Occupations

Medieval Occupations

The Medieval Occupations of the Middle Ages have left their mark on our lives today. Many of the old occupations live on in many of our current surnames. Lower class people in the Medieval era took their names from their occupations. To take on many Medieval occupations it was usually necessary to join a guild as an apprentice to learn the craft for more information see Medieval Guilds. A description of Medieval roles and occupations are as follows:

  • ACROBAT - An Acrobat was a popular Medieval entertainer
  • ARMORER - A Medieval Armorer held an important occupation in the Medieval workforce. Armor had to be uniquely made to fit its wearer and was considered one of the specialist.
  • APOTHECARY - An Apothecary dispensed remedies made from herbs, plants and roots. Medieval physicians were expensive and a priest often held this occupation, often the only recourse for sick, poor people.
  • ARTIST - Artists were employed in the later Medieval era by kings and nobles. At first an artist painted heraldic designs on early furniture and then it became fashionable for portraits to be painted.
  • ASTROLOGER - An astrologer studied the stars and planets but regarded as a mystical person.
  • ATILLIATOR - The occupation of a Castle Atilliator was to make crossbows
  • BAKER - Bread was a daily staple of Medieval life, and good bakers were employed by Nobles in their castles.
  • BARBER - A Barber had many occupations in relation to personal care. Barbers would cut hair but would also serve as dentists, surgeons and blood-letters.
  • BLACKSMITH - The Blacksmith was one of the most important, albeit lowly, occupations of the Medieval era. Blacksmiths forged weapons, sharpened weapons, repaired armor.
  • BOTTLER - A Bottler had a responsible occupation and was in charge of the Bottlery which was intended for storing and dispensing wines and other expensive provisions.
  • BUTLER - The Butler was responsible for the castle cellar and was in charge of large butts of beer. The room in the castle called the Buttery was intended for storing and dispensing beverages, especially ale
  • BOWER OR BOWYER - The Bowyer manufactured bows, arrows and crossbows
  • CANDLEMAKER - The Candlemaker made candles to light the castle. Candles were supplemented by lighting from torches, lanterns and rush dips. An 11th century Candlemaker called Graham Overhill is credited with inventing a candle - clock. A candle was produced with twelve lines on it. When lit at the top of the hour, the candle would burn from line to line at the rate of one hour for each line. The Medieval clock!
  • CARPENTER - The occupation of the Carpenter was diverse. Carpenters built furniture, roofing, siege engines and wood panelling. Carpenter: a skilled craftsman who shaped or made things of wood. Carpenters were highly skilled and considered to be elite tradesmen
  • CASTELLAN - Castellan was the occupation of the person who had been appointed as Custodian, or in charge of, the castle, during the family's absence.
  • CHAMBERLAIN - The title originated with an officer of a royal household who was responsible for the Chamber, which included the administration of the king's household's budget. This occupation was later extended to collecting revenues and paying expenses
  • CHANCELLOR - A chancellor was a secretary to a Noble or Royal person
  • CHAPLAIN - The Chaplain was responsible for the religious activities of a castle servants and Men at arms. The duties might also include that of a clerk and keeping accounts. A Priest would usually looked after the spiritual needs and confessions of the Nobles and their families
  • CLERK - A Clerk was employed to keep accounts for various businesses
  • CLOTHIER - Clothiers made clothes for the nobles and required having a knowledge of various fine and expensive materials
  • COOK - Cook was employed in the castle kitchens roasting, broiling, and baking food in the fireplaces and ovens.
  • CORDWAINER - A Cordwainer was a Shoemaker or Cobbler, a craftsman who made shoes
  • COTTAR - A Cottar was one of the lowest peasant occupations, undertaken by the old or infirm, who had a series of low duties including swine-herd, prison guard and menial tasks
  • DITCHER - Ditcher a laborer who dug castle moats and foundations
  • EWERER - A Ewerer brought and heated water for the noble
  • FLETCHER - The Fletcher crafted and manufactured bows and the flights of arrows
  • GARDENER - The Medieval Gardener needed a knowledge of herbs and plants. A Gardeners work was critical to the safety and protection of a castle - castle walls had to be kept clear of ivy or anything else that could be used to climb the castle walls and gardeners were expected to dig defensive ditches
  • HERALD OR HARKER - A Herald was a knights assistant and an expert adviser on heraldry. The Herald (or Harker) would declare announcements on behalf of the King or Noble to the public. Normally this was done on a given day when the public would assemble at the base of a castle tower or in the town square and the Herald would shout out the news
  • HERBALIST - A Herbalist was usually a member of a religious order such as a monk or friar who would plant and maintain medicinal plants, roots and herbs.
  • JANITOR - The Janitor, or Porter, was responsible for the main Castle entrance and for the guardrooms. The Janitor also insured that no one entered or left the castle without permission
  • JESTER - The Jester also referred to as the Fool entertained the court
  • KEEPER OF THE WARDROBE - The room in the castle called the wardrobe was intended as a dressing room and storage room for clothes and used by Lord of the castle. The Keeper of the Wardrobe was in charge of the tailors and laundress.
  • KNIGHT - It was the duty of a Knight to learn how to fight and so serve their Lord according to the Code of Chivalry. Weapon practise included enhancing skills in the two-handed sword, battle axe, mace, dagger and lance.
  • MESSENGER - Messengers were lesser diplomats of the lord who carried receipts, letters, and commodities. The occupation of a Messenger was often dangerous as if the message delivered was less than favorable the Messenger was often the victim of the incurred anger of the recipient leading to the saying "Don't kill the messenger". Messengers were eventually made exempt from punishment by Law due to the news they delivered.
  • MINSTREL - Minstrels provided Castle entertainment in the form of singing and playing musical instruments. Minstrels often would record the deeds of heroic knights in songs giving the knight great publicity and establishing respect and additional status
  • MONEYLENDER - Moneylenders were the Medieval bankers.
  • PAGE - The life of a castle Page would start at a very young age - seven years old. A Page was junior to a Squire. It was the duty of a Page to wait at table, care for the Lord's clothes and assist them in dressing. The Page was provided with a uniform of the colors and livery of the Lord.
  • PAINTER - Medieval castles ere highly colorful and the services of painters were often required
  • PORTER - The Janitor, or Porter, was responsible for the main Castle entrance and for the guardrooms. The Porter also insured that no one entered or left the castle without permission
  • PHYSICIAN - Physicians were a very highly regarded and respected occupation. Bleeding, lancing and surgical procedures were practiced.
  • POTTER - Potters were craftsmen of in clay, porcelain and early forms of ceramics. Basically they produced pots for cooking and storage and occasionally worked as sculptors. Potters were members of Medieval craft guilds
  • REEVE - The Reeve supervised all work on a lord's property. The Reeve ensured that everyone began and stopped work on time
  • SCRIBE - Most Scribes came from religious establishments where reading, writing and comprehension skills were learned.
  • SCULLION - Scullions were the lowest of kitchen workers whose duties included washing and cleaning the kitchen
  • SHERIFF - The sheriff was an important official of county who was responsible for executing judicial duties
  • SHOEMAKER - A Shoemaker or Cobbler or Cordwainer was a craftsman who made shoes
  • SPINSTER - Spinster was the name of the occupation given to a woman who earned her living spinning yarn. The Spinning Wheel was invented during the Medieval era. Later the term Spinster was used to describe any unmarried woman
  • STEWARD - The Steward took care of the castle estate and household administration including the events in the Great Hall. This occupation was also referred to as a Seneschal
  • SQUIRE - A Squire was junior to a Knight. It was the duty of a Squire to learn about the Code of Chivalry, the rules of Heraldry, horsemanship and practise the use of weapons. It was also their duty to enter into the social life of the castle and learn courtly etiquette, music and dancing. The Squire served in this role for seven years and became a Knight at the age of twenty-one. Sometimes knighthood was conferred earlier as the reward for bravery on the battlefield
  • WATCHMAN - Watchmen was an official at the castle responsible for security. Also night-watchman. Patrols the city, City Watchman.

Medieval Occupations Link

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