Anonymous asked in Arts & HumanitiesBooks & Authors · 8 months ago

Chores of a medieval inn/tavern?

For a fictional story. What kind of chores would you have to do in an inn that serves food, drink, and offers lodging? I can think of a few but maybe I'm missing some. I'm trying to write a scene so I need to pick one chore/activity that fits best. Thanks.

7 Answers

  • 8 months ago

    Several of these answers are out right nonsense.

    The ones involving "fresh linens" for instance.  Cloth was an expensive luxury and was one of the luxury trades. So the idea that a medieval world is just like ours would immediately strike anyone who has read a little history is being poorly researched.  Even rich people would have brought their own sheets.

    Much of this would come down to the isolation of the Inn and the world in which it exists.

    Take something like firewood.  They'd use it for heat and cooking, so it seems simple to say "Oh they'd have someone chopping wood all the time."  Yet an inn in the city would simply buy wood, so your protagonist might just be chopping kindling and laying fires if the place is big enough to have more expensive rooms.  Most Inns would never provide private fireplaces. Now before you say "Oh that means a guy would be cutting wood to supply the rural inn," you'd have to consider how in England and many parts of Europe for instance, no commoner could just cut down trees at will, because any good sized community quickly burned through a lot of wood and lumber.   Miners had special dispensations, but the average commoner made do with fallen wood gathered from the commons. So your guy might spend his days gathering ******* or they might just buy them from someone.  This of course varied a great deal by period and population density. 

    You start to run into similar questions the minute you focus on any commodity they're selling.  Beer?  OK who brews the beer, because beer doesn't travel well and it'd be far more expensive to bring it in.  The average noble brewed his own. 

    Who raises the food?  Who slaughters those pigs?  Who hunts the wild game?( which like firewood isn't an endless supply in the real world.)

    Are they even working on much of a cash economy?  Much of the medieval world never saw silver or gold and payments were made in barter.

    Look, you have a couple of choices.  Write some bad to mediocre fiction, where you use the generic D&D/Lord of the Rings world, where everything just kinds of works just like our 16th century world and the economics are as vague as "Oh they export beer" or you go out and read a few history books.

    • Andrea
      Lv 4
      8 months agoReport

      I want my history to be as legit as possible to a Medieval-esque world. I mainly do research online for convenience, and often only come to Y!A for more specific questions. So I don't often look at books. Do you have any particular books you'd recommend for this kind of topic?

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  • Burgoo
    Lv 6
    8 months ago

    emptying chamber pots/buckets, taking care of travelers' animals and the inn's own animals, making bread, making beer, making cheese, cooking, cleaning, serving, prostitution

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  • Marli
    Lv 7
    8 months ago

    Basically the chores you do at home, but without the modern-day gadgets.

    You take care of your car and put it in the garage.  The ostler and groom took care of your horse and put it in the stable.  gas=hay.

    You greet the guests.  You cook and serve food and drinks.  You provide a comfortable (ie warm) and hospitable atmosphere and reasonably clean accommodations. Your medieval counterpart brewed the ale, grew the vegetables, raised the chickens, made the candles, bought what he or she did not grow or raise, hewed the firewood, rinsed the pots, platters, trenchers, jacks, etc., swept the floors, turned the mattresses and made the beds of the noble guests, provided the straw for the common guests to sleep upon on the tavern's floor.  The taverner or his wife kept the tally of wages and expenses and the amounts owed by the guests.

    Think of what hotel staffs do today, or what the servants of a stately home or a middle-class home in the early Victorian period (before the kitchen stove was invented) had to do.  If you live in Europe, you can visit such houses. There are documentary videos on You Tube about cooking Tudor style at Hampton Court Palace. Scale the meal down to more simple dishes and forget the gilded swan.  Read "The Time Traveller's Guide to Medieval England" by Ian Mortimer and any book shelved next to it.  Your library might have what my library has below.  Check the subject headings and the Dewey Decimal Classification number if your library is North American.  If not, ask your librarian to help you. Ask in any case wherever you are. Library staff need to feel useful.


    To My Lord Humungus

    You've made some good critical points. Now I'll make a few. 

    Yes, you would bring your own sheets if you afforded them. Not only were fine sheets a luxury, they were softer than the scratchy wool-linen cloth. But they would still go on the innkeeper's bed if you were not royalty and nobility, the folk who likely brought their own beds as well as their own pillows.

    The royals, nobles and high-up clerics would have slept in the houses of other nobles, or in the guest houses of monasteries. Those people would have suitable provisions for their own class and would make sure enough provisions were available before the king and his suite arrived. The lesser members of their retinues would have used the inns, and the servants doing the heavy lifting on those progresses would have found a place on the floor of whatever shelter was available.

    Ale, and later hopped beer, was brewed by the ale-house keeper or his wife, hence the names Brewer and Brewster in English. The monasteries and the lords had their own brewers and/or vintners (depending on whether the land could grow the grapes.)  What wine was not made locally was imported, the amount depending on the usual demand.

    The trees and the coal were owned by the lord or the king, as was the land and the village (if it did not have a charter) so the inn-keeper would need permission to even touch a branch.  But the lord made money from the local inns on his lands and in his villages, and a comfortable inn meant more custom. It also meant not losing respect because the secretary or servant who was travelling on his lord's business was likely to tell his lord what his accommodations at the inn in the village you owned were like. 

    And a traveller would pay in coin or with his lord's written credit. The people who traveled (monks, pilgrims, king's and lords' messengers and upper servants, merchants going to the great fairs in the large cities and overseas) did not barter unless they had something useful to the innkeeper. They made sure they had coin in their purse or they went to lodge in the local lord's manor, showing their own lord's letter of credit. The locals drinking the ale probably ran a tab until harvest, and they may have paid in goods and services. The people driving their animals and produce to market in the larger towns might pay for meals by bartering a goose or a bushel of turnips; but they would likely camp out with their animals and produce within eye- and ear-shot.

    The questioner asked about chores, and chores would have been the same sort as in a hotel or guest-house today: cleaning, cooking, serving, keeping the peace.  Even entertainment if the guests did not bring their music or dice and games with them.  The tools and methods were different, of course. There was also a difference between what a medieval traveller and a 21st century traveller would call acceptable standards of service and accommodation. We are used to expect what we are used to get. They did not have vacuum cleaners, kitchen stoves and refrigerators or a democratic society in the Middle Ages, but the work still needed to be done.

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  • Speed
    Lv 7
    8 months ago

    The chores would be the same as a modern boutique hotel with an in-house restaurant, made time- and place-appropriate.

    Room cleaning, including fresh linens(edit: point taken, so let's say fresh linens every few months), emptying and washing chamber pots, replacing straw on floors if used

    Washing bedding, hanging it to dry outdoors if it's warm and sunny, indoors if not

    Airing the bed itself, which is most likely straw-filled and has vermin

    Obtaining food for the kitchen, which means going to market or visiting area farms every two days or daily

    Cleaning game, poultry, etc. and butchering it into the desired cuts

    Baking bread daily, which may involve grinding the grain by hand if there isn't a local mill

    Making your ingredients, from butter to cheese, jam to sauces

    Brewing ale, possibly making wine or mead (beer is easy to get right, wine difficult)

    Building a cookfire and keeping it going about sixteen hours a day, which means hauling in a lot of wood--which needs to be split

    Scullery work, which is cleaning the kitchen and its pots and implements

    Cleaning the eating area, laying down fresh straw if used--it's likely to get filthy quickly, with mud and food debris

    Serving meals and liquor, and collecting payment

    Depending on the kind of place it is, prostitution of the lowest class of workers as needed, money going to the inn's owner, tips to the working girl or boy

    Being security or a bouncer, throwing out clientele as needed, stopping fights, etc.

    Providing a stable with feed and water, as well as a place to tie up the horses of travelers who aren't staying the night

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  • Amber
    Lv 5
    8 months ago

    That's where a thing called doing research comes into the picture. You have to hunt for the answer and use some common sense. 

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    • Andrea
      Lv 4
      8 months agoReport

      I often only come here asking questions for my stories when the *many* sources on the Internet have not proven sufficient for my more specific questions.

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  • Cogito
    Lv 7
    8 months ago

    It mostly depends on whether you're male or female.  If female, being a part-time prostitute was often expected.

    But generally, an employee would have to make the ale and/or cider, prepare and cooking food, stop fights, collect up the empty ale pots or refill them, make the customers pay for their food and drink, etc.

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  • 8 months ago

    I dunno.

    Brushing the floor, refilling the cup of booze, wash the tables and whatnot

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