Medieval James Himself

Medieval James Himself
Guide at Ozark Medieval Fortress

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Medieval Wheelbarrows and Handcarts

It is common for guests on tour at the Ozark March30 (16)Medieval Fortress to see several kinds of wheelbarrows and hand carts.  They often ask if the modern type of single-wheeled barrow is authentic.  There seems to be no question for them that the two wheeled hand cart dates back to the Medieval.  Actually, they both do. 

Barrows with one wheel go back to ancient China, but the wheel was in the middle, front to back, as opposed to left to right.  Europeans, especially France, England and Flanders, improved on the design by putting the single June8 (26)wheel in the very front.  This is the design of wheelbarrows today.  It is certainly practical and well balanced and allows a single person to move a lot more bulk and weight than by hand.  There are references to these kinds of wheelbarrows in the early 13th century (the period of the Ozark Medieval Fortress).

Wheelbarrows with one wheel were called “civeria rotalis”.  The wheelbarrows sometimes had nails with large heads driven in the wooden wheel to avoid excessive wear.  Sometimes the wheel was given an iron band, or tire, like a wagon wheel.  May25 (5)

Barrowmen also used what we would call “stretchers”, which had no wheels and took two or four men to carry.  In the Middle Ages these were called “baring-barwes”.  Wheelbarrows freed up one or three men for other jobs on the site.  The experience of the masons at the Ozark Medieval Fortress has been that the wheelbarrow has not been suitable for the heavy loads of stone, and they have, therefore, preferred the stouter two wheeled cart or the baring-brawe.  The carpenters and garden workers, on the other hand, with lighter loads and often working alone have preferred the wheelbarrow.

1 comment:

  1. Physics at work here...
    The wheelbarrow is a second class lever, where the pivot or fulcrum (the wheel) is at one end of the rigid lever arm, the load (manure or dirt, for example) is in the middle, and the input force (the user's muscles) is on the other end of the lever arm.