Small and congested medieval towns were common. They were narrow and up to four floors tall. The majority of the dwellings were built of wood and tended to tilt with time. Two houses facing each other would occasionally tilt so far that they touched across the street!
Medieval people took great pride in their towns and villages. New buildings would be painted bright colors for maximum visibility. The streets were often lined with trees or bushes for shade and beauty.
The town hall was a major building in most communities. It usually had administrative offices, a jail, a marketplace, and sometimes even a cathedral right inside its walls.
People lived relatively simple lives in the Middle Ages. There were no cars to worry about driving on roads made only of dirt or stone. Most travel was done by foot or horseback. Even when roads were constructed, they were only used by travelers who could afford carriages or carts.
There were no police officers to call upon either. Crime was very rare, so there was hardly any need for law enforcement. If someone was robbed or attacked, they had only themselves to depend upon for protection. No one came to their aid because there were no hospitals free from charge. If you were injured or sick, you were expected to heal yourself.
Poison was commonly used as a method of murder in the Middle Ages.
What was the difference between a medieval town and a manor? Medieval towns were dirty, crowded, and chaotic, with unpaved, muddy streets. Medieval towns grew as a result of trade. Manors, on the other hand, were massive fortified stone houses or castles in the heart of a noble's domain. They usually had walls up to six feet thick and could take years to build.
Medieval towns were generally controlled by a mayor and council, while manors were usually ruled by a lord or master. However, both types of settlements had their share of poverty and wealth. A large portion of the population was made up of slaves or indentured servants who worked the land or in the factories.
Medieval towns often had one or more markets where farmers, hunters, and merchants would meet to sell their products. These markets were usually held on fixed dates each week or month. In contrast, manors usually had only one market annually when they would invite traders from all over Europe to come shop for goods at their local storehouse.
Medieval towns were rarely destroyed outright, but rather they usually died out due to economic problems, wars, or natural disasters. For example, during the Black Death plague of 1348-1351, many small communities were abandoned because there weren't enough people left alive to run them successfully.
Medieval Village Facts 1: The Medieval Village Trend Typically, the honorable man would dwell in a medieval castle on a hill inside the hamlet overlooking the settlement. The lord of the manor's manor home is not far away. To safeguard stray animals, the majority of medieval settlements featured an animal pound. The inhabitants kept their livestock near their homes in open fields or in small enclosures called "yards." Sometimes there were no walls around these yards - just a hedge or dike to keep out predators and trespassers.
Medieval Village Facts 2: Most Medieval Villages Were Small Settlement Of About 50 Houses Usually Located In Central England, Scotland Or Wales Often Surrounded By Agricultural Land Young People Still Play An Instrument Called A "Jig" Today At Christmas Time, We Give Gifts Wrapped In Paper Made From Tree Fibers Known As "Tannins." During The Middle Ages, People Wrapped Their Presents In Linen (Which Is Tannin-Free) Or Cotton (Which Comes From The Seeds Of Plants That Grow In The Watermelon Family).
Medieval Village Facts 3: It Was Normal For Girls To Work As Nurses Or Teachers While Boys Learned How To Fight With Swords And Axes Or Trade With The World Outside The Village They Were Born Into
The majority of people in Medieval England were village peasants, but religious centers drew people, and many grew into towns or cities. Outside of London, the cathedral cities of Lincoln, Canterbury, Chichester, York, Bath, Hereford, and others were the biggest towns in England. Within London's city limits there were also large populations of people living in Southampton, Norwich, Ipswich, Gloucester, Boston, and other towns.
In 1086 there were about 1 million people in England. By 1327 that had increased to 3.5 million, mostly living in villages but also including hundreds of small towns and cities. The population was still only half the size it would be 200 years later.
Medieval cities were by no means homogeneous groups of people. They included a wide range of professions from artisans to shopkeepers, from priests to prostitutes. However, as places of worship and government buildings they did provide some protection for their residents against violence and crime.
Cities in England became increasingly important as trade expanded and wars consumed manpower. As demand for labor increased, so too did the number of slaves imported from Africa. One estimate is that between 1450 and 1820 up to 10% of urban males might have been enslaved.
England's cities were thriving businesses before the Black Death decimated the population around 40%.