Sunday, December 04, 2011

The Household of Alice de Bryene

The widow lived on her manor at Acton in Suffolk from around 1400 to her death in 1435. Her detailed household accounts for 1412-13 survive. At one point her liveried affinity consisted of

2 maids
6 squires and chaplains
(Treated as one group for summer livery, and given 8s each for clothes)

A chamberlain
9 of yeoman rank
(8 yards cloth at just under a shilling a yard)

6 ranked as grooms
(liveries worth 5s)

These numbers probably include both the servants in direct attendance at Acton and those that served her as bailiffs and other officers at her other manors. Besides bailiffs at the other manors, she employed other receivers in addition to her general receiver, as well as rent collectors. Her accounts do not mention stewards for her outer manors, but this seems to have been normal practice in her lifetime. Her immediate household sitting down to dinner minus guests but including Alice herself seems to have been about 15 souls.

Her employees included a steward, a receiver, a butler whose duties included snaring rabbits, a baker and several bailiffs at her manors.

The small priory established under John Fastolf's will suggests how an immediate household of this size might be organized. There were to be twelve servants. Besides the chapel there were five departments. The chamber, kitchen and brewhouse each had one yeoman servant and a groom. The pantry and buttery were under a single yeoman and the stable had a groom. Two boys assisted at services, and there was a gentleman and attendant as well.

The larger household of John Fastolf at Caister included his steward and John Kertelyng, his clerk and general attorney and receiver (clericus, supervisor domini) among the generosi with his chaplain and two women who were apparently gentle servants.

His yeoman rank servants included his daughter's maid (ancilla), a household clerk, his butler, cook, baker, gardener, bailiff, his fisher and swankeeper (piscator et custos cygnorum), Kertelyng's servant and another female servant.

His sevants ranked as grooms included a chamber groom, two grooms of the kitchen, a clerk and one woman.

Alice de Bryene had an annual income of about £400. In 1419 she spent just over £35 on liveries, summer and winter. Household wages were £44, and food for the household £163. Miscellaneous household items such as candles, kitchen utensils and household repairs another £8.

Not all of the food was consumed by the liveried servants. Besides Alice herself, guests often ate at her table, and boon workers were fed by the household at harvest time. Even so, it's striking how much of the servant's compensation was in kind.

Interestingly, she seems to have kept her own wardrobe accounts: her steward refers to records of the amount of her payment of servant wages in "the papers of the lady".

1 comment:

Hugh Knight said...

Will, in general (not asking for this level of detail), what other major expenses would Alice have to meet on her income? Is this all? I don't see anything abut fodder for horses, just as one example, so I assume not. I'm curious as to her real discretionary income, of you follow me: Once all her obligations and expenses were met, what did she have left to spend?