is made of six small pieces of timber ... [lengthy description
of the harrow] ... This harrow is good to break the great
clots, and to make much mould, and the horse-harrow to come after,
to make the clots smaller, and to lay the ground even. It is a
great labour and pain to the oxen, to go to harrow: for they were
better to go to the plough two days, than to harrow one day. It
is an old saying, "The ox is never woe, till he to the harrow
go." And that is because it goes by twitches, and not always after
one draught .... [description of the horse-harrow] ....
The horses that draw these harrows, must be well kept and shod,
or else they will soon be tired, and sore beat, that they may
not draw. They must have hombers or collars, holmes tied about
their necks, tresses to draw by ....
go to page two of Fiztherbert's Rules.