The newcomer would risk everything for a new life in this bastide whose foundation had been announced by heralds. Here, it was promised, he would pay less tax, he would become the owner of enough land to be able to grow food to feed his family and the council would guarantee his safety, according to a just and egalitarian way of organising town life. In short, it was a hope of freedom !
Arrived in the town, the newcomer met the bailiff who attributed him a plot of land to build his house on, a plot for a vegetable garden and some farmland. While he had to pay ground rent, an annual fixed tax on the land and the tithe, a tenth of his agricultural product to the parish, he no longer had to pay land tax, quests, payments, shares… he must not be attacked, nor subjected to arbitrary justice, he could leave his home, marry his son to whom he pleased ; his children could become ecclesiastics, and he could bequeath his property.
Everything possible was done to attract new inhabitants into a bastide, or poblants in Gascon language. The newcomer, in general, received a rectangular plot (ayral) within the village of about 6 – 8 metres (average length of tree-trunk) and 20 – 25 metres long, as well as a piece of land outside the village walls (casal), and perhaps some vines. They had to build their own house, but the materials were provided more often than not: the forests provided timber, much as the clay of the ground was used for tiles and wattle and daub. Wherever possible, a quarry provided stones for foundations. Newcomers had one year, perhaps two, to build their house, failing which they were fined. Because of the restricted times the first houses were often basic, principally of timber and wattle and daub, but could be improved later.
Apart from the main thoroughfares, the founding landlords built the community buildings : the church, the central square with its covered arcades and the market hall, the council hall, numerous wells, and later ramparts with fortified gates. The founders also ensured that a weekly market of everyday produce could take place as well as annual fair with rarer produce, permitting newcomers to live by selling their wares, safe in the shelter of the high walls of the bastide.
THE BASTIDE’S SECRET
The newcomer: « I didn’t ask for anything, just to be able to open my shop, to benefit from the markets and the annual fair. But when the founders, and even the monks, came to me with their proposition, I couldn’t say no. No more taxes ! Can you imagine ? All that just for unlimited access to the cellar beneath my shop. Why would I hesitate ?» Word 8/11 : of the
Pass by the front of the church and go straight on for the bailiff