Ah, the homeowners association, which dictates everything from the shape of your shrubs to the color of your house. Such meticulously planned communities are generally thought to be a modern phenomenon, but a recent archaeological excavation near England’s Hamme-on-Rye unearthed a 14th-century document that suggests otherwise:
A covenant set to hand this Twelfth Day of June in the year of our Lord 1365 between the Manor by the Meadow Association of Freeholders and the owner in fee symple. Whereas the owner hath entered into this covenant in order to enjoye the especial liffestyle offered by the Manor and to avoid all unnecessary discord, the owner doth hereby acknowledge and acquiesce to certaine rules to ensure the faithful and serene enjoyment of the properties hereby governed, to witte:
Colour Of Abode
In the interests of achieving a pleasing harmony and a clene appearance for the community, the colour of the exterior of each abode shall not be changed without leve. If leve be granted, the abode may then be peynted only with one of the following colours: riverbed clay grey, cow dung brown or farm field burnt umber.
A balliff charged with keeping the peace is authorized to settle disputes both publick and domestick. Manor hath further entered into contract with the Guild of Sorcerers to provide 24-hour, state-of-the-arte security to ward off the predations of trolls, hobgoblins and Frenchmen.
Each abode shalt be provided with an exterior barrel. Said barrel must be kept full of water to assist in the dousing of fires whether started by the hand of man or mouth of dragon. Barrel water must not be used for drinking, bathing infants or drouning witches.
Manor hath provided torches throughout the community for the convenience of all. However, all torches must be extinguished by curfew and not reignited until the following dusk so as not to obscure viewing of God’s celestial firmament.
Manor doth operate a clinic at the barbershoppe to provide physic and the healing artes to all residents. Bledeing, leeches and the treatment of excess humours are available upon request. Herbes and medicines will be administered to those possessed of the supplementary potion plan. (Please note that neither exorcism nor treatment for curses is available on site.)
No owner is permitted to conduct a pryvat enterprise on the premises, whether as taverne keeper, trader in holy relics or seller of used oxcarts. Exceptions may be made for brewers and alchemists willing to share 30 percent of their production with the Association.
The owner shalt be permitted a garden wherein the following vegetables may be planted: oynouns, gourdes, garlec, lekes, letys and caboches. In addition, owners may cultivate herbes such as belladonna, nightshade and henbane for personal use—though the sale of such herbes is prohibited, owing to their properties for causing fevered hallucinations of the brain.
Manor shalt provide weekly entertainment at the Commons on behalf of all residents. Forthcoming events include a joust tournament, the Hamme-on-Rye performance of “Punch & Judy Fight in the Crusades,” the observational humour of the stand-up Jester, Otto the Corpulent, and an elucidating lecture by Sir Charles Wentworth, founder and co-chair of the Flat Earth Society.
Refuse shalt be removed on every Tuesday and Thursday. Homeowners should throw any mullok and other unwanted materials out of their windows to the footpath below. Barrels are available near the Commons for the recycling of parchment and chainmail.
David Martin’s essay “Same Olde, Same Olde” appeared in the October 2008 Smithsonian.