New Abbey Cornmill

The New Abbey Cornmill is located by the Pow Burn in New Abbey in Scotland on land belonging historically to the Stewarts. It is water-powered and dates to the 18th century. Americans shouldn’t be confused by the fact that it’s called ‘corn’ mill. It was always designed to create oatmeal. “Corn” is a generic term for grain in the UK. There may have been a mill at this location as early as the 1200s as part of Sweetheart Abbey. The current mill was built later, but it is still known as “Monk’s Mill”. In the mill are examples of hand-powered grindstones, like those used since prehistoric times. Harnessing water to power mill wheels was a great step forward and dates in Britain at least back to Roman times. Even until the 1800s, country mills like New Abbey ground oats and Read more…

Daily Living in the Middle Ages

The tapestry to the right is The Triumph of Death, or The 3 Fates, a Flemish tapestry (probably Brussels, ca. 1510-1520), located now in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London. Depicted are the three fates, Clotho, Lachesis and Atropos, who spin, draw out and cut the thread of Life, represent Death in this tapestry, as they triumph over the fallen body of Chastity. This is the third subject in Petrarch’s poem The Triumphs. First, Love triumphs; then Love is overcome by Chastity, Chastity by Death, Death by Fame, Fame by Time and Time by Eternity. Pretty gloomy, eh? From a modern perspective, life in the Middle Ages appears not to have a lot to recommend it.  For example, for the majority of women, their lives consisted of unceasing labor, hand-to-mouth existence, a total lack of political representation (although that was not much Read more…