An archaeological approach to the development of the late medieval peasant house

Mark Gardiner

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    Archaeological excavation has provided an alternative source of evidence for the development of the late medieval peasant house. It is argued that whilst there was a significant change in building techniques in the decades around 1200 with the adoption of ground-set timbers, the most important factor which led to the survival of houses was a fall in real wages during the thirteenth century. This encouraged peasants to repair existing buildings, rather than replace them with new ones. Alternative traditions of building are also investigated. Stone construction was adopted in a number of areas of England, but in spite of the durability of the material, few medieval peasant buildings of this type have survived in use because of the failure to use lime mortar. Decisions about whether to invest in a building’s renovation will depend on the capital initially expended upon it. This interpretation is considered against the data from the fifteenth century and found to conform satisfactorily. Its implications are considered for the period between 1200 and 1350. Data collected from archaeological excavations combined with the results of dendrochronology on a growing number of closely dated standing buildings suggest that there was a significant ‘cull’ of houses in the period after 1350 as new dwellings were constructed.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)16–28
    Number of pages13
    JournalVernacular Architecture
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - Dec 2014


    • peasant house medieval archaeology

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Archaeology


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