Outdoor Work: The Plowman's Burden


The vast majority of men in Tudor England, some 8 in 10, spent their days working long-hours outside in fields, where they were often to be found plowing the land with the help of a hard-working team of oxen or horses. People plowed the land to help drain excess water away from crops, to keep the growth of weeds down, and to spread fertilizer in and about the field so their crops would grow nice and healthy. As such, plowing wasn’t an activity done once at the beginning of the planting season in Spring, but work that had to be done quite often, whether one was trying to cover up weeds or ensure that the field had a nice, even spread of fertilizing animal dung.


Plowing was hard work, and plowmen were respected members of their communities, known to be honest and charitable. In the image below of a plowman from the Luttrell Psalter, it is easy to tell how hard he is working, for he is not wearing a heavy cloak like his friend to keep his body warm. He is dressed for a day of hard work, for he must hold the plow steady as it bumped and jolted along the ground. The 16th century English poet and farmer, Thomas Tusser, wrote approvingly of these hard-working men, noting that “Good Husbandly ploughmen, deserveth their meate.”


Fields were first plowed toward the end of winter, and again throughout the coming months, so that peas and beans could be planted by the start of Spring in March, and barley could be sown in early April. The only month when the plowman wasn’t to be found behind his plow and trusty team and was often August, when he was busy helping the rest of the village with the work of gathering and bringing in the year’s harvest. The plowmen of Agecroft Hall would have had to work hard to provide enough food for such a large estate.

Sources

How to Be a Tudor: A Dawn-to-Dusk Guide to Tudor Life, by Ruth Goodman

Getting Dressed in the 14th Century - Ploughman, by Crows Eye Productions

Luttrell Psalter - Britannica

Tudor Monestary Farm - BBC Two

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