“View now with delight the works of your own hands, your Fruit-trees of all sorts, loaden with sweet blossoms, and fruit of all tastes, operations, and colors: your trees standing in comely order, which way soever you look.” - The Countrie Housewifes Garden, William Lawson, 1617
During the Tudor period, Spring was one of the most exciting times of the year for many people. Just as their church services and Palm Sunday would have reminded them of their Christian message of hope and rebirth, all around them greenery was shooting up and flowers were blooming, and while the days were getting longer they were also becoming warmer. But Spring could also be an anxious time for people, especially those who made their living by working the land, which was the vast majority of people back then. Over 90% of people farmed during the Tudor period. Spring was the time of year that determined how their Summer and Fall harvests would go, and whether they would thrive, or have to try and skimp by without a lot of food. Though the world was getting greener, there was nothing much for people to eat yet, and their reserves of grain and salted, dried, and smoked foods were running low.
At Agecroft Hall, Spring would have been one of the most busy times of the year. There were newborn lambs and piglets to raise, oxen and horses to be put to the plow for the first time, sheep to shear, and oats, barley, peas, and beans to be planted. Everybody had something to do, and there was not a whole lot of time to get it done. A 17th century calendar reported that, come the end of March, "This season well plied, set sowing an end, and praise and pray God a good harvest to send." Spring also contained one of the British quarter days, either Whitsunday or Johnsmas, that were when people would have traditionally paid their rents, settled their debts and other accounts, and either renewed leases or tried to find new jobs at a "gyst-ale," a hiring fair. People also strove to tie up any business or ongoing projects they had, as it was considered bad luck to "stradle a quarter" and carry over tasks from one quarter to the next.
All in all, Spring was an extremely busy time of year for the people of Tudor England, some of whom lived at Agecroft Hall. In the next posts, we'll see what kind of work and chores Spring would have brought men and women, and find out what kinds of work were done inside the house, as well as outside. Sources The Four Seasons at Agecroft How to Be a Tudor: A Dawn-to-Dusk Guide to Tudor Life, Ruth Goodman A Lancashire Calendar for 1631, by Kathleen R. Sands An Inventory of William Dauntesey