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Daily rations for a castle guard or medieval foot soldier.

Posted: Fri Apr 21, 2017 8:20 am
by Stuart Quayle
Good morning everyone

Can anybody help me please? I am trying to find contemporary sources or information about what the daily food and drink rations would have been for say a common 14th/15th century castle guard or foot-soldier. Does anybody know of any contemporary written accounts detailing such entitlements?

I am not going to say typical entitlements because they must have varied from Lord's retinue to Lord's retinue and whether or not they were on campaign etc.

This is for a schools science project. The little darlings are going to have to calculate how much food the castle administrators would have to keep in store to feed a retained castle garrison of 50 soldiers on a daily; monthly or yearly basis.

The only extant information I have so far is for Castle Rushen It was written in the Isle of Man statute book of 1422 AD that the people of Castletown or Peel were "to supply the Lieutenant of the Castle Guard with one loafe Bread, one gallon ale, and two candles per day in Summer and three candles per day in Winter, and reasonable of fuell every night, from Allhollowday till Easter".

Was anything written down in this respect during the War of the Roses?

Any help or information would be much appreciated. Many thanks in advance :)


Re: Daily rations for a castle guard or medieval foot soldier.

Posted: Mon Apr 24, 2017 6:57 pm
by Brother Ranulf
Very little has been written about peasant diet and the foodstuffs available on campaign or during garrison duty in the period you mention - there seem to be more sources for the 12th/13th centuries and I have been in correspondence with a prominent and helpful environmental archaeologist regarding low-status foods in that earlier period.

There is a strangely-written web page by Prof. Richard Abels (Professor of History at the US Naval Academy, which accounts for the extremely odd writing style), available here: ... istics.htm

Certain details are dubious - for example he mentions beer but he means ale, while the guesstimates relating to armies in 1066 are nothing more than that and should be considered unreliable evidence.

In general terms, though, his lists of foodstuffs are the same as those listed by Alexander Neckham in his inventory of castle supplies (late 12th century) and the Pipe Roll accounts of foods taken on the Welsh campaigns by Henry II. Bread would be a major element, presumably baked as and when facilities were available, with cereal-heavy pottage with pulses, cheese, preserved fish and meats such as bacon making up the available menu. Fodder for the horses/mules/oxen would also have to be considered. Henry II included "mash" in his supplies on campaign, meaning the basis of brewing ale.

Garrison duty in time of peace was universally hated, mainly because of the hours of tedious boredom and the reliance on preserved foodstuffs; a person can only stomach so much salted fish . . .

Your question about daily rations seems to be asking about the quantities of foods issued and I am not sure that anyone will ever be able to answer that, since quantities were not generally recorded other than for the aristocracy.

Re: Daily rations for a castle guard or medieval foot soldier.

Posted: Mon Apr 24, 2017 7:57 pm
by Stuart Quayle
Brother Ranulf, this is brilliant information - thank you so much :)

I am going to have a good read through it all and make relevant notes, as there are some good pointers in places, which I will use myself in my re-enactment activities. Certain calculations will be interesting and fun to pass on to the students.

What I am looking for are S.T.E.M. pointers for Year 6's right down to Year 2's school age. S.T.E.M. meaning the new way of teaching in schools by outward visits to local places of interest (castles being a perfect example), the students using 'Science; Technology; Engineering and Mathematics' to solve problems using calculations on site. That is where the calculating of castle foods supplies came in, but I do appreciate that those records probably don't exist or have not survived through the centuries.

We already have one good idea of getting the kids to calculate the amount/volume of Limestone Ashlar stone blocks to build the outer curtain wall of Castle Rushen, by getting them to measure the length of the wall using a Trundle wheel, x that by the breath of the wall measurement and again by the depth of the wall using a plumb bob and line (not forgetting to include the depth of the wall foundations - approx. 1.5 metres down).

A big thanks again :thumbup:

Kind regards