A Hamlet is little more than collection of smallholdings that are close to each other – but with something that gives them common goals and sense of community.
Smallholdings are often built close to larger settlements (Village, Town City) which offer better protection, more work opportunities and a central market to see their goods. This mean that the smallholdings near the settlement are closer together than those located further away – and that means that the people of the smallholdings have more chance to mix with each other and develop a sense of community.
Very occasionally this will lead to the smallholders getting together on a communal project that benefits them all mutually – such as a community hall or a shrine (if they all share the same faith). More often, someone else sees that smallholdings are close together, and sees that there is a ready supply of labour for a ‘country’ business, so starts a local business. Once a hamlet is established, it can attract more smallholders, and develop into a living thriving community.
Country Businesses make use of whatever resources there are in a region – mostly they are farms of some type, although quarries, fisheries and lumber camps all have a place, if the terrain is right. If there are suitable mineral resources, it might even be a mining hamlet, although in that case it is often the mine that comes first and the smallholders follow. There are a few ‘special cases’ where a Lord or a Cleric builds a hamlet for their own purposes – much like a mine, the smallholders follow, knowing that there will be work available for them.
Example 1 – West Farm
This is an example of a basic hamlet, just starting out on its development.
There is a farmyard, with a row of cottages for the regular farmworkers. It is a mixed-economy farm – in other words it grows vegetables, a cash crop (normally cereals) and keeps a few head of livestock for milk, eggs, wool and leather.
There are a couple of smallholdings nearby, and they provide casual and part-time labour to help keep the farm running. Although they still maintain their normal smallholding practices at the same time, the steady supply of casual work gives them a bit more financial stability.
A win for everyone.
Example 2 – Rothyard
Rothyard started out in much the same way as the farm described earlier, but has grown.
First it added fields of hops as an extra cash crop, along with the extra buildings needed to process the hops. Then, as more smallholders moved to the area, they added a small brewery making a beer for local consumption and a community hall to help bind the community together.
Now it is a nice, compact, hamlet. There are a number of permanently employed staff living in cottages, and enough local smallholdings to provide part-time and casual labour when they need it. However, it has grown as much as it can, and can’t really develop any further without losing its character and status as a hamlet.