Meet Goodwife Joan of the barnschool at Kentwell Hall. She also has her son Cal with her. They are standing in the door of the great barn, you can see the barnsward behind them.
Joan rises early and breaks her fast in little melford. She may have chores to do before she comes to work – mayhap some mending for childer are hard on linen clothing (and her sewing is not that good ) Then there’s the walk up to the barn, which takes around 15 – 20 minutes, depending on how well little Rosie walks that day. As Joan is carrying Cal in a linen clout, and has at the very least her basket full of all she needs for the day, she does not travel fast anyway.
The basket will contain spare breech clouts for the babe, some sticky oats to see them through the day, as well as her sewing kit – snips, a wooden reel with four parts different linen threads, and a hole within for needles. She will always have some sewing with her so that she is never sat idle.
Once within the barn, the set up for the day is to layout the slates and count the pencils – they have a habit of disappearing into the straw on the barn floor. Then there’s the clay numbers and letters to set out, and the jugs must be filled with small ale for the childer. There might be time to fetch posset, and there might not. The younger childer play about the barnsward, or within the barn if it is wet. (Or in the puddles if they escape.) The older ones who have come to learn write out their letters and their numbers on the slate, learn their weights and measures, do some arithmetic (addition, multiplication by ways of halving and doubling and times tables) and when they have done their lessons, may play a game of chess or take the skittles out.
And that is pretty much the day. Pottage will be some time around midday and is taken from the sotlers, with bread as well. The babe needs changing and feeding, and may be laid down to sleep, and Joan will be on her feet much of the day tending to childer and visitors, and doing what she can to teach.
When the day is done, she wends her way back to little melford, after partaking of an evening meal with friends on the front sward, and is usually asleep as the light goes, for it’s tiring.
If you wish to meet Joan and the other tudors, this weekend is the last of the Great Annual Recreation, so get yourself over there.
Photo courtesy of Amys Kerr-Munslow.