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British history

Life in Tudor times

Inside a Tudor townhouseInside a Tudor townhouseIn Tudor times, there were large differences between the lives of rich and poor people. While wealthy families enjoyed entertainments, lavish feasts and an education for their sons, poorer people struggled to survive day-to-day. Town and city life was bustling, noisy—and dangerous. The streets were crammed with wooden houses, workshops and traders’ stalls. Wealthier people lived on the edge of towns, where life was quieter and safer. Rich noblemen owned huge areas of land in the countryside and built great halls, or even palaces, to entertain royal visitors.


Burghley House, a nobleman's residenceBurghley House, a nobleman's residence
A fish marketA fish market

Town life

During Tudor times the population of England’s towns and cities increased rapidly as people moved from the country in search of work. London’s population doubled between 1520 and 1600, from 100,000 to 200,000. Towns were centres of trade, and people made money buying and selling goods such as fish, coal and cloth. Houses were built close together with the front rooms often used as shops. Residents poured their waste—sewage and dirty water—out of the window into open sewers running through the streets. Because there was no way to separate dirty water from drinking water, diseases such as dysentery and typhoid were common.

Sugar was a popular novelty in Tudor times: people even added it to savoury foods, such as meat. Because there was no such thing as toothpaste, however, many people’s teeth decayed and fell out. Queen Elizabeth’s teeth were said to be black because of her fondness for sugar.

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