One of the features of the Anglo-
The ceorls were the most numerous and, therefore, the lowest class. They lived and
worked almost exclusively on the land although some also lived in cities like York
and London. The ceorls were divided into smaller sub-
A peasant house. © BBC History
The geneatas paid a rent to their lord for the land that they occupied but they could also receive land as a gift if they gave good service. Lords might also demand other services from their geneatas, such as maintenance work, carrying messages, supply carts for general usage and even entertain their lord. The geneatas were also expected to pay church tithes. They may also have been required to give their theign a percentage of any crops that they farmed or even one of their animals such as a pig. However, any profit that they did make they could keep.
Kotsetlas formed the second subgroup. They paid for their land through supplying their lord with labour whenever it was needed so avoided any levy of rent. Like the geneatas they could profit from their own hard work but how often they got to spend any time on their own land depended on how frequently they were called to work their lord’s land instead, this seems to have varied from one to three days a week and would probably have been more during harvest. They also paid dues to the church although it was acceptable to pay in produce rather than coin.
Finally came the gebur. Of all the classes of free folk they clearly had the hardest bargain as they were entirely dependent upon their lord for food and protection. They paid for everything with their labour and would not have had much free time with which to improve their lot.
The relationship between lord and coerl worked both ways, however. There was a prescribed duty on the part of the lord to ensure that each of his ceorls had enough land to work according to their class and they were even to supply the peasants with animals such as oxen and sheep.
The line of distinction between the three classes seems somewhat blurred to us now.
Social progression was a fact of life for the Saxons and ability, as well as other
such qualities as bravery and loyalty, were often rewarded; sometimes handsomely.
It was a tradition in the shared culture of the various peoples that made up the
different strands of the Anglo-
There was one class below the gebur but it was not strictly speaking a sub-
Life must have been hard for the peasant classes of the Anglo-
As the Saxon world progressed many ceorls took up trades rather than the usual working of the land and became successful traders or craftsmen. Indeed, the Saxons appear to have been wonderful workers of precious metals and produced some items of genuine beauty as seen in the recently discovered Staffordshire Horde. Their social world must have been vibrant and robust as people of ability worked their way up to the next class, sadly it was all to come to an end in October 1066 when the Normans effectively robbed the Saxons of their inherent freedom and reduced the peasants to little more than slaves through the imposition of serfdom.
The Sorrow Song Trilogy © 2013 Peter C. Whitaker. All Rights Reserved.