Some History of Medieval England and the Dalton family:


England: The Medieval Period in England was known to be from 1066 to 1603 A.D.


At the time the Domesday Book was compiled in 1087, there were only 18 towns in England with a population of over 2000. Many of these towns were originally Roman towns.


Dalton background:

“In 1086 in the Domesday Book, there are three places called Dalton. Dalton, near Wigan. Dalton in Furness and Dalton, near Kirkby Stephen. The name Dalton appears only as a place name, not a surname. It simply means "of the hill village". The earliest Dalton we hear of as a named man, is Michael of Dalton, the Abbot of Furness Abbey in 1136.


There is a tradition that there was a man known as Le Sieur de Dalton, who was the head of the village of Dalton near Wigan. He had two sons, one known as John Dalton and a second son, Symon, and a grandson, John Dalton, who was still alive in 1193. (These are Lancashire villages). It is also known that Le Sieur went with the Earl of Manchester, on behalf of King Stephen to treat with Henry II in France for his return to England in 1154. This man may have been called “Walter” and there is a tradition that when he finished his business in France, he secretly married Princess Jane, daughter of King Louis VII of France. He fled back to England, and was a Knight in Henry II's army that invaded Ireland. He settled in Meath, Ireland and founded the Irish Dalton’s, who called themselves D'Aliton or Daton”


So what was life for this Dalton family in the 11th Century:
Aristocracy owned % of the land

King and family 


Bishops and abbots





As you can see on the right, the upper tiers of the aristocracy held almost half of the land in England, while another half was held by 190 lay tenants-in-chief. Some of the holdings were huge, and a dozen or so leading barons together controlled about a quarter of England. Such estates were geographically scattered: 20 leading lay lords had lands in ten or more counties, and 14 had possessions both north of the Trent and south of the Thames.


The great majority of Domesday landholders came from northern France, but there were still a few Anglo-Saxons and Danes. Only one member of the old nobility still possessed sizable estates - Thorkill of Arden, who had lands in Warwickshire.


Many formerly independent Anglo-Saxon and Danish thanes and their descendants appear in Domesday as the under-tenants of Norman lords. One man called Toli held lands at Cowley in Oxfordshire until 1086 when he became under-tenant of Norman baron Miles Crispin Another, Saewold had kept property worth £10 in the same county but had to mortgage half to Robert d'Oilly.


However, there was one Englishman who occupied a place of the highest importance in 1086 - Wulfstan, Bishop of Worcester. At first a monk, he rose to become a schoolmaster, then prior, and in 1062, became bishop, an office he held until he died in 1095. Wulfstan was loved and respected by his community and by the people of his diocese. In Worcestershire alone the monks had more than a dozen valuable manors. Their wealth had not gone unnoticed, however their taxation assessments were fixed at a high level which caused problems in future years.


There were few castles and churches built in the 11th Century but those which survive today are a tangible link between the England of 900 years ago and the England of today. Most of the castles were built out of wood and consisted of a simple mott and bailey.

Parish churches constructed immediately after the Conquest are indistinguishable from those built just before in Anglo-Saxon England. They are not recorded systematically in Domesday which mentions only 147 churches in Kent, whereas other sources note at least 400. It does however give details about them such as how they were divided into fractions between different owners.


The manors were very diverse in size and although they appear from Domesday to be very typical; compact, centred around a church and separated by open land, they were not.

Instead, habitations in most areas of late 11th century England followed a very ancient pattern of isolated farms, hamlets and tiny villages interspersed with fields and scattered over most of the cultivable land. As in the Iron Age, over time the settlements gradually shifted or were abandoned or reclaimed. This is a pattern which is still retained in Cornwall today.


The system of landholding as portrayed throughout the Domesday Book was based on a rigid social hierarchy called the feudal system, imposed in England by William the Conqueror following his successful 1066 conquest. Rather than being owned, as is the case nowadays, land was held from a member of society higher up the social tree. At the top sat King William who granted land to tenants-in-chief - usually lords or members of the Church, in return for their assistance in the Norman Conquest. Next down the ladder came under-tenants who held land from the tenants-in-chief, and so it continued with the bottom of the ladder being occupied by peasants - villagers, bordars and cottars - who earned their opportunity to hold a small amount of land by working on the land of the lordship, and slaves, who held no land.


The basic unit of land in the Domesday Book is the manor; manors could be larger or smaller than just one village, but all consisted of land and had jurisdiction over the tenants. These were part of larger administrative subdivisions of land called hundreds (wapentakes in Danish areas of the country), which contained several manors and had their own assembly of notables and representatives from local villages.


Rents, Tax and Manorial Values:

The total value of the land in Domesday has been estimated at about £73,000 a year. The most common form of land ownership was under-tenancies, whose holders owed military services to their lords, and subsequently to the King. Another form was leasing or renting land for money, often large amounts. Thaxted in Essex, for example, was worth £30 in 1066 and £60 in 1086, but its holder had leased it to an Englishman for an annual amount of £60. The tenant was unable to pay and defaulted on at least £10 a year.


The value of an area of land and its resources was calculated according to size, with set values on each resource unit. In some areas, the values of the manors and their geld assessments are also connected, these are the figures in hides, virgates and carucates.

Domesday shows to some extent the cost of the Conquest on land values, which was particularly devastating in Northern England where many small villages were destroyed or damaged so badly their land values decreased by about a quarter since 1066 (these villages were noted as 'waste' in the Domesday Book). King William was partly to blame for his men's ruthlessness, but raiders from Ireland in Devonshire also had a bad effect on land values in the areas they passed through.


Justice was a valuable business in the Middle Ages. Domesday records that the yields of the soke (the jurisdiction) of a hundred or wapentake went to the holder of the manor. While the earl kept a third of the money, the king reserved two thirds of that made from justice in the manor.


Therefore, the value of a manor was an estimate of the money its lord would receive annually from his peasants, including the annual dues paid by a mill or mine, a proportion of the eels caught or pigs kept, etc.


The total population of England in 1086 cannot be calculated accurately from Domesday for several reasons: only the heads of households are listed; major cities like London and Winchester were omitted completely; there are no records of nuns, monks, or people in castles. The population of England at the time of Domesday has been tentatively estimated at between 1¼ and 2 million. However, these figures are much lower than the 4 million people there are estimated to have been in Roman times.


Lincolnshire, East Anglia and East Kent were the most densely populated areas with more than 10 people per square mile, while northern England, Dartmoor and the Welsh Marches had less than three people per square mile. This is because many villages had been razed by the conquest armies.




Agriculture - Domesday Land Use:



Pasture / Meadow







In 1086, 80% of the area cultivated in 1914 was already used for farming. The table on the right shows the extent to which land was being farmed, with other land being occupied by settlements, heath, moor and fen, and devastated land.


The figure in the entries giving the actual number of ploughs is the best guide to the agricultural capacity of the manor. A plough team consisted of eight oxen and either belonged to the lord who had peasants working them for him or belonged to the peasants themselves. Some areas of Sussex and Herefordshire were highly fertile and could support at least four ploughs per square mile, while the poor land of the North and the Somerset levels could only support one plough in every two square miles or more.

The arable land was used to grow wheat, barley, oats and beans. Domesday records over some 6000 mills to cope with the heavy work of grinding the grain; these were all water mills as windmills did not appear in England until the 12th century.


Pasture was land where animals grazed all year round. Meadow which was much more valuable, was land bordering streams and rivers, which was used both to produce hay and for grazing. Pasture was entered in Domesday less regularly than meadow and was measured in several different ways; In Essex size was estimated according to the number of sheep it could support, whereas in Sussex and Surrey, sometimes according to the number of pigs.


Sheep were of great economic importance. At Puddletown in Dorset 1600 sheep are mentioned. Other animals included in the records are goats, cows, oxen and horses, wild horses and forest mares. Bees were also extremely important to produce honey and wax.

Many of the references to fisheries in the Domesday Book are to weirs along the main rivers, but fishponds are also noted. A millpond at Stratford in Warwickshire is said to have produced 1000 eels per year; Petersham in Surrey rendered 1000 eels and 1000 lampreys.


But what if you want to establish a new town or village. What things do you have to consider when choosing a site?


It might be a good idea to position your new town or village near an existing castle. Castles are built for defense and contain knights and soldiers trained in weapons. This would give you good protection against raiders and invaders. Merchants also trade goods with castles and you might be able to trade with them as well. This will help to make your town richer and will attract more people to live there.


If there is not a castle nearby then it might be a good idea to position part of your new town or village on some high ground. You would then have a good view of the surrounding area and be able to spot possible attackers in plenty of time to prepare your own defense.


You think you have found the perfect spot, but is there a water supply nearby? Remember, there is no running water. Water has to be fetched each day from a river or stream and your people do not want to have to walk miles for it. A wide stream or river will also help to defend your town as attackers will have to find some way to cross it.


You have found a site with high ground that is near a stream. Your people will want to build themselves somewhere to live. Stone is the best building material as it offers the best protection against both attack and the weather. Having a good supply of stone will also allow you to build a wall around your town for added protection. Stone is also useful for throwing at your attackers and for making weapons.


Much of Britain in the medieval period was covered with forest so it should not be too difficult to find a site with a good supply of wood nearby. If there is not a lot of stone your people can make themselves houses from wood. You also need wood to make handles for axes and spears. But the most important thing about wood is that it is needed for making fires. A fire is essential for cooking, heating and for scaring off wild animals.


You have positioned your new town or village near a stream so there should be a good supply of fish. However, your people will not want to eat fish all the time and it is against the religion to eat fish at certain times of the year. You can send hunters out into the forest to catch meat, but you need to grow crops and vegetables as well. It is therefore important that there is some land that can be used for farming.



Town Walls:

Medieval towns were surrounded by a Town Wall. The town wall protected the townspeople but it was also a status symbol. It showed where the countryside ended and the town began. It showed that the townspeople were independent and it celebrated their wealth.


Most towns had plain walls of stone. They often had battlemented walkways. Towers were located at certain points along the wall. Town walls had gates and gatehouses. These gave the townspeople control over those entering and leaving the town. Spies or criminals might be arrested. Diseased persons could be kept out. Money (tolls) was collected at the gatehouses. (Tolls had to be paid on all goods brought into the town for sale. The money collected was spent on the town walls, bridges and paving the streets.)




Most towns had one long main street with narrow side streets. The main street was often used as the market place. Many main streets had a market cross. Public announcements were made at this cross. Punishments and executions were carried out here too.



Houses and Shops:

The gable or short end of the house usually faced the street because each family owned a narrow rectangular plot of land stretching back from the street. Behind the house there may have been other buildings, sheds, a well or a garden growing herbs, vegetables or fruit. In Ireland, most houses were timber-framed and had walls made of post and wattle with plaster on the outside. Roofs were thatched.


The ground floor, facing the street was often a shop. The goods sold in the shop were usually made in the house. Most shops were small, like stalls or booths. Lean-to stalls were sometimes set up on market day.               




The People:

Townspeople were merchants, craft workers or laborers.


Merchants owned ships and traveled to other countries. (A ship might sail from Ireland with a cargo of animal skins or woollen cloth. This might be sold in France. Wine would be bought and brought back for sale in Ireland.)


Craft workers usually worked at home. They spent their days making objects which they hoped to sell in their shops. Each town had carpenters, coopers, drapers, embroiderers, glovers, hosiers, furriers, potters, shoemakers, smiths, tailors and weavers. There were also bakers, butchers, fishmongers, grocers, poulterers and vintners.


The labourer owned no property and depended on others for work and for money.



The Church:

Religion was very important in the Middle Ages. Most towns had one parish church. It was usually a beautiful, big, stone building. It was a place of prayer but it was also used for important meetings as some towns had no town hall. Many towns also had monasteries.



The Castle:

Most towns had a Norman castle. This could be in the town or just outside it.

Farming dominated the lives of most Medieval people. Many peasants in Medieval England worked the land and, as a result, farming was critically important to a peasant family in Medieval England. Most people lived in villages where there was plenty of land for farming. Medieval towns were small but still needed the food produced by surrounding villages.


Farming was a way of life for many. Medieval farming, by our standards, was very crude. Medieval farmers/peasants had no access to tractors, combine harvesters etc. Farming tools were very crude. Peasants had specific work they had to do in each month and following this "farming year" was very important.


Farms were much smaller then and the peasants who worked the land did not own the land they worked on. This belonged to the lord of the manor. In this sense, peasants were simply tenants who worked a strip of land or maybe several strips. Hence why farming was called strip farming in Medieval times.


This reliance on the local lord of the manor was all part of the feudal system introduced by William the Conqueror.


A peasant family was unlikely to be able to own that most valuable of farming animals – an ox. An ox or horse was known as a 'beast of burden' as it could do a great deal of work that people would have found impossible to do. A team of oxen at ploughing time was vital and a village might club together to buy one or two and then use them on a rota basis. In fact, villagers frequently helped one another to ensure the vital farming work got done. This was especially true at ploughing time, seeding time and harvesting.


The most common tools used by farmers were metal tipped ploughs for turning over the soil and harrows to cover up the soil when seeds had been planted. The use of manure was basic and artificial fertilizers as we would know did not exist.


Growing crops was a very hit and miss affair and a successful crop was due to a lot of hard work but also the result of some luck.


In the summer (the growing season) farmers needed sun to get their crops to grow. Though weather was a lot more predictable in Medieval England, just one heavy downpour could flatten a crop and all but destroy it. With no substantial harvest, a peasant still had to find money or goods to pay his taxes. But too much sun and not enough moisture in the soil could result in the crop not reaching its full potential. A spring frost could destroy seeds if they had been recently planted.


The winter did not mean a farmer had an easy time. There were plenty of tasks to do even if he could not grow crops at that particular time.


Some estates had a reeve employed to ensure that peasants worked well and did not steal from a lord.



The lifestyle of peasants in Medieval England was extremely hard and harsh. Many worked as farmers in fields owned by the lords and their lives were controlled by the farming year. Certain jobs had to be done at certain times of the year. Their lives were harsh but there were few rebellions due to a harsh system of law and order.


The peasants were at the bottom of the Feudal System and had to obey their local lord to whom they had sworn an oath of obedience on the Bible. Because they had sworn an oath to their lord, it was taken for granted that they had sworn a similar oath to the duke, earl or baron who owned that lord’s property.


The position of the peasant was made clear by Jean Froissart when he wrote:


It is the custom in England, as with other countries, for the nobility to have great power over the common people, who are serfs. This means that they are bound by law and custom to plough the field of their masters, harvest the corn, gather it into barns, and thresh and winnow the grain; they must also mow and carry home the hay, cut and collect wood, and perform all manner of tasks of this kind.

Written in 1395


The one thing the peasant had to do in Medieval England was to pay out money in taxes or rent. He had to pay rent for his land to his lord; he had to pay a tax to the church called a tithe. This was a tax on all of the farm produce he had produced in that year. A tithe was 10% of the value of what he had farmed. This may not seem a lot but it could make or break a peasant’s family. A peasant could pay in cash or in kind – seeds, equipment etc. Either ways, tithes were a deeply unpopular tax. The church collected so much produce from this tax, that it had to be stored in huge tithe barns. Some of these barns can still be seen today. There is a very large one in Maidstone, Kent, which now has a collection of carriages in it.


Peasants also had to work for free on church land. This was highly inconvenient as this time could have been used by the peasant to work on their own land. However, the power of the church was such that no-one dared break this rule as they had been taught from a very early age that God would see their sins and punish them.


The Domesday Book meant that the king knew how much tax you owed and you could not argue with this – hence why it brought ‘doom and gloom’ to people.


After you had paid your taxes, you could keep what was left – which would not be a great deal. If you had to give away seeds for the next growing season, this could be especially hard as you might end up with not having enough to grow let alone to feed yourself.


Peasants lived in cruck houses. These had a wooden frame onto which was plastered wattle and daub. This was a mixture of mud, straw and manure. The straw added insulation to the wall while the manure was considered good for binding the whole mixture together and giving it strength. The mixture was left to dry in the sun and formed what was a strong building material.


Cruck houses were not big but repairs were quite cheap and easy to do. The roofs were thatched. There would be little furniture within the cruck houses and straw would be used for lining the floor. The houses are likely to have been very hot in the summer and very cold in the winter. Windows were just holes in the walls as glass was very expensive. Doors might be covered with a curtain rather than having a door as good wood could be expensive


At night, any animal you owned would be brought inside for safety. There were a number of reasons for this.


First, wild animals roamed the countryside. England still had wolves and bears in the forests and these could easily have taken a pig, cow or chickens. The loss of any animal could be a disaster but the loss of valuable animals such as an ox would be a calamity.


If left outside at night they could also have been stolen or simply have wandered off. If they were inside your house, none of these would happen and they were safe. However, they must have made the house even more dirty than it usually would have been as none of these animals would have been house-trained. They would have also brought in fleas and flies etc. increasing the unhygienic nature of the house.


The houses would have had none of the things we accept as normal today – no running water, no toilets, no baths and washing basins. Soap was unheard of and as was shampoo. People would have been covered with dirt, fleas and lice. Beds were simply straw stuffed mattresses and these would have attracted lice, fleas and all types of bugs. Your toilet would have been a bucket which would have been emptied into the nearest river at the start of the day.


Water had a number of purposes for peasants – cooking, washing etc. Unfortunately, the water usually came from the same source. A local river, stream or well provided a village with water but this water source was also used as a way of getting rid of your waste at the start of the day. It was usually the job of a wife to collect water first thing in the morning. Water was collected in wooden buckets. Villages that had access to a well could simply wind up their water from the well itself.


Towns needed a larger water supply. Water could be brought into a town using a series of ditches; lead pipes could also be used. Water in a town would come out of conduit which was similar to a modern day fountain.


Bathing was a rarity even for the rich. A rich person might have a bath just several times a year but to make life easier, several people might use the water before it was got rid of!


It was said that a peasant could expect to be fully bathed just twice in their life; once, when they were born and when they had died! Face and hand washing was more common but knowledge of hygiene was non-existent. No-one knew that germs could be spread by dirty hands.


London had a number of public baths near the River Thames. These were called "stews". Several people at one time would bath in them. However, as people had to take off what clothes they wore, the stews also attracted thieves who would steal what they could when the victims were hardly in a position to run after them!


Regardless of how water was acquired, there was a very real potential that it could be contaminated as toilet waste was continuously thrown into rivers which would make its way into a water source somewhere.


Families would have cooked and slept in the same room. Children would have slept in a loft if the cruck house was big enough.


The lives of peasant children would have been very different to today. They would not have attended school for a start. Very many would have died before they were six months old as disease would have been very common. As soon as was possible, children joined their parents working on the land. They could not do any major physical work but they could clear stones off the land – which might damage farming tools – and they could be used to chase birds away during the time when seeds were sown. Peasant children could only look forward to a life of great hardship.


For all peasants, life was "nasty, brutish and short."


Medieval manor houses were owned by Medieval England's wealthy - those who were at or near the top of the feudal system. Few original Medieval manor houses still exist as many manor houses were built onto over the next centuries. For this reason, you have to look at Tudor and Stuart manors to find where Medieval architecture existed and where it was 'improved'.


Medieval peasants lived in wattle and daub huts. The poverty of such dwellings was a sign as to where these people were on the social scale and their standing in the feudal system. No lord would have lived in such circumstances. Manors were built of natural stone and they were built to last. Their very size was an indication of a lord's wealth. By Tudor and Stuart standards, Medieval manors were reasonably small. By the standards of Medieval England, they were probably the largest buildings seen by peasants outside of castles and cathedrals. Such an example can be seen at Penshurst Place in Kent.


All lords would seek to impress other members of the nobility and the grander the manor the more self-important a lord might feel. Even the entrance to your manor was designed to make a statement about your importance.


What was life like in a Medieval manor house? For the lord and his family, tolerably comfortable. Though the comforts of a modern house did not exist, they would have had privacy from the estate workers. For the estate workers, a winter's night would have been almost certainly very cold and uncomfortable. At Penshurst, the Great Hall contained one large fire but the hall itself would have been very draughty. All those who slept here would have slept on straw. Washing facilities would have very poor (by our standards) and there would have been a very limited amount of time to wash as workers worked from sunrise to sunset. There were no obvious toilets at Medieval Penshurst Place - as would have been true in Medieval England as a whole, except in the monasteries. For the peasants who worked on the land, life was still difficult and the feudal system gave them no freedom. Even the lords of a manor were bound by the duties required by the feudal system - and manors could be taken from noble families who were deemed to have angered the king.


Most people in Medieval England had to make their own food. Food shops were found in towns but most people were peasants who lived in villages where these did not exist. In Medieval England you, if a villager, provided for yourself and farming for your own food was a way of life dictated by the work that had to be carried out during the farming year. You needed a good supply of food and drink. Drink should have meant water which was free from rivers but usually water was far too dirty to drink.


Most people in Medieval England ate bread. People preferred white bread made from wheat flour. However, only the richer farmers and lords in villages were able to grow the wheat needed to make white bread. Wheat could only be grown in soil that had received generous amounts of manure, so peasants usually grew rye and barley instead.

Rye and barley produced a dark, heavy bread. Maslin bread was made from a mixture of rye and wheat flour. After a poor harvest, when grain was in short supply, people were forced to include beans, peas and even acorns in their bread.


Lords of the manor, did not allow peasants on his land to bake their bread in their own homes. All peasants had to pay to use the lord’s oven.


As well as bread, the people of Medieval England ate a great deal of pottage. This is a kind of soup-stew made from oats. People made different kinds of pottage. Sometimes they added beans and peas. On other occasions they used other vegetables such as turnips and parsnips. Leek pottage was especially popular - but the crops used depended on what a peasant had grown in the croft around the side of his home.


The peasants relied mainly on pigs for their regular supply of meat. As pigs were capable of finding their own food in summer and winter, they could be slaughtered throughout the year. Pigs ate acorns and as these were free from the woods and forests, pigs were also cheap to keep.


Peasants also ate mutton. This comes from sheep. But sheep and lambs were small, thin creatures and their meat was not highly valued. People also used the blood of the slaughtered animal to make a dish called black pudding (blood, milk, animal fat, onions and oatmeal).


Animals such as deer, boar, hares and rabbits lived in woodland surrounding most villages. These animals were the property of the lord and villagers were not allowed to hunt them. If you did and you got caught killing these animals, you faced being punished by having your hands cut off. However, many villages did get permission from their lord to hunt animals such as hedgehogs and squirrels.


Lords might also grant permission for people in his village to catch dace, grayling and gudgeon from the local river. Most villages were built next to a river so these could be a good source of food even if they were small. Trout and salmon were for the lord only. Many lords kept a large pond on their estates filled with large fish. If a peasants was caught stealing from this, he would face a very severe punishment.


The villagers drank water and milk. The water from a river was unpleasant to drink and the milk did not stay fresh for long. The main drink in a medieval village was ale. It was difficult to brew ale and the process took time. Usually the villagers used barley. This had to be soaked for several days in water and then carefully germinated to create malt. After the malt was dried and ground, the brewer added it to hot water for fermentation.


People in most villages were not allowed to sell their beer unless they had permission from their lord. To get permission to sell ale at a fair, for example, you needed a licence which had to be paid for.


Food for the rich and poor varied enormously - as would be expected.





This was eaten between 6 and 7 in the morning. It was a leisurely affair. A lord might have white bread; three meat dishes; three fish dishes (more fish on a saint's day) and wine or ale to drink. This was eaten at sunrise. It would consist on dark bread (probably made of rye) with ale to drink.





This was eaten between 11 in the morning and 2 in the afternoon. A lord would usually have three courses but each course might have between four to six courses in it! There would be meat and fish on offer with wine and ale. It is likely that only small parts from each dish were eaten with the rest meant to be thrown away - though the lord's kitchen workers and servants might be able to help themselves if the lord was not looking!       This was what we would call a "ploughman's lunch" as it was eaten in the fields where the peasant was working. He would have dark bread and cheese. If he was lucky, he might have some meat. He would carry a flask of ale to drink. He would have this meal at about 11 to 12 o'clock.





This was eaten between 6 and 7 in the evening. It would be very similar to the dinner but with slightly more unusual dishes such as pigeon pie, woodcock and sturgeon. Wine and ale would also be available.   This would be eaten towards sunset, so this would vary with the seasons. The main meal was vegetable pottage. Again, if the family was lucky there might be some meat or fish to go round. Bread would be available and ale.

The Medieval Church played a far greater role in Medieval England than the Church does today. In Medieval England, the Church dominated everybody's life. All Medieval people - be they village peasants or towns people - believed that God, Heaven and Hell all existed. From the very earliest of ages, the people were taught that the only way they could get to Heaven was if the Roman Catholic Church let them. Everybody would have been terrified of Hell and the people would have been told of the sheer horrors awaiting for them in Hell in the weekly services they attended.


The control the Church had over the people was total. Peasants worked for free on Church land. This proved difficult for peasants as the time they spent working on Church land, could have been better spent working on their own plots of land producing food for their families.


They paid 10% of what they earned in a year to the Church (this tax was called tithes). Tithes could be paid in either money or in goods produced by the peasant farmers. As peasants had little money, they almost always had to pay in seeds, harvested grain, animals etc. This usually caused a peasant a lot of hardship as seeds, for example, would be needed to feed a family the following year. What the Church got in tithes was kept in huge tithe barns; a lot of the stored grain would have been eaten by rats or poisoned by their urine. A failure to pay tithes, so the peasants were told by the Church, would lead to their souls going to Hell after they had died.


This is one reason why the Church was so wealthy. One of the reasons Henry VIII wanted to reform the Church was get hold of the Catholic Church's money. People were too scared not to pay tithes despite the difficulties it meant for them.


You also had to pay for baptisms (if you were not baptized you could not go to Heaven when you died), marriages (there were no couples living together in Medieval times as the Church taught that this equaled sin) and burials - you had to be buried on holy land if your soul was to get to heaven. Whichever way you looked, the Church received money.


The Church also did not have to pay taxes. This saved them a vast sum of money and made it far more wealthy than any king of England at this time. The sheer wealth of the Church is best shown in its buildings : cathedrals, churches and monasteries.


In Medieval England, peasants lived in cruck houses. These were filthy, usually no more than two rooms, with a wooden frame covered with wattle and daub (a mixture of mud, straw and manure). No cruck houses exist now - most simply collapsed after a while as they were so poorly built. However, there are many Medieval churches around. The way they were built and have lasted for centuries, is an indication of how well they were built and the money the Church had to invest in these building.


Important cities would have cathedrals in them. The most famous cathedrals were at Canterbury and York. After the death of Thomas Becket, Canterbury Cathedral became a center for pilgrimage and the city grew more and more wealthy. So did the Church. Cathedrals were vast. They are big by our standards today, but in Medieval England they were bigger than all buildings including royal palaces. Their sheer size meant that people would see them from miles around, and remind them of the huge power of the Catholic Church in Medieval England.


To work on the building of a cathedral was a great honour. Those who did the skilled work had to belong to a guild. They would have used just the most basic of tools and less than strong scaffolding to do the ceilings. However, if you were killed in an accident while working in a cathedral or a church, you were guaranteed a place in Heaven - or so the workers were told.


Health and medicine in Medieval England were very important aspects of life. For many peasants in Medieval England, disease and poor health were part of their daily life and medicines were both basic and often useless. Towns and cities were filthy and knowledge of hygiene was non-existent. The Black Death was to kill 2/3rds of England’s population between 1348 and 1340.


In 1349, Edward III complained to the Lord Mayor of London that the streets of the city were filthy:


"Cause the human feces and other filth lying in the streets and lanes in the city to be removed with all speed to places far distant, so that no greater cause of mortality may arise from such smells."


No one knew what caused diseases then. There was no knowledge of germs. Medieval peasants had been taught by the church that any illness was a punishment from God for sinful behaviour. Therefore, any illness was self-imposed – the result of an individual’s behaviour.


Other theories put forward for diseases included "humours". It was believed that the body had four humours (fluids in our bodies) and if these became unbalanced you got ill. Doctors studied a patient’s urine to detect if there was any unbalance.


As important, no-one knew how diseases spread – the fact that people lived so close together in both villages and towns meant that contagious diseases could be rampant when they appeared; as happened with the Black Death.



Physicians were seen as skilled people but their work was based on a very poor knowledge of the human anatomy. Experiments on dead bodies were unheard of in Medieval England and strictly forbidden. Physicians charged for their services and only the rich could afford them. Their cures could be bizarre though some cures, including bleeding and the use of herbs, had some logic to them even if it was very much a hit-or-miss approach. One of the most famous physicians was John Arderne who wrote "The Art of Medicine" and who treated royalty. He was considered a master in his field but his cure for kidney stones was a hot plaster smeared with honey and pigeon dung!


Physicians would have had their own ideas as to what caused illnesses.


Those who blamed bad smells developed a ‘cure’ to make the bad smells go away.


Those who blamed bad luck would use prayers and superstitions.


Those who blamed the body’s four humours used bleeding, sweating and vomiting to restore the balance of the four humours.


When by some luck, a patient got better or simply improved, this was a sure sign that a cure worked. It also meant that the cure used would be used again. If it did not work on the next patient, this was the fault of the patient rather than of the cure.


Operations were carried out by ‘surgeons’. In fact, these men were unskilled and had other jobs such as butchers and barbers. The traditional red and white pole outside of a barber’s shop today is a throwback to the days in Medieval England when barbers did operations. The red stood for blood and the white for the bandages used at the end of an operation.


Operations could end in death as post-operative infections were common. Instruments used in an operation were not sterilized - as there was no knowledge of germs, there was no need to clean instruments used in operations. Patients might recover from small operations, such as a tooth extraction (though this could not be guaranteed), but operations that included a deep cut through the skin were very dangerous.


Some monasteries had cottage hospitals attached to them. The monks who worked in these hospitals had basic medical knowledge but they were probably the best qualified people in the country to help the poor and those who could not afford their own physician. By 1200, there may have been as many as 400 hospitals in England.




Cures from Medieval England:


For toothache:

Take a candle and burn it close to the tooth. The worms that are gnawing the tooth will fall out into a cup of water held by the mouth.


The cause of the Black Death according to Guy de Chauliac, a French doctor:


Three great planets, Saturn, Jupiter and Mars, are all in close position. This took place in 1345. Such a coming together of planets is always a sign of wonderful, terrible or violent things to come.



For evil spirits in the head:

For this, surgeons used trepanning. This was where a surgeon cut a hole into the skull to release evil spirits trapped in the brain. The operation might also include cutting out the part of the brain that had been ‘infected’ with these evil spirits. Incredibly, people are known to have survived operations such as these as skulls have been found which show bone growth around the hole cut by a surgeon – a sign that someone did survive such an operation if only for awhile.



For general illnesses:

People were told that a pilgrimage to a holy shrine to show your love of God would cure them of illnesses especially if they had some holy water sold at the place of pilgrimage. After the death of Thomas Becket in 1170, Canterbury Cathedral became a place of pilgrimage which brought even more wealth to the city. However, more people coming to the city also increased the risk of disease being brought in.



Blood letting:

This was when blood was drained from a certain spot in your body. The idea behind this was similar to trepanning in that it released bad blood from your body. The use of leeches was common for this but dirty knives were also used which only increased the risk to the patient.




This was where a physician identified that a certain part of your body was ill and it was cured by having red hot pokers put on it.




Astrology played an important part in many cures. For fever, one medicine book stated "A man suffering from fever should be bled immediately the moon passes through the middle of the sign of Gemini."


Law and order was very harsh in Medieval England. Those in charge of law and order believed that people would only learn how to behave properly if they feared what would happen to them if they broke the law. Even the ‘smallest’ offences had serious punishments. The authorities feared the poor simply because there were many more poor than rich and any revolt could be potentially damaging - as the Peasants Revolt of 1381 proved.


By the time of Henry II, the system of law in England had been improved because Henry sent out his own judges from London to listen to cases throughout all England’s counties. Each accused person had to go through an ordeal. There were three ordeals:


Ordeal by fire. An accused person held a red hot iron bar and walked three paces. His hand was then bandaged and left for three days. If the wound was getting better after three days, you were innocent. If the wound had clearly not got any better, you were guilty. Ordeal by water. An accused person was tied up and thrown into water. If you floated you were guilty of the crime you were accused of. Ordeal by combat. This was used by noblemen who had been accused of something. They would fight in combat with their accuser. Whoever won was right. Whoever lost was usually dead at the end of the fight.

In 1215, the Pope decided that priests in England must not help with ordeals. As a result, ordeals were replaced by trials by juries. To start with, these were not popular with the people as they felt that their neighbors might have a grudge against them and use the opportunity of a trial to get their revenge. After 1275, a law was introduced which allowed people to be tortured if they refused to go to trial before a jury.


If you were found guilty of a crime you would expect to face a severe punishment. Thieves had their hands cut off. Women who committed murder were strangled and then burnt. People who illegally hunted in royal parks had their ears cut off and high treason was punishable by being hung, drawn and quartered. There were very few prisons as they cost money and local communities were not prepared to pay for their upkeep. It was cheaper to execute someone for bad crimes or mutilate them and then let them go.


Most towns had a gibbet just outside of it. People were hung on these and their bodies left to rot over the weeks as a warning to others. However, such violent punishments clearly did not put off people. In 1202, the city of Lincoln had 114 murders, 89 violent robberies and 65 people were wounded in fights. Only 2 people were executed for these crimes and it can be concluded that many in Lincoln got away with their crime.


The longbow dominated medieval warfare. Medieval England not only saw the use of longbows in battle but of several types of bows – the short bow, the composite bow and the long bow. In the Hundred Years War, the long bow was used by the English to a devastating effect. The long bow was also effective in naval battles. At the Battle of Sluys in 1340, English archers poured a devastating longbow attack on tightly packed French ships that suffered serious losses. At the land Battle of Poitiers in 1356, the long bow was responsible for the deaths of 2,000 French mounted knights – the elite of the French army. In 1346 at the Battle of Crecy, English archers devastated the French who lost 11 princes, 1,200 knights and 30,000 common soldiers. The English lost just 100 men. In this particular battle, 20,000 English soldiers defeated 60,000 French soldiers. This single battle is taken as proof of how just effective the longbow was as a weapon.


The kings of England encouraged the use of the long bow by sponsoring tournaments with good prizes for the successful archers. All other sports were banned on a Sunday except for archery. This meant that at any particular time, England would have a large pool of experienced archers ready to be called up for war. Each English shire had to provide the king with a certain number of trained archers per year – this was enforced by law. Many lords also made archery practice compulsory. Those who failed to attend were fined which was encouragement enough to attend.


It is thought that the first long bow came from Wales and spread in use to England. Edward I had witnessed its use when he conquered Wales in the 1280’s. The long bow was about six feet long and made from a yew tree. However, a shortage of yew trees meant that ash, elm or wych elm were also used.


The arrows for this weapon were three feet long with broad tips when used against infantry when their armour needed to be pierced and narrow tips to pierce the plate armour used by knights. Arrows were made out of ash, oak or birch.


An experienced archer could fire an arrow every five seconds. This rate of fire combined with many archers could produce a devastating attack as the French found out in the Hundred Years War. The short bow, as its title suggest, was between three to four feet long with a medium range and less power than the long bow.


How powerful was a long bow?


One story told in medieval times was that an arrow fired from a long bow could penetrate four inches into oak. Recent tests have shown that this anecdote is true when the arrow is fired close up. From 200 metres, a longbow arrow penetrated over one inch of solid oak – more than sufficient power to penetrate the armour worn by soldiers. Plate armour gave more protection but could still be penetrated from 100 metres. The maximum range of a long bow was 400 metres but at this distance, it was far less effective.




The Crusades:

It is reported that some of our early Dalton Knights did in fact fight in the Crusades, they all returned safely to Lancashire.


The First Crusade played a very important part in Medieval England. The First Crusade was an attempt to re-capture Jerusalem. After the capture of Jerusalem by the Muslims in 1076, any Christian who wanted to pay a pilgrimage to the city faced a very hard time. Muslim soldiers made life very difficult for the Christians and trying to get to Jerusalem was filled with danger for a Christian. This greatly angered all Christians.



One Christian - called Alexius I of Constantinople - feared that his country might also fall to the Muslims as it was very close to the territory captured by the Muslims. Constantinople is in modern day Turkey. Alexius called on the pope - Urban II - to give him help.


In 1095, Urban spoke to a great crown at Clermont in France. He called for a war against the Muslims so that Jerusalem was regained for the Christian faith. In his speech he said:


"Christians, hasten to help your brothers in the East, for they are being attacked. Arm for the rescue of Jerusalem under your captain Christ. Wear his cross as your badge. If you are killed your sins will be pardoned."

Those who volunteered to go to fight the Muslims cut out red crosses and sewed them on their tunics. The French word "croix" means cross and the word changed to "croisades" or crusades. The fight against the Muslims became a Holy War.


Many people did volunteer to fight on the First Crusade.


There were true Christians who wanted to reclaim Jerusalem for their belief and get the Muslims out of the city. There were those who knew they had committed sin and that by going on the Crusade they might be forgiven by God. They had also been told by the pope that if they were killed, they would automatically go to heaven as they were fighting for God. There were those who thought that they might get rich by taking the wealth that they thought existed in Jerusalem. Any crusader could claim to be going on a pilgrimage for God - pilgrims did not have to pay tax and they were protected by the Church.




A Crusader knight:

The First Crusade had a very difficult journey getting to the Middle East. They could not use the Mediterranean Sea as the Crusaders did not control the ports on the coast of the Middle East. Therefore, they had to cross land. They travelled from France through Italy, then Eastern Europe and then through what is now Turkey. They covered hundreds of miles, through scorching heat and also deep snow in the mountain passes. The Crusaders ran out of fresh water and according to a survivor of the First Crusade who wrote about his experiences after his return, some were reduced to drinking their own urine, drinking animal blood or water that had been in sewage. Food was bought from local people but at very expensive prices. Odo of Deuil claims that these men who were fighting for God were reduced to pillaging and plunder in order to get food.


Disease was common especially as men were weakened by the journey and drinking dirty water. Dysentery was common. Heat stroke also weakened many Crusaders. Disease and fatigue affected rich and poor alike.


By 1097, nearly 10,000 people had gathered at Constantinople ready for the journey to the Holy Land. There was no one person in charge of the First Crusade. Urban II had made Bishop Adbenar the leader but he preferred to let others do the work and make decisions. They were four separate proper Crusader armies in the First Crusade but also a large number of smaller armies. However, there was no proper command structure and with the problems of communications at that time, it is possible that a command structure with one person in charge was an impossibility.


The first target of the Crusaders was the important fortress city of Nicea. This city was taken by the Crusaders without too much trouble as the man in charge of it was away fighting!


The next target for the Crusaders was Antioch - a strongly protected Turkish city. It took a seven month siege before the city fell. The next target was Jerusalem.


The attack and capture of Jerusalem started in the summer of 1099. Jerusalem was well defended with high walls around it. The first attacks on the city were not successful as the Crusaders were short of materials for building siege machines. Once logs had arrived, two siege machines were built.


A monk called Fulcher was on the First Crusade. He wrote about the attack on the Holy City and he can be treated as an eye-witness as to what took place.


Fulcher claimed that once the Crusaders had managed to get over the walls of Jerusalem, the Muslim defenders there ran away. Fulcher claimed that the Crusaders cut down anybody they could and that the streets of Jerusalem were ankle deep in blood. The rest of the Crusaders got into the city when the gates were opened. The slaughter continued and the Crusaders "killed whoever they wished". Those Muslims who had their lives spared, had to go round and collect the bodies before dumping them outside of the city because they stank so much. The Muslims claimed afterwards that 70,000 people were killed and that the Crusaders took whatever treasure they could from the Dome of the Rock.


After the success of the Crusaders, the Kingdom of Jerusalem was created and its first king was Godfrey of Bouillon who was elected by other crusaders. He died in 1100 and was succeeded by his brother Baldwin of Boulogne.


The capture of Jerusalem did not end the Crusades as the Crusaders wanted to get rid of the Muslims from the whole region and not just Jerusalem. This desire led to the other crusades.


Saladin and Richard the Lionheart are two names that tend to dominate the Crusades. Both have gone down in Medieval history as great military leaders though their impact was limited to the Third Crusade.


Saladin was a great Muslim leader. His real name was Salah al-Din Yusuf. He united and lead the Muslim world and in 1187, he recaptured Jerusalem for the Muslims after defeating the King of Jerusalem at the Battle of Hattin near the Lake of Galilee. When his soldiers entered the city of Jerusalem, they were not allowed to kill civilians, rob people or damage the city. The more successful Saladin was, the more he was seen by the Muslims as being their natural leader.


The Christians of western Europe were stunned by the success of Saladin. The pope, Gregory VIII, ordered another crusade immediately to regain the Holy City for the Christians. This was the start of the Third Crusade. It was led by Richard I (Richard the Lionheart), Emperor Frederick Barbarossa of Germany and King Philip II of France. These were possibly the three most important men in western Europe - such was the importance of this crusade. It was to last from 1189 to 1192.


Frederick was drowned on his march across Europe. He was 70 years of age and his death shocked his army and only a small part of it continued to the Middle East.


Richard, Philip and their men travelled by boat. They stopped their journey in modern day Sicily. In March 1191, Philip then sailed to the port of Acre which was controlled by the Muslims. This was an important port to capture for the Christians as it would allow them to easily land their ships and it was also the nearest big port to Jerusalem. Acre was besieged. Philip's men were joined by Richard's.


He had captured Cyprus first before moving on to Acre. The port could not cope against such a force and in July 1191, it fell to the Christians. However, the siege had had its impact on Philip - he was exhausted and left for France. Richard was left by himself. While in control of Acre, the Christians massacred 2000 Muslim soldiers who they had captured. Saladin had agreed to pay a ransom for them but somehow there was a breakdown in the process of payment and Richard ordered their execution.


Richard was determined to get to Jerusalem and he was prepared to take on Saladin. The march south to Jerusalem was very difficult. The Crusaders kept as near to the coast as possible to allow ships to supply them. It was also slightly cooler with a coastal breeze. Regardless of this, the Christians suffered badly from the heat and lack of fresh water. At night when the Crusaders tried to rest, they were plagued by tarantulas. Their bites were poisonous and very painful.


Both sides fought at the Battle of Arsur in September 1191. Richard won but he delayed his attack on Jerusalem as he knew that his army needed to rest. He spent the winter of 1191 to 1192 in Jaffa where his army regained its strength. Richard marched on Jerusalem in June 1192.


However, by now even Richard the Lionheart was suffering. He had a fever and appealed to his enemy Saladin to send him fresh water and fresh fruit. Saladin did just this - sending frozen snow to the Crusaders to be used as water and fresh fruit. Why would Saladin do this?


There are two reasons. First, Saladin was a strict Muslim. One of the main beliefs of Islam is that Muslims should help those in need. Secondly, Saladin could send his men into Richard's camp with the supplies and spy on what he had in terms of soldiers, equipment etc.


What they found was that Richard only had 2,000 fit soldiers and 50 fit knights to use in battle. With such a small force, Richard could not hope to take Jerusalem even though he got near enough to see the Holy City. Richard organised a truce with Saladin - pilgrims from the west would once again be allowed to visit Jerusalem without being troubled by the Muslims. Neither Richard or Saladin particularly liked the truce but both sides were worn out and in October 1192, Richard sailed for western Europe never to return to the Holy Land.


However, for Richard the adventure was not over. On his journey back to England, his ship got wrecked in a storm. He found that he had to travel through Austria. This country was owned by a sworn enemy of Richard - Duke Leopold of Austria. Leopold had originally been a leading member of the Third Crusade but he had been ridiculed by Richard who did nothing to stop his men making fun out of Leopold. They called him "the sponge" because he drank so much and was drunk too often! Leopold had lost a lot of prestige and now he had a chance to avenge himself. Richard was betrayed to Leopold who held him captive for two years until a ransom was paid for him. Richard arrived home in 1194.


Richard was known as the "Lionheart" by his people. Even the Muslims praised him. The Muslim writer Baha wrote about Richard while the Third Crusade was going on:


"......a very powerful man of great courage........a king of wisdom, courage and energy.....brave and clever."




The Black Death:

Did any of our Dalton family die from the Black Death? So far we have no record of this. Although there was Black Death reported in Lancashire in 1348-9. Maybe they were just lucky!


In Medieval England, the Black Death was to kill 1.5 million people out of an estimated total of 4 million people between 1348 and 1350. No medical knowledge existed in Medieval England to cope with the disease. After 1350, it was to strike England another six times by the end of the century. Understandably, peasants were terrified at the news that the Black Death might be approaching their village or town.


The Black Death is the name given to a disease called the bubonic plague which was rampant during the Fourteenth Century. In fact, the bubonic plague affected England more than once in that century but its impact on English society from 1348 to 1350 was terrible. No amount of medical knowledge could help England when the bubonic plague struck. It was also to have a major impact on England’s social structure which lead to the Peasants Revolt of 1381.


The Black Death was caused by fleas carried by rats that were very common in towns and cities. The fleas bit into their victims literally injecting them with the disease. Death could be very quick for the weaker victims.


It symptoms were described in 1348 by a man called Boccaccio who lived in Florence, Italy:


"The first signs of the plague were lumps in the groin or armpits. After this, livid black spots appeared on the arms and thighs and other parts of the body. Few recovered. Almost all died within three days, usually without any fever."

Written evidence from the time indicates that nearly all the victims died within three days though a small number did last for four days.


Why did the bubonic plague spread so quickly?


In towns and cities people lived very close together and they knew nothing about contagious diseases. Also the disposal of bodies was very crude and helped to spread the disease still further as those who handled the dead bodies did not protect themselves in any way.


The filth that littered streets gave rats the perfect environment to breed and increase their number. It is commonly thought that it was the rats that caused the disease. This is not true – the fleas did this. However, it was the rats that enabled the disease to spread very quickly and the filth in the streets of our towns and cities did not help to stop the spread of the disease.


Lack of medical knowledge meant that people tried anything to help them escape the disease. One of the more extreme was the flagellants. These people wanted to show their love of God by whipping themselves, hoping that God would forgive them their sins and that they would be spared the Black Death.


The Black Death had a huge impact on society. Fields went unploughed as the men who usually did this were victims of the disease. Harvests would not have been brought in as the manpower did not exist. Animals would have been lost as the people in a village would not have been around to tend them.


Therefore whole villages would have faced starvation. Towns and cities would have faced food shortages as the villages that surrounded them could not provide them with enough food. Those lords who lost their manpower to the disease, turned to sheep farming as this required less people to work on the land. Grain farming became less popular – this, again, kept towns and cities short of such basics as bread. One consequence of the Black Death was inflation – the price of food went up creating more hardship for the poor. In some parts of England, food prices went up by four times.


How did peasants respond?


Those who survived the Black Death believed that there was something special about them – almost as if God had protected them. Therefore, they took the opportunity offered by the disease to improve their lifestyle.


Feudal law stated that peasants could only leave their village if they had their lord’s permission. Now many lords were short of desperately needed labour for the land that they owned. After the Black Death, lords actively encouraged peasants to leave the village where they lived to come to work for them. When peasants did this, the lord refused to return them to their original village.


Peasants could demand higher wages as they knew that a lord was desperate to get in his harvest.


So the government faced the prospect of peasants leaving their villages to find a better ‘deal’ from a lord thus upsetting the whole idea of the Feudal System which had been introduced to tie peasants to the land. Ironically, this movement by the peasants was encouraged by the lords who were meant to benefit from the Feudal System.


To curb peasants roaming around the countryside looking for better pay, the government introduced the Statute of Labourers in 1351 that stated:


No peasants could be paid more than the wages paid in 1346. No lord or master should offer more wages than paid in 1346. No peasants could leave the village they belonged to.

Though some peasants decided to ignore the statute, many knew that disobedience would lead to serious punishment. This created great anger amongst the peasants which was to boil over in 1381 with the Peasants Revolt. Hence, it can be argued that the Black Death was to lead to the Peasants Revolt.


The Black Death wreaked havoc throughout Medieval England. The Black Death killed one in three people and was to have a direct link to the Peasants Revolt of 1381. ‘Cures’ for the Black Death went from the absurd to having a degree of common sense about them. Regardless of this, the casualty figures for the Black Death were massive.



Vinegar and water treatment:

If a person gets the disease, they must be put to bed. They should be washed with vinegar and rose water



Lancing the buboes:

The swellings associated with the Black Death should be cut open to allow the disease to leave the body. A mixture of tree resin, roots of white lilies and dried human excrement should be applied to the places where the body has been cut open.




The disease must be in the blood. The veins leading to the heart should be cut open. This will allow the disease to leave the body. An ointment made of clay and violets should be applied to the place where the cuts have been made.




We should not eat food that goes off easily and smells badly such as meat, cheese and fish. Instead we should eat bread, fruit and vegetables




The streets should be cleaned of all human and animal waste. It should be taken by a cart to a field outside of the village and burnt. All bodies should be buried in deep pits outside of the village and their clothes should also be burnt.



Pestilence medicine:

Roast the shells of newly laid eggs. Ground the roasted shells into a powder. Chop up the leaves and petals of marigold flowers. Put the egg shells and marigolds into a pot of good ale. Add treacle and warm over a fire. The patient should drink this mixture every morning and night.




Place a live hen next to the swelling to draw out the pestilence from the body. To aid recovery you should drink a glass of your own urine twice a day.



The Hundred Years War:

The Hundred Years' War (French: Guerre de Cent Ans) was a prolonged conflict lasting from 1337 to 1453 between two royal houses for the French throne, which was vacant with the extinction of the senior Capetian line of French kings. The two primary contenders were the House of Valois and the House of Plantagenet, also known as the House of Anjou. The House of Valois claimed the title of King of France, while the Plantagenets from England claimed to be Kings of France and England. Plantagenet Kings were the 12th century rulers of the Kingdom of England, and had their roots in the French regions of Anjou and Normandy. French soldiers fought on both sides, with Burgundy and Aquitaine providing notable support for the Plantagenet side.


The conflict lasted 116 years but was punctuated by several periods of peace, before it finally ended in the expulsion of the Plantagenets from France (except the Pale of Calais). The war was a victory for the house of Valois, who succeeded in recovering the Plantagenet gains made initially and expelling them from the majority of France by the 1450s.


Under Henry II, the lands owned by England in France became even larger and the kings who followed Henry found the land they owned in France too large and difficult to control. By 1327, when Edward III became king, England only controlled two areas of France - Gascony in the south and Ponthieu in the north.


In 1328, Charles IV of France died. Charles did not have any sons to take over his land and all his brothers were dead. He did have a sister called Isabella. She was the mother of Edward III and Edward believed that because of this, he should be king of France. However, the French decided that a cousin of Charles, Philip, should be crowned king.


Edward was furious but he was not in a position to do anything in the late 1320’s. By 1337 he was ready to fight for what he believed was his and he declared war on Philip. Edward was not only willing to fight for what he believed was his - the crown of France - but also he feared that Philip was a threat to his possessions in France - Gascony and Ponthieu.


Edward now had to raise an army. There were men who looked forward to fighting abroad in an army as it gave them the opportunity to plunder treasure and bring things back to England which could make them rich. However, many men were not keen on fighting as they were usually more concerned about farming. A war in the autumn could be a disaster as this was harvest time.


The feudal system meant that knights had to provide the king with soldiers when the king demanded them. However, war had moved on from the time of the Battle of Hastings and the longbow was now the most feared of weapons and not the knight on horseback. The king's officials went around England looking for skilled archers. All young men in medieval villages were expected to practice archery so there were many skilled archers to be found. It was left to a village to decide who would actually go to fight but the village as a whole would have to look after the family or families affected by someone leaving. Those who went were paid three pence a day.


Armies were very expensive. Fighting abroad made them even more expensive to run. This problem could be got around by making a local area in France, which was under your control, pay a 'tribune' to you. This would keep your costs down. In return for paying a tribune, the area concerned was given a promise that the troops there would behave themselves and would not damage homes, steal crops and kill animals. In this sense, paying a tribune was similar to buying protection.


After the Hundred Years Wars, our Dalton family lived in relatively peace in Byspham and then at Thurnham Hall, north of Dalton & Byspham. Thurnham Hall was a very large Manor House with thousands of acres of land.


It was after 1552 when a descendant of these Thurnham Daltons, Roger Dalton bought land in Witney, Oxfordshire to raise sheep and use the wool for profit.


So there you have it - The Dalton family in medieval England!