Saturday, 27 September 2008

Word of the day - quirn

A quirn is a mill for grinding grain, the upper stone of which was turned by hand.
Quirns were hand mills, using them meant that people didn't have to take all of their grain to the miller and give the tythe to the landlord or church.
Last weekend I had the chance to watch again a fascinating programme about the life of one woman in mediaeval England - Christina a mediaeval life. She lived in the 14th century at a time of famine, in southern England. Almost in an aside the programme outlined how during the year that the famine was at its worst the landlords were actually making more profit.
It also offered us a story about how the abbot of St Alban's Abbey - no doubt worried because he was losing his part of the tythe - ordered that the quirn stones from everyone's house be taken away. He then built a patio with them. While the peasants could no longer mill small amounts of grain for personal consumption at least the Abbot could rejoice in his clever oppression every time he walked out onto his patio.
The church's preferential option for the poor came along only a few centuries later.