I serve as the treasurer of my homeowners' association. Being on the board of directors of the HOA has been, for the most part, an easy experience. All the same, this Arts and Culture piece from the Smithsonian magazine's January 2010 edition gave me quite the laugh.
MANOR RULES: What if these meticulously planned
communities are not just a modern phenomenon?
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:
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:
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
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
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.
- Illustration by Eric Palma