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Info on the role of the reeve

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#1 Richard Drew

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Posted 25 July 2003 - 11:25 AM

as part of my enquiry into life in a medieval village i want groups of pupils to investigate the life of different characters - peasant, peasant's wife, lord, servant, reeve - and then feedback to the class on their findings leading to a debate on who had the hardest life and why.

trouble is i am having difficulty in finding many resources on the Village Reeve, and obviously i don't just want to tell the pupils about his role - it would rahter negate the whole purpose of the activity.

can anyone recommend any good websites, books or worksheets on this 'character'?
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#2 Carole Faithorn

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Posted 25 July 2003 - 11:56 AM

I'm not much help re textbooks - not up to speed with all the more recent publications, but try this website:

Page on manorial management and organisation from the excellent Medieval Source Book. The site is searchable; using 'reeve' I got this page of hits. I'll leave you to explore them ;)

#3 John Simkin

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Posted 25 July 2003 - 11:57 AM

I will be producing information on this in my proposed Medieval Village simulation. However, here is a brief description of all the official posts held in a village.

Estate Bailiff: The chief representative of the lord of the manor in the village.

Reeve: The officer responsible for the general management of the village. The reeve worked under the estate bailiff and was responsible for making sure the serfs did their labour service on the lord's demesne.

Messor: The officer who supervised the work in the fields.

Hayward: The officer responsible for the hay fields.

Woodward: The officer responsible for the woodland in the village.

Affeeror: The officer responsible for making sure that people paid the fines
imposed by the Manor Court.

Ale Conner: The officer responsible for controlling the sale of ale.

Pinder: The officer responsible for rounding up stray animals and putting
them in the pinfold.

Beadle: The officer responsible for maintaining law and order in the village.

Edited by John Simkin, 25 July 2003 - 12:00 PM.

#4 Richard Drew

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Posted 25 July 2003 - 03:00 PM

Page on manorial management and organisation from the excellent Medieval Source Book.

thanks ever so much Carole, this site will be very useful to me.

as i said, in the enquiry the pupils will be using textbooks, worksheets, pictures etc to research their character independently - so this kind of info is exactly what i am after.

many thanks.

Thanks for your posting too John - some characters i have not come across before, so they will get a mention in future!!!
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#5 JohnDClare


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Posted 25 July 2003 - 03:26 PM


A man appointed as an overseer of the manor, usually at Michaelmas for a term of one year. The lord had the right to select whomever he wished, but in some places, he was more democratically chosen by his fellow peasants. The position carried much responsibility and was not a popular one. If the manor should not meet expectations of production, the reeve had to make up the difference from his own allotment. For this reason it was thought to be a good idea to allow the peasants to choose the reeve. They were thought to be more willing to help him out with any shorfalls rather than let the full responsibility fall on one of their own friends.

Reeve: (O.E. gerefa; L. praepositus, prepositus)
1) A royal official, or a manor official appointed by the lord or elected by the peasants.
2) Manorial overseer, usually a villager elected by tenants of the manor.
3) Officer responsible for the general management of a manor (usually selected from among the manor's tenants).
4) The lord's official on the manor who supervised labour dues and renders owed by peasants.
5) Principal manorial official under the bailiff, always a villain.
6) The usual word for an O.E. official, including the scirgerefa (sheriff) and portgerefa (port reeve, town reeve); continued to be used in towns after the Norman Conquest (later sometimes interchangeable with "bailiff"), generally for the officials responsible for paying the king's or lord's dues.

The thegn would employ a reeve to manage the place for him. According to 'Gerefa'', a document that was written as a guide for reeves, these stewards were to uphold both the lord's rights (hlafordes landriht) and the customs of the holdings folk (folces gerihtu), thus ensuring that the community lived prosperously and harmoniously
Geoff Boxell, England on the Eve of the Norman Conquest
http://www.icteachers.co.uk/resources/ history/1066_england.pdf

One lovely literacy way to study the reeve with the pupils might be to study Chaucer’s reeve – you can infer many of his duties from the text, and you can see how his duties and supervising the peasants had made him a worldly-wise, tough customer:

Chaucer’s Reeve
The reeve he was a slender, choleric man
Who shaved his beard as close as razor can.
His hair was cut round even with his ears;
His top was tonsured like a pulpiteer's.
Long were his legs, and they were very lean,
And like a staff, with no calf to be seen.
Well could he manage granary and bin;
No auditor could ever on him win.
He could foretell, by drought and by the rain,
The yielding of his seed and of his grain.
His lord's sheep and his oxen and his dairy,
His swine and horses, all his stores, his poultry,
Were wholly in this steward's managing;
And, by agreement, he'd made reckoning
Since his young lord of age was twenty years;
Yet no man ever found him in arrears.
There was no agent, hind, or herd who'd cheat
But he knew well his cunning and deceit;
They were afraid of him as of the death.
His cottage was a good one, on a heath;
By green trees shaded with this dwelling-place.
Much better than his lord could he purchase.
Right rich he was in his own private right,
Seeing he'd pleased his lord, by day or night,
By giving him, or lending, of his goods,
And so got thanked- but yet got coats and hoods.
In youth he'd learned a good trade, and had been
A carpenter, as fine as could be seen.
This steward sat a horse that well could trot,
And was all dapple-grey, and was named Scot.
A long surcoat of blue did he parade,
And at his side he bore a rusty blade.
Of Norfolk was this reeve of whom I tell,
From near a town that men call Badeswell.
Bundled he was like friar from chin to croup,
And ever he rode hindmost of our troop.
A summoner was with us in that place,
ll.589—625 Scott Gettman's edition of the Canterbury Tales (Electronic Literature Foundation) http://www.canterbur...bury_tales.html

middle english version at http://www.luminariu...it/reevport.htm

There is a VERY FULL account of Chaucer’s reeve, compared to how a reeve ought to be, at

and a picture at http://www.luminariu...dlit/reeve.gif
though there is a much better picture (which I cannot find on the web) in my Options in History book, The Middle Ages (p.18)


These gobbets from the Rotherfield Peppard Manor Court Rolls (1350s) show something of the life of a reeve:

‘It is ordered that there remain in the lord’s hand [various plots of land] because there are no tenants. The reeve is ordered to answer for the profits… (15 July 1351)

At the last court it was ordered the attach William Seman, William Bolle and Thomas Reyner, villeins remaining outside the lordship without licence. The reeve has not done so, so he is ‘in mercy’... (15 Dec 1351)

[Various villagers] in mercy because they brefused to elect a reeve as they had been bidden. John Bakes, Robert Cobat and John Balet, villeins, refused the post of reeve. SO al their goods and chattels are to be seized. John Coksete, the reeve, is removed from office and William atte Grene is appointed in his place and took the oath… (30 Sept 1356)

Let the reeve be all the time with the serfs (peasants) in the lord's fields.....because serfs neglect their work and it is necessary to guard against their fraud......the reeve must oversee all work...........if they (serfs) do not work well, let them be punished. Written by Walter of Henley c. 1275

and see:
for a whole family of reeves!

Edited by JohnDClare, 25 July 2003 - 03:28 PM.

#6 Richard Drew

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Posted 25 July 2003 - 03:39 PM

wonderful John.

this in itself is probably enough to allow the pupils to produce a fabulous report.

of course they will also pick up on the fact that the reeve was also a peasant, and start to question whether his extra responsibilities brought a better or a worse life than other peasants.

:u star: :flowers: :beer:
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#7 Richard Drew

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Posted 25 July 2003 - 03:43 PM

looking again at some of your sources John, you'd almost think the Reeve had to be some sort of superman

(:whistle: perhaps thats why they chose Christopher Reeve to play the part :ouch: :ouch: )
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